Elsie, my long lost love
Having missed out on the craze the first time around, Colin Olivier has, some 26 years on, really got the LC bug. Having owned what looks like the who’s who of late 70s and early 80s machinery, the civilian computer technician currently working for the MOD, turned to larger capacity machinery rather than down grade a few cc’s, when the first of the LC’s arrived on the scene. He started off his biking career on a Raleigh Runabout, before leaping aboard a Fizzie, which in turn made way for a Yamaha AS3 and then a Honda CB250 K4.
In reality the Honda proved to be slower than the 125cc Yam, so that soon moved on, and a silver, coffin tanked, RD250C took its place. With his test passed, the delights of an RD400D was soon sampled and, quickly realising that the crazy power band that this Yamaha twin had in its armoury, and his own youthful exuberance was a lethal combination, a Honda CB400-4 was deemed the common sense route, followed by a CX500 and a CB900F. During this period Colin also took part in competition, acting as a passenger on a TR750 powered sidecar outfit for a local rider, but he quickly realised he wasn’t quite up to speed so opted for a support role as team mechanic. “During all of this motorcycle madness I had successfully avoided the LC craze” Colin added “Not by choice, it was just the way it happened. It wasn’t until I became a motorcycle instructor and met my future wife Allison, as she undertook training on her KH125, with her test passed she acquired an LC250 that I realised quite how good they were.
Homebuilding beckoned, and bikes were put on the back burner during the mid 80s. It wasn’t a topic of conversation in the household again until 2003 when a RD350 YPVS F2 model came up for sale in the local paper. On further investigation into this machine proved it to be a well kept and almost mint example of the later LC and Colin soon learned what he had been missing out on all of this time. The power valve was a great machine but lacked something” he recalled “It took some time to realise that the relatively soft power delivery of the updated stroker engine made it feel just that little bit too much like a docile four-stroke and not at all like the enthusiastic and willing, bike that was my old RD400. I kept the YPVS for a while and, as it had woken my biking passions, searched for an even earlier model of the much-desired LC, the type I never had the opportunity to enjoy the first time around.
I found a complete looking 250 version, with the all-important matching engine and chassis numbers too, in what looked like reasonable condition, in nearby Loughborough and, once purchased, duly rode it home. The idea being, that Allison may well feel the urge to get back on a bike again after all of these years, something that, so far, hasn’t happened. Once home and with the rose tinted specs firmly off, the 250 was in a terrible state, it was complete and a runner of sorts, but lots of things were clearly wrong and it needed much attention before it could be relied upon as a daily run about. Like many from the period it had been subjected to a home style port and tuning job, without the necessary specialist knowledge, so it ran poorly, while the cosmetics had been bodged and neglected, a full restoration beckoned.
After two years and much searching for highly sought after parts, like exhaust pipes and plastics, the end result made it into final the ten of the 2007 Classic Bike magazine machine of the year. Along the way Colin has made many LC friends, and has amassed a huge knowledge base the popular LC forum (www.yamaha-rd.com) being the main source for like-minded folk to exchange views and offer assistance. Many members on the site have a wide range of technical know how and a willingness to keep these bikes on the go for some time to come. Some have even started to make replica parts like the hard it find rear mudguards, these were usually cut down to streamline the rear end, but now, using patterns taken from the genuine parts these have been recreated and are indistinguishable from the real McCoy. Another great help has been the local bike shop Webbs of Lincoln, (www.webbsoflincoln.co.uk) the lads there are all stroker nuts with a wealth of knowledge from the period.
The brakes were up-rated to the twin disc set up found on its larger capacity brethren, as the puny single piston caliper fitted as standard hardly offers the sort of stopping power needed by a genuine 100mph plus machine, but that, and a few social graces like modern brake hoses apart, its pretty near original condition. A period Micron fork brace has been added to keep the forks in line, and it doesn’t look out of place. With the 250 all completed and providing regular weekend kicks it was time to hunt down a 350 version to complete the set, and this desire plus a longing to own a street special, saw yet another couple of machines bought to provide the donor parts. This time a UK spec bike with matching numbers was found, along with a much cheaper to buy, German specification machine, the latter rarely fetching the sought of money that a genuine UK machine does and as such would not hurt the bank too much when creating a special.”
The special will sport FZR250 EXUP running gear and bits from this machine lay all around the garage and sheds where the work will be completed. A top of the range Ohlins shock is also fitted on to the chassis intended for this special and it promises to be something quite unique once finished. “ The idea is to retain the essential look of the LC, after all it is an icon and as such instantly recognisable, whenever I take the 250 out it never fails to attract attention from passers by, such is the impact of the early LC.”
Now fully committed to the LC cause one has to wonder what can be next, Colin ponders for a moment before adding “Well, once the totally original 350 and the street special are completed then I would like to explore the potential; of a Banshee engine RDLC. It is entirely possible to take the capacity of the LC engine out to a whopping 500cc or more, so that is one way of going although the usability of such a beast on the road is in doubt. The trouble is, with high performance strokers that, once the power is unleashed, things do tend to happen very quickly, perhaps too quickly to enjoy them when mixing it with other road users. I would love an original Ducati 916, or even better still, an early Jota.”
Yamaha RD250LC Gallery