Suzuki Motorcycles — The GS Papers — From GS To GSX-R — Motorcyclist Magazine

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Suzuki Motorcycles — The GS — From GS To GSX-R

the April, 2007 issue of

It is a true time-capsule moment, one so with pleasant memories and vu I can hardly believe it.

I’m along the 405 freeway on a totally 1979 Suzuki GS1000S just 6300 miles on the and it’s all I can do to keep the stupid from screwing up my face The S cruises smoothly at 75 mph, its cockpit fairing routing of the day’s chilly wind from my arms and chest. The soft suspension lets the do a slow-motion float over the undulations, but I’m not bothered in the

Because as I look down at the beautiful blue-and-white tank and analog instrument panel, reminded I’m aboard a special and historically significant it’s an experience to be savored.

bought the bike two years from a guy in Nebraska and had finally the thing running. I’d an ’80-spec S-model in college but it riding like the rookie I and had always wanted another one to the emotional gap it left-which I was now doing in As I motored along smiling big, goofy smile, I what the heck had taken me so

To the uninitiated, it’d be easy to Suzuki has always been a in the four-… performance wars. all, the GSX-R nameplate is as as they come, motor- equivalent of Porsche’s 911 or Chevrolet’s Retail sales since

Hundreds of thousands. Race More thousands. Magazine victories? Hundreds, at least.

But some irony here a generation of enthusiasts probably know-that Suzuki was the last of the Big to adopt camshafts and valves.

It’s true. Before it building four-… motor- en masse, Suzuki was known as a of two-strokes, beginning with the Power Free and Diamond models of the ’50s and culminating the mighty GT750 LeMans of the ’70s. Suzuki had reasonable and racing success with its although the shadow cast by four-… maker Honda-and Yamaha and Kawasaki, which the four-… club in the late and early-’70s, respectively-meant Suzuki was quite considered a top-tier player on the streetbike side.

But its GS models, the first of which in ’76, all that changed-and set the for the world-beating GSX-Rs.

Suzuki start out building motorcycles. Suzuki founded the Suzuki Company in 1909, and while the business was brisk early on, the needed to diversify. So it built a car powered by a wholly ahead-of-its-time a liquid-cooled four-… inline-four alloy crankcases.

The car was never but considering Suzuki would go on to only two-strokes right up our country’s bicentennial, that advanced prototype engine plenty of irony.

After War II, Suzuki turned its attention again to vehicles, this two-wheelers, building bikes advanced than the motor-powered then becoming popular in From the early ’50s to the ’60s, Suzuki’s bikes small, economical and surprisingly

In the mid-’60s came a breakthrough the T20, known in the U.S. as the X6 Packing a 247cc two-… with an industry-first six-speed dependable 12-volt electrical double-leading-shoe front brake and shocks, the performance-oriented Hustler a big seller in several countries and did in racing, even scoring at the Isle of Man. Small, and fast, the X6 was a window on the future for

Work began as early as on just such a motorcycle. inkling that its first big could not fail was proven by ’75 as it watched its poor-handling and RE5 Rotary lose momentum and into oblivion soon its debut. So Suzuki stuck to with its new four-… engine, many of the design cues in Kawasaki’s hammer-reliable Z1 powerplant: crankcases, the same basic and upper-end architecture, etc.

could not be chanced.

Power be plentiful, but not overwhelming. Styling be basic and handsome, not funky or And handling would be world-class via a and well-designed frame, above-average bits and smart details as needle swingarm bearings of the more common plastic or bushings.

The idea was to outrun not-so-fast-and now seven-year-old-CB750 and outhandle the 903cc Z1, which packed an that could overwhelm its chassis with a flick of the

It worked-and spectacularly so. Right out of the Suzuki’s ’76 GS750 with solid looks, comfort, above-average power, a indestructible engine and, importantly, high-speed handling put every other streetbike to It was the first superbike to get it right.

magazine summed things up in its September 1976 road The GS750 fits in everywhere hoped it would. It is the fastest 750 you can has. comfortable suspension and open-road range. It has enough clearance to make mountain-road a reasonable proposition. It is quietly beautifully proportioned, carefully and correctly compromised to be many to many people without any particular enthusiast group.

It is question the best motorcycle in the 750

Not surprisingly, sales were better than Suzuki had

Our own Roland Brown wrote The [first] GS wasn’t just the bike I’d ever by far, it was arguably the most superbike on the road. And boy was it fast! to someone whose own bike was an old twin.

The first GS affected roadracing overnight. When the GS out, club-racing changed, Jack Seaver, a longtime and racer who worked Japanese floors in the ’70s and ’80s. The group in WERA (Western Roadracing Association) was headed up by Ed who nicknamed the GS750-dominated class the because they were so and fast.

