A Conejo grade stretches two and a half miles, rising nearly
1000 feet from sea level to the northern ridge of California's Santa Monica
Mountains. Early-morning commuter traffic, pressing over the hill at 45 miles
per hour, will clog the pass by seven a.m., but in the gray winter dawn the
1400 Intruder is alone on the road, powering toward the crest at 60 miles per
hour in fourth— top gear.
Your ears tell you this 1400cc V-twin engine spins slowly at
cruising speed slumbers, really—even while heaving up this endless incline of
earth. Most motorcycle succumb half a mile up engines bog, speedo needles sag
and signal for more throttle, But the big Suzuki clears the top with unbroken
response, the throttle held steady just a crack above idle. As it crests the
hill, the Intruder lights up in the first cold rays of day, creating its own
warmth in the chromed and polished surfaces. The sun catches in the clutch and
brake master cylinders, illuminates the speedometer case, arcs over the flat
bar seems to rise there between the grips.
An early morning trip up the Conejo grade captures the 1400's
vitality, its style and power. Suzuki's big Intruder follows closely the
style-cruiser formula first established in the VS700, a model which topped
Suzuki's American sales charts in 1986 for the second straight season,
exemplifying the sales appeal of a mainstream idea deftly executed. In its
technology the 1400 offers little new; rather it extends and amplifies the
basic Intruder formula by sizing the VS-format upward and doubling the
original machine's displacement. In the matter of V-twin style-cruisers,
there's still no substitute for big engines. For highway hauling or curbside
crawling, the bigger the engine, the better the wallop.
With a bore and stroke of 94 x 98mm, the new Intruder
displaces an impressive 1360cc, yet the drag strip doesn't reveal the magic of
its engine Honda's 1100 Shadow and Yamaha's 1000 Virago both run quicker and
faster than the big VS, which posted a 13.1-second quarter-mile with a
terminal speed of 99.3 miles per hour.
Road torque is the 1400's preserve. According to Suzuki, the
big Intruder pumps out a whopping 88.2 pounds/ feet at 3000 rpm, and that's a
figure the seat of your pants will corroborate. In full-throttle top-gear
roll-ons from 45-75 mph, the 1400 Intruder chugs away from both the Shadow and
Virago. This bike's mid-range acceleration puts it in league with
motorcycling's big-bore power elite—Suzuki's own GSX-R1100, Yamaha's FJ1200
and the mighty V-Max—machines all driven by five-speed, four-cylinder engines.
Despite its relatively tall, wide-ratio, four-speed gearbox, the Intruder's
massive torque and crisp throttle response have it lunging ahead with an
immediacy that snaps heads and leaves big-bore sport bikes lagging behind.
Every inch of the 1400 honors that great American folk bias:
bigger is better. Every specification seems proportioned to that monstrous
engine. Wet weight hovers at 573 pounds. A 36-degree rake and a massive
170/80-15 rear tire help stretch the wheelbase to 63.8 inches. The seating
position has riders under six feet feeling short. Even the dimensions of the
1400's price tag are huge: $5898 is a hefty chunk of cash in a class where the
competition's style-cruisers sell for hundreds less.
Like the 700 Intruder, however, the VS1400 also trades on
stark elegance; it offers real steel uncluttered by gratuitous hardware—no
tachometer, no centerstand, only basic indicator and warning lights under
tinted plastic. On the 1400, the ignition sits under the tank on the left, the
fork lock on the port side of the steering neck. The 1400 carries a
single-disc brake at the front and another at the rear. Unlike the 700,
there's no cast-wheel option on this big, wire-spoked Suzuki.
The bike's clear, uncluttered look encompasses more than basic
form—the 1400's designers turned to details as well. Look for nuts and bolts;
you won't find many, and those left exposed are polished, plated, or capped
with chromed inserts. Try to find a dangling wire or cable; all the switch
wires run inside the handlebar, down through 5.5-inch chromed risers, and
disappear into hoops under the tank. Hydraulic lines for the clutch and brake
master cylinders run between the risers, dropping through holes in the
polished aluminum triple clamps. The taillight, located atop the fender on the
700, tucks under a bobbed rear fender, Milwaukee style. The spark plugs and
lead wires disappear behind chromed covers. And where are the carburetors? The
36mm Mikunis vanish, the front mixer under the fuel tank, the rear under the
seat. With its great hulking engine and fine detail work, the Intruder finds a
way to blend ruggedness and elegance.
Riders should have plenty of time to spit-shine the 1400's
bright exterior, because the VS needs about as much servicing as a fountain
pen. The V-twin has a long list of low-maintenance features: shaft drive,
hydraulic valve adjusters, automatic cam-chain tensioners, CD ignition, and a
sealed battery buried behind the engine and below the swing-arm pivot. An
automotive-type spin-on filter simplifies oil/filter changes.
