Suzuki RE5 Test Report - Japanese Classic - 1992

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<ul><li><p>5/11/2018 Suzuki RE5 Test Report - Japanese Classic - 1992</p><p> 1/5</p><p>As a h istorica l sta tem en t, theam azing Suzuk i RE-5 has p len tyto say f o r itseli. So, w ith ou tfurther ado ...Tank God for. theRE-5. Here isthe bike that, according to Su-zuki, provided a "welcome tothe Rotary Age". Itsaid cheer-io to it, too, and remains the only Japnneserotary-engincd bike ever to see the light ofday here. Itis an undeniable oddball andcertainly one of the most interesting mo-tor bikes ever made. Thank God for theRE-5.</p><p>David Jupp owns around 20 Japanesebikes of varying vintage, some of themeven rarer than the RE-5. But nothingattracts curious onlookers - bikers or oth-</p><p>erwise - with the bees-to- honey regularityof'this machine. Often, they're drawn to itby the vulgar tear-gas canister of a rearlight cluster and then held there by themultitude of other delights the bike has tooffer.</p><p>Check out the flip-top instrument pan-el. Dig the metalflake finish on the paint-work -pure 1970s,How about those quaint,round indicators. Look at the size of thatradiator. And, hey - i sn't that a ... ?Yes, itis. Ithas a rotary engine, too.</p><p>Putting up with open-mouthed curios-ity (not tomention barely-concealed mirth)</p><p>Flipped lid: instrument console design, in keeping with the RE-S, is eccentric</p><p>at every stop is all part of the experience ofowning an RE-5. Or, should I say, it's allpart of one of t he experiences ofowning anHE-5. For a start, there aren't that manyof them around. During its short lifespanfollowing its introduction in 197.4 onlyaround 200 were-ever imported to the UKand Dave -Iupp reckons there are maybeonly around 25 good ones left - includinghis. Some have, however, recently beenshipped in from the USA, so that estimate</p></li><li><p>5/11/2018 Suzuki RE5 Test Report - Japanese Classic - 1992</p><p> 2/5</p><p>-: . . : - , '~</p><p>eouid soon be.revised upwards ..The fanatical collector bought his '75-</p><p>vintage bike eight years ago, after beingtransfixed by the one.he saw in.the muse-um at Beaulieu. Even then, before priceshad started-to g Q through the roof, he hadto fork out 760 for amachine that was inawful condition...."It was prettyrusty 'when I got it;"recalls David. "Both front and. real' rimswere damaged and the forks were bent. It</p><p>certainly wasn't roadworthy, but at leastit was mote or less complete. The mud-guards were rusted right.through, but abrand new pair was included in the priceof the bike. .</p><p>"I got it going fairly quickly arid thentidied it up more as I went along;Iboughtbetter exhausts.for it after a while, as:wellas other bits and pieces."SUzuki started development work Dna</p><p>rotary-enginedmotor cycle'in 1970, hav-</p><p>ing obtained a licence to doso from rotaryinventors, NSUFiiVankel. And . they certainly can't be accused of not taking thproject seriously :Am'assive R&amp;Dopera-tionwas conceived, includingthesetting-up of'a totally new production line devotedentirely to the RE-5. Virtually all the machinery on it had to be designed, developedan d bUilt from new..Why bother designing arctary-eriginedbike inthe first place? Well, Suzuki'sbof-</p></li><li><p>5/11/2018 Suzuki RE5 Test Report - Japanese Classic - 1992</p><p> 3/5</p><p>SUZUKI -</p><p>s~i : ' ~ i ~ ~ : ~ , ~ ~ ~ g ~ ~ENGINE NSI : !J /Wanke l- t) lp e r o ta r y, s i ngl erotor, sln~le Gbamoe~&lt; 4 97 c c ( 30 .3 c u .i n) ,Gompress ion ratio 9,4;~-,HHD~.8-32carburettor, CDI ignition, maximum power62hp ( SAE, K lE n @ 6! ' iO(i)rpm,m.axillll'.lffito rque 54.9 ft -1 0 f 'l .6 0 k g-m ) @ ' 3S0 0 r pr n</p><p>fins saw tremendous benefits to be gainedin atouring bike from the inherent smooth-ness of a rotary engine. Unlike a recipro-cating engine, which relies on the up-and-down motion of the pistcnis) to make thecrankshaft rotate, the rotor itself doesaway with all that by getting straight on"nth the business of rotating itself. And itis smooth.'</p><p>"You can feel the road shocks and occa-sionally the transmission, but you cannotfeel the engine at ail," confirms DavidJupp. "If you rev it up and put your handon the tank, you can't feel a thing. Themetal rear number plate is a case in point:it's original and still in one piece, while ona normal bike itwould have cracked with-inweeks.The smoothness doesn't lull youinto going faster than you want" though,because you're sitting up into the wind -and then there's always the roar from theengine."