SUZUKI GS500 Everything that's old becomes new again
"HAVEN’T I SEEN YOU SOMEwhere before?” That most overused of barroom pickup lines also happens to apply to Suzuki’s newest motorcycle, the GS500.
Because, despite its single-shock suspension, its beam-type frame, its wide, cast wheels and its oversized front disc brake, the GS reminds of a time before Japanese motorcycles became so specialized, before we had raucous repli-racers and toocool cruisers and titanic touring bikes. It is, if you will, a modern-day Honda 305 Super Hawk, an evolu tion of the simple, straight-forward standard motorcycle that put an end to “Made in Japan” jokes and catapulted the Big Four to world dominance in the 1960s.
If that seems overly dramatic for a 500cc, twin-cylinder, entry-level machine, you should know that as far as Suzuki is concerned, the GS may be the most-important motorcycle of 1989. The company plans to back the GS500 with an extensive advertising campaign aimed at attracting new riders and at bringing one-time riders back into the sport.
If the GS is successful in that lofty goal, look for more bikes like it—in smaller and larger engine sizes—to appear.
Suzuki sees the problem of sticker shock as a major force turning people away from motorcycling, so the GS500 had to be as inexpensive as possible. To that end, its air-cooled, two-valve-per-cylinder engine is based on a time-tested design: It first ticked over as the powerplant for the GS400 commuter bike of 1977. More cost-cutting comes from simple suspension components, nonadjustable save for rear-spring preload, and from the non-fitment of extra bodywork, although a small handlebar-fairing ($ 199) and a belly pan ($ 179) will be available as options. Suzuki has set the price of the GS at $2999, which makes it one of the least expensive full-size motorcycles sold in the U.S., cheaper even than most 250cc roadbikes.
Now, before you get the idea that the GS500 is a stripper of a machine with an outdated w heezer of an engine, you ought to know that with 1 1,000 rpm to play with and some lovely sounding exhaust notes to revel in. a GS500 rider can snicksnick through the six-speed gearbox and have a roaring good time. There’s enough performance to keep an experienced rider entertained, and if you’re trading up from a BMX bicycle and a pair of sneakers, the GS will be more fun than a backstage pass to a Guns n' Roses concert.
In the handling department, the GS will satisfy all but the ardent roadracers, who'll find the suspension rates on the soft side. All others will appreciate that with a stiff frame, sticky tires, good brakes and a claimed dry weight of 373 pounds, the GS can flick its way along a backroad as easily as it can swing into a campus parking slot.
So, the GS is another of Japan’s new, standard-style motorcycles. It costs less than most bikes, has less bodywork and less outright performance, which should result in lesscostly insurance premiums. It is less complicated, less sizable and less intimidating.
All of which, Suzuki hopes, is what U.S. riders want more of.