< AllMoto's Motorcycle Investor mag


allmoto logo

Motorcycle Investor mag

Subscribe to our free email news


Profile: 1983 Yamaha RZ350

Yamaha RZ350 kenny roberts

Sporty Stroker

by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen, Feb 2021

Yamaha RZ350

High-strung stroker could fight well above its weight division

The appearance of a Yamaha RZ350 at an upcoming Shannons auction in Australia seemed like as good a time as any to give a quick overview of these amazing machines.

Okay, 59-or-so horses in a 168kg (dry) motorcycle might seem a bit ordinary these days, but back when these things were being launched, it was nothing short of sensational. Keep in mind that power to weight ratio was better than for many bigger four-strokes, including Yamaha's own XJ900.

That meant the RZ was a spectacularly good ride, particularly on a tight bit of road. It was light and flickable, had respectable braking, and plenty of power.

Thanks in part to the adoption of the YPVS variable exhaust timing, the delivery of that power had some forgiving aspects. There was something resembling a decent mid-range. So if you had 4000 revs on board, you were getting into a very usuable band of performance.

Yamaha RZ350 gen 2

This model was followed a couple of years later by an update, featuring a number of refinements and of course the full fairing. For us, the RZ350 series was the best two-stroke sports road bike made up to the late 1980s.

A big statement? Yep. The thing is it was more rideable and faster than its 250 sibling, far more manageable than the RZ500 V4, and light years ahead of its RD and RD-LC predecessors. We could get into the assorted Suzukis and Kawasakis of the era, too, but the 'best' rating remains.

Mechanical longevity was never on the level of a big four-stroke, but rebuild costs could be modest and the rewards for a refresh were high.

Of course this was no accident. Yamaha had a super-strong history with two-strokes and particularly parallel twins. Think RD250-350-400 air-cooled series, then the RD250-350LC liquid-cooled machines.

There has been a huge resurgence in interest for two-stroke motorcycles, which has been reflected to some extent in the values. One of the issues has been that survival rates have been low.

Owners tended to thrash them and then move on, with little or no thought to the idea that they might one day have appeal as a classic. In fact, even mention the idea to someone 30 years ago and you would have been laughed at.

Yamaha RZ350

This example from Shannons (lot 86) is one of the more complete ones we've seen. Evidently it's been sitting for a while, but it appears to be complete and would be very tempting for a collector of strokers. It's auctioned Feb 16-23 and carries an estimate of Au$6-9000 (US$5-7000, GB£3-5000). We suspect it will go past that upper figure and would not be surprised it it passes the Au$10k mark.

Yamaha RZ350

Yamaha RZ350

1983 brochure

Yamaha RZ350

Yamaha RZ350

Yamaha RZ350

Yamaha RZ350

Basic stats – 1983 Yamaha RZ350

Power: 59hp (43kW) @ 9000rpm +

Torque: 47Nm @ 8500rpm

Dry Weight: 168kg

Fuel capacity: 20lt

Price when new: Au$2900 + ORC

(Ed's note: the RZ series was known as RD in some markets, including the UK. And yes, that's Kenny Roberts in the brochure shot at top.)



Produced by AllMoto abn 61 400 694 722
Privacy: we do not collect cookies or any other data.

allmoto logo

Try our books...

Travels with Guido book


Facebook feed


YouTube feed


Instagram: allmoto1

Email newsletter


News archive


Our Bikes stories

Travels with Guido columns


About AllMoto

Email me