Yamaha RD250E: I Didn’t Need it, but I Loved it All the Same!

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    I owned a late model RD250E example of these cracking air-cooled two strokes briefly during 1987

    Here are my memories of my time with the RD:

    Yet Another Bike That I Didn’t Actually Need:

    Somehow I seem to keep buying bikes that I don’t really need, don’t have the money or space for. Then I create a mythical role for them, realise that I had been a pillock for buying the bike in the first place and then sell it on. Is this just me? Anyway my Yamaha RD250E fell firmly into this camp.


    My Yamaha RD250E

    When the immaculate, low mileage RD was offered to me my will power crumbled as soon as I heard that delicious two-stroke burble from the exhausts. The Yam was also painted in those glorious Kenny Roberts inspired colours of bright yellow with black racing blocks. The very first thing that I did, about two hours after handing over £250 of my hard earned overdraft was to ride the Yamaha from Norfolk down to Dorset. This was a trip of some 200 miles, on bike I had only just bought, and it was chucking down with rain. Sensible lad! I rode down in the company of my old mate “Nippy”, who had the dubious pleasure of owning a Honda FT500. Yes the FT does stand for what everybody thinks it does…

    The Mighty Honda FT500 

    From East to West

    Anyway we had a great laugh bouncing along the A30 at all the speed our two bikes could muster; about 90-95 mph if memory serves me well. Nippy was going through one of his suicidal periods at the time and I remember wincing as he overtook a long line of cars straight into the path of huge Volvo artic heading the other way. The driver of the truck had every surface possible covered with extra spotlights and he blazed everyone at Nippy along with the loudest air horn I had ever heard. Nippy just kept on the gas, he was twisting the throttle so hard he had his elbow scraping on the road virtually! He nipped through the gap with millimetres to spare, the Volvo horn and light show still in full swing. No problem…

    We made it to darkest Dorset and back to Norfolk with only a few more dramas. Once back in Norfolk I had a problem, my Suzuki GS550 took up all the space that I had available in my Barrett built rabbit hutch of a house and postage stamp garden. So the RD was shipped up to my parent’s home in sunny Birmingham to use when I was there and the GS remained my main bike. See what I mean about mythical roles? Dumped in Birmingham it languished only getting occasional use, a real shame.

    The Bike Itself

    To tell you more about the bike itself the RD250E itself was a 1980 model and as such one of the last air-cooled models made before the fabled “Cult of LC” stared with the launch the RD350LC. As a late model the air-cooled boasted cast alloy wheels, a six-speed gearbox, electronic ignition and a disc brake for the rear as well as front wheel. The surprisingly gusty 2-stroke engine put out around 31 bhp and I nearly squeezed the magical 100mph out of bike on a few occasions. As usual this feat was achieved on my private test track (officer).  Fuel consumption wasn’t really a priority for me, but I suppose that figures in the mid to high 30’s was about what I was getting from the Yamaha.

    Acceleration was pretty good, remember that these were learner legal bikes when new, and this lively performance when combined with the bouncy handling made the bike a real “fun” riding package. In 1987 when I owned the RD the brakes felt fine, but I rather suspect that if I owned the RD now I would be less impressed, but realistically what else would you expect?

    Came to a Sticky End

    Over the months the RD was mine I enjoyed the bike immensely but it came to an anti-climatic conclusion. Chasing an Escort XR3i through the streets of Birmingham (I know, I know…) all of sudden the bike hesitated for an instant, and then all the power just ebbed away. The hot hatch escaped. Investigation later revealed that the engine had suffered a cracked piston and hence the power shortfall. But there was a silver lining to this tale. The RD still ticked over as normal and looked immaculate. So I sold it to dealer for a small loss, £50 or so. Not bad for a bit of 2-stroke fun I think you will agree.

    In Summary

    Overall to summarise the RD250E is a cracking bike and to compare the Yamaha with it’s peers; the Suzuki X7 is quicker, more edgy, but had an air of fragility about it. The Kawasaki KH250 despite it’s classic status now is a seriously overrated bike, while the likes of the turgid Honda CB250N and Suzuki GSX250E just don’t deserve to be on the same page in biking history. Prices for good RD250’s are on the rise now, but the RD400 seems to take all the limelight. But don’t forget the 250, and if you do buy one prepare yourself to have some fun.

    Words: Tony Donnelly

    Pictures: Tony Donnelly (RD250E)/Adrian Budd (Honda FT500)


    Donate – it makes you feel good!


    It`s so good to read this Radar,keep it up….cheers.

    Take it easy out there


    Digger, didn’t ‘our Paul’ and Ian Newton (ex racer and North West 200 champion) used to race each other on RD250 / 400’s around Skem lying flat on the tank and changing gears with their hand?

    Be seen and be Safe!


    Yes,but paul had the RD125DX with electric start.Paul was pillion with Ian Newton all the time,no one could cath Ian even 2 up.

    Take it easy out there


    Nice bikes those RD’s. Excellent write-up as usual Radar, Clarkson eat yer heart out!


    God I would love to have that bike back!

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