Suzuki TL1000S, A Bad Boy Bike !

The original aim was to buy a bad boy of a bike, the most deranged machine to ever escape the captivity of Japan at the time – a Suzuki TL1000S. I loved the concept of the TL-Series, the looks I was in awe of, the half fairing showing off the motor and the bike signing things off with that platypus of a tail unit. Ultimately, I could just picture myself astride this bike pulling massive wheelies away from the lights and leaving big dark lines at the exit of every corner.

Suzuki TL1000S

And that’s why I bought a Yamaha YZF R6. Ultimately, I’m a head over heart person, and I found a dealer who was offering a spanking new R6 cheap, but since then, I’ve always hankered after a Suzuki TL1000S. That’s why I was interested to see an absolute minter parked outside JHS Racing. My brain can’t quite work out why someone bought this new and then proceeded to do just 2500 miles over the course of the next 10 years, but at least I had the keys for the day – this was going to be good.

Suzuki TL1000S Stock cans were a bit of a turn-off as the whimper from the 996cc V-Twin Motor was somewhat of a surprise. I was expecting shake, rattle and roll to be generated from those big pistons thrusting up and down, but in return for applying some choke and thumbing the starter, I got a timid tickover. With 105bhp at the rear wheel, in pure power terms, time hasn’t been kind to the Suzuki TL1000S (well, perhaps if you’re used to new bikes like me) but 100bhp is ample for the highways.

Suzuki TL1000S

So how does the Suzuki TL1000S look today? Well, the muted dark blue didn’t float my boat in the way the original red one did with its gaudy graphics, but the riding position felt eminently usable. Though the fixtures and fittings looked like relics from a bygone era to me, the riding position built by swept bars and high clip-ons feels relevant for cornering action.

It’s different to be on something truly mechanical these days, where your inputs have direct results when applied to the recipient component. My head felt clearer knowing that I was in control of my own destiny, rather than electronics masking any miscreant use (again, it’s what we modern bike riders are used to). Though injected, the drive off the throttle from the motor is clean and punchy in the right zone – anywhere from 4000rpm up. It doesn’t possess a heavyweight’s wallop, but engage the right ratio at the right time and it delivers a hearty thump.

The noise gets better with speed too, with the airbox’s inhalation and motor’s explosions doing their best to mask what little the pipes exhale. But I’m still to see how this engine could have caused the problems that are so associated with the Suzuki TL1000S. It didn’t feel so outrageous that the chassis couldn’t cope. So that meant it was time to coax it. I remember reading so much about the bike’s geometry, weight, power and ultimately its radical rotary damper rear suspension that caused the inherent instability on road. Suzuki TL1000S eases its way through the roads I’m on, and to be honest they’re not the challenge of some, but the bike does what a bike does – it brakes, turns and fires out again. I’m in jeans and a jacket, but I could easily get a knee-down if I was properly attired.

Suzuki TL1000S

Time has been relatively kind to the Suzuki TL1000S here. Okay, so the brakes don’t bite hard on the first squeeze and the tyres need plenty of time to warm up before they hark back to their youth and start gripping, but the action of cornering itself is sweet. It tips in well; not super quick, but quickly enough. It struggles a bit to hustle it through a roundabout, as much an indication of weight and its centre of gravity, but it delivers precisely what it set out to achieve – to be an A and B-road bahn-stormer.

And there’s so much potential here. If you get in at the ground floor with something a bit shabby you can spend what you saved in honing the Suzuki TL1000S to something near perfection – new cans lop weight and add power, refreshed suspension delivers more poise and added precision, new lines and pads return the bite to the brakes. There really is life in almost any old dog, but this one is a bit too pristine. I want a shabby old sleeper that looks rough but goes well.

My rose-tinted visor thought the Suzuki TL1000S would be a belter, offering manful power and requiring manful control. But it’s a bit of a pussycat, all told. It got a reputation as it couldn’t deliver much else to be honest – and suckers like me dined out on this controversy. I’m not saying it didn’t have issues, because it did, but the biggest issue it had was the people on top trying to force it to be a GSX-R750. Had I bought one back in 1999, I’m pretty sure I’d still own it. Characterful bikes from Japan don’t come round very often, and the Suzuki TL1000S is surely the most characterful of the lot, certainly more so than my first R6...

Suzuki TL1000S Specs

Engine : Four stroke, 90º V-Twin, DOHC 8-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Capacity : 996 cc
Bore x Stroke : 98 x 66 mm
Compression Ratio : 11.3 : 1
Induction : 2x 52 mm Mikuni Denso EFI
Max Power : 125 HP @ 8.500 RPM
Max Torque : 103 N.m @ 8.000 RPM
Transmission / Drive : 6-Speed / Chain

Frame : Aluminium Trellis
Front Suspension : 43mm Inverted Forks, Fully Adjustable
Rear Suspension : Rotary Damping System, Fully Adjustable
Front Brakes : 2 x 320 mm Disc, 4-Pot Calipers
Rear Brakes : Single 220 mm Disc, 2-Pot Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 - ZR17
Rear Tyre : 180/60 - ZR17

Wheel base : 1.415 mm
Seat Height : 835 mm
Wet Weight : 191 Kg
Fuel Capacity : 17 Litres