1986 Yamaha Radian - Clutch, Click, Braap! From zero to one hundred kilometres per hour in three-point, something seconds. Click, click, click, as we go head to head with what looks like a 2020 BMW Alpina on my peripherals. All you can hear is my heart rate pumping blood and adrenaline and the roar of the six hundred horsepower, v8, all-wheel-drive, $150k plus luxury beast. Who wins the race? Who the fuck cares! I decelerate my 1986 Yamaha Radian café racer conversion after having gone a quite a little over the speed limit. This same stupid scenario happens here and there when a fine dealership tuned cager comes beside me; the high-performance car goes to my right to try to cut me off once the light changes to green. I know I should just let them go, but we are motorcycle people, not some vegan on a bicycle.
Our 1986 Yamaha Radian (Rachel) came to us by accident. I was initially looking for an older bike for a café conversion. My budget for this project was less than a grand. Ideally, in my mind, I would end up with some two-cylinder Honda that I could easily strip down and call it a cafe racer. You know what I am talking about, a hipster bike to drive around the Annex in the Toronto West End. Looking through Kijiji, I found the perfect 1980 something Honda CB550, located in Burlington, Ontario (just over an hour from Toronto).
When I got there, the imbecile seller had already sold the bike to someone other idiotic looking, bearded hipster. After having driven over 100kms with a V8 Land Rover whilst hauling a trailer, I decided I just had to come back with a bike, any bike. Looking through Kijiji once again, because we all know how serious some fellows can be on that website, I found what looked like a well maintained Yamaha for $2200. When I got there, I was in a hissy mood, to say the least, having lost what I thought at the time was the perfect bike. “I’ll give you $600 Cash, right now,” I exclaimed to the kind fellow, as his wife walked out of the house. “How much is he offering?” Shouted the wife as she approached us. “Six hundred dollars,” I exclaimed. As I took out the money in twenty-dollar bills so that it would look like it was more than what it seemed. By then, the seller’s wife had come right beside him, as he was trying to reason with me as to why the bike was worth more than my offering. “Six hundred dollars is all I can offer you,” I told him once more. Before he could open his mouth to continue to reason with me, his wife elbowed him (hint - he better take it, or you’ll be sleeping in the dog house!). We loaded the bike onto the trailer, and his wife and I had the biggest smile on our faces, as for the nixce gentleman, he was not very happy himself as he counted the twenties.
The Yamaha Radian was in immaculate condition, and all she needed to get going was new boots and some gas in the tank. She is a parallel, 4-cylinder, forward inclined 600 ccs, air-cooled 4-stroke, gasoline two-wheeled beauty that spits out just over 60 horses. I took it for a rip around the neighbourhood, and that’s when I fell in love with Rachel! She takes off the line at ridiculous speeds, even for a new bike of the same size. On the ‘track’ - Clutch, Click, Braap! - as we fly through the six-speed transmission. Clutch, Click, Braap - redlining every gear at 10k RPM 56 Km/hr. Clutch, Click, Braap - 94 km/hr. Clutch, Click, Braap - 117km/hr. Clutch, Click, Braap - 202km/hr. By the sixth gear, I believed I needed a new set of panties. Fortunately, this is not a track bike, but more of a street warrior.
The Yamaha Radian is small enough that it can fit in tight spots and has a decent turning radius. Taking off the line and passing or overtaking on the highway is a breeze. While cruising on the highway on sixth gear at 100km/hr, give it a bit more throttle, and the Yamaha Radian is still peppy as hell. The clubman handlebars give it that badass café racer looks, although they were giving us some issues (there was air going into the brake master cylinder, and the front breaks were not working). We changed the cylinder for a larger one, and the reservoir now sits at a 90-degree angle. This enlarged master cylinder makes our twin front disk brake extremely responsive. We have also taken off the filter box and changed it for cones. I know several people complain that the performance on the bike suffers, but we have not encountered this – it could be because of our modified carb. We love our Yamaha Radian and would recommend this bike to anyone looking around for the perfect café racer prospect bike. Let us know what you think! Comment below!