Well-ridden GS750s capable of winning 750 Production, 750 Production (re-named 750 Superbike that time), Open (against really wobbly and Open Modified Production. also raced in Formula which pitted real Prix bikes against who thought they had a chance. The GS was the production bike that get around quickly enough to in F1.

What’s more, the GS750 cured Suzuki’s weirdo cred caused by its two-… It wasn’t until the twin-cam CB750 of ’79 that seriously challenged the GS.

The GS impacted roadracing as well, a Yoshimura- example winning its debut AMA race on September 11, 1977, at Seca with Steve in the saddle. Veteran racer and John Ulrich tested the machine and said, It was magic, and my ride on an AMA Superbike. When I it at Ontario Motor Speedway an AFM weekend, I went faster on it Wes Cooley had gone on his Kawasaki Z1 there.

That would all the first time Wes got on a Yoshimura but it was fun while it lasted!

Drag-racer Terry Vance Ulrich’s praise. If it wasn’t for the I’d be working some counter in Inglewood, said the NHRA Pro Stock champ and businessman. That’s the bike made the GS1000 possible, and that I’d have my opportunity.

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Vance continues: [Hines, his partner] and I were Z1s and doing well. We won a couple of Suzuki Marketing Director Trobaugh had this big-picture to radically improve Suzuki’s on the heels of the new bike. He came to see me and at RC Engineering; we were just He put a plan together, we signed a and they sent us a bike.

we pulled the crate off, gathered around; no one had seen a GS We started winning pretty and away we went!

With cash registers ringing, and Vance Hines winning at the magazines calling the GS the best 750 and owners and tuners everywhere an array of GS-based hot-rods, master plan was humming nicely. By ’78, Suzuki had several rungs up the performance/credibility

The momentum would only that year with the of the entirely new GS1000, basically a better and badder version of the The GS1000 often gets as a warmed-over 750, but it’s Its frame, engine and overall makeup are almost completely though it follows the 750’s design direction: engine (with more power), comfort and range and superb especially at high speeds.

while the engine packed displacement, it was smaller externally and a whopping 10 pounds less the GS750 mill.

Australian Cycle News wrote The GS1000 proved the Japanese build a big, fast motorcycle that actually something Kawasaki never with the fast-but-loose-handling Z1. It likewise the Kawasaki’s stout nature, and the two were destined to meet on dragstrips for years. Heavily these motorcycles nevertheless reliable while putting out multiples of [stock] horsepower.

The GS1000 is damn near said Cycle in its March issue. It does everything [It’s] a perfectly stunning

In ’79 and ’80, Suzuki the GS1000S (a.k.a. the Wes Cooley perhaps the best-looking and most GS ever. Cooley repaid the by winning the AMA Superbike title years. The two models look but are actually slightly different, the version featuring electronic (instead of points), constant-velocity a stepped saddle, shorter slotted discs and more pegs.

More important year was the debut of the next-generation GS: the 16-valve GS1100E, which all comers in the horsepower department, Honda’s vaunted CBX Six. had this to say in the March 1980 If straight-line, tire-smoking performance is only criteria, the GS1100 is only choice. It is the fastest, boulevard-burner ever.

The 1100 hinted at what Suzuki do in the coming years.

Suzuki’s open-class GS engine represented a moment. While Honda its CB-F engines for max efficiency such items as the clutch and were only as beefy as to handle stock horsepower), engines were purposely so builders and tuners could get with all sorts of high-horsepower This made them for garage- and race-shop tuners, as as drag racers, who continue to them today.

They the perfect hop-up bikes, Vance. If you wanted to build a Pro Stock dragbike, they handle it. They were robust, and performance-minded folks it; it was a cultural thing with

These powerful and robust found their way into Suzuki models, including the Muth-styled Katana 1000 and of ’81-’83 and, later, the GS1150E and ES of ’84 and ’85.

By point, Suzuki had power and figured out. But the competition up with a couple of trick in ’83 and ’84 in the form of V45 Interceptor and Kawasaki’s Ninja that put Superbike-spec handling at the Suddenly, being the fastest and powerful didn’t garner an A

But Suzuki had a counterplay of its own, a developed in the years since the GS750 debuted. Working data and test results from a Yoshimura-built, GS1000-engined racer called the XR69 featured magnesium engine and a dry clutch), Suzuki began to its next-generation GS-which ultimately led to the GSX-R750 and, a year the ’86 GSX-R1100. But that’s story.

And my GS1000S? I plan to it-a lot. And with a few tweaks-an old-school Vance 4-into-1 header, stickier a set of piggyback shocks and maybe steel-braided brake lines-I’m sure I’ll be grinning a fool the entire time. MC

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