</p><p>Ah, yes - the engine noise. Odd; veryodd. You imagine that if ever they were toinvent afive-cylinderthree-stroke it would,somehow, soundlike this. It's difficult toexplain, really, but it's a weird mix ofgenerator, council grass-cutter, big twinrunning on one cylinder and two-stroke (ifyou've never heard one, I can appreciatethat you're still none the wiser). It would</p><p>also stand as much chance of passingpresent-day noise regs as a Tornado onreheat. It is very loud. Also, as soon as theignition is turned on, the CD r emits apiercing whistle that simply never goesaway,</p><p>You'd think it would be enough to drive,you around the bend, but not according toits owner. "I don't f ind the noise obtrusiveat all. And while rwouldn't like to sit on amotorway with it all day, tome it's all partof the- experience."</p><p>So there you have it, straight from thehorse's mouth -you don'tjustown an RE-5, you experience it.</p><p>Reliability-wise, the experience hasn'tbeen too bad. "I had a lot of prob lems withit when I first bought it," said David,"because the vacuum fuel tap used to leak.Itused to seep into the carb, and becausethe manifold's all downhill itwould fi n themotor up with petroL So if Iaid it up, itwould be a pig to start. 1 solved the proh-lem two ways: I bought a newtap and now,every time I've finished using it, Ijust pullout the fuel pipe and let the carb dry out.</p><p>"I also had the CD! fail on me once,which a friend managed to fix, and so ICalTY a spare CDr unit with me every-where now. It'll probably never happenagain, but ... "</p></li><li><p>5/11/2018 Suzuki RE5 Test Report - Japanese Classic - 1992</p><p> 4/5</p><p>REcS owner, DaveJupp:"lt's all part ofthe experience ..."</p><p>Suzuki tried to make much of the hike'ssimplicity when it was launched (lessmoving partseless to go.wrong, etc). But itnever turned out that way, and its com-plexity was one 6f the reasons why.it wasa sales flop. Ithas five throttle cables, forexample - a 'pull' one each for the oil pump,the small choke on the earburettor and theport valve, and "pull-off ones to the portvalve and the carbo It took David a yearjust to get thE?throttle settings right, be-cause .none of the manuals address thataspect of maintenance explicitly enough.</p><p>Running costs leave a lot tobe desired,too. Oil disappears at the rate ofa pintevery 500 or so miles, while petrol con-sumption hovers around 22-2Smpg. As a</p><p>1990s collectable, used only occasionally,it matters not a lot, but you can see whylong-distance touring johnnies in the mid''' 'O~took their custom elsewhere.</p><p>As a bike that was always scarce, spareparts have never been exactly plentifuland they are now virtually non-existent.Dave Jupp twitches uncontrollably at thethought of that instrument console beingdamaged, for example, and certain partsfor the twin-choke carburettor- manufac-, tured exclusivelyfcr the RE-5 -just cannot .be had. And the seat, while visually iden-tical to those on all the big Suzuki two-strokes of the period, is just differentenough to make it a cherished item. Incommon with most other RE-5 owners,'you would imagine, Dave describes hisriding style as "careful" ...</p><p>AB 'well as being smooth, it lol lops alongat a fair old rate. David's never caned it,but he has had it up to around a ton, atwhich point a slight weave sets in. Suzu-ki's claimed top speed for the 62bhpma-chine in 1974 was 1l0-115mph, which isabout right. But the massive torque (55ft!lb at a mere 3;500rpm)isits main perform-ance characteristic, meaning that it can beleft in top gear all day. -.</p><p>A lot of Suzuki's research and develop-ment work went into overcoming the prob-lems posed by the extremely high operat-ing temp eratures ofa rotary-engined bike.The RE-S therefore features a unique dou-ble-skinned exhaust - the interior made ofstainless steel" with two Dan Dare-styleair. ducts at the front of the down pipes.The housings for the rotor are cooled bywater, while all engine internals are oil-cooled.</p><p>The bike runs so hot, it is impossible totouch the engine after a run ofeven around</p><p>WHILE RE-5s were being bought new in1975 (for 1205) , there were actuallysome either things going on the world atthe same time.