A 370CC ENGINE CONVERSION, A COMPLETE RGV FRONT-END AND AN APRILIA RSV MILLE SWINGARM WITH 60MM SAWN OUT OF IT – WAYNE LEACH HAS BEEN A BUSY OLD BOY, AND THE RESULTS ARE ABSOLUTELY STUNNING.
Picture the scene: it’s the recent Motorcycle Live show at the NEC, and Dunlop’s stand is home to Bruce Anstey’s Padgetts TT Superbike winner, a British Championshipwinning MX KTM, a pair of Thundersport GB bikes and a BTCC VW Passat. That’s over £400,000 worth of metal, not to mention the £44,000 Kawasaki H2R being displayed a mere 10 yards away.
Yet, somewhat embarrassingly, no one is looking at any of it. They’re too busy dribbling over Wayne Leach’s stunning Yamaha RD250LC. Rewind two years and the only looks this most special of Special Brews would’ve received would’ve been withering glances of scorn and derision. “It was a standard LC with a YPVS engine in it and I paid two grand for it, but it was tatty,” confesses Wayne. “It was in Kenny Roberts colours but it was battered and the bodywork was all cracked. I completely stripped it straight away.” With the bike in front of him in carefully labelled bits, Wayne’s intitial plan was fairly straightforward: make a hybrid with an RGV front and back-end.
As ever with these things, though, there’s an almighty ‘but’ coming. “I spent a year getting all the parts together, but then I was on an LC forum one evening,” recalls Wayne. “Everyone was raving about Fahron Engineering and this 370 big-bore engine conversion they did, which took a 250LC to 370cc and then tuned it as well. So I got off the forum, found someone selling a 250LC engine, and bought it – you can only do this conversion with 250 barrels not 350, because the 350 hasn’t got the wall thickness to the water jackets. Within days the barrels and head were with Fahron.”
Wayne is clearly not afraid of completely changing course halfway through a build if he thinks of a better idea. “Originally I’d wanted to keep the YPVS engine, but it wasn’t the only thing I ditched,” he laughs. “I had all my RGV parts and had even got NK Racing to convert them all to fit – but then I saw this.
While the front-end was just a straighforward RGV transplant, the back-end with its Aprilia RSV Mille swingarm and RGV wheel was a different matter. “The spindle and all the adjustors for an RSV wheel are 25mm, whereas the RGV is 20mm,” explains Wayne. “Everything either needed new bearings or spacers and sleeves. I had to machine the sprocket carrier down because that wouldn’t fit, but I got the sprocket to line up absolutely perfectly. It probably took three months to sort out.”
The engine wasn’t in a very tidy state when Wayne acquired the bike so it got completely stripped, with the casings aquablasted, gearbox bearings checked and bottom-end rebuilt. “Fahron Engineering do a meticulous job and my barrels were with them for five months, but the bike gives phenomenal midrange,” says Wayne. “There’s nothing up until 5000rpm and then it all comes in at once. It’s going to be a bit of a wheelie bike, which is fine by me.”
“I only got the pipes back two weeks before the show but they were worth the wait – they’re absolutely mint,” says Wayne. “They’re the best exhausts I’ve seen on a two-stroke – the welding is outstanding. Because I’ve had a big-bore kit they’re midrange pipes – everything comes in at 6000rpm, but it brings the power back down to 5000rpm so it’s more rideable. I’m really happy, because I wanted the cans kicking up like TZ exhausts.”
GETTING SOME LEVERAGE
Recognise these levers? They’re actually off a 2012 Triumph Speed Triple R. “I’d bought some R1 levers and a mastercylinder off eBay but when I got them they weren’t that tidy, so I nabbed the stuff off my Triumph. All I needed was to get some bespoke Hel brake lines made – the rest was just a straightforward swap.”
HAVE YOU SEEN THE LIGHT?
The rear light can be tricky to spot, but it is there. “I made an aluminium plate up and asked the guy who painted the bike to fill it in, so I could run an LED light underneath it. It only cost me about £25 off eBay. It’s smoked, but it’s totally road legal.”
WHITE IS THE NEW BLACK
They’re standard LC clocks, but Wayne scrapped the casings. “I got new outers and replaced the standard black clock faces with white ones. That was a very fiddly job, because you literally have to peel back seals and take the clocks to bits.”
NEW SWINGER IN TOWN
“This is one of the best-looking swingarms I’ve ever seen that’s not single-sided,” says Wayne. “To make it fit I had to cut it in half widthways not lengthways, take 60mm out of it and then get it welded back together. I tell you what, that was a big job. I felt a bit nervous when I was cutting through it. I used a heavy duty, industrial bandsaw with a laser. I just jigged it up in the clamps, cut it and it was spot-on – it was less than a millimetre out. I just measured the spindle where the swingarm goes into the frame – the LC’s frame is about 210mm, so I worked it out while giving about 3mm of clearance. “As for the rearsets, I didn’t want to run the standard hangers and NK Racing do rearsets for LCs. They bolted straight on but Kenny at Two Stroke Addicts had to make the exhaust match them.”
Aprilia RSV Mille swingarm. It was stunning, and I knew I had to have it. I sold my RGV swingarm to a mate who’s now put it in his LC, and because I’m a maintenance fitter I started working out how the new swingarm was going to go on the bike.” The answer was with a lot of graft and some very expensive tools. “It was a hell of a job,” says Wayne. “Basically, I had to cut 60mm out of it and then weld it back together. I used a bandsaw with a laser that we’ve got at work, which cuts to an accuracy of 0.4mm – it’s not the sort of job you could do in your garage. But even once a mate of mine had welded it back together it was still tricky to fit. “A lot of the conversions people do will pick up the standard LC shock which is over the top, but I had to make some plates and have them welded on. I pretty much copied the standard LC swingarm dimensions, but the big thing was the bearings. The spindles were all wrong, because obviously the RSV Mille has bigger daimeter spindles, a bigger wheel and bigger bearings, so there was a lot of machining and sleeving and altering of bearings. I did it all myself but it took about three months to sort. “It was just sleeving everything down from 25mm to 20mm, or 16mm in some cases, but I knew it could be done. I was telling people what I was up to and they were going, ‘Your back wheel will be too big’. I told them I was cutting the swingarm in half and they would just say, ‘Bloody hell Wayne.’”
‘Bloody hell’ is also a phrase that comes to mind when you gaze at the pipes. “I’d already bought two GP pipes at one side from Jim Lomas, but after fitting them I didn’t like them,” says Wayne. “They were too low – I wanted them kicking up. There’s this lad called Kenny, who runs Two Stroke Addicts, and everyone was having their exhaust made by him. He handmakes them on the bike and they get good power gains, too. He had a three-month waiting list, but he needed the bike to make them onto. With the NEC show looming I couldn’t afford to be without the bike for too long, so I cobbled up a separate bike from spares that he could work on.” The exhausts came together with two weeks to spare, joining other easier mods like the mint Kenny Roberts paintjob Wayne had always wanted and the complete RGV front-end (“It’s a doddle to fit – it just goes straight in”). Finally, there it was – basking in the glory of public adulation at Motorcycle Live. “I knew it would get a bit of attention, but I couldn’t believe it,” he laughs. “There were crowds of people around taking pictures – unbelievable.” For the work Wayne’s put into this bike, not least with that swingarm, the adulation was richly deserved.
SPECIFICATION 1983 YAMAHA RD250LC
ENGINE 250LC engine converted to 373cc and tuned by Fahron Engineering, Blaster pistons, rebuilt crank and bottom-end with aqua-blasted cases, Metmachex O-ringed head, 28mm carbs, Lock-up clutch with billet casing, billet kickstart, Two Stroke Addicts stainless steel midrange exhausts, NOS switchgear and loom, Banshee racing coils
CHASSIS RGV250M complete front-end with billet yokes, Aprilia RSV Mille swingarm reduced by 60mm to fit LC frame, RGV250M rear wheel, Nitron shock, standard LC frame in satin black
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
“As soon as I saw this clutch case with its billet casing and window mentioned on a forum, I had to have it,” says Wayne. We can see why.
When making the two shock mounting plates that are welded to the swingarm, Wayne wound out the shock’s ride height. Also, it would only fit upside-down.
WORDS: HANS SEEBERG PHOTOGRAPHY: JASON CRITCHELL