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Yamaha RD500LC

Yamaha RD500LC

Yamahas RD500LC was the first of the 80’s race replica bikes & competes for sales with the Honda’s NS400R & the Suzuki RG500. Equipped with Yamaha’s YPVS power valve this 500cc ‘V’4 two-stroke was the bike we all wanted to own. Essentially a twin crank onto a main gear bottom end with 4 125 barrels with oil pumped lubrication. The two rear cylinders are ‘reverse’ leaving a nice straight exit for the exhausts.

The rear exhausts occupy the space that the rear shock usually uses, but Yamaha’s design had the rear shock mounted horizontally under the engine using cantilever linkages. This also, intentionally or otherwise, helped with ‘mass centralisation’ way before anyone else realised the benefits. The RD500 came in several specifications all based on 47X. 1GE was UK & Europe, 51X in Japan.

The Japanese domestic market version was the RZV500R & came with a hand welded alloy frame – much stiffer & a bit lighter. This bike also had alloy bars & levers, a fuel gauge & better forks. Canada, Australia & New Zealand got our spec ‘RD’ but badged ‘RZ’ to suit the existing range in these territories. The Japanese specification RZV500R’s are restricted in the exhausts & jets to apx 6OBHP – RD500’S make 90+BHP.

Tuning & modifying these bikes was very popular in the 80’s & 90’s. The engines being particularly popular amongst ‘special’ builders looking for a GP style track bite. Now a sort after collectors bike, standard ‘factory’ specification bikes are what collectors want. With parts in very short supply and good bikes in even shorter supply, modifying or altering any RD500 today will significantly reduce its appeal. If any owner wants to improve an RD500’s performance and maintain a ‘factory’ looking appearance, then changing the exhausts is the way to go.

The standard pipes are very heavy and include heavy heat shielding. Changing them to Lomas/Jolly moto can save up to 15kg! A nitron shock and disconnected anti-dive will them give them a much better ride. Stan Stephens still does rebuilds and reliable tunes for these bikes, but only for those with deep pockets! Be very careful with any other ‘tuners’ or modifications.

It’s a simple engine (in theory) but experience is required. If in doubt – keep it standard! When buying, get the best you can afford. There are no ‘cheap’ ones, but an ‘okay’ one can cost more to bring up to ‘excellent’ – even if you can get the parts. Engine rebuilds can be £2000 plus! The RD500 is one of the most desirable modern classics money can buy. Take one to a bike meet & you will be swamped by enthusiastics. A true legend & very, very cool.



Type – Liquid-cooled, reed valve, two-stroke V4 with YPVS
Capacity – 499cc
Compression - Ratio 6.6:1
Ignition – Electronic
Fuel System – 4 x 26mm VM26SS Mikuni Carburettors



Primary/Final Drive – Gear / Chain
Clutch – Wet, Multiplate
Gearbox – Six Speed



Frame – Steel Perimeter
Front Suspension – 37mm forks with anti-dive
Rear Suspension – Monoshock with adjustable preload & rebound dampening
Front Brake – 2 x 270mm disc with twin piston calipers
Rear Brake – 1 x 270mm disc with twin piston caliper
Wheels – Six spoke cast alloy
Front Tyre – 120/80 V16
Rear Tyre – 130/80 V18



Dry Weight – 180kg (396lb)
Wheelbase – 1375mm (54.1”)
Seat Height – 780mm (30.7”)
Fuel Capacity – 22 Litres (4.8 Gallons)



Top Speed – 148 MPH
SS ¼ Mile – 12.1 sec@113mph
Claimed Power – 87 bhp@9500 rpm
Claimed Torque – 49.18 lb.ft@8500rpm
Fuel Consumption – 30 mpg
Price New In 1985 – £2997