Suzuki A100. This was my first bike (and yes, that's me - when I was just a "young bloke" - in the photo); which I actually bought to go "trail-riding", mainly around a friend's farm. No, it wasn't in any way a trail-bike! It was a little road-bike / commuter with a single-cylinder 2-stroke 100cc engine. Power was quoted at just under 7kw. They were produced in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
I rode it around the friend's farm, but also did a little bit of on-road riding; mainly just to get to the farm. And I also rode it around town a bit. It didn't journey too far though. I suppose it seemed okay at the time, although obviously no power-house in performance. I did manage to get it to nearly 60mph (100kph) once; which was pretty scary! The steering was pretty quick and flighty too; which I only realised when I rode bikes that were better! After I bought a new trail-bike I passed it on to my wife, and subsequently modified it for trail use. It got knobby tyres, wider handle-bars, and lower gearing. Surprisingly perhaps, these little things were quite popular over the years, and I know a few highly experienced riders who bought one as a commuter to get to work and back. Even into the late 1990s there were still a few buzzing around.
Suzuki DR250. Early 1980s. A mate had one of these. And it was a nice bike! It was quite capable off-road, (that's my mate getting it air-borne in the photo), although not quite as nimble as the 2-stroke trailies the rest of our group rode. He went everywhere we did, but probably worked harder to get there sometimes. It could be a bit difficult to start sometimes, (especially if it had gone down). Whenever we all went to start up, I always waited until he got the Suzi fired up before I started my DT. I knew the DT would start with just one prod of the lever, but the Suzuki could sometimes get stubborn. What impressed me most about the Suzuki was it's comfort. With a big cushy seat (and decent suspension) it was the most comfortable trail-bike I've ridden. On open fire-trails I often wished I was on the Suzuki, for it's comfort and great ride. (But on tight rough tracks I was glad to be on the DT).
Suzuki DR650. 2006. The big DR has been around in largely unaltered form for quite a while, and at the time of writing this (late 2007) it is still the current model. That probably contributes to it's good value though. One magazine described it as "The best value you can buy!". I had a brief ride on the bike that my mate, Steve, rode around AustraliaThe long-range tank had been replaced with the original, but the up-graded suspension and slightly lower gearing remained. My ride was all on bitumen, so I didn't get to ride it in it's natural habitat; although it was surprisingly good on the road. The ergonomics are quite good - the riding-position is comfortable. Of course it's sit-up-straight and wide bars, as you'd expect from a big trailie, but suprisingly good. The seat is a bit narrow and hard (Steve had fitted a sheepskin cover; which improved it a lot from standard). The mirrors are sensible, and work well. The engine is a single-cylinder, of course, producing quite reasonable power (Suzuki don't give out-put figures). There's vibration, but not excessive for what it is - I've ridden bikes with a lot worse! Gearbox is only 5-speed, and Steve reckons they should give it a 6-speed and leave top gear where it is, lower 1st, and spread the other ratios out evenly. As it was, I found a big gap between a couple of the lower ratios (I wasn't counting, so I'm not sure which ones - probably 1st and 2nd). The revs'd get a bit low in one gear, but change down and it seemed too high. (There was no tacho either - which is a disappointment; I like to know what the engine is doing!). Even with the slightly lower gearing, top was quite high. It wasn't comfortable under about 80 - 90kph, and took about 100kph before it really got into it's stride. The stiffer suspension and inherent light weight made it feel a bit firm, but it soaked up bumps quite well. There's some dive under brakes - as you'd expect - but Steve says noticeably less than with standard suspension. It was only a very brief ride, but I found it to be better than I expected; especially for what is essentially a fairly out-dated big trailie!
Suzuki GN250. Early 1980s. This was Suzuki's version of the slight-chopper styled commuter bike that was produced by a few manufacturers during the 1980s. And it seemed to go on virtually unchanged for many years! A mate, who bought one of these for his wife, reckons that's one of the good things about Suzuki; they produce a good bike and then resist the urge to change / up-date it each year. Thus older Suzukis hold their value better (because they haven't been out-dated as much). He's probably got a good point. And the GN250 was a good bike, so there was probably no need to change it anyway. The single cylinder engine put out 16kw, which was a couple more than the similar Yamaha SR250 I owned. Performance was a bit better than the Yammie, and in general I think the Suzi was the better bike. In fact it was probably the best of it's type, which was one reason it out-lasted all the other makes.
