Undoubtedly the fastest production quad made during its time, the Yamaha Banshee 350 was the only twin-cylinder, two-stroke machine ever designed and made available to the public. Its powerplant concept was so revolutionary that the four-wheeler instantly created and dominated its own niche while catching all other manufacturers off-guard and silencing any attempts of a counterpart model from the competition.
The Yamaha Banshee 350 made history as one of the best two-stroke quads in the industry. This legendary ATV, produced from 1987 to 2012, had a high-performance, RD350-based twin-cylinder engine, making it a Baja-winning machine.
Its staying power in the market, all-out performance, and build versatility marks the Banshee as the most exciting production quad by a manufacturer. But more than its speed and race-worthy features, its ability to touch bases with riders on so many levels is what makes it truly special. Stick around and discover what makes the Yamaha Banshee 350 the ultimate ATV ride.
Yamaha’s Greatest Race Quad
The Yamaha Banshee 350 is one of the longest-standing, most successful, and prevalent four-wheelers in ATV history. It is a two-stroke machine with a massive power band and tons of horsepower. The quad’s simplistic design and high-pitched 350-cc power mill make its presence undeniable on the trails. So much so that it was dubbed the King of the Dunes, even beyond its 26-year production run. Yamaha introduced the Banshee to the U.S. market from 1987 to 2006, and until 2008 and 2012 in Canada and Australia, respectively.
Designed to go fast and for operators who know how to handle swiftness, this four-wheeler is not for the inexperienced, nor is it for the faint of heart. Anyone who puts their leg over it is guaranteed to get a rush, especially when maneuvering the machine slideways at high speeds. Unlike other 350-class vehicles that accommodate the newbie, the Banshee is biased towards the savvy rider who knows when and how to mesh the quad’s different parts to get the best overall riding experience.
Why the Banshee Is King
Quad fanatics keep Banshees of all shapes and sizes – from full-faired to paddle-tire fitted to heavily customized rigs. These enthusiasts love their twin-cylinder howlers, always proud to flaunt their vintage race machines. Similarly, average riders have grown to love it, despite its lack of an electric starter, the absence of bottom-end power, and slow warm-up. And why not? The Banshee’s combined high-RPM power, superb sliding ability, and predictable flight manners make it a favorite worldwide. Its easy kick-start system and dual 26-mm Mikuni carbs fire right up. Its six-speed gearbox ratios allow for quick shifting and power shifts up to 2nd gear, too (shifting sans the clutch and with the power on).
Yamaha Banshee 350 Specs and Features
- Engine: It is brought to life by a forward-inclined two-stroke, liquid-cooled dual-cylinder Yamaha Banshee 350 twin turbo engine. It has a bore-stroke ratio of 64 x 54 mm (2.52 x 2.13 inches). The engine displacement is 347 cm3 (21.17 in3) delivered by a dual 26-mm VM26SS Mikuni carburetor with a compression ratio of 6.5:1. The Banshee YFZ350 has a premix lubrication system and a wet-type air filtration system. The advertised power output of a stock Banshee is 34 hp/34.47 PS (25.35 kW), while its claimed maximum torque is 54 Nm (39.83 ft-lb/5.51 kgf-m).
- Fuel: Fuel tank capacity is 3.2 US gallons/12 liters with a 0.7-gallon/2.5-liter reserve. Use premium unleaded fuel for top performance. Axle Addict suggests using Klotz Supertechniplate – a combination blend with 80% synthetic Klotz R50 oil and 20% Klotz Benol, which contains the excellent protection characteristics of castor oil and the low carbon buildup associated with the synthetic.
- Lubrication: Oil capacity during a periodic oil change is 1.6 US quarts/1.5 liters. Use Yamalube 2-R, Castrol R30, A545, A747 motor oil, or equivalent for best results. For transmission oil, use Yamalube 4 (10W30) or SAE 10W30 with an API service classification of SJ or higher (SE to SG grades are already obsolete).
- Drivetrain: A six-speed constant mesh transmission controls the YFZ350. It has a wet, multiple-disc manual clutch system. It has a primary helical gear with a reduction ratio of 2.869 (66/23), and the final reduction is 2.929 (41/14) on both front and rear. Its gearshift is left-foot-operated.
