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Yamaha RD250 Café Racer

Posted on March 23, 2012 by Scott in Café Racer. 30 comments

There are so many things to love about the Irish. For starters they have one of the highest beer consumption rates in the world. And when I say beer, I don’t mean some low carb, low fat, low calories, low taste beer. I’m talking about proper beers like Guinness. Secondly they love alcohol so much they even put it into coffee — combining two of my favourite things. Lastly, they are renowned for being lucky. They call it the ‘luck of the Irish’. There’s even an old myth in Ireland that if you catch a leprachaun then you will receive a massive pot of gold. Ian Harrington from Cork in Ireland might not have caught any leprechauns lately, but he has turned a pile of other peoples junk into a pot of gold — or a café racer to be exact. “I was offered an old Yamaha RD250 by a work colleague who was clearing out his garage” says Ian. Predictably, it turned out to be a piece of junk and needed a lot of work. “From the start it was never worth restoring as it was too far gone” he says. Luckily for this bike Ian had a soft spot for RD’s and decided to take the project on. Unluckily for the local pub, Ian spent many late nights in his garage instead of knocking back pints.

Here’s the build story from Ian. “The second part of the plot unveiled itself to me when I was given a crashed insurance write-off Honda NSR125 by a friend. I had absolutely no idea what to do with this, but of course I took it because it was a bike after all (even if  12” shorter). Now I was looking at the two bikes in my garage and thought to myself that the  NSR swingarm/wheel may fit in the RD frame and the forks and wheel might look good on the front end. The fact that the forks were now bows and the front wheel had a straight bit where it was once curved didn’t seem to factor. In short, all the Honda bits I didn’t want were swapped for the bits I did want. I just had to mono shock the frame and fit the forks now…

“I decided to build something that would look like an old TZ race bike — without spending much money. I extended the tank, (where the battery and electrics now live), chopped and de-luged the frame. Figured out and made the mono shock mounts. Fitted the Honda yokes to the head stock. Made the headlight and clock mount,   brackets to mount footrests  which are from a fireblade. I did some welding myself but the more important stuff I tacked up and got a friend, Aidan, to mig weld. Now I had a rolling chasse. I picked a wrecked TZ seat from another friends bin, repaired and reshaped it. I learned a lot about fibreglass on the way. For a long while nothing happened, three young daughters take up a lot of time (Andrew knows what that’s like), but I was always looking for parts, cheap. I even swapped a washing machine and dryer for a set of Allspeed expansion pipes with a crushed right can. I hammered out the can the best I could then skinned it with pharmaceutical stainless ducting, cut and wrapped around the can and then snap riveted into place.

“I swapped a washing machine and dryer
for a set of Allspeed expansion pipes”

“Once all the mounts were ok and I was happy that I had done all that was needed to the frame it was all pulled down, frame/swingarm and everything was stripped, painted and then the assembly could start. The rolling chassis went together well. A new wiring loom was made, and a battery and electrics fitted under the tank extension. The wider rear wheel was always going to cause a problem for the chain run. Eventually I had to sort something, so I went the trickest way I could think of, using an out rigger bearing. I had a friend (Kieran) bore a bearing fit hole in a plate of 12mm aluminium, turn a shaft to fit the inside of the bearing and bore out a sprocket to fit the shaft, I drew everything out on Auto Cad and parts were made from these drawings.”

Finally the paint work was done by Ian under the guidance of his friend John. “It is not perfect, but I was very pleased with the finished for a first attempted at proper painting.” said Ian. “Primer, base coat, painted stripe, decals and top coat, ya I know it’s basic painting but it gives me a buzz when I list it out and think I managed not to mess it up.” Again proves the luck of the Irish.

Ian’s wife, three daughters and the local publican are happy the build is complete. Although Ian tells us he has picked up an old 1982 GPZ 750R1 which he is going to turn into another pot of gold. If it turns out anything like this stunning little RD250, then expect to see it soon on these very pages.

  • Ben

    Would have been nice to get a close up of the monoshock in an old frame…

  • Raggles


    • Jai Henderosn

      Not only is Ian one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever met, he also knows his stuff. Top spanners!

  • Jakob_sievers

    Close, but no cigar 😛

    • Twistedchildturnsmadmonk

       Just lots of beer!

  • really nice the reshaped tail. perfect combo with the extended tank.
    small fairing would be nice
    cool bike

  • SportsterMike

    Yes, a small fairing would complete it

  • Deadhead

    Gorgous. Would have that in a second. Was only looking at buying one last night, I miss my RD, when I sold it they were worth a few hundred quid, now look at them! I love the wheels and monoshock, lightweight and mad. Not like they weigh much anyway!

  • KevC

    I’m proud to say I know this man. Excellent job Ian, very well done. Looking forward to seeing that gpz revived!!

  • Wowee Zowee!


    Cool and simple.

    The whole bike has great attention to detail and is well thought out. Probably one of the best example of a low budget build where creativity and craftsmanship can make a beautiful racer look so appealing.

    The design is classic, clean and it’s a pleasure to see a bike look so original, fun and functional.

    This 250 rules from every angle, It’d be a blast to rip around on.

  • It’s a Hondaha. Yamonda? Whatever it is, let’s just call it cool. Nice lines. Nice tech. Nice paint.

  • MotoTrooper

    When building a bike for personal taste on a budget, you gotta open your mind and heart to serendipity.  It’s amazing how inanimate things seem to shout, “Hey I’m over here and I’ll work fantastically with that mess your working on over there!”  And they do.  Also it doesn’t hurt that most all the bikes Japan has bequeathed us with have been well designed, incredibly engineered, and parts and systems standardized.  A bountiful palette for the bike builders.

    That said, it also takes a keen creative eye to create what Ian has wrought here.  Well done and good taste to boot!

  • Awesome.

    I for one would like a hi-res photo of this bike so I can frame it & put it on my wall…

    •  That’ll be $29.95 plus shipping and handling. lol

  • Archival Combustion

    Picked up an old RD with a bent crank in boxes that is just itching to get stuck back together – this is great fodder.  What was the condition of the engine when the build started?  Would love to see closeup of exhaust work

  • Archival Combustion

    Beautiful work on this bike.  Bet it’s kickass on little County roads.

  • mvrb

    fyi, Guinness /is/ a low carb, low fat, low calorie lite beer. Bike looks great, though!

  • revdub

    I want. I want. I want!

  • Homagemotoworks


  • hh

    best bike ever from amber heather and hazel

    • Tony yamy

      Gonna do mine cafe now in black with yam stripes and old expansion chambers

  • Cornish Pixie

    Nicely executed build, simple lines, no clutter, just the right hint of TZ without trying to be a replica. Well done on a lovely budget build sir. Only one thing wrong with this article…………………………………….

    Can’t hear the ring a ding ding of those pipes!

    Nice to see a bike from our side of the pond as well 🙂

  • So nicely stripped! Love how function results in form. Mono-shock!

  • Car2nst


  • Derkenobo

    solus 2

  • Metricmotorbike

    Nicely done! I agree with an earlier post that some sort of faring might be nice. I own an R5 and would love to ride this for comparison. 

  • FFL

    Sigma mountain bike speedo?

  • cornishman

    Love it. Clean simple lines, i,d love to hear those pipes. Sure brings back memories of my old YPVS.

  • ian harrington

    Thank you all for your generous comments,
    here is a shot of the other side of the engine for Archival Combustion ..
    Thank s again
                   Ian Harrington