Suzuki may not be the prime choice when it comes to cars, but they certainly hold the market when it comes to two-wheel transportation. Suzuki motorcycles have been known to have the best models in the industry, and sportbikers know that Suzuki has some of the most reliable bikes around. Everyone knows the Suzuki brand by name, but we bet there are a few things about the company that you’ve never heard of before. Here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about Suzuki and its motorcycles.
1. Motorized bicycles
The famous motorcycles today started off simply as motorized bicycles. The company certainly has gone far and beyond that since they first started producing these in 1952. In the grander scheme of things and compared to other vehicle manufacturing companies that have been around for at least a century, 66 years might not seem like much. But the company has been at the forefront of motorcycle innovation ever since it first came out. Suzuki’s motorized bicycles were just the beginning, and little did we all know that this company that started off as a looming company would one day become the headliner in the motorcycle industry.
2. Two-stroke engines
During its initial years from 1955 to the early 1970s, Suzuki motorcycles were built with only two-stroke engines. This is simply characterized by the up and down movement of the singular piston of the motorcycle. This meant that the motorcycles back then were significantly lighter and smaller than the four-stroke engines that were produced later on. The mechanical simplicity of the engine was useful, but demands for better engines will outweigh the capabilities of this simple machine. The biggest two-stroke Suzuki model ever produced is the GT750.
3. Racing engineers
The chief engineer for one of the best Suzuki motorcycles, the GSX-R1000, also happens to be a former racer. That person is Shinichi Sahara. Sahara has had a long career dealing with motorcycles, and who better to design a bike than someone who knows how to ride it well? Sahara knows exactly what a motorcycle needs in order to be the best in the industry, and he’s worked his way up slowly until he became chief engineer. He started off working on the TL1000 before moving to other projects before ending with the GSX-R. People who have ridden with Sahara knows just how well he rides, and all that practical knowledge is applied onto the design process.
4. Joel Robert
Suzuki became the first Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to win a world championship in motocross in 1970. The driver was Joel Robert and he was riding a 250cc bike. Suzuki won in other levels as well with drivers Barry Sheene and Roger De Coster winning and racing the 500cc division both in road racing and motocross. All of that happened in 1970, which proved to be a truly successful year for the Japanese company. Subsequent racing years have been successful as well.
The Hayabusa name that Suzuki uses on one of its most famous motorcycles has two representations. It’s a Peregrine falcon as well as a Japanese Kamikaze fighter plane. More specifically, the Hayabusa represents the Nakajima Ki-43, which is also referred to as the Zero. The Hayabusa is famous for being one of the world’s fastest two-wheelers. The maximum speed on a standard Hayabusa is an impressive 300 km/h or 186mph. That makes sense considering that the manufacturer had a fighter jet as its inspiration for the fast motorcycle.
6. The four-stroke engine
During the same year when Suzuki was making headlines in the racing world, the manufacturer released its very first four-stroke engine. In 1976, Suzuki released the GS400 and GS750. Both these motorcycles have four-stroke, parallel twin cylinder engines that allowed the motorcycle more capabilities in the long run compared to the two-stroke engine. The release of these models marked the release of the first new motorcycles since the 1950’s Colleda COX. These motorcycles were both practical and fun to ride. These were the perfect bicycles for those who are just learning to ride or only have the city to ride around in. It was also designed with smaller riders in mind.
7. Suzuki and McGyver
McGyver was one of the most popular television shows back in the mid 80s to the early 90s. He was known t sport one particular motorcycle, and that motorcycle was actually a Suzuki. More particularly, McGyver’s motorcycle was a Suzuki TS125. This dual sport motorcycle is a two-stroke cycle 123cc engine. It’s light enough for McGyver to maneuver and get to where he needs to be quickly and safely. When it was first introduced in Japan in 1970, it had five speeds and a high drawn exhaust pipe.
8. Suzuki sportsbikes
According to general trends, sportbikes don’t really account for a good percentage of sales in the global motorcycle market. However, this is not true for Suzuki and Suzuki alone. Sportbikes actually account for 26% of all of Suzuki’s motorcycle sales. This is the reason why the manufacturer keeps on improving and working on its sportbike brands, even though other motorcycle companies are completely bypassing it. Suzuki’s sportbike lines mean a lot to the company, and as long as sportbikes sell, Suzuki will keep on manufacturing them and even coming up with new and improved designs altogether.
9. Tak Hayasaki
The U.S. has seen special releases of Suzuki motorcycles many times in the past, and it seems that Suzuki has a special place for America when it comes to manufacturing and sales. The President of Suzuki Motors of America, Tak Hayasaki, started his career in Suzuki in 1981. During his time in Suzuki, he’s witnessed the growth and success of the motorcycle industry in the nation. The love for Suzuki motorcycles has also driven the success of Suzuki in America. Hayasaki has seen many Americans succeed on Suzuki bikes including Kevin Schwantz, a World Champion motorcycle road racer who was active from the 80s to the 90s.
