Bikes, Classics, Opinion Pieces, Reviews

Rebirth of an Icon: 1978 Suzuki GS1000



Speaking strictly in automotive terms, every once in a while, and I fervently believe that everyone has done this at least once in their lifetime, you do something that has been medically certified as ‘bonkers’, which makes you wake up the next morning in a cold sweat thinking to yourself “What the hell have I done??” and you go back to sleep hoping that when you wake up, it was all a dream. Well, no such luck on my part that’s for sure, because it wasn’t a dream, nor was it a nightmare, but perhaps more a dream fulfilled. But at a price. It all started when I’d decided to sell my trusty Kawasaki ZZR1100 C1 (above). There was nothing wrong with it actually, it was (and still is 20 years on) a really good super-sports tourer, which was my third, having owned two previously, somewhere along the line.


I’d bought it because it served a very specific need; covering vast distances in the shortest amount of time and in (relative) comfort. It still holds a personal (idiotic) speed record of mine, for in my youth, my first one clocked an amazing 295km/h one time on a deserted highway. Not one of my more intelligent exploits of course.

Well perhaps age has finally caught up with me insofar as biking is concerned, for I found myself thinking the unthinkable recently. Was this bike too fast for me? Perish the thought! However, the recent spate of high-profile superbike accidents and fatalities weren’t doing my confidence levels any favours either, so in a brief moment of madness, I decided to sell the ZZR11…


There were no shortage of takers that’s for sure, it’s still a very sought after bike, despite its age, and sure enough, a mere 8 hours had passed since the ad went up online, and the bike was sold. The buyer was from Perlis and he’d arranged to have the bike loaded onto a train and transported up, sight unseen and with no test-ride either. Such is the lure of the old ZZR.


Far from hanging up my riding boots though, I’d been toying around with the idea of getting a retro ‘old-skool’ bike, and having owned a GS550E some time back, I was keen to explore the possibility of getting something similar, only bigger. A few bikes crossed my mind, the likes of the CBX750, GSX750 and GSX1100 were all on the suggested shopping list.

What I’d always wanted though, was a Suzuki GS1000. I was still in school when the GS1000 first appeared on the scene in the late 70’s, and during the early 80’s it absolutely reigned supreme as THE superbike to have. Four-cylinders of 250cc each, quadruple carbs and dual-overhead cams, this bike was the equivalent of a ZX1400 back then. It was also the most sought after and lusted after of the ‘GS’ range, surpassing even the popularity of the aforementioned GSX750 and 1100.


The trouble was, the GS1000 had all but disappeared, until miraculously I received a call from someone who was interested to buy the already-sold ZZR. Before I could tell him the bike had already been sold, the caller asked if I’d be interested to ‘trade’ the ZZR for another bike. I apologized and mentioned that the bike had been sold that very morning. Out of curiosity though, I asked what bike he had to trade; his reply stunned me. I had to ask him to repeat it, twice.


“Ya, GS1000” I’ll never forget those words; I thought I was hearing things. Trying my best not to make the cardinal buying sin of sounding too enthusiastic, I asked if it was alright for me to go have a look at the bike, since it had been absolutely ages since I’d even heard of a GS1000, much less seen one.

Given its age, 36 years to be exact, the bike looked brilliant, and more importantly, in buy-and-ride condition, with valid documents. It was by no means perfect, it needed some work for sure, but I was ‘sold’ the moment I saw and heard it pull up to the meeting point. I was instantly transported back to my school days when I lusted after this bike so much.


A brief test ride (I’d never ridden a GS1000 before, back then when it first came out I only had a B2 license) followed by a bit of haggling, and a couple of days later I find myself handing over all the money I’d gotten for the ZZR11 sale to procure the GS1000. It was one of those aforementioned “what the hell have I done?” moments.


But she was all mine. Finally! A bona-fide 1978 Suzuki GS1000. The first order of business was to get the bike fully serviced and checked out by an old-skool mechanic. Thankfully, by-and-large, mechanically the bike was sound, and needed some minor work on the cylinder heads, carb tune up, some cables and a new back tyre. It was then off to the paint shop for a new coat of paint. It was already painted in ‘Wes Cooley’ replica colours so I decided to stick with it.


A few more tweaks after the bike came back from the paint shop, and she was good to go. I’ve been riding around now for a couple of weeks, and I have to say, it was all worth it. When a bike can make you smile even from just looking at it, and make you grin like a monkey the moment she starts up, that’s one of the most priceless feelings ever. I cannot explain it, you have to experience it for yourself.


The GS1000 is by no means the fastest and most powerful bike I’ve ever owned or ridden, but I can honestly say, no other bike I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding can match the sheer exhilaration this old gal provides. The open road, the need to rush nowhere, the destination unimportant. Isn’t that what biking is all about?


On a recent ride to a KTM event, I met the owner of this other classic Suzuki, a very rare Katana ‘Savanna’ (above), the only bike to ever come with a ‘pop-up’ front headlight, and it looked simply brilliant…


A couple of weekends ago I did a quick shakedown ride with a couple of riding buddies up to Awana (above), a fave route for Sunday rides, and I’m happy to report that the GS1000 is holding up well!

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