- Ignition: It has a CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) electric/kick-starter system with an auxiliary mechanical recoil starter. A CDI-magneto generator serves as the vehicle’s charging system. Additionally, the quad requires a 12V 1.2 Ah, 210-CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) YTX14AH-BS battery with assembled dimensions of 5.31 x 3.50 x 6.56 in (134 x 89 x 166 mm – L x W x H) – not including wire harness and mounting accessories.
- Tires: Tubeless, Dunlop KT851A AT21 × 7-10 front tires and Dunlop KT877 AT20 × 10-9 rear tires mount on steel wheels. Tire pressure should be 30 kPa (0.30 kgf/cm2, 4.4 psi) for both front and back tires. Do not go beyond the range of 3.9 psi/27 kPa (0.27 kgf/cm²) to 4.7 psi/33 kPa (0.33 kgf/cm²) when airing tires. Similarly, 36 psi/250 kPa (2.5 kgf/cm²) should be the maximum pressure when seating the tire beads. Replace rear tires with ITP GNCC Off-Road Bias Tires (view on Amazon) for a smoother, grippier ride.
- Brakes: A right-hand-operated dual hydraulic disc brake and a right-foot-operated single hydraulic disc brake comprise the Yamaha Banshee 350’s engine braking system, which provides it stopping power. The WSays Complete 632 Pieces Stainless Steel Full Bolt Kit (view on Amazon) comes in handy for all of your repair needs.
- Suspension: The front suspension of the 350 is an independent double-wishbone with a five-way preload-adjustable coil spring/oil damper allowing 9.1 inches (230 mm) of travel. The rear suspension utilizes a swingarm/link suspension with mono-cross shocks (later changed to one with rebound, compression, and threaded preload adjustment), allowing 8.7 inches (220 mm) of travel. This suspension design lends to an overall turning radius of 11.8 feet, which makes for smooth handling.
- Dimensions: The overall dimensions are 73 x 43.3 x 42.5 inches (1,855 x 1,100 x 1,080 mm – L x W x H). Its ground clearance is 5.31 inches, wheelbase is 50.4 inches, and seat height is 31.5 inches. Dry weight is 385.8 lbs/175 Kg, while curb weight is 412 lbs/187 Kg; Maximum loading capacity – total weight of the rider, cargo, and accessories – is 220 lbs/100 Kg.
- Exterior: The quad has a steel tube frame (with a 9° caster angle and 40-mm trail) and plastic body material that is hard-wearing and upkeep-friendly. Footpegs, a multi-function dashboard, front/rear bumpers, grips, handlebars, light guard, and front bash plate come standard with the vehicle. Fender flares provide splash protection.
- Lighting: Two 30-watt Krypton headlights mounted on the front fenders use multi-reflector lenses for superior light distribution. It also has a 5-watt taillight and a 21-watt brake light. You may change stock bulbs to LED lights for improved visibility, especially at nighttime.
Yamaha Banshee 350 Problems
This issue is most rampant with ’95 Banshee models but may happen to any model year or version. One of the causes of this problem is a bad coil, which is inherent to the Banshee. They will run fine at times and like crap at others. To avoid this, you will need to replace your coils yearly like clockwork. Throttle cable and crank main seals tend to go bad too, resulting in low power at low RPMs, weird idle, and difficulty in starting. Similarly, stock carbs cause idling issues due to the carb slide bores’ rapid wear, causing them to stick and not fully return all the way.
Aftermarket carbs are not safe from mishaps either. Among the first things you need to inspect on these are the top cable adjusters. See if you have them too high up, causing the cable to restrict the slides from returning to their position. Loosening the jamb nut on the top caps, turning the screws in, turning to the right, then starting and setting your side idle stop screws should get your machine back to running smoothly. Should these steps fail, then you may need to do a full-blown inspection of your fuel, compression, and ignition systems to help narrow down the problem (refer to section 8-48 of your owner’s manual for guidance).
Flimsy Front Shocks
Some Yamaha Banshee 350 parts, like its front shock shafts, are not up to full-race standards. You see, the rod tends to bend when subjected to repeated pounding, which is inevitable in dunes and motocross tracks. Consequently, the stock suspension’s damping, which is slightly inadequate for extreme racing conditions, gets burdened by a whooped-out course. No one can deny the predictable and plush suspension system of the Yamaha Banshee 350; however, it would have been better if the front shocks met the same quality control as the rear end.
