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Suzuki T 500
From here on out, no matter whatever happens, Suzuki can still sit back, puff out their chests, and say they have done it. When Art Baumann won Sears point, he did in fact become the first rider of a two-stroke machine to win an AMA National.
On the surface, this may not seem like such a big deal to a number of our readers, but if you mull over the events of the past 12 or 24 months, it seems incredible indeed that one or two lone Suzuki 500's stole the thunder from the multi-motorcycle juggernaut known as the Yamaha Racing Team. It has been a long painful row to hoe and this success has not been one that has come about overnight.
Suzuki has come a long way since the introduction of their first 500's in 1967.
After spending some time with Suzuki's largest two-stroke twin (or the world's largest, for that matter), we have come to discover that Suzuki has not been idle, but instead has been working industriously to correct previous ills, and supplement the bike with new improvements to excite the potential buyer.
One of these early ills was vibration. It was discovered that the carburetors, of all things, were contributing no small part to the engine's unwillingness to run smoothly. Along with the carburetor situation, various balance factors were tried on different crankshafts, and Suzuki felt an optimum balance had been achieved. However, the engine still shook. Some of these earlier carburetion problems mentioned previously, we feel, were introduced largely through this vibration situation, because after all, it seems quite logical that if the engine is shaking, it is upsetting the carburetion department. This happens on virtually every other engine we have run across, and we see no reason to believe the Suzuki 500 is any different.
Right here, before anybody gets the wrong idea, perhaps we had better set the record straight and explain exactly why the 500 does vibrate a bit. When you stop and think about it, inasmuch as the Suzuki 500 is the biggest two-stroke twin going, it seems that all of the reciprocating parts are also quite large. Now we all know, the larger the reciprocating parts are, the more chance there is for the whole outfit to shake a bit, and this is exactly what has happened. So what the factory has done is take the logical "out" and rubber-mount the engine. So much for the vibration.
One of the features we feel Suzuki has done an outstanding job on is the gearbox. Except perhaps for one thing. When downshifting, every time we would miss low gear. The transmission insisted on shifting into neutral and not go into low. The transmission is designed to do this purposely. Under normal circumstances this should not be any problem, but if the rider is pressing things a bit and he is depending on this shift into low to .insure his well being, then consider yourself forewarned. The shift throw is a bit on the long side, but the box itself is ultra-smooth. There is absolutely no trace of any grinding or grating, and except for the aforementioned low gear situation, every shift, up or down, is absolutely positive and can be made with a minimum of effort.
Under most conditions, the multi-plate wet clutch found hanging on the end of .the transmission worked fine, even after repeated trips down the drag strip. We did notice, however, that while the clutch did not slip, after two hard runs at the drags, the clutch started to tighten up a bit and drag. It was necessary to use a finger or two on the front brake in order to stage the machine properly and keep the bike from rolling forward. It is entirely possible that a different type of lubricant in the gearbox would solve this. (In all good conscience we cannot tell all the Suzuki 500 owners to substitute the oil in the transmission with automatic transmission fluid, but we know from past experience that this has worked wonderfully in other motorcycles exhibiting the same problem.)
While on the subject of transmissions, it might be worthwhile to mention here the gear ratio in the kick-starting mechanism is quite low (high numerically), so kicking over this biggest of twins is easy for anyone.
One interesting thing about the Suzuki 500 gearbox is that the gears themselves don't move, but the dogs do. This is rather unusual, since most of the other motorcycle constant mesh cog boxes insist that transmission gears themselves slide back and forth on their respective shafts. If the transmission layout is a bit unconventional, so is the chassis. The 500 sports what is probably the longest swinging arm in the should. The truth of the matter is, we were really quite puzzled since we know that in a slightly modified form, this engine is quite capable of putting out large doses of horsepower. The engine started easily and ran quite smoothly, but the kind of horsepower we expected just wasn't there. You will notice we used the term "the kind of horsepower." While the machine did not seem to accelerate as quickly as it should, it definitely was very fast. It ran 106 miles an hour, and while it took awhile to get down there, drag strip trap speeds were in the mid-90's. This is very good for a 650, let alone a '500.' The E.T.'s, were in the 14.20 area. This is not so good. Although not very quick, it was fast. We feel that a change in gearing could possibly do something to correct this.
