Herby’s Street special LC
One of the UK biking scene’s best-kept secrets is the monthly bike night held at the New inn, Shardlow in Derbyshire. Held on the first Thursday in every month throughout the spring, summer and well into autumn, this meet regularly sees the gathering of the East Midlands LC and RD brigade and with them a fine collection of both standard and modified machines. The standard of machinery is usually pretty high and with plenty of lighthearted banter flying around the atmosphere is a good one. One of the leading lights in this scene is a big man by the name of Paul Ellis; his friends however call him Herby.
Herby’s 350 LC was one of the final 4L1 models ever produced before the introduction of the YPVS versions, and started off its hectic life in 1984 a year after the later model was first seen in the UK. Within the next four years it had 8 owners and covered 10,200 miles. Although suffering the abuse that these machines undoubtedly did, when Paul stumbled across it, the LC was in very tidy condition and remained this way for the next ten years.
Then one day Herby saw a modified streetfighter type LC in one of the magazines and the idea got him thinking. Herby remembers, “Before too long the plans were laid to graft the running gear from an RGV250 Suzuki into the classic Yamaha. Luckily at the time this sort of work wasn’t commonplace and the parts were relatively cheap to buy. I often stumbled across complete front ends at auto jumbles for £50, you wouldn’t do that now as RGV running gear is highly sought after by the specials brigade. Unfortunately I also sold the original LC parts to help fund the project and those parts are fetching even higher prices now as the restorers, helped by Ebay, get into a frenzy.”
The work took some considerable time, around five years in total and Herby blames the usual house and kids commitments for the length of the rebuild, although not when his misses is around.
Special builders fall into several categories, those that like the feel and constant maintenance of a tuned motor for instance or those that love the endless polishing that fancy metal work and paint brings. Herby just wanted a modern feeling, and above all else, practical bike as the end result of his labours. The work wasn’t without a few problems here and there but local engineer, Steve Gagg, stepped in to do much of the work required fitting the Suzuki parts into the Yamaha frame. “Steve machined the swing arm down by a few millimetres to get it to fit between the Yam frame tubes and also made the bearings for the arm to run in. The wider rear wheel required an off set front sprocket to get the chain alignment correct and lugs were welded onto the RGV swing arm, so the standard LC rear shock set up could be retained. The front forks went in reasonably easily, by using the LC outer headrace bearings and RGV inner ones the Suzuki yokes fitted a treat. All that was required was a little machining work to get the lock stops to work properly. To prevent irreversibly altering the Yamaha frame, a lug for the rear master cylinder has been glued and bolted in place on the rear frame tube. And that was about it really. The project is constantly on going as and when other part become available. Tom Mac from the LC club is currently making lots of little parts in stainless steel as these arrive they will be fitted.”
A standard LC has a pert, sat up and raring to go, look which has been largely lost since the transformation. Herby’s LC still looks like one, but flatter and longer, like pulling at each wheel has stretched it akin to a piece of chewing gum. Whereas the front end of an LC sits up, with this machine it is the rear that over views the sharp end. The use of the RGV front end serves to lower the front, while the longer swing arm considerable raises the rear, making the steering sharper as a result. This translates to a quick response through the bars despite the front wheel now boasting a fatter front tyre. The chassis remains stable despite the wider Renthal bars having a greater effect, this is most likely attributable to the rear swing arm that lengthens the whole wheelbase by 70mm. Just to be safe an adjustable steering damper stops the bars from even contemplating flapping around.
Even with the height gained by the swing arm length, the bike is around one inch lower and yet thanks to the wider rubber the ground clearance isn’t drastically reduced. It handles sweetly although generally heavier feeling than a standard LC. The engine feels familiar and the sound is definitely that of a spirited two-stroke twin, especially with those Allspeed expansion chambers, and yet the ride is strangely modern. The standard LC frame is immensely strong and was only let down by the bouncy bits hanging off each end. Gone is the fork flex felt from the 32mm stanchions that made the front wheel feel loose when you had taken too many liberties. The same is true too with the swing arm twinges often felt mid corner or mid bump. These feelings are replaced with a surety and rock steady gate, the bike just feels planted to the road in a way a standard LC never could. Hardly a murmur gets past the Suzuki front suspension, should the wheels get out of line it will be because the tyres have let go and not due to any metal yielding to the strains of cornering. Surprisingly the Spax shock that has replaced the tired Yamaha rear unit, works very well with the swing arm designed for a rising rate suspension set up. Yamaha didn’t get many things wrong with their original monoshock design and this is clear on this machine.
