Bike: 1984 Suzuki GS450E
Specifications: 180 degree parallel twin. DOHC with valve shims in buckets over the tappets. 2 valves per cylinder. 450cc. 6 speed gearbox.
Description: The little GS450E is another variant of the range of 400+cc GS twins which formed Suzuki's second foray into the world of 4-stroke motorcycling (their first 4-stroke was the GS750, and what a good job they made of THAT). However, unlike the earlier 450cc GS twins, which were simply bored and stroked GS400s, the E variant has more in common with the 4-valve GSX400T, sharing the bottom-end from this motorcycle. Suzuki launched this model onto the British market in 1984, putting the engine into the same basic frame that was already used for the GS250E. Typically the machine was finished in white with two-tone blue diagonal striping on the tank and sides. It is likely that Suzuki were trying to revive the popularity their earlier twins once enjoyed with British dispatch riders, who rode thousands of GS twins to destruction in the early 80's. However, the model never really caught on in this role, owing to a much wider supply of shaft-driven, four-cylinder fours such as the Kawa GT550, GT750 and Suzi's own GS650 by that time.
As it turned out, the 450E served Suzuki well during it's 3-year production spell, acting as a useful test-bed for the engine, which was re-used in the GS500E with few more cubes added, and the whole lot placed into a semi-racer-styled frame (and in this form the little engine has taken-off in a small way as an ideal first bike for riders who can't afford the GPz500 twin...).
Personal History: I was looking for a cheap light-weight bike to fit onto a sidecar since I needed a vehicle for towing large quantities of stuff around in. The obvious answer - get a car-license - didn't appeal at the time since I was low on funds. Initially, I wanted a torquey, long stroked single, like an Enfield 500 Bullet, but there were none to be had. I saw an ad for the 450 for sale in Luton, 80 miles away and hopped on the Commando to take a look.
I haggled a bit and then settled on 700 pounds, ($1100), not bad for a bike with just 16k miles on the clock, and regular MOT (Ministry of Transport) test certificates going back to when it was new, verifying the mileage.
I ran the bike as a solo mount for some time and found it to be a competent, unremarkable machine which was still fitted with the 6-speed box designed for the GSX400T. This was a little low for the 450 and in many ways accounted for the bikes rather unnecessary thirst for fuel. If Suzuki had been aiming to keep this machine as a mainstay of their product range I feel certain they would have decreased the ratios by a tooth or two to increase the gearing. As it was the bike returned about 50mpg, and as a solo, this would have been its main drawback. However, since I was aiming to stick an extra wheel on it anyway, the low gearing was an advantage from my point of view. The 6-ratios could be kept track of by the gear-indicator light in the control panel, and they provided useful flexibility for quick(ish) acceleration after the sidecar was fitted. The standard Japanese tyres ("Cheng Shin", anybody - no I haven't heard of them either) were abysmal, but they did last a Hell of a long time (but I guess any tyre made of a material closely resembling wood might prove quite durable). The anti-dive front brake assembly stopped the bike going forwards, even if it didn't stop it diving, and the rear drum was as competent and dull as the rest of the bike.
Cautions: My main fear had been the frame, since I wasn't sure how it would cope with the stress of towing the "drifter", but since I was only fitting a little Velorex chair of the type normally (?) fitted to CZ 2-strokes, I thought I wouldn't have too much to worry about. In fact this was the case, and the little bike proved well worthy of it's GS pedigree, providing completely style-free motorcycling throughout two British winters (not the worst winters in the world, but certainly the dreariest).
The electrics on GS Suzi's tend to be a little suspect, and this often baffles people, since a Japanese company who can't get their electronics sorted out is a bit like a Scotsman who can't handle his whiskey! Main areas for concern are the alternator stator coils and the regulator-rectifier. The alternator on all GS Suzi's runs in oil, and this oil plays an important part in cooling those expensive copper bits. I believe that the clunky reliability of the GS bikes tends to lend them to owner abuse. Fail to observe you oil level and that immensely competent motor will just carry on running, but the alternator WILL DIE.
As for the reg-rec, this is just shoddy design, and owes a lot to the big Jap firms tendency to farm-out the "unimportant" areas of bike manufacture to sweat shops in Thailand and Bangladesh - after all, if the reg-rec breaks while in the hands of the bike's fourth owner they won't have to repair it under warranty! The reg-rec from a Honda CX fits nicely into place as a replacement for the original.