Niall Mackenzie's Top 3 best sounding bikes

Exhaust note heaven? This way please...

To kick off our multi-part series, we asked several industry experts what their favourite sounding bikes are. Was it the race-tuned sportsbike they rode around Jerez? Or perhaps that old two-stroke dirt bike that most definitely wasn't ridden illegally around local fields. Maybe it's the chug of a big single that gets their blood pumping.

No rules, no restrictions, any bike goes...

This week, we asked former GP racer Niall Mackenzie which bikes get him ticking over.

3. Honda RC30 

After racing RVF750s at the Suzuka 8 Hour race in Japan I became addicted to the distinctive sound of V4 750 four stokes.  Although the standard (homologated for racing) road bike sounded slightly muffled, if you slipped on a Micron system it instantly sounded like an HRC special.  The deep, torquey rumble, came from a high performance engine with gear driven cams and sounded so much nicer than the inline four cylinder Japanese competition of the same era.  The gruff rumble turned into what only can be described as an almighty roar at higher revs but like most Hondas, the power came in a very linear, civilised manner.  The ultimate place to hear these awesome machines is undoubtedly around the IOM TT.   

Click here to listen.

2. YZR 500 

I rode these V4 500 two stroke race bikes over a period of five years and never tired of hearing the distinctive woah-wup of them being warmed-up in the paddock or the full throttle scream out on the track.  As they were built with quite fine tolerances they had to be warmed-up gently so seeing small ‘o’ rings of smoke coming from the four silencers while the motor was pinging away at low revs was pretty cool.  As the water temperature was rising, mechanics would increase the revs and you would then hear the amazing throaty induction as the bank of bell mouths were filled from the giant fairing ducts.  Out on track they were nowhere near as noisy as modern Moto GP bikes but the high pitched scream when they reached maximum revs (around 13,000rpm) was pretty unique.  Anyone that can remember hearing YZRs over rev while riders were on and off the throttle through sections of track like Donington’s Craner Curves will tell you how special they sounded.

Click here to listen.

1. Yamaha RD350LC 

I worship this machine as it set me up in racing and indeed my life. I desired this bike like no other when I heard it was in production so the sound that came with it was the absolute icing on the cake.  One kick with no throttle brings an LC to life and ticking over with a two stroke burble that to me is quite therapeutic.  Once warm, a few stabs on the throttle clears the pipes with a great raspy resonance that lets you know there is a nice powerband to hand.  The best bit however is once you are onboard and upwards of 6000rpm, a distinct whistle arrives in your ears that only a 350 LC can deliver.  A well set up standard bike with stock pipes is incredible fun to ride and a joy to the senses.  I still have a 1982 white/blue one in my shed and it’s my pride and joy.

Click here to listen.

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