Just why is the 1985 F1 the best of the RD/RZ YPVS range?

Whilst any RD/RZ is good it’s even better if you can get the exact model to rebuild that you really like and in that respect I was very lucky that the bike that was for sale for the right price when I was looking for an RZ project was also the exact version that I coveted.

So what is it about the ’85 that I love? Well of course we can start with the usual thing, nostalgia...

Anyway, my own history with that bike is just part of the story... For me, there is just ‘more styling’ in this model than the later bikes which I find are somewhat ‘square shaped’ and dare I say it, a bit 'slabby'. Well, that was the look of the late 80s and early 90s of course, I guess it’s just not my thing...

The ’85 model has a blend of the old and the new from the RZ styling catalogue. What this model does is take many elements of the earlier ’83/’84 YPVS models and blends them with a full fairing that is attached to the frame (and not the bars) which was becoming standard on the racy bikes of the modern age.

If we are honest, it does now seem that Yamaha did a quick re-style job on the ’84 to modernise it for the ’85 model year, and in retrospect it shows, and very quickly (for the next model year) Yamaha restyled the rest of the bike including the fuel tank, side panels and rear end, plus adding a bunch of other changes to the bike in the hope of keeping it current in the fast moving two stroke marketplace, on a bike that was already seeing a noticeable drop off in sales year on year form when it was launched, competition from the other players was hotting up and Yamaha were suffering. Looking back today at the ’85, it’s almost like the brief was to do the ’86 restyle but the team ran out of time or budget to get it into production quick enough for close off for the 1985 model year range, and hence the front end and swingarm got done but the rest of the bodywork was left as the previous year models.

Yamaha RZ350R 1985 F1

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When I was growing up the first RD/RZ I ever experienced was one a good friend bought and we used to ride flat out, everywhere, all the time. My own ride back then was a Honda MT5 with many mods and the RD350YPVS was simply amazing to me, not only was it huge and powerful, it looked like sex on wheels! (well I was 17... most things were compared to sex back then!)

The bike in question was an ex ProAm race winning bike used in the International race series and was fully adorned with Gauloises, Sonauto and Motol logos and the exhaust pipes were totally ground off from race cornering by none other than J P Ruggia. For the full story on that bike click this paragraph or the photograph.

What this means is that the ’85 has the front top faring lifted directly from the 500, complete with rectangular headlight. This was the new thing for bikes at the time and its easy to think Yamaha wouldnt look back from that styling change, but bizarrely the ’87-ish Aussie market bikes got the round light again with a version of this same frame mount fairing for some reason (some ADR about light shapes and sizes I originally suspected, but could just have been to use up N model bikes ‘dumped’ in Aus) - This round version looks terrible in my view, all these fully faired models should really have rectangular lights. With the new fairing came new lightweight (and racier) looking instrumentation, again basically lifted from the 500. Fairing mounted mirrors and clip-on handle bars.

As the back was not restyled for this model, the Taillight is still the nice swoopy triangular affair from the earlier bikes, this provides a really nice continuation of the styling from the seat and side panels, through the rear cowl. It looks like it was designed for this bike, which it was. This light design is not used on any other bike, the previous RDLC and the later YPVS models were simply adorned with a generic boxy unit from the parts bin.

The ’85's side panels are the same separate small units used on the ’83/’84 31k bikes, in a style that harks back to the old LC, and the many RD bikes before it. The later models received longer single piece units that always seemed a cheaper and more plastic'y option that whilst I agree did look more modern for the era, they tended to make the side slabby, but as I’ve said that style was up and coming at the time. Of course a downside of the separate side panels is that it’s not always easy to have the graphics line up and that looks awful if it’s not done right.

The ’85 also retained the ’83/’84 tank which has the off-set fuel filler. This was referred to as 'racing style' back in the day as it was offset on the tank to be closer to the guy who was refilling the bike in the pits. Of course the later bikes had a recessed ‘racing’ filler cap than looked much more modern, like an F1 car or GP bike of the day, and not something that looked like a hangover from the 1950s! I guess your point of reference for racing all depends on your age, and this style of filler is probably more in keeping with the ‘old skool’ nature of the RD/RZ and I’d rather leave the recessed fillers for the later 4 stroke sportsbikes of the 1990’s and beyond.

The Aussie market received two models of F1. The 250, which was coded 1GA, and the 350 which was a 1AH. The 350 is shown below.

Of course, the ’85 is not actually perfect... there are some design items that seem incongruous with the rest of the bike, a hang over from it not being 'finished' stylistically perhaps, and some things were just done better on the later models, like those extra four ponies... but that’s evolution for you!

