God I love the sound of 2-strokes. The stink. The vibes. The sensory overload when you wring its neck. That feeling of going a million miles an hour… until a scooter pulls alongside and you realise it’s all fart and no sh**.
It brings back fond memories though. I never owned an RX but my college parking lot was full of them and the RX 135, launched at the same time I legally acquired a license, was da bomb. A close friend managed to blackmail his parents into buying him one and that was the first motorcycle that I tried to kill myself with. We of course had no idea how to handle the 11-odd horses (way too much for a kid on his mum’s Kinetic Honda), the brakes and tyres were nothing like what we have today and every ride was an exercise in channelling Rainey and Schwantz. God, we were fearless. And stupid.
Turned out it was an RX 135 that did try to kill me after all, not my friend’s though – this one was ridden by an idiot coming down the wrong way. My idiotic all-or-nothing riding meant there was no room to manoeuvre, I t-boned it, and I ended up with casts on both hands and one knee. I never did ride an RX 135 after that. Until now.
Instantly I’m reminded of how we used to struggle to find neutral. If memory serves me right it was only the Yamaha that had the one-down-rest-up pattern: 4 speeds on the RX 100 and initial RX 135s, 5 speeds when the icon was eventually laid to rest. This bike has the fifth gear (an aftermarket addition) but it makes no difference to the top end over the original 4-speeder. As for the RX 135, it was a step up from the RX 100: more power, more torque, better on emissions, fresh stickers and that classic Yammie 2-stroke note that even today advertises the arrival of an RX (and only an RX). To be fair, with engines having lost power over the years, today, an RX 135 won’t feel very different to an RX 100 – unless you’ve got an ace tuner – and I’m told both have become collectibles.
Riding one today is a… surprise. Back then it was the fastest thing on two wheels but today it’s hardly what you’d call quick. Except when you need to slow down. Then it feels way too fast, the brakes teleporting you back twenty years. It feels very light though, very easy to change direction, extremely nimble and agile. And all the noise, the narrow power band, the vibes, it all makes you smile.
I’m not into old bikes, but if you come across a clean RX pick it up. In a few years it’ll double in value. And don’t forget to loan it to kids. Their education will be incomplete without experiencing the joys of a 2-stroke coming on the pipe.