Suzuki GS 50

History and Riding Impressions, 1979 Suzuki GS1000

The GS Suzuki’s were very popular in the late 70s early 80s. They were good all round bikes, being capable of long distance touring on the one hand, or production and superbike racing on the other.

The DOHC 4-cylinder 4-stroke engines required little maintenance outside of general mechanical services. The OHVs had Tappet shims (over bucket type) for clearance adjustment; this system rarely needed further adjustment after the early services.

The four Mikuni carburetors did require regular balancing with vacuum gauges and the early models had contact point ignitions which needed regular checks, too—approximately every 3000 miles.

For riders changing over from British bikes of the time, the GS’s seemed big and heavy at first, but once underway, the Suzukis displayed reasonably good handling—they were not as good as their British or Italian competition, but generally safe and sure-footed.

The early models tended to be lightly sprung and damped, giving a pogo stick feel if pushed hard on long fast corners. Fitting stiffer shocks all round and an aftermarket swing-arm greatly improved the handling on these bikes.

Early Problem

The biggest problem on the early models was their wet weather braking ability—or lack thereof! If a particular example has the original rotors and brake pads fitted (typical of an original low mileage example), the owner must replace them before riding in wet conditions. If he retains the original items, he must, at the very least, gently apply the brakes periodically to keep them both dry and elevated in temperature as he rides.

Elevating rotor temperatures this way will improve this wet weather braking problem, but not eliminate it.

Reliability was excellent, but fuel consumption was very dependent on the type of riding (production racers rarely saw more than 13 mpg, whereas steady street touring would see over 45 mpg).

Attracting many buyers to the early Suzuki’s was their all round performance. For many, the lack of oil leaks, great performance, and their reliability were selling points few other manufacturers of the time could compete with. And with the exception of the wet weather braking previously mentioned, everything on the Suzuki worked well.

Riding the GS Suzuki

Starting the GS from cold rarely needed more than half of the available choke setting (operated by a lever on top of the Mikuni carbs), and once warm, the Suzuki engine carburated perfectly from just over 1100 rpm to the red line.

Gear changing (left side) was easy, as was finding neutral at a set of stop lights. First gear selection had the typical crunching noise as a spinning gear engaged with a stationary one, but a slight push as the lever was depressed (one down four up pattern) to get the bike rolling, often eliminated this.

All of the electrics worked faultlessly, including the electric starter, and the switches all fell easily to hand.

Passenger Seat

Passenger comfort was well catered for with a plush seat of ample size complemented with well positioned rear footrests. The seat also had a grab-handle (a band bolted across the middle of the seat) for the passenger to hold on to, but these were not strong enough and tend to pull up if the bike is accelerated hard–far better for the passenger to reach behind for the steel grab rails.

Turn signals came as standard fittings on the GS but did not have a self cancelling feature.

Suzuki GS 50

Parts are still readily available, as are many tuning components from 4 into 1 pipe sets, to carb conversions and performance camshafts.


Engine: Air-cooled, 997 -cc inline -4, DOHC, 2-valves per cylinder producing 89 bhp

Top speed: 135 mph

Gearbox: 5-speed, one down four up configuration

Front tire: 3.50 x 19”

Rear tire: 4,25/85 x 18

Brakes. Twin front rotors, single rear

Weight: 513 lb’s. (233 kg’s.) dry

Price: An early example (GS1000C) in excellent condition is valued at around $3,000.

Suzuki GS 50
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