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Classic Motorcycle Mechanics - - NEWS & EVENTS -

hen the first ts 185 rolled out of the Ha­ma­matsu fac­tory gates in the spring of 1971 few could have imag­ined that it would prove to be one of the Ja­panese gi­ant’s most en­dur­ing ma­chines or that in its later er guise the lit­tle two-stroke would still be in pro­duc­tion over 40 years into the fu­ture. From the day the first suzukis ap­peared in the amer­i­can, English and aus­tralian mar­kets in 1963 they in­cluded a range of ‘street scram­blers’ fea­tur­ing up­swept ex­hausts and high wide han­dle­bars, and while the TC 250 and the 80cc K11T may not have been suit­able for tack­ling a desert race in Cal­i­for­nia or a muddy scram­ble in the UK, they cer­tainly caught the imag­i­na­tion of the bike-buy­ing public. The genre of a dual-pur­pose on/off road ma­chine was not a new one as from the early days all of the ma­jor Bri­tish man­u­fac­tur­ers had pro­duced sim­i­larly styled ‘colo­nial’ mod­els to tackle the rough un­made roads in africa and the Far East, but th­ese big bangers were poles apart from the pair of light­weight Ja­panese two-strokes which would prove to be the fore­run­ner to a whole new class of mo­tor­cy­cle. Keen to make their lit­tle sin­gle more us­able off-road, the Ha­ma­matsu de­sign team in­tro­duced the B105p ‘Bearcat’ for the 1966 sea­son. This was a pur­pose­ful look­ing ma­chine which in ad­di­tion to a high level si­lencer, en­gine bash plate, fold­ing footrests, ab­bre­vi­ated dual seat and knob­bly tyres also came equipped with twin rear sprock­ets and an ad­di­tional length of chain.

Amaz­ing to re­alise just how long-lived and loved suzuki’s ur­ban scram­blers have be­come.

This al­lowed the gear­ing to be low­ered when the rider reached an off-road sec­tion but mess­ing around with chain lengths – es­pe­cially when ar­riv­ing back on the Tar­mac af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing a muddy lane – didn’t fit with the ‘easy to use’ im­age that suzuki was keen to por­tray and within a year the B105p was su­per­seded with a far more tech­ni­cally ef­fi­cient – if more costly – so­lu­tion. This came in the form of what was de­scribed as the “dual range gear­box” fit­ted in a six model line-up of twostrokes des­ig­nated the KT 120, TC 90, TC 100, TC 120, TC 125 and the TC 185. The con­cept of the dual range ’box was to pro­vide the rider with a choice of ra­tios greater than the four found on their road­ster sin­gles and in achiev­ing this suzuki’s en­gi­neers had clev­erly man­aged to squeeze two sets of three – one for road use the other for trail – into the same area as the orig­i­nal four-speed clus­ter. The ac­tual se­lec­tion process was achieved by way of a lever mounted ex­ter­nally of the gear­box out­board of the fi­nal drive chain. The only bike from the six model range to be of­fi­cially im­ported into the UK was the TC 120 ‘Trail­cat’, a well-made lit­tle bike which when tested by pe­riod jour­nal­ist Bruce pre­ston for Mo­tor­cy­cle Sport in the win­ter of 1970 was de­scribed as be­ing “a su­perb dual-pur­pose ma­chine and at £240 a bar­gain for the rider who wants the best of both worlds”. Good as the Trail­cat was, suzuki was not con­tent to sit on its lau­rels and on the dawn of the new decade two new stro­kers car­ry­ing the model des­ig­na­tion Ts ap­peared in the show­rooms. The pair – 90cc and 250cc ‘sav­age’ – were both aimed clearly at the bur­geon­ing amer­i­can

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