Once upon a time, there was a man named Karl Otto. He was one of the founding fathers of the 2-stroke engine. He was surely a romantic. If you are not familiar with two strokes, or don’t understand the fundamental differences, you are probably new to motorcycling.
Have a look here at how a four-stroke engine works. Valves play an essential role in the intake of fuel and exhaust. Now look here for a quick tutorial at a two-stroke engine.
Two strokes have that romantic ring-a-ding-ding sound. “Romantic?”, you may be exclaiming to yourself. Surely this greasy-fingered, delusional madman has breathed 2-smoke fumes for too long.
One word spoken and it will all make sense.
If there was ever a machine that was cause for parental alarm, a reason birth control, and one that encourages reckless abandon, it would have to be the Italian scooter. The Vespa, the Innocenti, the Lambretta, each with it’s own brand of two-up charm has to be the moto-delight of every girl on the planet. Because there is simply no more intimate way for a couple to get around Milan, Monaco or yes, even Denver, than on two wheels; and nothing on two wheels is easier to do so than a scooter.
But neither a Honda Metropolitan, a Vino, a Schwinn, a “Genuine Buddy” or one of the twenty-some other cheap 50cc four stroke Chinese versions of compressor-engined scooters on the street has near the sex appeal as a vintage, classic Italian scooter.
But not everyone lives in town, you might argue, and you’d have a valid point. True that, not every trip will be a romantic little jaunt for a bagette and wheel of cheese. Sometimes, you actually need to get out on a main road or highway and unless the words flat-slide Mikuni and Imola Expansion Chamber are part of your vernacular, your Lambretta scooter might not be up to the challenge of outrunning a Peterbuilt on the entrance ramp…
…and so my answer to you is the trusty Yamaha RD. This little 2-stroke rocket came in a variety of sizes, 60cc, 125cc, 200cc (with electric start) 250cc, 350cc (the giant killer) and 400cc and was manufactured from the early to late 1970’s. They were turned into cafe racers, choppers, flat trackers, drag racers and full bag and windshield touring machines.
“Don’t feel bad,” was the opening line in a magazine ad for the RD, “You’re not the first 750 rider to get blown off by the Yamaha 350.”
But to know an RD is to take your sweetheart on an errand-date, in the spirit of the Vespa. In and out of traffic, stopping at cafes, record stores, funky little spice shops around town, down a long country road or around the neighborhood, the trusty RD will do it all.
It will also stand up on its rear wheel at the slightest fanning of the clutch and leave sport bikes twice its size, jaw-dropped and sitting at the light. But for now, cool your solo riding jets.
That for another day.