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Having a Threesome


These days if someone asked you if youd like to own a bike that used fuel like a V8, needed basic maintenance every few weeks, had a front brake that didn’t like rain and generally scared the crap out of you every time you even imagined leaning into a corner you probably say F@#k off.

Or of course you'd be buying a Harley (hehe only kiddin), I am, of course, referring to Suzuki’s legendary range of 2 stroke triples. I had one of these, a 1974 GT550 to be exact, I bought the bike in 95 in a moment of rose tinted nostalgia. Also the lack of funds and the fact that it was cheap added to the attraction.

Ok, so to the facts.. I got the beast home and started to survey the pile of parts that had come with the bike 3 brand new cylinders in boxes, several sets of points [that’s contact breakers to those of you born after 1975], and a heap of other engine parts. Now I'm fairly good with 2 strokes and as such it didn’t present any problems being generally a simple engine. But, theres always a ‘but’ isn’t there ?, it wasn’t running and I set about breathing some life into it.

These bikes are a 3 cylinder piston port 2 stroke with a starter motor slung under the crankcase pretty unusual in those days as the thing was so easy to start with the kick starter. And the starter motor usually gave up the ghost about 6 months after arriving in England due to being covered in gunge from salt on our roads in the winter. Other idiosyncracys the bike had were the centre cylinder had a propencity to seizing and or holing its piston..this was because of inadequate cooling and the fact that the contact breakers had a habit of slipping, also due to the design of Suzukis “ram air cooling system “ the centre pot would get doused in water from the front wheel and short the plug cap out resulting in 33% of your power going on holiday! until the water evaporated and number 2 pot started firing again normally halfway around a long bend. .say hi to a hedge !!

Onto the chassis…the bike was designed with a leaning to sports touring rather strange due to its fuel consumption etc …so the wheelbase was a tad long. .it was lumbered with a weird three into four exhaust system that weighed too much and robbed the engine of usuable power so that got junked in favour of three nice and loud expansion chambers …more tuning necessary unless you wanted another holed piston. .up the jets and experiment till you got the fueling right.

The front disc brake by todays standards would be pathetic [Suzuki even put a sticker on the fork leg informing you that the brake was a bit useless in the wet …] and the rear drum was either on or off so you had a choice either lock the back up or pray the front cleared the water on it before you hit the thing your braking to avoid…

I hear you asking why then ride the thing ???? well it accelerated like a fighter plane on afterburners,  it could easily hit 120mph in 1974 that would’ve been incredible for a 550cc bike and it sounded amazing on three expansion pipes

And it was a bit saner than Kawasaki’s suicidal 500triple..not much mind you …these bikes demanded respect and relied on a lot of rider input to get the best out of them. Of course the 80’s saw a lot of improvements in 2 stroke technology and saw 250s with the same power output as this behemoth but these triples were smooth and on a good day when she was behaving herself a pure delight to ride …get on one and live a little just remember to dial your mind back a few decades youll live longer that way …have fun stay upright.

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