Suzuki GS500E. Mid 1990s. The same mate I mentioned above who bought his wife the GN250 had one of these for a while. He'd owned lots of other makes (Yamaha, Kawasaki and BMW, just to name a few), but his preference for Suzuki that I mentioned above was one of the reasons he chose this. And, like the GN250, this was another model that continued virtually unchanged for many years. It first came out I think in the 1980s, and is still going today, in pretty much the same form. Although the current (2006) model is also available with a fairing, which looks quite good.
The motor is a twin-cylinder unit producing 34kw. No power-house, but certainly adequate. A review on the bike published in the early 1990s described it as "the most sensible bike around". My mate would agree; using it for everything from commuting to work to interstate trips. (On one trip he racked up an impressive 900km in one day!). So if you are into "sensible" bikes (as a lot of us old blokes would be!) then this could be a good choice. My mate is of similar build to me, somewhat tall and lanky, and his one criticism of the bike was that it was a bit cramped for tall riders. I just found it a bit weird. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but the riding-position seemed a bit odd. But a good "sensible" bike. (For further comments, see "Power" in the "Comments" section).
Suzuki GSX-R750. 2001. “When you ride a GSX-R750 you have the privilege of riding a legend. It's a championship-winning sport bike that ushered in the era of racebike replicas. On the road or on the track, the GSX-R750 delivers a riding experience that is a breathtaking combination of outstanding engine performance, crisp handling, compact size and light weight.” That’s what Suzuki say about their GSX-R750, and it’s a pretty good summary really. It was first introduced back in the mid-1980s, when the 750 class was brimming with sports bikes. These days the super-sports are nearly all 600cc or 1,000cc. But 750cc still makes a lot of sense. Not quite as peaky as the 600s, but without the excessive, never-be-able-to-use-it power of the 1,000s.
I got to ride a 2001 model when my son-in-law bought one. It was 10 years old at the time. That was a good model; having been up-graded the previous year, it was lighter, stronger and faster than the model that preceded it. It feels small, even a touch cramped for a lanky old bloke like me. Of course the riding position is pure sports, with the bars being low down, forcing the rider into a racer’s crouch. But it’s what you expect, and not too extreme; sporty, but not quite head-between-the-knees. And the seat, while it looks like the current type of sports-bike planks, is actually quite soft and comfy. The numbers are impressive. The fuel-injected donk pumps out 103kW of power and 83Nm of torque. Not bad for a 750! And it only has 166kg (dry weight) to haul along, so you know it’s going to fly! According to reports, it also handles very well; not just in racetrack terms, but in on-road terms as well. I saw top speed quoted as 275kph. Like most sports-bikes, it works best when ridden fast. At slow speeds it’s not so good. Tipping it into a corner at slow speed the steering felt heavy and stiff; an effect, probably, of the steering damper. That felt a bit intimidating, which made me slow down more, which made it even worse. So I trickled around corners at ridiculously slow speeds. But when I started to trust it a bit more and enter corners faster, the steering lightened and it worked much better. Same with the engine. It’s quite tractable and pulls well from low revs, but it does its best work when the tacho gets around half way to that 14,000rpm red-line. I never got it quite to there in the brief ride I had. Twist the throttle, especially in the lower gears, and it gets up and boogies fairly well, although not in a spectacular way. On the highway, cruising at around 100kph (tacho sitting just under 5,000; it’s geared at 22kph per 1,000rpm), if you twist the throttle it takes off well enough, but not really quickly. In fact it feels almost a bit lethargic. You need to snick down a cog or two to really access the performance. Then, as my son-in-law and other road tests confirm, it really goes well! As it should! (Look at those numbers again!). Oh, and I reckon it looks great, and it’s also very well-built. As Suzuki says, it’s “A legend”!