We might also mention at this point, the engine pumps out enough power to allow the rider to get down the road at 90 to 100 mph all day long if this is his bag. Not only that, but he has a chassis that will handle this type speed without getting the pilot in trouble.
Suzuki made two other changes this year, both of which we dislike. First is the gas tank cap. In an effort to change the styling somewhat, they have added an additional panel, painted flat black, to the top of their existing fuel holder. But what they forgot to do was to change the gas cap. It is impossible, to remove the fuel cap with gloves on. The cap itself is sunk down so low that only through a great deal of effort can the cap be removed to put gas in. A taller filler neck (or cap) would help solve this. Somebody mentioned putting a doorknob on top of the gas cap. This would help.
The other change was the addition of motorcycle industry. Also, the engine is pushed so far forward the machine looks a bit strange until you realize exactly what it is. We looked at that swinging arm rather skeptically, and imagined all sorts of bad things, but we were wrong. The swinging arm itself has more than substantial gusseting and bracing. Likewise the frame. But you have to pay a price to achieve this stiffness. As a result, the entire chassis is heavy. As a matter of fact, the whole motorcycle is quite heavy. Our machine weighed 422 lbs. and a good portion of this weight is from the chassis, and not the engine.
We have been told by a number of people that the engine itself is quite heavy and this is what contributes to the large overall weight. Not so. We found that the engine weighs about 140 lbs., so you can see that by simple subtraction, a lot of the weight is in the chassis, not the powerplant.
Although a bit on the heavy side, we were somewhat surprised at the agility and sure tracking qualities the chassis exhibits when being pressed very hard. There is no doubt that the suspension has received a great deal of attention, and as one rider put it, the bike kind of sneaks up on you. It's about as sure-footed as any motorcycle can be, and this one fact is something that Suzuki is very happy about.
The first time rider of a '500' is in for quite a surprise. While the mechanical engine noise is low, the air induction noise is quite the opposite. When you grab a handful of throttle pulling away from a stoplight or passing a car, the intake system makes an unusually loud sound that lets everybody in the area know that you're on your way. Perhaps some of you may think this is an exaggeration, but if you do, just try it. It is our opinion that something could be done about this, as we found this quite objectionable. Other motorcycles have had this same problem, and most have done a very effective job in correcting it.
We were also a bit disappointed on the acceleration the big Suzuki is capable of. It would seem that no matter what gear we were in, or what rpm we tried it at, the '500' would not move out and pass as quickly as we thought it a parcel rack just behind the gas cap. On the surface this sounds like a great idea, but in actual practice, it turns out to be just the opposite. If you are riding double and have to stop very quickly, the rear passenger almost always slides forward slightly, and will push your lower extremities into the parcel rack. The result is a great deal of pain. Better you should take off the parcel rack.
One thing we thought especially good is the brake department. Although the machine is a bit on the heavy side, both anchors never failed to get both the rider and the machine stopped within the allotted space. Actually we found it was quite simple to lock the front brake at fairly high speeds, which indicates there is more than sufficient braking force there for the asking. The rear brake was somewhat softer, but still adequate. This was not too surprising since the front anchor . is of the double leading shoe variety while the back one is a single-cam type.
All things considered, we liked the Suzuki 500 very much. It did what we asked of it, for the most part, and it did its job while extracting the minimum amount of strain from the rider. At the same time, it gives him a more than average amount of enjoyment. For the price, the Titan is a tough package to beat. It offers performance, quality, handling, brakes and comfort.
It would be a foolish rider indeed who, when considering an expensive larger displacement motorcycle, does not try this one on for size.
Source Cycle Guide 1971