- The chrome grab rail... What is that about then?! Surely it should be satin black by this era. I am in two minds about mine... maybe I will do it black... hmm... well I might, but the chrome is too good... And, of course it will be removed when the single seat conversion gets fitted... problem solved!

- The footrests - I refuse to call them ‘rearsets’, as they are more like ‘middlesets’ to me! The ’85 has the ’83/’84 footrests, themselves a hang over in styling from the previous LC model. Fine on the older LC with its ‘end of the 70‘s syling but to my eye, the later units have a lighter look (more open like the 500) and feel (smaller better, more modern pegs) and I will be fitting those instead.

- The Wheels - It’s said the ’86-on wheels are lighter, and to be honest not many wheels could be heavier than the ’85s, so I’d like to find a set and compare them...

- The clip ons are nastily finished - These were a real rush job by Yamaha and even the same year N1 model got nicer units of the type that we now associate with the N2/F2 models, making the F1 units hard to find in good condition. I have refurbished mine and they look ok, but they arent as pretty as they later models.

But that’s probably it, really the ’85 ”has it going on” as far as I am concerned, which is lucky as I own one...

What I didn’t mention is that with only one year of production the ’85 is the rarest of the RD/RZ range, it’s now been recognised as such in the UK (probably the most excitable RD/RZ market!) and seems it’s the next RD/RZ to become truly collectible in the range and now as enthusiasts discovered how few were out there, giving it the kudos of the 31k models and the also hard to find N models, which is nice.

Like all the ’83-on RD/RZ models, the ’85 has the great Yamaha YPVS parallel twin two stroke motor. No other engine sounds quite like the Yamaha RD/RZ unit and having attuned my ears as a teenager to the tunes that these engines play under load - the tumbling idle that climbs with an offbeat timbre to become a frenzied banshee wail once the powerband hits - like many of my generation I can still detect a vehicle powered by this motor way before it has come into view.

The YPVS (Yamaha Power Valve System) referred to Yamaha’s electrically operated exhaust port technology that improved low down torque and hence drive-ability of the original RDLC’s stroke engine, especially around town. This system raised and lowered the exhaust port wall, adjusting the port timing. This allowed the 2stroke to ‘retune itself’ for both low and high speed running, providing the best of both worlds rather than have an engine only good at one of other. This meant the engine was tractable low down, endearing the bike with good manners in traffic, yet would also be a power house at high revs when pushing on. Considering that the 1980 350LC made 47hp and had a powerband step that was very noticeable, Yamaha’s boffins used this technology to not only tame the power delivery but also coax a further 16 horses, some 34% more power, from the same engine size within only a 6 year timeframe.

The ’85’s engine is shared with the ’83/’84 and ’86-on models with only detail changes; While it does use the earlier 31k cylinders, it has it’s own CDI along with the electric tachometer of the ’86-on models, needing no rev-counter drive gears in the engine which saves transmission drag. While it is not the most powerful of the 350YPVS model at ‘only’ 59bhp, 63bhp being available in the ’86-on F2 models using the 1UA cylinders, those ‘missing’ 4 horses are not noticeable by their absence in day to day use, and is only relevant to a blue printed engine of course, and we should bear in mind that few people leave their machines standard anyway.

Some brochure photos borrowed from Xavier’s wonderful RD/RZ site at RD350LC.net Thanks mate!

One thing I am lucky about with the Aussie version of the F1, even if we did call it an RZR here (debates about what constitutes an F1 and why anything other than a 57V ‘just isn’t an F1’, have raged on some forums), is that it came in what is arguably the best colour scheme of any market, which is still used in its basic form today by Yamaha. This was a slight derivation of the Japanese ’84 version in fact, and while the other markets got the darker red, white and blue paintwork as the bike my friend owned in the ’80’s, the Australian market only received the single colourway with predominantly white background and red speedblocks with blue highlight stripes. F1 fans will know there are other colours for those bikes sold elsewhere (and the less said about the custom decals that have been fitted more recently the better) and I’ve trawled the net and come up with the brochure shown at the bottom of this page other options for those rebuilding a 1985 bike. If I ever build another one I will use the European colour scheme and add the race stickers of the bike from my youth... but building another F1 seems highly unlikely at this point, its just too hard to find the parts!

For those interested in the Japanese 1984 ‘F’ model. It appears that this model was usually delivered without the fairing lower panel and while it has the later swingarm it is painted in the same red colour as the frame, aping the colours more usually found on the the ’83/’84 models, and uses bare alloy fork lowers.

This model also featured single push/pull carb linkage (akin to the USA setup), different carbs and a dash light that reminded the rider they had exceeded 80kph... which must have been permanently lit!

Often these are also seen with different mirrors and higher bars.

A little more on the ‘is it an F1?’ debate mentioned above...