Suzuki PE175. Late 1970s. These were a serious enduro bike, and as such were intended for off-road competition rather than simple trail-riding. There was a headlight and blinkers etc, just to make it legal, but they were all quite small. They were very capable off-road, although they had to be ridden in a serious way. They performed well, but you had to get stuck-in to really make them go. There wasn't much at low revs, but get the revs up and they'd really fly!
For an off-road bike from the 1970s they were, as I said, very capable - provided you could handle all the off-road stuff at high speed! And that, for me and for the mate who owned it, was the problem. We were more into trail-riding than into motocrossing or competition enduro-style riding. (That's my mate negotiating a steep rough climb in the photo). Often we'd come to a steep, tight, rough track, and the PE would struggle. It just wasn't tractable enough to handle low-speed riding. I was riding a DT175 at the time, and on an open trail the PE would leave me for dead. But come to a tight, slow track and the Suzi would bog down and even stall, while the Yammie would handle it on better low-down torque. They were also very tall, of course, and that too made them sometimes a bit difficult for slower riding where you needed to put a foot down. In summary then, a serious 1970s enduro bike that demanded to be ridden in a serious way; but was very capable if you did.
Suzuki TS125. 1970s. I'm not sure why I remember these, but I do. In my early trail-riding days, I mostly rode around a farm property, and tracks running into the bush from it. One of the guys we went riding with had a stripped-down TS125 that I had a few rides on. It was a bit old, but still seemed fairly capable for what it was. (Trail-bikes were much more crude and basic then they are now!). I found it easier to handle than the TS250 a mate who also rode there had.
But I also remember riding one on the road. And I kind of liked it. Yes, it was small, and not very powerful of course, but a surprisingly pleasant little thing to ride around town.
Suzuki TS185. Early 1980s. A couple of mates had these; one being the guy who owned the PE175 I described above. He decided that the more widely-useable characteristics of the TS series was more practical for our situation and riding style than the more competition-type bike that was the PE. He found it much easier to ride, but did miss the power and performance.
The TS was a good bike. Power was listed at 16kw, which was a couple more than, for example, the Yamaha DT175. But it was also slightly heavier, so performance seemed about equal. My impression was that the Suzuki was slightly better on-road than the Yamaha, but the Yamaha was slightly better off-road. The Suzuki's suspension (twin-units at the rear rather than mono-shock) seemed a bit more road-orientated than it's competitors. I preferred the handling and general feel of the Yamaha off-road to the Suzuki, but as I said, it was still a good bike.
Suzuki TS250. 1970s. Same trail-riding situation as for the TS125 above. I remember never being as happy on the 250. I don't know why, it just seemed more awkward. Probably a bit heavier, and I just found it harder to ride. Also harder to start. But, having more power, it was more capable than the 125 of course; which the guy who owned it showed when he was riding it.
Suzuki GSX-R 600 It was around 1996 or 1997 that I rode one of these. It was new at the time. Sports-bikes are fairly specialist beasts, and were that back then. Although this was more comfortable to sit on than I expected. (The seat wasn't the vinyl-covered-plank that many sports bikes have; this one actually had some padding!). The riding position was very sports-bike, but it was still half-way pleasant to sit on.
Around town I found it a bit difficult. It's harder to balance a bike when you're lying prone along the petrol-tank! The engine wasn't terribly happy at low revs either, which didn't help the low-speed experience. Once out of town and onto some country back-roads, it came into it's own. The faster it went the happier it was! The wind began taking some of the weight off the wrists, and the handling started to smooth out. The engine was much happier too, although I was still a bit too tentative to really get it working up in the rev-range it wanted to be in. It really begged to be ridden hard! But by keeping the revs up and keeping it moving at least reasonably quickly, I found I could ride it fairly smoothly; albeit at a much gentler pace than it was designed for. Although not having it long enough to get confident to really get stuck in and ride it as it was intended to be ridden, I was glad of the opportunity to ride a well-respected sports-bike.