Like the 700 Intruder, the 1400 disposes its towering
cylinders at 45 degrees atop narrow aluminum cases with plated sidecovers, and
runs the drive shaft outside the main frame tubes for a trim waist. Though the
big V-twin appears similar to the water-cooled 700 engine, the 1400 is
actually quite different.
According to Suzuki, water-cooling would have enlarged the
1400cc engine, increased complexity, and required a radiator too huge to hide.
The 1400's front cylinder is air-cooled, the rear oil-cooled through a system
similar to the SACS fitted on the GSX-R750 and 1100 super sport bikes. A
high-pressure jet at the base of the rear cylinder directs oil from the VS's
sump up a passage cast in the cylinder to a small "sump" area atop the
combustion chamber. This rear-cylinder cooling system relies on a large volume
of oil flow and on an oil cooler mounted below the steering neck. The 1400's
sump holds 5.3 quarts of oil (most big-bore engines carry about four quarts),
and pumps its entire oil supply through the rear cylinder head fives time per
minute at 6000 rpm.
From below, jets in the main-bearing journals squirt the
undersides of both pistons, a practice now used in almost all Suzuki
four-stroke engines. Separate passages direct the slippery stuff upstairs to
single overhead cams (the rear cam is chain-driven off the right side of the
crank, the front from the left) and hydraulic valve gear. Hollow rocker arms
supply oil to the hydraulic lifters, which bear directly on the valve stems.
Clearance is regulated by a check-valve and plunger system.
Unlike the four-valve 700, the 1400 uses a three-valve design,
with a single spark plug centrally located in a shallow multi-pocket
combustion chamber. The 3.7-inch pistons provide room for valves the size of
poker chips: a pair of 33mm intakes, and a single, 40mm exhaust valve. Suzuki
engineers experimented with two-, three- and four-valve versions of the 1400
engine, and settled on the three-valve desjgn which produced more peak torque
at lower rpm and a smoother power delivery thanks to mild camming and
relatively low (9.3:1) compression. There's little point in revving the 1400
past 5000 rpm; the engine reaches peak torque at 3000 rpm, peak horsepower at
The sheer thudding force of two huge pistons has the potential
to hammer the Intruder's driveline. Consequently, Suzuki engineers have taken
steps to manage the power pulses. A new torque-limiting clutch smooths
engagement and reduces wheel hop under hard engine braking; dampers in the
drive shaft take up slop and reduce stress in the transfer case and third
member. Suzuki designers eased the starter's load as well, fitting the 1400
with an automatic compression release similar to that used in the Savage
single. The starter button activates an electronic solenoid that lifts the
exhaust valves off their seats via cables. After a few seconds, the valves
close and the starter works against full compression.
Continuous cranking of the starter, as we discovered courtesy
of a recalcitrant fuel petcock, can quickly drain the 1400's battery. Under
normal circumstances, riders should never have to face the prospect of
bump-starting this beast. The torque-limiting clutch prevents wheel hop on
trailing throttle in the top three gears, but the wide-ratio, four-speed
transmission puts first gear a long way from second, and downshifting at
speeds over 30 mph chirps the Intruder's rear tire, especially if the rear
brake is applied at the same time. To its credit, the Intruder's driveline
feels tight; the gearbox shifts easily and no annoying lash disrupts the
smooth power delivery.
Considering the efforts that went into minimizing the pounding
in the Intruder's driveline, Suzuki did little elaborate engineering to
control engine vibration itself. The 1400 uses no counterbalancing weights,
and rubber bushings only in the front engine mounts. Like the 700 Intruder,
the 1400 has staggered crank-pins disposed 45 degrees apart. This arrangement
doesn't produce perfect primary balance, and the VS also has an uncompensated
rocking couple caused by connecting rods running on widely spaced pins.
Consequently, the VS1400 isn't as smooth as Honda's 1100
Shadow, which has 90-degree pins and perfect primary balance. The VS's
pleasant and subdued shaking at low rpm intensifies as engine speeds increase,
blurring the mirrors at highway speed and charging the seat, pegs, handlebar
and fuel tank with a numbing buzz at speeds over 65 mph. One inescapable
conclusion: Suzuki deliberately engineered this level of shake into the
VS1400. Vibration governs road speed, and the company is clearly doing its
part to make Intruder riders solid, 55-mph citizens.
At this speed, the engine is smooth, loafing along at its
massive torque peak. Merely roll on the throttle, and the big VS lunges past
traffic, then settles back into its easy, relaxed highway rhythm. From the
1400's bologna-cut mufflers comes an unmistakable Milwaukee beat—raw, rowdy,
and intentionally loud. Bounced off city traffic or a canyon wall, the VS's
booming exhaust note is conspicuous. And annoying. Furthermore, our 1400
backfired vociferously enough on trailing throttle to attract a SWAT team. At
60 mph, however, the VS rider hears only mellow notes.
