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suzuki gsx-r1100WP

Living in the nineties

(from the Travels with Guido series, MT #229, July 2010)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; ride pic by Stuart Grant, static by Suzuki

Yamaha GTS1000

Stuck in a rut or rediscovering some iconic machinery? Getting obsessive about an era can be viewed either way

It’s funny how these things work out. There I was on Casper the GTS1000, belting through a soaking wet set of sweepers at a respectable clip and it occurred to me that the old dear was doing the job remarkably well. The mid-corner bumps weren’t bothering it in the slightest and, now, after a couple of days of living together, I’d worked out what the front end was telling me.

Wind back, gee, over a year ago and I rescued this thing from a shed. The fuel system had rotted out and had to be replaced, which put a dent both in my wallet and in any confidence I might have had in actually enjoying owning it.

I’ve been doing this writing gig long enough to remember when the GTS was first launched and even managed to score a ride on a demo. Nice, very high tech for 1994, but not even on the shopping radar for near 23 grand, or about one-and-a-half sport bikes.

It’s not all that often you get a chance to ride the same bike in new condition (mine had under 1000 kay on it) over a decade and a half apart – Paul Keating was Prime Minister when it was shipped over here. Normally, you can excuse an older machine for pretty much anything, because of its age and mileage. But a new-old-stock version?

Just a few weeks ago (remember this is 2010), I finally took it for my first long ride – and by definition, its first long ride ever. Something which intrigued me was how that James Parker RADD, single-side front end would behave. Up till now we had only a nodding acquaintance and now we were moving on past the handshake stage to something far more intimate, like “we’re not going to hurt each other, are we?”

The RADD doesn’t speak ‘English’ so much as an exotic dialect and it takes a while to work out what the signals mean. When you get your head around what it’s saying, the thing is a delight. Particularly round bumpy turns, where it hangs on like the proverbial limpet and will not budge offline unless you give it a pretty firm nudge on the tiller. Nice, really nice.

The seat is a plank – a known problem on the very early examples that was quickly addressed. This is engine and chassis number one, so I guess that counts as early. However a sheepskin pad made it tolerable, while the fairing provided a heap of protection.

Braking is solid, while the modest 100 horses (this was produced in what seemed like the two and a half weeks when there was a voluntary manufacturer power limit in place) at least expresses itself as a solid midrange, so you can often leave it in one gear and concentrate on playing with the steering. It weighs far too much, but I’m really getting to like it.

My real favourite in the shed, Rocinante (named after Don Quixote’s horse) the Daytona 1200 is almost exactly the same age – 1993/1994. And I just caught myself ogling another ’90s rocket, a GSX-R1100W, which I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for.

You see there was a very tidy 1995 version for sale, with just 30,000km on board, at the time for just $4500. (They’re now worth at least double - Ed, 2020.) That is ridiculously cheap for a 156 horsepower motorcycle in good nick. I’m really not sure if I can resist.

If I did buy it, ever-patient spouse Ms M Senior would stare at me uncomprehendingly, offer some comment in a voice laced with richly-deserved sarcasm, then lose interest and toddle off past her own bikes to find “mother’s medicine”, aka the vodka.

Spannerman would give me a pretty much identical uncomprehending stare and then congratulate me on buying yet another machine that does exactly the same job as several other monsters already lounging around the shed. Which is scare the tripe out of the rider, just before it mauls what’s left of your licence.

Maybe I can recover the situation by starting a 1990s motorcycle museum and claim it all as a tax deduction. Will anyone come and visit?

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