My Other Ride
A COVID Lockdown Project
After a 2012 post on the club website asking about our other playthings besides Vespas I started to think about my bike again. It turned out that a number of members had motorcycles too, and some fancy cars. And so I pulled the cover off the bike to take some pictures to post on the club website. My re-acquaintance with the thing inspired me to begin exploring the availability of parts to get it going again. As my motorcycle could only go round in circles since its steering was locked, I started my search looking for a specific key with the right number that might open the lock. No luck. It seemed too difficult so I let the idea of restoring it pass. Besides I was having far too much fun riding Priscilla all over the place.
A Happy Find
Fast forward to Victoria’s second lockdown. A bit over a month ago on a bright sunny day, I unlocked the steering of my motorcycle for the first time in 29 years and dragged it out into the back yard. I still had to “drag” it as the front tyre was flat and had almost perished away. I was rather dismayed to see how badly it had weathered under its cover half under the carport, half in the rain. Never mind, here was a project. A perfect foil for lockdown boredom.
But What Is It David?
RT2 360 (351cc) Weight: 119 Kg. Power: 32 Hp @ 6,000 rmp. Torque: 37 N-m @ 5,500 rpm
Yamaha’s DT-1 and RT range dirt bikes were developed from 1968 and had a huge impact, especially in the USA where desert racing was popular. European trials motorcycles like Bultaco, Husqvarna, Greeves, CZ, Montesa, Zundapp and Maico were designed for the rough stuff and had well mannered handling. They were hand built machines, expensive and sometimes unreliable. The Yamaha dirt bikes were street legal with a speedo, working lights and turn indicators so you could ride them on the road to where the fun starts. They had bullet proof motors but they were less refined in terms of their handling.
A New Passion Begins
The RT2 came with tyre clamps which secured the tyre to the rim so that it wouldn’t slip. This allowed you to deflate the tyres to around 8 psi for incredible grip in sand or mud. Over time I managed to conquer most of my fear and could scramble up rock strew hills, jump logs, ford rivers with water up to the fuel tank, slither down a steep muddy track with the back wheel locked controlling the bike with knees jammed into the tank in a standing position. Once we rode through deep powder snow. What a hoot!
The Project Begins
How my bike looked when new. It's a very lean and handsome machine with lots of ground clearance and a strong 1970s vibe. By the time I've finished, it won't look brand new like this restored example but it will be fun to ride.
|How my bike looked when I started this project. As I got more into trail riding, I modified the bike. Changes to the front suspension, performance shocks at the back, a long range plastic fuel tank, a high front fender that wouldn't clog up with mud. I also took off bits to lighten it like the tachometer and steering dampener.|
|I pull it out into the sun to begin work on pulling it apart.||I threw my original fuel tank away which is a very unusual thing for me to do. I had to buy a replacement from the USA. I little worst for wear but its clean on the inside.|
|29,470 miles or 47,164 kms. I took the tachometer off and unfortunately, threw it away.||The dints, dents and scrapes are a reminder of how much fun I had on this bike.|
|Lots of rusty steel and aluminium corrosion to deal with.||This replacement oil tank for the above arrived in 2016 from the USA.|
|Other bits start coming off.||Engine is out.|
|Forks and swing arm liberated.||Frame stripped bare ready for some deep cleaning and painting.|
Cleaning up the engine. I was delighted to find that kicking over the engine produced a nice fat healthy spark after 29 years laid up.
|Pleasing to see that the piston was clean as a whistle with no scoring or blow- by past the piston rings. Compression felt good too.|
|Glad I didn't try and start the bike as I found the foam air filter had crumbled away and bits would have been sucked into the engine. Come to think of it, they probably did when I turned the motor over a few times.||Cleaning and de-rusting every single nut, bolt and spring. This is insane.|
|Various parts from the frame are cleaned and de-rusted ready for painting.||Parts repainted black and shiny like new.|
|Battery box, rear brake lever and airbox top get loving care and attention.||First attempt at trying to match the original colour using the inside of the headlight shell as a practice target. Hmm, a bit too silvery and not enough grey. But does it really matter I ask?|
|This Asian dragon is the entire wiring loom including regulator and ignition coil that will one day spit fire again.||Some cracks in the seat pan will need welding.|
|The steering yoke. Rust all over the place.||Back to bare metal|
|All painted like new.||Steering bearings in good condition although I think I lost one ball bearing. My brother Peter rebuilt the top bearing housing after I slammed into a car that suddenly turned right in front of me. Front forks were serevely bent. I was flung over the car bonnet and the bike came down on top of me. Only a small scratch on my lip.|
|Losts of deep corrosion on the aluminium forks. Hmm, this will be hard to remove.||This is a test clean on the forks caps before and after polishing.|
|The swing arm cleaned and de-rusted ready for the paint shop.||I couldn't be bothered stripping all the paint off. Only the rusty sections.|
What an absolutely amazing story about your "other" 2 wheeled bike David. A positive out of Covid for sure. So glad you found those keys and have been able to restore this classic.
Great story, David.
I had an RT360 many moons ago during my mis-spent youth, thrashing motorcycles of all sorts, through the forests around Ballarat.
It was a beast of a thing! It never looked as good as yours though.
Hi Darren. Thanks for your message. Yes, I agree, it was a beast of a thing. I'm not sure if I ever tamed it or if it tamed me. So many falls in the initial stages but then it took me through some magnificent and otherwise difficult to access mountainous country. In motorcycle forums when people talk about the bikes they never should have gotten rid of, this is often one of them, and I've always felt the same. Hope we can catch up for another ride your way when things open up in November. Best wishes, David.
Now that was worth reading David thanks for sharing. I rode a CB175 everywhere when I was 15.... pudding basin helmet flat chat down the Nepean Hwy tucked behind the speedo - eventually I took the motor out as I was worried about the constabulary.... when I see one for sale I am always tempted.
please keep us up to date with progress David, looking forward to seeing you and the bike soon.
Hi Paul. Thank you. Your story of riding the CB at fifteen sounds a bit like mine. As I recall, the pudding basin helmets we wore had a full 1/8" of cork lining to protect our 'thick' skulls. Happy to report a bit more progress. I managed to get the corrosion off the fork legs and polish them up all bright and shiny. I wasn't looking forward to painting the frame with all its odd angles, nooks and crannies. Three coats within the hour, the instructions said and I'm no gun spray painter. I ended up with a few dribbles here and there but I'll live with that and I'm relieved its done. I can start hanging things off it next week. :-}
Fabulous story David.
Happy the lockdown has brought about so many positives.
Rediscovering your motorcycle
Its restoration, and sharing your story with us .
Cant wait to see it.
whats it’s name ? xx
Hi Lisa. Nice to hear from you. A name? Now there's a challenge. Yellowtail Brut? Mule? The Kickback Kid. Hmm, think I'll need some help with that. Hope to see you on a ride soon xx