Highway droning squeezes 130 miles out of the Intruder's
3.4-gallon peanut tank, a distance easily covered in one sitting. The 1400's
plush ride and hammock ergonomics guarantee that. At first glance, the
Intruder's seating position looks uncompromising: Your legs stretch 27 inches
to footpegs set directly below a flat, stubby handlebar. This
feet-and-fists-forward riding position works remarkably well on the open road;
arms slightly bent, the rider cants forward, relaxed against the wind, and the
long-reach pegs offer room to stretch. The seat is comfortable, and passengers
report a pleasant pillion.
Understand, however, that the 1400 Intruder is a huge
motorcycle; riders under six feet will likely find the handlebar reach
excessive and the seat step too far rearward to offer support. For them,
Suzuki offers an optional pull-back handlebar that cuts the reach in half and
provides more steering leverage. With the shorter (by four inches), narrower
(by two inches) drag bar, steering the 1400 at parking-lot speeds is a
hand-and-armful. A low, 28.3-inch seat height helps riders steady the Intruder
on creep-speed maneuvers. Steering heaviness subsides at about 15 mph.
Weight and basic frame geometry work against the Intruder
rider at low speeds, and contribute nothing to the bike's sporting competence.
A rake of 36 degrees, 6.5 inches of trail, and 63.8 inches of wheelbase add up
to the most radical geometry yet in a Japanese cruiser. At 572.5 pounds, the
1400 occupies middle ground by big-bore cruiser standards. Yamaha's 1000
Virago is 50 pounds lighter, but the 1100 Shadow and Harley's Low Rider Custom
are both heavier than the Intruder. Still, almost 600 pounds of motorcycle
aimed by lazy steering geometry and following a 19-inch front wheel builds
little confidence on backroads.
It's best to heed posted cornering speeds. Though the VS
requires only a light hand at the bar to initiate turn-in, its steering is
slow and has the remote quality of a motorcycle that stretches its front end
way, way out there. The Bridgestone tires stick well, though the bike offers
only token cornering clearance. The solid, forward-mounted footpeg brackets
throw sparks when the bike leans over even at a mild clip, and pushing beyond
that will lever the front tire off the ground. While the VS's brakes are
adequate for general-duty riding, they're simply not powerful enough for brisk
Riders familiar with the 700 Intruder's backroad capabilities
will barely see the family resemblance in the 1400's handling. The big
Intruder weighs 110 pounds more than the 700, which has firm, short-travel
suspension. The 1400's suspension takes the opposite approach. Highway
plushness requires 6.3 inches of travel up front, 4.1 inches at the rear and
soft spring and damping rates.
To cope with the additional weight, the 1400 gets
large-diameter 41mm fork tubes, but, like the 700, the big VS's suspension
offers minimal adjustment: five preload settings only in the dual rear
dampers. We settled on the softest setting for most riding, including two-up
Even with the suspension set on firm, the 1400 lacks the poise
necessary for fast riding. Long sweeping turns induce a slow but disconcerting
oscillation. Up-and-down shaft effect, while well controlled during
around-town riding, upsets the chassis during on/off-throttle cornering
transitions. Roller coaster-type dips have passengers tightening their stomach
muscles, and potholes or sharp pavement ripples taken at speed can trigger an
unfriendly handlebar shake. All these things will put a rider back at lawful
speeds and pointed toward the long, wide, straight road.
Putt-putting along at 60 mph, the Intruder's pleasing elements
converge. The raked-out front end and long wheel-base have the big VS running
arrow straight, impervious to crosswinds; freeway expansion joints disappear
into the soft suspension; the ride is touring soft-and-compliant; the
highway-chopper seating position perfectly comfortable; the engine smooth,
quiet, alive. These things make the 1400 a splendid open-road traveler.
Nevertheless, the Intruder's sweet zone is narrower than other
Japanese cruisers'. By sharply focusing the Intruder's repertoire, perhaps
Suzuki has strengthened the bike's elemental V-twin quality—making the VS
striking and memorable, though less functional than it might otherwise have
been. In this way, the Suzuki is reminiscent of Harley's Low Rider Custom.
With V-twin style cruisers, the Japanese in general, and
Suzuki in particular with the VS1400, have been trying to strike the "right"
(read highly marketable) combination of style and raw-boned engineering.
High-tech sophistication has often created a perception of Japanese
motorcycles as appliances. With Intruder-type bikes, the Japanese are working
toward a tougher, more mechanical image. Suzuki engineers could
have fashioned a more efficient method of vibration control in
the VS, but they didn't; they could have built a five-speed 1000, but chose a
four-speed 1400; they could have firmed up the VS's suspension for greater
versatility, but they opted for plushness and a narrower highway zone instead.
The Intruder wants to trade on the basic mechanical quality of
a big V-twin machine running effortlessly in its sweet zone. Suzuki wanted the
Intruder 1400 rough-hewn without rough edges. In that sense, the VS1400, at
$5898, is the most expensive Japanese cruiser on the market, and the closest
thing to Milwaukee iron—in mechanicalness and price— you can buy.
Source Cycle 1987