2011 Suzuki GS500F
The 2011 Suzuki GS500F is the prototypical sheep in wolf's clothing. The Suzuki stylists must have burned the midnight oil desperately trying to slather the GSX family resemblance onto a mild mannered vertical twin half litre commuter bike. These laudable but essentially misguided efforts stretched right down to appropriating GSX-R600 styling clues such as the jagged white and blue arrow fairing design and stacked headlight. Unfortunately it's a bit like dressing up granny in her old stripper's outfit: It might still fit, but no one is either fooled by it, or even cares to look at it much.
There's no hiding that the GS500F motor is basically the same engine designed in the late Seventies to serve as the GS450. Three decades is a long time in the motorcycle business and although the 487cc four-stroke, air-cooled DOHC vertical twin has a well earned reputation for being bulletproof, it's as innovative and thrilling as a Rotary Club breakfast meeting.
That's a real shame since the GS500F is essentially an extremely competent and versatile street motorcycle. Even with two hefty riders on board it can readily exceed any speed limit this side of the Autobahn. Both front and rear suspensions provide a wide range of adjustability, and although there is only one 310mm rotor and four-piston caliper on the front it works beautifully with the single disc with two-piston caliper out back to bring the GS500F to a full stop in the time it would take an Electra Glide rider to find the brake pedal.
The GS500F's six speed transmission is literally buttery smooth and essentially free of any noticeable drivetrain lash. The ratios are a revelation as whether puttering around town or speeding up to merge with highway traffic you always seem to find the perfect gear. The twin 34mm Mikuni carbs are so efficient that you'd think that there's a fuel injection system under that 5.3 gallon tank: one that can legitimately take you well over three hundred miles if you don't crank the throttle like an escaped lunatic.
The 110/70-17M/C 54H front and the 130/70-17M/C 62H rear tires may be a bit on the spindly side according to modern practice, but they certainly handle reasonably at anything but nine tenths knee-dragging speed, and will outlast half a dozen sets of tires on a Hayabusa. All in all the GS500F is a practical, capable, and accomplished sane street motorcycle.
Not every meal has to be Maine lobster topped with beluga caviar and white truffle. There's nothing wrong with a good burger every once in a while, just like there's nothing wrong with a good, economical, competent, versatile, and fun commuter bike. Why Suzuki is trying to pass the 2011 GS500F tasty burger off as highfalutin elitist lobster remains one of the most puzzling questions of the 2011 model year.
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2011 Suzuki GS500F At A Glance
Base MSRP: $7,399
Engine Displacement: 487 cc
Engine Type: 4-stroke, air-cooled DOHC
Bore & Stroke: 74 mm x 56.6 mm
Ignition Type: Electronic ignition
Compression Ratio: 9.0:1
Transmission Type: 6-speed constant mesh
Final Drive Type: Chain
Front Tire: 110/70-17M/C (54H), tubeless
Rear Tire: 130/70-17M/C (62H), tubeless
Wheelbase: 1405 mm
Saddle Height: 790 mm
Curb Dry Weight: 199 kg
Fuel Capacity: 20.0 L
* Specs/pix apply to 2010 model, updates as released