Spe­cial brew

Andy Har­ri­man has had years of pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with big GSX Suzukis. He just can­not stay away from them. With good rea­son

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Contents - WORDS MARK GRA­HAM PHO­TOG­RA­PHY STU­ART COLLINS

Big Suzuki blend of GSX11 power (some­thing it’s never been short of) in GSX750/GSX-R1000 run­ning gear. And very nicely turned out it is too

SOME THINGS IN LIFE are etched in stone: like­andy Har­ri­man al­ways hav­ing a big Suzuki of some de­scrip­tion. But per­haps not the Spon­don 1260 turbo that man­aged 13 miles to the gal­lon.”i pushed that into the lo­cal­tescos too many times to be funny. I lost pa­tience with that and sold it to a guy in Ire­land,” says Andy. “I did warn him about the fuel is­sue, but he still rang me up in dis­be­lief a cou­ple of times.” Some mod­els, and of­ten one par­tic­ualar en­gine, can take hold of a gen­er­a­tion and never let go. Yamaha’s LC springs to mind, Kawasaki triples too, and in the big four stroke cat­e­gory, Zeds and Suzukis pre­dom­i­nate.

The rea­sons for any­one’s one model ma­nia can be many and var­ied. Inandy Har­ri­man’s case, he im­me­di­ately ex­plains pre­cisely what it was that sent him crazy for GSX Suzukis: “I was 11 and on hol­i­day when th­ese bikes pulled into the camp­site all loaded up with tents. I was like ‘WOW’ and my dad was telling me to get away from the bikes, to leave the blokes alone. But that was it, and it was the size of a GSX11’S head­light that did it for me.” So sim­ple, so in­deli­ble.

And yes, a GSX11 head­light is still a thing of won­der. Fully nine inches in di­am­e­ter, it would not look out of place in a light­house.

“This one started out as a 750, and a mate had an 1100 en­gine, so it was pretty ob­vi­ous what would hap­pen”

As it is, the man­hole cover-sized item that forms the fo­cal point ofandy’s GSX7/11 is an un­miss­able re­minder of just how a per­func­tory item can as­sume huge styling sig­nif­i­cance. How it can de­fine an en­tire ma­chine.

But let’s not ob­sess about cy­cle parts (cru­cial though they are) when the pri­mary at­trac­tion of the GSX is an en­gine that sim­ply knows no bounds when it comes to suck­ing up abuse, hap­pily ac­co­mo­dat­ing all man­ner of ex­treme tun­ing work, and all the while hap­pily fer­ry­ing you to work ev­ery week, or fir­ing you down a quar­ter mile strip ev­ery week­end. It has few equals.

As you might ex­pect this is no­tandy’s first big Suzuki. He’s had five, so far.th­ese have in­cluded the Spon­don-framed, tur­boed, nut­ter bas­tard thing and three oth­ers as ex­treme as any­thing out there. His cur­rent de­vice is yet an­other it­er­a­tion of a ma­chine he knows in­side out and sim­ply can’t stay away from.

“This one started out as a 750, and a mate had an 1100 en­gine for sale, so it was all pretty ob­vi­ous what was go­ing to hap­pen,” says Andy. “It’s what hap­pens with any­thing from when you start rid­ing. If you’ve got a Kawasakiar50, then an 80 en­gine goes into it. I had ayamaha RD125DX, that had a 200 en­gine in it. I even had a Suzuki GP100 with a mo­tocross rear wheel, MX bars, and, of course, a GP125 en­gine.

“The beauty of the big Suzukis is you don’t re­ally have to do much un­less you want huge amounts of power.the cranks are bom­proof, the rest of it pretty much the same. It’s prob­a­bly the best en­gine Suzuki ever pro­duced.they looked at what Kawasaki had done ear­lier and then sen­si­bly went for­ward from there. “The EFE was proper nice. I went to Bel­gium on one about eight years ago, to Spa, with a bunch of mates on GSX-R1000S. It would do 140mph all day long, and even with no fair­ing it was strangely bear­able,” says a wist­fu­landy. He even flirted with a GSX1400 for a time. “I saw it at the Au­tosport Show and bought one there and then. It was OK, but then there were hun­dreds of them ap­pear­ing ev­ery­where, so it had to go.” It’s clear then, that he’s a fool for any big Suzuki, yet has now man­aged

“For all I’ve saved I’ve spent absolute for­tunes on other stuff. If you added it up, you’d never build an­other bike”

his wish list down to an acept­able level that in­volves just the one Suzuki now. But what a ma­chine.

He’d done them be­fore so there were few mys­ter­ies to fathom when it came to bolt­ing this one to­gether.

“My mate’s garage is pretty much a Suzuki parts bin, so first off was per­suad­ing him to let me have a GSX-R1000 K8 swingarm in the matt black. It’s funny think­ing there used to be a 130-sec­tion tyre back in the day, and now it’s got a 200 there.and the way it all fits to­gether is re­ally straight­for­ward.

