MORE OF A GOOD THING
Is it just me, or does it seem like Suzuki has been making these things forever? Well more like since 1989, but thats still quite a respectable run for a bike that isnt what you may call a "hot ticket" item. The 2000 Suzuki GS 500E is not only unchanged for 2000 (except for its colour), it is also one of the few standard/sporty type twin cylinder motorcycles left up for grabs this year. Okay, okay, Kawasaki has their Ninja 500R, and Yamaha has their uh er Honda? Sure theres the CB 500, but youll have to fly to Europe for that one.
The GS 500E is a responsible import for Suzuki Canada. Not only does it fill an important slot in the market for reasonably priced bikes, but it also offers riders a reprieve from having to choose between hard core supersports or a laid back cruiser.
THE "LOOKS" DEPARTMENT
Available only in blue or bleu (depending on which pamphlet you grab) for 2000, the GS 500E is a "naked" bike. The twin cylinder engine and square tube steel frame are clearly visible, as is the unfaired headlight/instrument cluster area. (An after market fairing can be purchased which surrounds the headlight, and has a small but possibly welcome windscreen.) The only bodywork, which also bears the GS 500E moniker, is found running along the seat. Speaking of which, I found that there was a slightly forward tilt to the seat that put a small amount of pressure on the crotch area. (Thought youd like to know that).
Located above the headlight are the very uncluttered instruments: a speedo, tach, and lights for low oil, neutral, turn signals, and the highbeam. These could stand some brighter bulbs for clearer daytime visibility. Underneath the instruments are the handlebars, not clip ons, which end in some rather large bar ends. These bar ends do a pretty good job of reducing vibration through the handgrips, as there is only a little buzzing, and mirror images are only slightly affected. (Youll be able to tell the difference between a car and a minivan in the mirrors, but you may not be able to make out the model.)
Underneath the seat youll find 2 hooks to lock helmets to, as well as bungee hooks for your luggage and stuff. Theres also a passenger grab rail behind the seat. Located on the right side is the can for the 2 into 1 exhaust system, which enhances the sporty look of the bike.
I quite enjoyed the mix of old and new styling on the GS 500E. The round headlight and chrome mirrors against the contoured gas tank and single sided exhaust worked well. The only thing that I would like to see redesigned is the fuel valve switch. Its tiny and difficult to find, even when you know where it should be. This may not seem like a big deal, but it had me taking my eyes off of the highway for an instant, which wont be fun for a newer rider that has to find the reserve position in a hurry.
FUN, FUN, FUN
The first thing that I noticed when I straddled the seat was how slender and light the GS 500E felt. It feels lighter than its 372 pounds dry weight, and seems more like some 250s than a 500. The throttle has a good clean feel to it too; like youre pulling against an elastic band. Once started, theres a happy rumble/gurgle (hey, you try and describe it!) sound to the engine, and the 6 speed constant mesh transmission has a buttery smooth feel to it.
Above 7000 rpm youll feel a gentle pull from the engine. Power does not suddenly come on, but youll be able to reach respectable highway speeds with little effort. At 120 km/h the tachometer runs at 6000 rpm in sixth gear.
The suspension is softened via telescopic, coil spring, oil dampened, 37mm forks up front, and a link type, coil spring, oil damped, adjustable spring preload shock out back. At times the front end delivered a slightly harsh ride over bumps, and although I have no real complaints about the handling, which was quite responsive, there was a, dare I say, "squirrely" feel during aggressive cornering. Nothing to be concerned about though, since the tires adhered to the road quite competently. Stopping power arrives via hydraulically operated front and rear discs, which grabbed with conviction.
I took the bike out once on a hot summer day and spent hours tooling around a residential area while following a new rider who was getting used to her own bike. There were countless stops and starts and kilometres ridden at under 40km/h. The air cooled engine did its job without producing any noticeable heat or hesitation. Around town I appreciated this Suzukis agility, lightness and comfort. It really is a fun bike to ride.
One of the more appealing aspects of this bike is its plain and simple design. If youre inclined to do any or all of your own mechanical work, then youll find it an uncomplicated task to access most of the basic areas without too much fuss. The lack of bodywork and accessible cylinder design makes something like getting at the spark plugs a snap, and the key operated seat lock opens up to reveal an accessible battery. All bikes should be this easy to tinker with.
DONT CALL IT A STARTER BIKE
Ive always hated the term "starter" bike. To me it implies a bike that will only ever be a stepping stone to another more "serious" bike later on. Unfortunately, the GS 500E appears to be branded as such (after spending the last 10 years as a rider training instructor, you'd be amazed at what some people choose as their first or "starter" bike - my most recent shock came when a student pulled up for his course on his Ducati 996!).
Not only would the GS 500E make a good first bike, it may also possibly answer your needs and end up being the only bike that you will ever own. If youre a new rider looking for a reasonably priced, user friendly, competent motorcycle, that you can actually develop or increase your skills on without being intimidated by a staggering amount of power, then the GS 500E is definitely worth some consideration. Similarly, if youve been riding for a while and are looking for a lightweight bike thats versatile enough to take you through traffic jams and highway trips with ease, then the GS 500E might be for you too. Either way, its fun, appealing looking in its nakedness, and will enable you to become a pretty aggressive rider if youre so inclined, without magnifying your little mistakes into catastrophes.