Yamaha Radian: Miss Practicality | Megaphone

By Robert Pandya, Photography by Motorcyclist Archives

Burping along the road on my humble single-cylinder standard had me longing for a new steed as the miles and my experience increased. I wanted something sleek and quick that showed the world I was cool: the motorcycling equivalent of the girlfriend I never had in high school, a smokin’-hot cheerleader who would teach me everything I’d need to know about life and love.

I spent so much time in the suburban Dallas Yamaha shop looking at sportbikes that I soon knew the names of all the employees. I was so broke that I traded on the only resource I could afford: conversation. I learned what was cool and what was not.

The exotic FZ750 was pure sex appeal; the lithe FZ600 the ultimate air-cooled supersport bike. Sure, that hot, new Kawasaki Ninja 600 was redefining sportbikes, but the tiny Fizzer was just my size. With no money, however, the higher insurance premium and MSRP were just as far out of reach as that padded brick of a seat. I stared at the supermodel-skinny SRX600 long enough that the sales manager knew I was in lust, but I imagined its kick-starter getting the better of me—likely in a driving rain when I was late for work.

And then there sat Miss Practicality: the Yamaha Radian. It was slightly dusty, plain compared to the shiny, new sportbikes, a gaudy mix of metallic red, gold and chrome. It was the heart of the beast that drew me in: a retuned version of that FZ600 motor.

I was clearly the only person to consider that bike on a regular basis. The sales guys made valiant attempts to find a way for me to step up, but I had zero credit and even less cash. I moodily thumped along on my ’83 Suzuki GN250, sad in my eco-reality as the Reagan-era fat money seemingly vomited out Big D luxury lifestyle all around me.

Enter Uncle Pradeep. I still have no idea how I convinced him to co-sign, but he did. I bought that year-old Radian for $2399, brand-spankin’ new.

I turned up I-635’s on-ramp and, despite the warning from the service manager to be easy on the throttle for the first 600 miles, pulled that cable tight. I will never forget the sensation of explosive acceleration. After 10,000 miles of 250cc thumping, having three more cylinders chewing oxygen at the same time catapulted me forward, stealing my breath and producing Millennium Falcon-like light trails as I streaked up the ramp.

Three years later, I had mastered that machine. She never let me down: hot or cold, that magic button fired her right up. I rode her from Dallas to Chicago and back to see my British grandfather for the weekend. I learned how to bleed brakes, and did enough wheelies to replace a chain and sprockets myself—along with denting the steering races so badly that it was impossible to ride in a straight line at slow speeds.

By then attending college, I had to sell her to pay for a used Toyota Corolla. Asking price: just $600. A set of steering races later, Jerry got the better end of that deal for sure! I thought my riding life was over. It wasn’t, but that’s another story.

Yeah, the sexy cheerleader bikes on the sales floor may have delayed my relationship with the Radian. But ultimately, I made the right choice. Miss Practicality may not have been my first moto-kiss, but that charming, slightly gawky and always approachable sweetheart taught me what love was really all about.

By Robert Pandya
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