• Game Changers: Yamaha RX100

A 100cc motorcycle unlike any other to grace our shores!

What’s the oldest motorcycle memory you have? Is it a smell, something you saw, a sensation or a pure moment of happiness? Mine is of flying in the cold breeze of a forest, down a road lit only in the warm glow of a halogen headlamp. My hands were clasped tight around the cold metal of the handlebar of a two-stroker as my father built up the revs. In that theatre of happiness, the vibrating fuel tank was the best seat in the house. And, that’s the thing with memories, you really don’t know how much is tucked away until the arrival of a very specific moment. And then it’s like déjà vu. Baffling flashes of moments and sensations from a time lived, maybe forgotten, but certainly not lost!

Our gamechanger this month is the iconic Yamaha RX100, a 98cc two-stroke motorcycle from the mid-eighties that’s so badass, I wanted one just as bad as my old man’s standard-issue Ray-Ban aviators. This motorcycle enjoys a massive cult following even today, more than some of the other greats including its own sibling, the RD350. Back then either you owned one or knew someone who had one, but everyone wanted to ride one. From all the stories I’ve heard most old-timers I look up to had an RX100 and they did it all, from rallying it to cross-country rides only to meet college sweethearts. My minimalist sensibilities love how uncomplicated it is. It’s so raw and mechanical from wheel to wheel, it requires a certain level of calm and nonchalance to really enjoy a motorcycle like this.

With a mere 11PS and 10.39Nm its air-cooled motor makes as much power as a modern-day sporty scooter and if you’re a bell-bottom wearing environmentalist, you may even choke on its blue smoke. But with bikes like these recycling the specification sheet is an act of environmentalism and riding it with the throttle open is a head turning soundtrack to your arrival. The twostroke engine is so sprightly, not pinning the throttle feels like detention. There’s always feedback with every upshift but sadly, on the 100 you only get four clicks of giggles and braaap! This isn’t too bad considering how its light frame and unperturbed power delivery made it pretty quick on its feet but just as tricky to stop, given the spongy drum brakes it wore. In fact, swapping the weak front drum brake for a disc is one of the most common mods on restored RX100s today. And I’d like to wager, that’s why it is so popular even today. As a motorcycle it was way more accessible than the faster and more expensive RD350. So in theory, if you wanted one today or simply decided to get your hands dirty with restoration as a hobby the Yamaha RX100 makes for a great starter bike and there’s quite a lot of them out there up for grabs, unlike the RD. Boon of performance being made accessible!

The first bike I ever restored was an RX135 fourspeed. It was a project build for a dear friend of mine. She always wanted to learn how to ride motorcycles but most bikes today were either too tall or too heavy for her 5 feet, 3-inch frame. For people like my friend when learning to ride, spills are a given and even accepted, but the thought of picking up a heavy bike by yourself can lead to a lot of hesitation even before they begin riding. Therefore bikes like the RX100 and RX135 offer an approachability that’s rare. With a saddle height of just 765mm and a dry weight of only 100kg, the RX100 is a fun platform to experience speed and flicking a motorcycle from side to side with the ease of a scooter. And as an experience, something as simple as kickstarting this bike is a treat.

Today, even with a rapidly appreciating value you can buy a decently maintained RX100 for an average ` 55,000. Add another ` 20,000-25,000 for bringing it back to ship shape. But if you do not mind opening your wallet, restoring it to your liking is easy. With specialised workshops and Japanese replacement parts you can turn this OG boyfriend bike into a dragster or motocross podium contender!

I remember borrowing the keys to an RX100 from a school friend of mine, back in 2006. He had it kitted with a small NOS can, one that actually worked. It was my first time riding an RX and I don’t know how or why I knew the kickstart routine, but I just did. I remember not questioning anything out of sheer excitement and the moment I let the bike loose, I was consumed by the flashes of my childhood on my dad’s two-stroker, from a time I thought I was too young to remember, but I’m glad I never forgot!


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