When Yamaha introduced the 1985 models to markets outside of Japan, they were the first faired models of any of the long lived RD range. Yamaha decided to honour that with a new name in most markets; RD350F. The ‘1’ was added later by enthusiasts to differentiate these machines from the 86-on bikes that used different bodywork, which were known as F2, this was similar to the LC and LC2 (YPVS) nomenclature.

In Japan the two stroke parallel twin bikes had been dubbed RZ right back as far as 1980 with the introduction LC, there no longer being an RD in that market, probably to differentiate it from the old air cooled range. The RZ name travelled when the YPVS hit the Australian and USA shores in 1983, dying out in the USA in 1985 due to impending legislation, but remaining in Australia until much later in the decade. The name change was probably useful in the USA where the RD was seen as an air cooled machine and the 400s didnt have a wonderful name by the end of their life, and the 3 year break in imports of this type of bike (poor yanks never got the LC, more for the rest for us!) also allowed the new acronym to make sense.

So, In Australia the ’85 with the full faring was called an RZ250R, or RZ350R. RZ350F would have sounded ok perhaps, but Japan already had used the R tag to denote a more racy model and the name stuck when the bike came to Australia, plus it meant Yamaha could save a bit of cash and not have to make new graphics of course!

As an aside... The UK didn’t get an R model until 1992 with the Brazilian import that the press seemed to pan without any real thought as to what they were looking at; a budget sports bike with decant everyday riding position. The issue for the Journos was the 80s build quality, no worse than any other RD, but not cutting it against the 90s models and the fact they were restricted to run South American fuel, yet dealers removed those restrictions during the PDI. I owned one, for the money it was great. The Mags were wrong about it but sadly the modern journos just regurgitate what the old mags wrote, and the bikes are the RD350R is the least desirable of the range.

Back on track... These Aussie 1985 machines are amongst the first of the fully faired YPVS models and ‘many’ of the parts are identical to the UK/EU/Canada models... in fact I’ve yet to find a part that is different other than the frame and engine number codes, and the addition of the Aus compliance plate that was added locally. Ergo, the fully faired RZR is in fact an F1... And being an RZ probably has closer ties with the original Japanese models than the RD version... but let’s not go there!

If an F1 is rare, doesn’t that make an Aussie RZR rarer?

It might be churlish to say ‘depends on where you are...’, but it’s pretty much a given that outside of Australia you’re not going to find many, I would have said Any, but one has popped up in the UK! But, even in Australia these bike are rare. While I don’t have any real stats, we were a very small market back in 1985, we got these in 250R (1GA) and 350R (1AH) versions, but most were sold as 1GA 250s it seems as we had a 250 cheaper Rego (road tax) back then, so it was a good deal to have the 250. That makes a real 1AH 350 pretty rare indeed here. Over the years I’ve seen a few come up for sale, but very few original 350s, most 350s are 250s with the 350 top end banged on and not done fully (i.e. often no thought to fitting a 350 pump, CDI, carbs etc), and of course these are not '350 1AH' on the compliance plate... decals and cylinders do not fully make these a 350, its the 1AH code on the compliance plate that says what they were from new that does, sad tho that is for me with my lowly 1GA plated bike you might think, but I’m not bothered.

It has been said a few times on the forums that 'only 200' were sold in ’85, but no one seems to know for sure. What we do know is that it was a one year bike sold in a very small market which means Yamaha would have been unlikely to have sold thousands anyway, but from a business perspective 200 simply isn’t very many of anything to have a specific model complied and imported. If I was a product guy at Yamaha and the option to sell so few bikes came across my desk I would be thinking 'why are we doing this for so few sales? just send them the Canadian or UK spec bikes, job done...!'. What I would say is that we think it’s unlikely that we had N1s here as very few exist and I’ve never found one I can’t prove isn’t a more recent Japanese import, and having only one model would have helped sales of the F1, plus no one expected the N1 model when the F1 came out, everyone just got excited about a full fairing don’t forget.

In trying to work out numbers I applied the following logic; it is said that yamaha frame numbers always start at 000101 (the lower numbers for prototypes I assume) and even if you cannot find stats you can ask around the owners and find the highest frame number which will tell you that at least that number (less 101) were sold with that code.

Using that theory I’ve found that there were ‘at least’ 500 of the IAH 350s and ‘at least’ 800 1GA 250s sold in Australia... Simple maths makes that 1300+ all up. Hmmm... To be honest, that seems an awful lot of these bikes for such a small market. In the same year France sold 600 350s (N&F models combined), and they had a population almost 4 times that of Australia. So, selling double the number of bikes, even across both engine sizes, seems highly unlikely in the smaller market... but it could be true... Yamaha Australia if you’re reading this and want to comment, please do email me.

So, how does this affect how rare these bikes are? Well... In 5+ years of checking the sales sites and forums, I reckon even with the guys who are restoring them that I can account for about 15 bikes in 250 and 350 combined. Not very many for 1300 sold... Did we really scrap so many?

What I will say is that very few are restored. Mostly they are like many vehicles here, well used on the road, then they became farm bikes and were patched up (bodged with various degrees of mechanical ineptitude and Aussie ingenuity) to keep them being fun, until finally they die and are scrapped or sold off for fools like you and I to restore. Very few survive now it seems, but it has to be more than 1%, I would think 10% would be sensible, which means the total sales would have to have been lower... A mystery that only Yamaha can untangle perhaps?

Some brochures and accessories catalogue shots from all markets:

I originally considered that it was possible that there may have been early and late deliveries of the ’85s that came into Australia and that they had a few detail differences.

I thought that maybe the early were fitted with the older 'cigar' pipes from the ’83/’84 31k models as the set I received with my 250 are stamped 31k, but never seemed to be actually 350 pipes due to their part numbers, but I wasn’t 100% sure. Yet, some of the ’85s (and the 250s pictured in the brochure) had the later ’86-on style that have the look of ‘expansion chambers and separate cans’. While the later 350 models were all one piece, the 1985 250 51L exhausts are the same as the Japanese spec and enjoy removable silencers.

Over time I came to realise that the cigar pipes are actually only fitted the RZ350R and that the RZ250R was the only bike that received the new style pipes, the ’85 350 being ‘stuck’ with the older cigars - they are actually a 31k part number and derive from the LC2 models, but have extra ‘dents’ to cope with the 85’s longer rear axle, due to wider box section swingarm. The only reason I am now positive that this the case, is that Australia was a small market and often bike specs differ here. And while it might seem strange to differentiate the models like this, it was not a new thing in this market as we also had a similar market specific anomaly with the earlier LC; it was only available in white/red as a 250 and white/blue as a 350... other markets had both colours, also adding black and later blue and red as options. Australia not so much. This ‘simpler model range’ ethos still prevails today downunder, with many car manufacturers only offering two versions of any model; ‘poverty’ with nothing much included, and ‘rich’ with almost all the options of other markets.

The reason for the differences in these pipes is alluded to in the July 1985 Trio test (VF500, GSXR400 and RZ350R) in Two Wheels Magazine, where the journos complain that the 350 is basically unchanged compared to the ’84 model in the engine department, with no additional get up and go. Reading between the lines it appears the ’85 RZ250R was seen by them as being radically different to the previous year model, being much perkier and having more midrange (always a complaint about the RD/RZ 250s in roadtests when compared to a 350).

When looking externally at the 250 engine, you could be forgiven for not understanding what the upgrade was. However deep inside the cylinders of the RZ250R we find Boysen ports cast into the intake wall. The induction in each cylinder is smaller than a YZ85, it’s sized for the older LC models in fact so these ports must have made up for the that. The carbs were 250 specific VM26’s that include powerjets in the bowl. The head employed a new squish design that filtered down later to the 350 models. The new pipes and CDI complete the transformation.

While ordinarily I might be wary of what the contemporary Journos wrote as they do get things wrong in their articles - for one the RZ350R does not have ‘alloy clip ons’, but I digress - but for the fact that a friend of mine who has a later (’86) Japanese spec 250 that has been tuned with VForce4 reeds and the CR lowered, has ridden a Japanese spec 1984 RZ250R and proclaimed the standard bike to be faster. One might suggest that was the effect of riding a bike that wasn’t yours, ie. you tend to think the grass is greener... but Boyeson’s ports have been proven to work and are still being utilised by many manufacturers, even with their licence fee.

Anyway, check the photo below, 250 on the left, 350 on the right. Non standard seat colour and what looks like a different swingarm on the 250 apart, these show the two models we had in Aus in 1985.

The ’85 also has different indicators depending on market (and possible also due to the early and late versions of the 1985 year model) and for me the more 'triangular oval' type win out. While they may not be truly correct for the Australian market bikes as I cannot find a photo of a new bike or brochure shot, I will fit them. Over the years I’ve found that I don’t mind the later square paddles as such but I always felt the very round ones of the earlier models just don’t work with the full fairing, Yamaha felt that too and the styling of those units with the hangover from the 70s styling ended in ’85. The oval shaped units were used on all types of Yamahas over the years and may not have been standard on the Aussie market ’85, but I know other markets got them on this model year. I have a bunch of them and like them, so I will use them on my bike. The purists might complain but it’s just the tip of the iceberg with my bike I reckon, there is plenty more subtle changes on it for them to seek out...

The 1985 Aussie range brochure: