1982 GS650GL review

by Colin Ford

Bike: 1982 Suzuki GS650GL

Specifications: Inline 4, shaft-drive

Information on the Bike

At first I found this bike somewhat top heavy. However the step, (king - queen) seat is quite low, I am about 5' 10", and I can place my feet flat on the ground without any trouble. At first I rode the bike in its naked state but soon added a handlebar mounted windshield for comfort. I was amazed at the bikes ability to pull cleanly, and strongly, from just under 2000 rpm in 5th. gear. This bike is obviously tuned for low and middle range power. It runs at 5000 rpm at 70 mph, and will still pull strongly to overtake up to 90 mph. It will reach a top speed in excess of 100 mph but I haven't explored beyond the 100 mark!

Because of the group I ride with, GoldWings, Venture Royals and the like, I decided to dress the GS up too. I added a Vetter Windjammer Fairing, a Vetter trunk, and a pair of hard bags, all from a bike salvage yard. This has not diminished the bikes performance at all. Indeed I subjectively feel it runs even better with the fairing. It has a somewhat better shape than I do, and is certainly more aerodynamic than the windshield which was more like a barn door in comparison. I can pull away in top gear to overtake in most cases, only dropping down a gear occasionally. My wife sometimes rides with me and the 650 still pulls strongly. Mind you when she is behind me I tend not to burn up the rubber, if you know what I mean; nudge nudge, wink wink.

I find the riding position comfortable for long trips though I did add engine guards and put on highway pegs; just for a change. The existing pegs suit me and the seat is comfortable. It is getting a little worse for wear but J.C. Whitney sells a replacement cover for it at $44.98, and the foam is still in good shape. I also like the pulled back handlebars, and they are wide enough to maneuver the bike in slow speed parking lot situations.

I was concerned with the extra lights on the trunk, four lights, and four brake lights. I noticed a tendency for the gear indicator light to dim some when I applied the brakes. Since I have found the fault in my charging system this doesn't happen any more. I was advised by a bike mechanic though, not to use heated vests, or put on driving lights as it is still a Suzuki with a small alternator.

The shaft drive hasn't caused me any problems at all, indeed it is something I rarely think about except to change the oil when I start up in the spring. I use a semi synthetic 10 - 40 motorcycle oil in the engine and change it every 6000 KM's. Other than that, and the usual regular maintenance jobs, the bike is, as they say, bullet proof!

I enjoy long trips with 400 plus mile days. My only complaint is the size of the gas tank. This bike was supposedly designed as a cruiser - tourer, but the tank is, for some reason, only 12 liters as opposed to the other GS650 non L models 16 liter tanks. Still I can get 150 miles on a tank full, so that's not too bad. There aren't too many places with distances that far apart without a gas station. I also tend to use my trip meter as my gas gauge. The other one reads empty at 8 liters at which point the reserve can be switched on. Last I always carry a couple of liters of gas in my side bag when touring. Haven't had to use it yet.

On one trip with the guys I totally blew them away with my cornering. We were going over the Lost Trail Pass (8000 ft) on the Montana Idaho border, and going up the superb twisties on the Montana side, I was able to out corner everyone, once dragging my footpeg. The bike was as steady as a rock. Just before this trip I had had the front forks done with new seals and oil. It was awesome!

Another rider has just joined our group with a GS1100. I haven't had time yet to really compare the bikes. His is more powerful, yes, but also costs more to insure and gas up. I think I will keep my GS650GL thank you.