Remaining faithful to the 2-stroke engine longer than any of their competitors, Suzuki entered the motorcycle market by offering a range of motorised bicycles (known as ‘cyclemotors’) which were popular in a home market eager for cheap personal transportation. Throughout the 1950’s Suzuki badged their motorcycles as Colleda and offered variations of mainly 2-stroke powered 125 and 250cc machines which proved successful both as road bikes and in competition use.
Though it appeared on racing bikes such as the 125cc RT and 250cc RV, plus Ernst Degner’s 1962 50cc World Championship winning RM62, it wasn’t until 1963 that the Suzuki logo was finally seen on the tank of road going machines with the introduction of the K10 roadster and K11 sportster, both fitted with 80cc single cylinder 2-stroke engines. Other bikes included the M30 50cc step through style commuter machine and it’s sporty sibling, the M12 Sports 50. The largest capacity bike in the range was the T10, a twin cylinder 250cc two stroke, and a fairly conventional but very capable roadster style bike. The T10 was replaced by the sportier T20 in 1965, a machine which Suzuki claimed to be the fastest 250cc motorcycle available, and indeed saw some success in production racing trim. Known in the UK as the ‘Super Six’, a reference to its then very unusual 6-speed gearbox, and the Suzuki X6 Hustler in the USA, the bike’s air cooled 249cc parallel twin cylinder 2-stroke engine was good for just shy of 30 bhp and combined with a sharp handling chassis and twin leading shoe front brake was certainly the pick of the 250cc class at the time.
As Suzuki’s sales success continued the range was developed with 2-stroke machines of various capacities and catering to the roadster, commuter and trail bike markets. The 120cc B100 and later B120 proved popular as did the economical A90 and A100 models. In late 1967 Suzuki announced the T500, a 50cc twin cylinder machine offering 100 mph performance from its 47 bhp motor combined with a 5-speed gearbox and capable handling. The T500 was known as the Cobra in the US market and the Titan in Europe. Despite its large capacity 2-stroke engine, the T500 was known to be a reliable bike and production continued until 1977, latter models featuring a front disc brake and badged as the Suzuki GT500.
1971 saw the launch of the legendary GT750, an innovative 3-cylinder 750cc 2-stroke with water cooling to aid reliability and improve performance. Nicknamed the ‘Water Buffalo’ in the USA and the ‘Kettle’ in the UK, the GT750J of 1972 offered 67 bhp, a 200mm twin-leading shoe drum front brake, a five-speed gearbox plus a stylish three-into-four exhaust. A heavy bike at some 550lbs, the GT750 nonetheless went well with a 110 mph top speed and respectable levels of rider comfort. Later version of the GT750 offered twin front discs, slightly more power and raised gearing which improved top end speed to almost 120 mph. Though it has never reached the iconic status of the Kawasaki 750 triple, the Kettle looked and sounded great and is now highly regarded by collectors and enthusiasts. Suzuki also offered the GT380 and GT550 2-stroke triples which were air cooled and featured the Ram Air system which directed cooling air over the cylinder head for improved reliability. The smaller triples were fun to ride though the GT550 was seen by many as a sports tourer rather than a true sportsbike. The Suzuki GT range also included several smaller machines the most popular of which was the GT250. Introduced in 1973 and a direct development of the T250, the GT250 proved particularly popular in the UK which allowed a 17-year old to ride a 250cc (with ‘L’ plates fitted of course) even if you hadn’t passed your test. The GT125 and GT185 offered similar styling and despite offering far less power were still great fun to ride and much cheaper to run.
World Championship Grand Prix success came in the 50cc and 125cc classes in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, whilst Barry Sheene won the premier 500cc class in 1976 and 1977. Further 500cc World Championships were claimed by Kevin Schwantz in 1993 and Kenny Roberts Jr. in 2000. Suzuki’s involvement in road racing spawned several 2-stroke ‘race replicas’ including the 1983 RG250 Gamma and in 1985 the square four engined RG500 Gamma, a bike which is now highly sought after. The Suzuki RGV250 of 1988 continued in production until the 1997 model year and though relatively scarce in Europe was popular in the Japanese home market.
Off road bikes have always featured in Suzuki’s range, and the 2 stroke powered TS trail bikes proved popular in both the USA and Europe and available in engine sizes from just 90cc to the relatively rare TS400. The Suzuki TM production motocross bikes achieved success in the hands of privateer riders from their introduction in 1972, to be replaced by the long running Suzuki RM range in 1975. On the world stage, Suzuki became the first Japanese manufacturer to win the World 250cc Motocross Championship in 1970 with Belgian Joel Robert and the 500cc Championship in 1971 with Roger De Coster.