Veteran riders recommend replacing stock balloon-style Dunlop tires. Why? Because these all-around tires tend to roll over when the throttle shuts down during a turn. This means that the machine stands up and lurches the rider over the handlebars if the latter pitches the quad sideways through a corner and suddenly gets off the throttle after.
Other problems include lack of bottom-end power, tedious chain adjustment system, clog-prone airbox and radiator, and disgorging coolant overflow reservoir. Still, the fact remains that the Yamaha Banshee 350’s highlights outshine its faults. Its excellent braking system, good reliability and ergonomics, and the unbridled enjoyment it gives all combine to make its flaws forgivable.
The Banshee’s engine is bulletproof, but many of its components do not share the same quality. Since its first production year, issues with the air filter, chain tensioner, and overflowing coolant were already manifest. And yet, Yamaha left the Banshee unchanged through the course of its stay in the market. As such, enthusiasts deemed it best to address these performance-impacting issues themselves via the following enhancements:
- TORS (Throttle Override System) removal and the addition of a twist throttle
- Stock airbox removal, then the opening of air filters and outerwears
- Upgrade of stock pipes to high-performance ones
- True and welded crank
- Axle carrier modification
- Ported and polished cylinder heads
- New billet pump and custom inline cooler
- New Pro Design Billet Cool Head with 21cc Domes (view on Amazon)
Some of these upgrades, such as the airbox removal, positively impact the Banshee 350 top speed of nearly 65 mph by a couple more mph gains. Most, if not all Banshee enthusiasts, advise new owners to have this replacement as their first order of business with the quad. The stock ones are known to hoard dust and dirt, restricting the airflow into the engine. The removal of TORS makes for easier maintenance since it gets in the way of accessing the carbs when the rider needs to. Polishing/porting the heads and changing to performance pipes aid in reducing instances of engine bogging down.
Improvements to this machine are limitless and dependent on the needs (and whims) of the owner. For secondhand units, the upgrades’ determinants are the overall condition and frequency of maintenance done on the quad. Anything beyond what is listed here is done typically on Banshees used for racing or those in poor condition needing a full rebuild or restoration.
These recommendations should not deter you from getting this vintage speed monster. Nor should it give the impression that this two-stroke is taxing to maintain and would require a professional mechanic to sort troubles out. If only to reassure you, know that there has never been a lemon Banshee reported by any of the vehicle’s former or current owners. I cannot say the same, even for four-stroke quads manufactured today.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much does a Yamaha Banshee 350 cost? The 2006 base model had a list price of $6,199, while its average retail price ranges from $2,115 to $8,049. Depending on if the quad is in mint condition or is heavily modded, the selling price may be higher. Do thorough research if you have a recent-year machine and are thinking of switching over to this vintage, as there are riders who are willing to trade their Banshees for a four-stroke.
- What is the Yamaha Banshee top speed? The marketed figure for the Yamaha Banshee 350 is 65 mph. With aftermarket support, one can get to as high as 118 mph on the top end – based on a 1994 Dirt Wheels Magazine article. Naturally, it will no longer be a bone-stock Banshee doing this. Getting taller gearing, Kendra Speed Racers, power mods, and altering front fairings are just some of the things you can do to increase top speed dramatically.
Here is a video by Youtuber Michael Saebo hitting 81 mph before he got 22-inch Speed Racers for his Banshee:
- Why was the Yamaha Banshee 350 discontinued? Yamaha Banshee 350 sales were discontinued in North America in 2006 due to the strict implementation of EPA regulations. Control limits for emissions were defined, with off-road machines and ATVs/UTVs getting the shorter end of the stick. Being a two-stroke and not classified as a closed-course vehicle, the Banshee went above the emission limits set in the said regulation.
Yamaha Motor Company Limited, the maker of the Yamaha Banshee 350, has come a long way since its founding in 1887 in Shizouka, Japan. Little did the Japanese firm know that from post-WWII motorcycle production, it would pioneer the ATV industry four decades after. Today, Yamaha continues to produce top-of-the-line personal watercraft, speed boats, outboard motors, and off-road vehicles.
Conclusion – Yamaha Banshee 350
It may not be the most modern four-wheeler out there, but there is just something about this classic two-stroke that modern four-stroke brutes will never be able to replicate. What makes this legendary quad a cut above the rest is the summation of all its components – its lively transmission, neat high-rev engine, long-travel suspension, excellent sliding ability, and foreseeable handling manners. Everything works together to make the Yamaha Banshee 350 the undisputed king of off-road performance vehicles.