Not so evil twin

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Tl1000r -

EVEN 20 YEARS on it’s dif­fi­cult to ap­proach the Suzuk­itl1000r with an open mind. Few machines have so much bag­gage, so tainted a rep­u­ta­tion or have gen­er­ated such strong opin­ions.the sim­ple facts that the R was derived from Suzuki’s quickly re­called, ‘wid­ow­maker’tl1000s and was con­ceived as Suzuki’swsb-con­tender yet, in re­al­ity, never even turned up, are in­dict­ments that are too damn­ing to shed.

Which is also some­thing of a shame as here, to­day, stand­ing in front of Dave Hicks’ im­mac­u­late R-reg ex­am­ple in the crisp but cold win­ter sun, it’s also im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous thetl-r re­mains a top drawer sport­ster.

Dave’s had his baby vir­tu­ally since new. It’s a Span­ish ex­am­ple bought dur­ing the height of the ‘par­al­lel im­port’ boom (the give­aways be­ing the head­lamp dip cor­rec­tor sticker and, for the even more ea­gle-eyed, the speedo’s ‘mph’ over­lay skill­fully ap­plied un­der the glass) and, go­ing by its con­di­tion, it is now prob­a­bly as good as they come.

Re­splen­dent and gleam­ing in clas­sic Suzuki blue and white, ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the sig­na­ture seat hump, is present and cor­rect.with the ex­cep­tion of a cou­ple of re­place­ment front discs (an MOT turned up some crack­ing on the orig­i­nals), Dave’s bike is stock right down to its shock and twin si­lencers.and, with 12,000-odd kilo­me­tres logged on its LCD odome­ter (around 8000 miles to you and me), it’s barely run-in, too. Which makes it all the sweeter to ride.

Partly due to in­ac­tiv­ity (one of the rea­sons Dave’s fi­nally de­cided to sell, see page 64) and partly, too, to the cold, the bigv-twin labours a lit­tle when try­ing to start on the but­ton, but that’s fairly nor­mal as well. But start it does be­fore set­tling into a gruff, rum­bling, fast idle. My time has come.

The im­me­di­ate im­pres­sion is one of sub­stance – of size and stature.thetl-r is cer­tainly no waif.you con­spic­u­ously crank your right leg up quite high to clear ‘that’ seat hump and from there on in ev­ery­thing’s slightly larger, broader and heftier than you might nor­mally ex­pect a so-called twin cylin­der ‘race’ bike to be.

That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing.the Suzuki’s seat is wide and com­fort­able.the tank, though nar­row at the rear, quickly broad­ens into some­thing sub­stan­tial.the reach for­ward to the clip-ons, while sporty, is nowhere near as ex­treme and cramped as, say, an SP-1 or 996.While the view ahead, over lav­ish, twin ana­logue di­als with the tacho white-faced, and through the gen­er­ously bul­bous front cowl, is all more re­fined sport­ster than out-and-out racer. Be­ing the ‘racer’ ver­sion, the R is slightly more ex­treme than its ‘S’ sib­ling, as you’d ex­pect, slightly more en­closed, too.

The de­tails com­pound this sense that the TL-R is ev­ery inch the ‘classy su­per­bike’. Chunky al­loy abounds: frame spars, yokes and more; both levers are span ad­justable; switchgear (in­clud­ing fast idle lever on the left) is state of the art for the late-’90s.

Then the re­fine­ment of the ride im­presses, too. First gear is en­gaged with the mer­est prod of left boot (dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent to most clunkyv-twins), the clutch is light, the pull from the mo­tor is, of course, in­stant and all of it is far smoother and eas­ier than you might ex­pect from a bigvee. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence SV andv-strom owners know well.

THETL-R copes with our exit from the ur­ban sprawl as well as any big sports­bike, my wrists less so. But that’s to be ex­pected.

Out in the coun­try­side around East Mid­lands air­port for the pictures the big Suzuki starts to come into its own.wind the throt­tle wide and the peachytl twin just climbs and booms and pre­pares for take-off. Dave’s put the stock pipes back on but has plenty of tales, as have other owners, of the sim­ply ad­dic­tive ca­coph­ony thetl is ca­pa­ble of on more open cans. Bet­ter yet there are no glitches, gripes or hic­cups any­where in its de­liv­ery, some­thing matched by the slick gear­box.thetl pow­er­train is rightly re­garded as a clas­sic and although damp roads pre­clude thrash­ing it to the max to­day, it gives plenty of hints at what it’s ca­pa­ble of.

The chas­sis, too, is ac­tu­ally far bet­ter than TL-R leg­end would sug­gest. Dave’s bike is set up for the track (it’s mostly been used on track days) with firm sus­pen­sion set­tings front and rear and the yokes dropped a few mill to sharpen the steer­ing, but it’s still, clearly, a ‘proper’ sport­ster, al­beit a slightly bulky, hefty one. But de­spite feel­ing a lit­tle as if a bag of sand has been put in­side the fair­ing, thetl-r’s bal­ance is pleas­ingly neu­tral, the steer­ing pre­cise, the sense of se­cu­rity am­ple and the brakes are in­stant. It’s enough, in fact, when all added to­gether, to be a cor­ner-carv­ing joy once lined up if the sur­face is de­cent. On some bumpier turns, on these set­tings, it was less re­as­sur­ing.

That’s not a crit­i­cism, nor, I doubt, a re­flec­tion on the TL-R’S much-ma­ligned ro­tary rear damper. Un­like many owners Dave’s not both­ered to change it claim­ing he’s ‘prob­a­bly not fast enough’ to ap­pre­ci­ate the dif­fer­ence. On this ex­pe­ri­ence I can see where he’s com­ing from. Sure, it’s im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous that thetl-r was never go­ing to cut it as a racer. It’s too big and (ap­par­ently) un­tun­able for that. But with that glo­ri­ous 135bhp mo­tor, im­pres­sive re­fine­ment and roomy, RSV Mille-alike pro­por­tions, it does make a great, evoca­tive and dif­fer­ent road sport­ster that’s more than fast enough for most.and, again sim­i­lar to theaprilia, withtl-r prices still stunted com­pared to some (although now ris­ing) the big Suzuki also rep­re­sents, still, fab­u­lous value for money.

Thanks to Dave Hicks for the loan of his im­mac­u­late TL1000R, which he’s now looking to sell. He’s ask­ing for around £4500. Call him on: 07930 345779.

DA back­end re­mains a mat­ter of taste Don’t be fooled, ‘R’ should stand for ‘road’ Gauze pre­vents small mam­mals be­com­ing the TL’S lunch

A far bet­ter road bike than it ever was a racer

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