Suzuki T20 Super Six Classic Superbike
This was the machine that first put the writing on the wall for the British motorcycle industry. In 1966, when Suzuki’s ‘Super Six’ was introduced, multi-cylindered Oriental behemoths were still but a distant dream. Yet if Honda’s CB750 was to be dubbed the first ‘superbike’, the little Suzuki was the first roadster to reveal the awesome potential of the emerging Japanese giants. During its first six months on sale, over a thousand Super Sixes were sold in the UK alone.
More ominously still, in December 1966 it became the first Oriental motorcycle to be voted ‘Machine of the Year’ by readers of MotorCycle News. One year later it retained the title. The attraction, of course, lay in the numbers.
The ‘six’ that were ‘super’ were gears, an unprecedented number for a roadster. (They were also an insult В two years previously, Royal Enfield’s first five-speed 250 sports bike was named the Super Five.) Then there was 100, the top speed alleged in T20 marketing hype.
The Super Six was capable of nothing like that in neutral conditions, of course. But even a genuine 90mph was enough to shame many a 500, and thoroughly see off any European 250 foolish enough to give chase. Also unprecedented was Suzuki’s level of technical sophistication, detailing and reliability В in a truly sporting package at an affordable price. When introduced, the machine cost less than ВЈ2 more than the comparable, but much slower, Enfield Continental GT.
To fully appreciate a Super Six, however, you need to strip it. Invert the engine, lift off the bottom crankcase half (the cases split horizontally, unlike Suzuki’s previous 250, the T10) and a design of surpassing elegance lies before you. There are three main shafts, crank, lay and mainshaft, with a final train of gears driving the Suzuki’s novel Posi-Force oil pump (which dispensed with the messy job of mixing oil and fuel).
The crank runs on three main bearings, the outer two being lubricated directly by the oil pump, the centre one by gearbox oil. One piece steel connecting rods run on the pressed-up crank, their roller big ends receiving oil from the outer mains. Small ends are needle roller, supporting cast, two ring pistons with a shallow dome. Primary drive is by gear.
Each cylinder has its own head and iron-sleeved barrel, the latter sporting ‘classic’ 54x54mm dimensions.
Parting was conservative by modern standards, with the inlet port bridged to give the piston rings an easier life. It was an exquisite, seminal design, barely distinguishable in principle from racing Yamahas of 20 years later. It was light (297Ib), reliable, and started easily.
But most of all, although the claimed 29bhp is optimistic it was fast. The T20 was regarded in its time as a good handler, with damping ‘superior to any [other) Japanese machine’. In truth, the suspension was harsh, and the brakes no better than adequate.
It has a general air of flimsiness which was largely overcome with the introduction of the much sturdier T250 Hustler in 1969.
Not surprisingly Super Sixes found their way onto the tracks in large numbers, both in standard guise and as the ‘kitted’ TR250. On a good day the TR250 was a match for Yamaha’s contemporary TDIC. As well as race wins notably in the ’67 Manx Grand Prix – modified Eddie Crooks T20s broke world records over six hours, 1000km, 12 hours and 24 hours (the latter in 256cc ‘350’ form, at 91.055mph).
They were even modified for off road competition.
Thirty years on, the Super Six inevitably feels dated. Its power is around half that of a modern sports 250, and the chassis and cycle parts come from a different planet. Yet despite that, it was a revelation in its day and has an unmistakable feel of modern-ness about it.
And, above all, it set in train a revolution that is still winning races today. With the Super Six, less truly was more.
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