SUZUKI’S VX800 IS PROBABLY the most-specialized motorcycle on the market today. And its specialty, of course, is not having a specialty.
Doubletalk, you say? Not at all. Of all the bikes gathered for our 10-way, standard-bike roundup, the Suzuki VX is the only new-for-1990 motorcycle that was designed from the ground up specifically to fall into the standard-bike category. The others are either upgraded reincarnations from an earlier time or bikes that have been available all along, right through the so-called era of specialization.
But the Suzuki VX800 is the mostdedicated undedicated bike yet. From the time when the first VX-related memo was passed between department heads at Suzuki, the idea was to make a modern standard. Oh, sure, the eight-valve, V-Twin engine was borrowed from Suzuki’s VS750 Intruder cruiser, but the rest of the bike is absolutely new. The route that the VS engine took to find its way into the new bike is interesting, though. First, Suzuki gave it a 3mmlarger bore to bring the displacement from 747 to 805cc, and then came a larger radiator to handle the cooling chores of the larger engine. At some point in the motorcycle’s development, the company changed the crankpin offset from 45 to 75 degrees in hope of creating a smoother-running motor. But just as production began, American Suzuki engineers decided that the new offset resulted in less mid-range power, as well as a too-sanitized exhaust note, one that didn't sound very V-Twin-like. Presto, now the U.S. models come with the 45-degree offset, while the rest of the worTd gets the 75-degree staggered crankpins.
That crankpin offset might be the culprit behind the fact that the U.S. model's engine does produce some vibration. But the buzzing only gets intolerable above 6000 rprm and that's well above the cruising zone for the torquey motor. The big Vee pulls well from low revs, and at 60 miles per hour, it’s barely turning 4000 rpm.
The VX’s handling feels strange initially, especially to riders accustomed to quick-steering sportbikes. The machine is large, with a long wheelbase and more rake (3 1 degrees) than anything this side of Peter Fonda’s star-spangled Hog. So, naturally, the VX800 handles deliberately, just as a middle-of-the-road bike should. Likewise, the suspension on the VX is exactly what it’s meant to be: versatile. The twin-shock rear end looks like a throwback to the early Seventies, but it has adjustable rebound damping and spring preload, just like most modern single-shockers. The VX has a rare capability to provide a smooth ride on the freeway as well as handling bumpy backroads with grace, at least at the paces that are expected of standard-style bikes.
To many of our testers, this motorcycle’s most endearing feature is that it’s comfortable. The rider has room, lots of it. Bigger riders in particular will appreciate the ample space from the wide seat to the footpegs. Plus, the handlebar doesn’t force a bentover riding posture, but it’s still fairly flat, so the rider doesn’t catch a lot of wind. And if that’s not good enough. Suzuki also offers two accessory fairings to cut down the wind blast.
Of course, a VX with a fairing is no longer a standard, right? Maybe, maybe not. Part of the appeal of standards in general and the VX in particular is each one can be personalized to suit its rider. After a few years on the road, it’s unlikely that any two VXs will look alike. Perhaps that, more than anything else, is what makes the Suzuki VX800 special. It’s a delightfully well-finished starting point.