Fact file: Suzuki TL1000R

Re­dis­cov­er­ing the ’90s for­got­ten V-twin su­per­bike con­tender

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Contents - WORDS PHIL WEST PHO­TOG­RA­PHY STUART COLLINS

FEW MO­TOR­CY­CLES have been on as ex­treme a roller-coaster jour­ney as Suzuki’stl1000s and sub­se­quent R. Cre­ated, like Honda’svtr1000, in the mid-’90s as Ja­pan’s re­sponse to Du­cati’s all-con­quer­ingv-twins, the two Suzukis seemed to have an aw­ful lot go­ing for them – on pa­per at any rate.

The S was first in late 1996 and in­tended as a pure road ma­chine with a Du­cati Ss-style frame and half fair­ing.the R fol­lowed as a track-fo­cussed,wsb con­tender with a more pow­er­ful en­gine, up­rated brakes, Gsx-rstyle frame and full fair­ing.

But if, on pa­per, thetls seemed to have it all, the re­al­ity was so flawed both were killed off af­ter barely five years.

First the S, thanks to a mix of flighty steer­ing, flawed sus­pen­sion and punchy per­for­mance, it earned a rep­u­ta­tion as a ‘widow-maker’ prompt­ing a rapid re­call and a steer­ing damper. Its rep­u­ta­tion, how­ever, never re­cov­ered.

The R fared lit­tle bet­ter.with Suzuki per­sist­ing with the con­tro­ver­sial ro­tary rear damper, the same ques­tions were be­ing asked be­fore it even turned a wheel.

The real killer, though, was the R never came close to be­ing the Du­cati-beat­ing Wsb-con­tender Suzuki in­tended it to be. De­spite its stumpy wheel­base, the R was con­found­ingly both heav­ier and larger than the S and too bulky all round. Equally prob­lem­atic was the mo­tor.although pro­duc­ing a claimed 135bhp in stock TL-R trim, it proved dif­fi­cult to tune and, as a re­sult, never even com­peted INWSB. Suzuki de­cided it’d be too ex­pen­sive to race suc­cess­fully so stuck with its fa­mil­iar GSX-R750 in­stead.

And all of that to­gether – du­bi­ous rep­u­ta­tion, lack of track suc­cess, ready-made, proven al­ter­na­tives such as Suzuki’s own GSX-R andyamaha’s NEWYZF-R1 – ce­mented thetl-r’s sales fail­ure.

Of course, none of that made thetl-r a bad bike – far from it.although in the mid-noughties used ex­am­ples re­mained unloved and un­der­val­ued, in the years since the R has ma­tured into a cult clas­sic. Un­til re­cently, ATL-R was not just a char­ac­ter­ful, lively road bike; it was also a com­fort­able, ex­clu­sive and down­right cheap one.

And, although many have now caught on and prices are on the rise, the R re­mains a steal to­day.while im­prac­ti­cal 996s and SP-1S and 2s cost more than £5K, a cleantl-r can still be had for un­der £3K and it con­tin­ues to de­liver a rich road ex­pe­ri­ence. Buy one while it’s still a bar­gain.

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