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Yamaha posted by

Phase Shifter – 1983 Yamaha RZ500

Here is one that will appeal to riding collectors, a 1983 Yamaha RD500LC, more commonly known as the RZ500.  Never brought into the states, this particular unit is listed as having been imported from Australia and appears to be excellent condition, although not 100% OEM.

1983 Yamaha RZ500 for sale on eBay

Some readers may wonder why the RZ500 is prized by collectors.  After all, 500cc isn’t a lot of displacement by today’s standards.   But what is forgotten is that the 500cc two strokes dominated motorcycle racing for almost three decades.  Due to the smaller engines, these bikes were fast.  I mean really fast.  Towards the end of the two stroke era companies were building two strokes that weighed about 130kgs (286lbs) and produced almost 200hp.  It should perhaps not be surprising that these bikes developed nicknames such as “the Unrideables”… “Death on wheels”… “The biggest, baddest, most evil racing motorcycles ever to see a race track.”

This California RZ has had a startling amount of improvements, engine rebuilt, intake, cooling, and exhaust systems either new or rebuilt, but the whopper is the set of late-model R6 forks and swingarm tailored for it.  With refreshed drivetrain and 30-odd years of suspension and braking improvements aboard, this might be the 500 two-stroke experience without the age-related foibles of a “classic” superbike.  Here is the owner’s list from the eBay auction:

*Bill Wilson Faze 1 built motor ~ 7,000 miles, ~100hp

*Custom Bill Wilson throttle junction / choke / oil injection cable / junction box

*Powder Coated frame

*28 mm Mikuni flat slide carbs- all rebuilt and just tuned. Custom individual tuned length throttle cables

*2010 -Yamaha complete R6 front end. Custom triple clamp adapter. Stock forks, triple clamps, clip-ons, brakes and 17” R6 wheel

*2010 -Yamaha custom R6 swingarm- $2100/ in parts alone- striping, machining, polishing and anodizing,

 *New 520 sprockets and chain. Custom brake line. Rebuilt caliper. Galfer disc and pads. 17” R6 wheel

*Jim Lomas stainless Steel expansion chambers w/ carbon fiber silencers

*Rebuilt Works Performance rear shock

*New radiator and hoses. Automatic and manual fan on switch,

*New rebuilt CDI ignition

*New rebuilt YPVS box

*Newly repainted and braced, side and bottom panels

*Custom under seat oil injection tank with indicator light

*Gas tank interior sand blasted and coated

*Current California registration

*Re-wiring extensive electrical

*Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 17” tires

Obviously not meant for the display or museum, this is a rider’s RZ.  The experience of accelerating a 500cc two stroke cannot be replicated, and it’s nice to know this one can brake and turn its way out of a jam.  California registration is just the cherry on top.  Occasionally you hear that a leading manufacturer should re-introduce their classic bike, sports or muscle car with some up-to-date technology – this might be the next best thing…

-donn and Marty



  • Great looking bike – shame about the red frame though 🙁 Seeing this brings thoughts of building a full Marlboro YZR replica in maybe an R6 frame with this running gear and replica fairings. Tasty!!

  • The mods,while tastefull, will, unless set up soft, bring out the soft steel frame shortcomings. Still my favorite 2 stroke road based bike of the era… Yes, more than the Gamma…

  • Please expand on the “soft steel frame shortcomings”?

    I am also not sure how a modded R6 swing-arm can end up costing $2500. The swing-arm can be sourced for $100, new bearings and custom linkage would run about $500 – I guess the rest is in the anodizing 🙂

    Either way, great bike at a reasonable asking price.

  • Cool bike! Seller must be quoting retail prices on the swingarm/etc? Or yeah, really spendy anodizing…

    I wouldn’t worry about the flexi-frame – its a streetbike and even with modern rubber/suspension it’ll still be a ton of fun on the street. Track days may reveal shortcomings but who cares, its a vintage bike with a great motor!

  • Actually there are no shortcomings with regard to the steel or alloy frame. That is why I am asking for the statement to be expanded on. On the street with street tires there aint gonna be no frame flex 🙂

    The swing-arm and forks could be seen as the week link, not the frame. Even though back in the day the bike was tracked with the stock forks and swing arm.


    This is my 360lb RZ500 on track running race tires, ZXR7 forks, NC29 swingarm and Ohlins shock in stock layout. No frame flex here – even with the 320mm Brembo binders doing their best to stick my eyeballs to the visor.

    Of all the shortcomings the portly RZ500 has, a poor frame is not one of them.

  • Meh, O.K. If you beef up both ends, and don’t beef up the middle, what will you have? The frame, although “patterned” after the TZ perimeter frame of the period was the tech of the day, there were no massive zero-flex boxed aluminum swinging arms, or fat (rigid) USD fork sliders. Couple that with tyres that kinda sucked,and are now “Velcro” . amazing to say the least, something has got to give my friend, and that something is the middle. No offense meant, it is just physical logistics… A trellis frame on the other hand… We dicked with RZ’s (350) to the point of ad nauseum and found out that letting the the bike slide around equally on both ends like the engineers designed it to in the first place, given the sum of it’s parts, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it until it is”… again, my opinion,through personal experience. It is just that, an opinion. All aside, cool as heck bike, and I would thrash the hair off it, spongy frame and all…

  • RZ350 is not an RZ500.

    The 2 frames share nothing in common construction wise. How much time do you have on the 500?
    If you would like I can point you to 10’s of RZ500 track riders world wide that have no issues with the stock frame flexing.

  • 45, watched the vid: jetting way fat down low -6000, middle needs a needle clip position down or different needle altogether, top end sounded good, pulled good but still way safe as far as meltdown goes . Great vid though! Oh yeah, never trust a guy in 2 piece leathers, especially Chinese 2 piece leathers… Safe shredding, and just kidding… Big Bang.

  • Construction wise, they were made by the same machine at the same factory, probably by the same guy firing up the robot welder. Probably from the same batch of steel, or aluminum (depending on model as they never produced the 350 from aluminum with VERY few exceptions, I believe the TDR was a non ferrous alloy}. Probably the same guy that unlocked the door and turned on the lights every morning… 500? none at all, but I did ride a TZ 250 more than a couple of times, you should try it…Again, we are bitching at each other about the very thing we BOTH love… Won’t you be my neighbor?

  • RZ350, round steel tubes, RZ500 square steel tubes with gusseting for and aft. Still not sure why the myth that the RZ500 suffers from performance debilitating frame flex persists. The period FZ400, RZ500, FZ600, FZ750 & FJ1100 all share similar square steel tube perimeter frame designs and are right at the top of their respective performance classes circa 1984/85.

    This RZ500 seems to represent pretty well, with nice mods and should be a great buy for the lucky winning bidder.

  • Steel is very flimsy compared to aluminum. Ask anyone who has experience riding road bikes (bicycles).

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