“The Ja­panese are great when it comes to keep­ing things more or less the same. Sure, they’ll change lit­tle bits here and there, but with a cou­ple of spac­ers each side and ma­chin­ing a lit­tle off the gear­box sprocket it all lines up.as for the front-end I was all set to re­build some SRAD forks, and just as I was about to tear them down an en­i­tre SRAD front end ap­peared on ebay that had al­ready been sorted by K-tech, so that was a stroke of luck.

“Al­most the same thing hap­pened with the ex­haust. I was all set to go with black pow­der­coat on the Har­ris sys­tem, then a set of brand new orig­i­nal Har­ris down­pipes in chrome ap­peared on ebay. So I put a bid in and for­got about it, fully ex­pect­ing not to get them, and of course I ended up get­ting them for ninety quid.that meant cut­ting the whole thing to rib­bons and rechroming the col­lec­tor and can.”

As ever, a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience when an op­por­tu­nity to make a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment presents it­self. Plus, a change of plan mid­way through a build is al­ways prefer­able to a ma­jor re­think if a big el­e­ment of a build turns out to look sub­stan­dard at the fi­nal twirling of the span­ners.

So much for the more sub­stan­tial ‘big bits’ of the build.when it came to the real nitty-gritty, the brack­etry, spac­ery and clev­er­ness that truly de­fines the qual­ity of a spe­cial,andy had it made – lit­er­ally.

Work­ing at Bys­tronic laser cut­ters in Coven­try pro­vides him with ac­cess to high-end ma­chin­ery most of us imag­ine only ex­ists on space­ships in other gal­ax­ies.

“Ayoshimura tail tidy is £119” saysandy. “I’m lucky I can copy one at work.the oil cooler mount­ings are an­other work job, the bat­tery box, lots of stuff. I must have saved a few quid here and there, but I hon­estly don’t count, it’s a bit scary. For all I’ve saved I’ve also spent absolute for­tunes on other stuff. The oil-cooler was £350, theyoshi sprocket cover £200. I’m not even go­ing to men­tion the sand­cast clutch cover. If you added it all up, you’d never build an­other bike again. You’ll never get it back ei­ther, but that’s not the point is it?”

It’s not. But don’t get the im­pres­sio­n­andy is one to merely throw money at ran­dom projects. “I find it hard to com­pre­hend cer­tain bits of the bike world th­ese days. For ex­am­ple, like a lot of peo­ple, I quite fancy build­ing an­other LC. I’ve got a soft spot for them af­ter I got knocked off my first one and bought a GSX1100ET with the compo money. But, try find­ing some­thing – you’re look­ing at any­thing from five to seven grand. I re­mem­ber build­ing one in my bed­room – and then not be­ing able to get it down the stairs – the bits we used then cost for­tunes now.and while I’m at it, my first X7 was given to me. In bits, ad­mit­tedly. I re­mem­ber shov­el­ling it into the back of my dad’stal­bot Alpine.you won’t find any­one giv­ing away X7s now.”you won’t be find­ing any­tal­bot Alpines ei­ther.

It’s not for want of tryin­gandy’s had lit­tle luck in find­ing any two-wheeled ex­pe­ri­ence to ri­val that of his beloved GSXS.

“I had a Du­cati nine-nine-some­thing for a bit, but got rid of that. Un­less you were on a nicea-road do­ing about 130 it was a com­plete waste of time. I mean how painful do they want a mo­tor­cy­cle to be?”

Andy is a man who ap­pre­ci­ates enor­mous quan­ti­ties of grunt in a com­fort­able sit-upand-beg pack­age. Hence his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the GSX-R11. “The first slab­bies were great,” he says. “But then they got more and more un­com­fort­able over the years.a mate of mine had the mil­lionth an­niver­sary edi­tion 1000, what­ever it was, and yes it was great, men­tal, but the whole thing is get­ting a bit ridicu­lous now. In the Isle Of Man the Su­per­stock bikes are just sec­onds off the pace of the Superbike spec ma­chines...

So to try and ad­dress the less men­tal side of thingsandy has a Har­ley-davidson Night­ster. “It sounds a lot like a house fall­ing down, but sort of makes sense if ev­ery­one else is on a Har­ley. You wouldn’t want to ride one when ev­ery­one else has got a proper bike.” Quite.

And just as you think he might have ac­tu­ally turned a cor­ner in his quest for a slice of the more sen­si­ble side of life he re­veals his GSX is not fin­ished (even though it is). “I think a lock-up clutch is next,” he says. “And de­spite my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence I’ll prob­a­bly end up tur­bocharg­ing it too. Th­ese things go so well with a turbo.”

Th­ese carbs suck – a lot of fresh air

There’s a fair bit of pearl in those blues

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