10. Isle of Man TT races
There’s a motorsport event that happens every year around May and June in the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea located between Great Britain and Ireland. This sporting event is considered to be one of the most dangerous racing events in the world. This is known as the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races, and it’s been happening since 1907. Many motorcylce manufacturing companies participate in the event, but Suzuki is one of the most successful ones with a total of 93 victories since it began participating.
11. The Katana
It’s rare for any manufacturing company to come up with something new and innovative when it comes to designs. However in 1981, Suzuki surprised the world when it produced the GSX1100S Katana. Target Design group of Germany did the design, and they went above and beyond what most people expect out of a sportbike. In addition to the design, the Katana was capable of such superb performance that it easily gained the reputation for being one of the best bikes out there. The Katana was a huge sales success globally and continues to be one even to this day.
12. Suzuki’s GSX-R750
1985 saw the production of what would be a true game changer for Suzuki and the world of motorcycle racing altogether. The GSX-R750 was considered to be the first true race replica machine that was able provide up to 100 hp. Since it only weight 176kg and was able to do so much, this particular Suzuki sparked the creation of a new performance category altogether. In one of the most famous endurance races, the Le Mans, the Suzuki GXS-R750 achieved a 1-2 finish during its debut race.
13. GSX Reinvention
Not quite satisfied with the success of the original GSX-R750, Suzuki reinvented the famous motorcycle in 1996. The manufacturer included a new twin-spar frame. The frame was shortened dramatically, which actually improved drivability tremendously. Even with all the adjustments that Suzuki made on the new design, the dry weight of the motorcycle was still only 179 kg. This was an impressive feat for Suzuki altogether, and the reinvented GSX-R750 became the turning point model for the company when it came to their designs and capability. The company will not stop there, however, when it comes to reinvention and improvements.
14. Malaysian GP
In 2000, Suzuki is starting to enter its modern stages both in manufacturing and in racing. This year in particular, racer Kenny Roberts Jr. wins a total of four victories in the Malaysian GP in a span of two consecutive years. This was the same year when Roberts Jr. became the World Champion of GP500. This title was Suzuki’s sixth world title, an impressive feat on its own. When Roberts won in 2000, Suzuki was going through a little bit of a dry spell with no wins since 1993. The win broke that spell with a bang—not with one win but with four.
15. Suzuki in 2008
In 2001, there was a concept model for a naked bike that was drawn up for Suzuki. Suzuki saw the release of this bicyle 7 years later. That bike was known as the Suzuki B-King. In this same year, Suzuki launches the world’s first production fuel injected motocross bike with the release of the RM-Z450. Other models were released that would propel Suzuki back at the top of the food chain again. Some of these models include the GSX-R600, the GSX-R750 model, and the Hayabusa 1300.
16. 1 million units
From its initial production in 1985, the GSX-R series reached a total of 1 million units produced in 2012. That’s an impressive span of only 27 years, and it’s a testament to how great the bike truly is and how consumers view the bike a sa true high performance sportbike. This very same year, Suzuki launches other models that had improved running performance, improved comfort, better fuel economy, and better environmental impact altogether. At this point in the game, Suzuki already knows what they’re doing, and they’re the experts at making it all happen.
17. Suzuki in 2016
The manufacturing company is not slowing down in its tracks with new model after model being launched. This year, a total of 9 new Suzuki motorcycle models were introduced. This very same year, racer Maverick Viñales wins the MotoGP championship at the British Grand Prix for Team Suzuki ECSTAR. Viñales was riding a GSX-RR when he won.
18. Humble roots
When Michio Suzuki founded the company in 1909, it was known as the Suzuki Loom Works located in a small village in Japan. The company built weaving looms at the time, and by 1929, the company introduced a new type of machine that was exported overseas. This gave Suzuki much success, but he knew he was destined for something else. That’s when Suzuki went back to the product drawing board and looked at the demands of the consumers. It was then that he decided that a small car would be the most practical necessity for all types of consumers. 1937 saw the production of the first Suzuki cars, and just 15 years later, the first motorcycle was made.
19. Racing suspension
The Suzuki team has always done well in racing but it experienced a slow period from the 2000 season when it won its last title in MotoGP. 2006 introduced a new sponsor in Rizla, and the team was then known as the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team. It wasn’t always about racing for Suzuki; although they probably would’ve if only they could. In 2011, the company suspended all GP racing activity due to the recession and various natural disasters. The team would pick racing back up in 2014.
20. Concept motorcycles
Over the years, Suzuki has proven their innovation in design with all the concept models they’ve created. Many of their concept motorcycles didn’t make it into production because of practicality reasons, but there are some that have had enough promise to make it into production and sales. The B-King is a great example of a concept bike that got pushed to production, but if you ask us, it wasn’t even Suzuki’s best concept. Suzuki engineers are some of the most imaginative group of people in the world, and the motorcycles they’ve come up with are the stuff of the future. This is said with hopes that Suzuki dealerships will probably look a lot different than they do now with concept cars pushed into production one day.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker