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Hal's Ride Along Motorcycling Memory Lane: Kawasaki & Suzuki

Updated on November 21, 2009

Kawasaki KLR650 Tengai. Over the top styling and a butt-numbing seat, but really fun in the mountains. It was a huge handful in the dirt, though, so I usually kept it on the Southern California streets rather than risk shredding all that expensive bodywork!

Kawasaki Eliminator. All gab and no stab. It looked like a hot drag racing bike but under the fuel tank lay the heart of a courier bike. Although I loved the styling (except in the rain where the stubby rear fender wouldn't keep the rear tire from bathing the back of your jacket), where was the GO?

Kawasaki 1300-6 Voyager. Although the new Gold Wings are great motorcycles, most people forget that the first six-cylinder tourer was made by Kawasaki. Essentially a 900 Z1 with a couple of more cylinders grafted onto the sides and a radiator from a Kenworth slapped in front, this monster was a handful in the best conditions. I had to ride this beast from Las Vegas to Los Angeles when there was more than a foot of snow on the mountain passes and the snowploughs were nowhere in sight. Sliding around with both feet dragging through the snow just to keep this behemoth upright. Now THAT was FUN! NOT!

"Similar" To Yvon DuHamel's Kawasaki Racer. Yes, that is Yvon's bike and not mine. No, my bike was very similar. No, I can't tell you any more. Yes, all I can tell you is that you should have seen what I did to that bike. It lives on in the annals of motorcycling racing history. Can't reveal much more than that, as in those days I didn't have a bengal cat face. Let's move along...

"Similar" to Eddie Lawson's Kawasaki Superbike. Yes, that is Eddie's bike and not mine. No, my bike was very similar. No, I can't tell you any more. Except that Eddie was one of the truly great guys of the 20th Century. Let's move along...

Suzuki DR650. One of the worst Japanese motorcycles I have ever ridden. Lousy handling, cheesy finish, welds that looked like gobs of putty, pieces that fell off, vibrations that would challenge Doc Johnson and a good running 350 would smoke it off the line. Basically: YUCK!

Suzuki Katana. See above. Great looks, but no cojones. Plus it handled like an Ural with flat tires. And to top it all off, you had to sit your chin on the instruments since the handlebars were designed for orangutans. What was wrong with Suzuki engineers during these years? Did somebody drop acid in their rice?

Suzuki 650 Savage. I don't dislike ALL Suzukis. This bike is 10 times the motorcycle its Yamaha SR500 cousin is. A great ride, lovely handling, the best buckhorn handlebars since my Sportster, comfortably pleasant foot-forward seating position and a thump that sounds like a Harley Big Twin with one fouled spark plug. A really fun little cruiser! Just don't stop at any biker bars with it!

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... Oh, sorry... About the Suzuki GSX550 and the Suzuki GS850? Yeah. Uhuh. Couldn't stay awake. Sorry... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... What can possibly distinguish these motorcycles from wallpaper? Both of them were not as much motorcycles as two wheeled transportation appliances. They did nothing badly, it's just that they did nothing well.

Suzuki GSX1100. A competent, but clunkily styled UJM superbike. Extremely powerful and with a penchant to wheelie at the most inopportune times. Overall, sitting on the fence between memorable and forgettable. The only real neural spark in my aged and crazed noggin about this bike is that a friend borrowed it to do burnouts and actually managed to hit well over 100 mph... on a residential street. He wasn't too concerned about getting a ticket as he was a Sergeant at the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment.

Continued in: Hal's Ride Along Motorcycling Memory Lane: Yamaha

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