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Which Bike? Comments and Questions on what is the best bike for YOU, for YOUR trip. Note that we believe that ANY bike will do, so please remember that it's all down to PERSONAL OPINION. Technical Questions for all brands go in their own forum.
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  #1  
Old 21 Apr 2010
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Opinions of the Suzuki GS500?

Hi all,

I am looking for your opinion on the Suzuki GS500 in terms of reliability and quality. I have never owned one and would like to know. The idea is to travel from Alaska to Terra del Fuego so I need something which will hold up. I do not plan on doing much offroad, only when neccessary.

Here is a picture for example: http://www.ozmoto.com/Suzuki%20GS500.jpg

Thanks
Hans
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  #2  
Old 21 Apr 2010
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Its not so much the off-road you have to be concerned with as the crap roads. Any bike will do as they say, but most folks opt for a dual purpose bike over a road bike for long trips.
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  #3  
Old 21 Apr 2010
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The GS500 has been around since forever, like 1989. In '03 Suzuki brought out the "F" full faired version. If you get one cheap enough, could work out. Great fuel economy and big tank. Should have range of over 225 miles. Solid, reliable bike. A bit wheezy at low RPM and cold blooded. Carb fiddling should solve that, open air box up too for better throttle response. The original "naked" model would be the better travel bike. This bike is easy on tires, chain/sprockets. Common tire sizes should be available world wide. Bullet proof motor, air cooled, carbs, good lights, solid rear subframe for luggage. Suspension weak, needs heavier springs for serious travel. Limited ground clearance, be careful off road or hitting pot holes.

This shot from girl friend testing a new '10 GS500F.


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  #4  
Old 22 Apr 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey D View Post
The GS500 has been around since forever, like 1989.
The Suzuki two valve twins have actually been around close to a decade and a half longer than that Mickey, starting life as the GS400 in the mid seventies before transmogrifying into the GS425 in '79, GS450 in '81 and finally the GS500 in the late '80s. The only real change to the design was in the move to plain bearings (from roller bearings) from the GS425 to the GS450.

I owned a GS450S in '82 and it was a very solid performer. Well geared and could hold high speeds in 6th easily.

I agree with you re the naked version being a better travel bike. I don't subscribe to the view that off road bikes are needed for international travel and think the GS500 would be an ideal allrounder wherever you go - including long stretches off the asphalt.
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  #5  
Old 22 Apr 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hans007 View Post
Hi all,

I am looking for your opinion on the Suzuki GS500 in terms of reliability and quality. I have never owned one and would like to know. The idea is to travel from Alaska to Terra del Fuego so I need something which will hold up. I do not plan on doing much offroad, only when neccessary.

Here is a picture for example: http://www.ozmoto.com/Suzuki%20GS500.jpg

Thanks
Hans
Hi!

Could you tell us why did you pick this bike specifically? Is there something about it in particular? I would recommend Suzuki DL650 if going for the newer version of the gs500 - as mentioned by Mickey. We're leaving for south america this year on a DL650 which in standard has got more ground clearance than gs500 and we're thinking of changing the suspension to be even higher. I would really think about it if I were you. GS500 is a good bike but for the purpose of going Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego I don't think it's the best choice - specifically as mentioned by Mike - the bad roads.

Then on the other hand I was always of an opinion that it doesn't matter what bike you take. All will do the job - maybe a little more maintenance and problems - but all will get the job done. I think you need to like the bike you're travelling on. If you fancy GS500 GO FOR IT! It'll be fine. I fancy my DL650, some people go RTW on a R1, some on Harley Davidsons, triumphs or 125cc mopeds, some people use BMW or KTM. IT DOESN'T MATTER!

Go for it and let us know how you get on!
Andy
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  #6  
Old 22 Apr 2010
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I own a 2002 GS500, and I'd suggest that the shim adjusted valve clearances could be a potential problem if you're going to have trouble getting hold of them. The clearances are quite close - 0.03 to 0.08mm and (possibly exacerbated by it running a bit lean) I have to swap a shim at most services (3.5-4k miles). Corroded electrical connections have also been a problem and have given some unusual symptoms. However mine was a riding school bike before I bought it so it's not had the easiest life.
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  #7  
Old 11 May 2010
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Not too big - not too small, fits nicely in the middle. Definately capable of the task at hand. Very reliable and robust motors, proven over time. Delivery drivers were very fond of them, sure beats the normal old 125 and 250cc's.
Have fun.
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  #8  
Old 5 Jun 2010
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modified GS?