The lengthened rear end also helps prevent that other, more well known, LC habit, the wheelie. An RD350 LC should easily lift the front wheel off the throttle in the first two gears, I would also expect a well-set-up one to have a decent stab in third too but this is just not the case with Herby’s machine. Full gas can be applied mid corner without fear of losing the front end skyward while that fat tyre at the back just keeps on gripping, the resultant acceleration is brisk, exciting and above all aimed in the direction you wish to travel. The power is still there, just like the original machine but the chassis holds it all in check a lot more securely. Without weighing the bike it is difficult to say what impact the RGV bits have made upon the all up weight. It feels a lot heavier once on the move, but this could be a combination of the lowness of the chassis, the lengthened wheelbase and the wide tyres. The LC had around 165mm of ground clearance with the original suspension and wheels, this machine has lost around 40mm of that and sits quite a bit nearer to the ground as a result.
One thing that is increased, without a shadow of a doubt, is the braking. The original LC was stopped by a pair of small diameter discs, reluctantly grabbed by a duo of single-piston, floating-calipers, they did work but not as well as people think they did. The twin, 300mm disc, Tokico four-pot caliper, set up that replaces the Yamaha items is staggeringly effective, and the smallest of inputs through the lever has this modified Yamaha hauling up in double quick time. Thanks to the longer swing arm the LC remains stable at all times, even when it feels like it wants to stand upright, around the front wheel spindle, it doesn’t give onto to temptation and do it. The braking power is handled, quite comfortably, by the wider Bridgestone BT 50 radial tyre up front.
There is a smaller diameter disc hanging around, somewhere down the back end, but there is little need for this to be bothered with under normal riding circumstances. The rear brake offers little extra stopping power on a dry surface, as there is little pressure placed upon the rear wheel due to the power of the front stoppers, but it would come in handy in the wet or on slippery surfaces.
Herby is quick to point out that building the bike has been made so much easier with the assistance of many LC club members. Tom Mac for instance, has fabricated many of the stainless steel components and this work is continuing over the winter ready for the coming season.
An LC special would never be complete without a little bit of NK Racing in there, some where, and this bike is no exception. Nigel Kimber has not only been his usual font of knowledge concerning all things trick and bike related, but has also supplied a few of his parts for Herby’s bike, the transparent clutch casing being the most visible.
Currently, the machine is undergoing a long awaited winter rebuild, as we found out recently, when an attempt was made to weigh the bike. A persistent head gasket leak is finally going to be remedied, using a new copper head gasket fabricated by Mr Kimber, and any internal parts that look worn or damaged are due to be replaced. Herby lives but a stones throw away from Granby’s of Ilkeston and I can imagine they will be getting pretty sick of his sorry looking expression by the time the spring is here.
Herby’s LC may look radically modified but in reality it could easily be put back to its original guise. None of the standard chassis components, frame tubes etc, have been altered, enabling the return of the bike to its mid 80’s specification. That is if you want the uncertain handling and indifferent braking that this would bring.
Herby’s LC special Specifications
- Engine: liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder, two-stroke
- Capacity: 347cc
- Bore & stroke: 64mm x 54mm
- Compression Ratio: 6.2;1
- Carburetion: 26mm mikuni
- Max Power: 48 bhp @ 8500 rpm
- Torque: 27.5 ft-lbs @ 8000rpm
- Ignition: Hitachi CDI
- Transmission: 6-speed, wet clutch
- Frame: steel tube twin loop
- Suspension: 41mm USD telescopic forks ( RGV250 M) single monoshock rear (RGV250P) , Spax shock absorber
- Wheels: 110/70 x 17 150/60 x 17 ( RGV 250 P)
- Brakes: 2 x 300 mm discs, Tokico 4 piston calipers (RGV250P) 210mm disc 2 piston floating caliper
- Wheelbase: 1435mm (1365mm std)
- Weight: not known but heavier than the standard 143 kgs
- Fuel capacity: 3.63 gallons
- Top speed: 110 mph
Yamaha RD350LC Street Special Gallery