</p><p>THE CORONATION of King Juan Carlos, in Spai n heralded the end of the Fr a ncoera and the star t o f the lomqroadtowardsdemocracy. Our PM was h1aroldWilson,while the previous incumbent, Ted Heath,was replaced as Toryleader by oneMargaret Thatcher.</p><p>A . P IN T D EB EE R would set youbackabout 25p. although Drink of the YearwasCresta (it's frothy, manl). Allegros~.rvlarinasand Maxis were the mainstay of .the Britishmotorindustry. 'Radio 1 Dis like N,oelEdmonds, Tony Blackburn, David Hamil-ton, Ed Stewart and Dave Lee Tra~is(yes,'he was there even then) were playinqsuchcharthits as 1nee's l 'm'Not.ln love,Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, John I'mOnly Dancing (David Bo'!Vie), Make il,je Smile ((ome Up and See Me) by SteveHarley and-Cockney Rebel and the.Japanese Classics Record of the Year, I DoI po I Do.1Do I Do by Abba. Brilliant.D E EIB Y COUN TY won the First [Division Championship. Scottish champions were,Rangers, forwhom Derek Parlane scoredfive goais iI'l a leagtie match againsthapless Dunfermlihe. Other big-nameplayers around at the time includedMalcolm Macdonald (Newcastle), Franci~Lee,(Manchester City). Emlyn Hughes(Liverpool) and Stan Bowles (QPR).</p><p>G I A .COMO AGOS TI NI won his last 500(cworld championship on a Yamaha. YouEQuid buy the RE-S'sstablemate, the GJ750, for 969 (atenner lessthan theHonda CB750). An XS 50 0 Yamaha wouldset you back 825, a Honda CB 200 429.The HZ 750 Kawasaki cost 849. ~wo- .wheeler sales for the year topped out a t awhopping 270,500.</p></li><li><p>5/11/2018 Suzuki RE5 Test Report - Japanese Classic - 1992</p><p> 5/5</p><p>. ., -s u Z U K I c __ ,_~~~f:~i,lZ.Ul{lMOTO 'r t co. . LTQ . .-~------</p><p>a.mile (I know - I was that soldier), Thosedistinctive heat shields on the silencers. are definitely not just cosmetic,</p><p>The huge radiator and. crash bar thatdominate the front of the bike give it adeceptively bulky appearance; it doesn'tfeel so huge sitting astride it The massivecastings of the engine - which looks asthough it was built to Forth Bridge-typetolerances - also give an impression ofweight, although at 507 lbs it's lighterthan, say, a GPZ900,Hauling it onthe centre stand, though,</p><p>is a different matter. Dave Jupp puts itdown tothe weight distribution -but what-ever you want to put it down to, it takes analmighty lunge and a sturdy boot. You'dnever manage it in trainers. At least thestand and its mountings are, like most ofthe RE-5, solidly put-together,Talking of never managing things</p><p>brings us nicely to the kickstart, whichproves that even inscrutable Japaneseengineers have a sense of humour, Themightiest of swings results in a feeble"phutt" that terminates about third-dis-tance. It certainly makes you burst intofits of laughter, but never in a millionyears would itmake the motor burst intolife. It's yet another part ofthe experience,Isuppose,Dave's RE-5 is, to the best ofhis knowl-</p><p>edge, totally standard. The onlymod he's</p><p>Heart of the matter:engine isdominated (top) by single rotorand its massive housing.</p><p>made is to fit an O-ring chain and blank offthe oil feed, which.is a recommended mod-ification, anyway,His meticulous approach to servicing'</p><p>and maintaining service histories 'on allhis bikes means the RE-5 is kept runningsweetly at all times: But maintenancedoesn't extend to the single rotor itself,which is a sealed unit. AI:, he explains:"The rotor on my bike still has a lead sealon it -.it's never been opened, With thosethe simple rule b: ifit works, leave-alone!"Routine maintenance doesinvolve keep-</p><p>ing an eye on the spark plug, though,because it can oil up. And you'd want tolook after the plug, anyway - with itsspecial flush-fittinghead to clear the rotor- at 8 ago!Other motor cycles in David's impres-</p><p>sive collection may come and go, but this isone that's' staying put, As well as being ofoutstanding interest, BE-5s aren't halfworth a lot nowadays ..A ballpark figurefor a goodone like this might betwo grand,probably more.The Suzuki company motto is"To Make</p><p>Products ofValue". How ironic it should bethe failure of the RE-5 as a successful,mass-production machine that has madethe bikeexactly that.</p><p>. Robert McCabe</p></li></ul>

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