Hi,
I wonder if anybody tried to fit taller suspensions on a 500 gs?
i kinda like the idea of an Aircooled bulletproof twin,minimun electronics,
and great availabillity of spare parts in SA for this model.
it is just too low for some parts of my planned trip..

Vistar
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  #9  
Old 25 Jun 2010
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I have started a trip from Ireland and I intend to go to Japan. I have a '97 GS500, which I used for commuting and a few trips before, and since it's worth nothing I will just use it for as long as it goes. I have done 13k miles on it so far in a year.

My experiences:
-it can be very economical, 80mpg on main roads, 50mpg in cities
-since it's a street/urban bike, wind protection and sitting position is not perfect for touring
-i am traveling alone at the moment, but i am thinking of taking a girl i met on the way with me... and it's going to be a struggle to find place for her and her luggage
-the valve clearance is a big headache, i would prefer being able to adjust it myself, but you have to have decent tools and access to parts to do it
-i don't know how long the fork seals will last, but they usually went every 8k miles in ireland (some bad roads).. this might be an issue once i leave europe
-it's small, which is a big benefit in city traffic, but it disappears once the bike is loaded and with a passenger it's becoming a disadvantage

I am seriously thinking about getting a bigger bike on the way somewhere, and would advise you to rethink this idea, too.

I haven't thought about a tougher suspension, but I have been on bad roads and off road with the bike and it seemed to hold up relatively well.

Regards,
Zoltan

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  #10  
Old 26 Jun 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barothi View Post
I have started a trip from Ireland and I intend to go to Japan. I have a '97 GS500, which I used for commuting and a few trips before, and since it's worth nothing I will just use it for as long as it goes. I have done 13k miles on it so far in a year.

My experiences:
-it can be very economical, 80mpg on main roads, 50mpg in cities
-since it's a street/urban bike, wind protection and sitting position is not perfect for touring
-i am traveling alone at the moment, but i am thinking of taking a girl i met on the way with me... and it's going to be a struggle to find place for her and her luggage
-the valve clearance is a big headache, i would prefer being able to adjust it myself, but you have to have decent tools and access to parts to do it
-i don't know how long the fork seals will last, but they usually went every 8k miles in ireland (some bad roads).. this might be an issue once i leave europe
-it's small, which is a big benefit in city traffic, but it disappears once the bike is loaded and with a passenger it's becoming a disadvantage

I am seriously thinking about getting a bigger bike on the way somewhere, and would advise you to rethink this idea, too.

I haven't thought about a tougher suspension, but I have been on bad roads and off road with the bike and it seemed to hold up relatively well.

Regards,
Zoltan

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Zoltan, good to hear from you.

I don't share your views re getting a larger bike. I have done two-up from Australia to the UK on an RD350 - a bike with less carrying capacity than your GS - with all luggage sitting on a rear rack; and I have also ridden two-up North to South America on a CX500.

To reply to your specific points:

- economy = this is very important because fuel will likely be the biggest expense fo your journey.

-it's a street/urban bike - this is perfect for the slow speed touring you willl be doing once you get off the motorways and start to really explore the countries you will be visiting

-I am thinking of taking a girl with me... even on a big bike luggage capacity is at a premium, you just have to rethink what you carry. I carried two backpacks on my rear luggage rack

-the valve clearance is a big headache - don't get hung up on this. My own Suzuki twin has covered almost 100,000km and has NEVER had thevalves adjusted. You just need to stop listening to Suzuki service personnel propaganda, but again of you are concerned about this you will struggle to find a large capacity modern Japanese bike that doesn't use shims.

-I don't know how long the fork seals will last, but they usually went every 8k miles in ireland (some bad roads).. - again fork seal failures will be no different whatever bike you ride. However, your failure rate does seem high but you can buy fork seals at ANY bearing supplier in ANY country you travel through and they are very easy to replace.

-it's small, which is a big benefit in city traffic, but it disappears once the bike is loaded and with a passenger it's becoming a disadvantage - given some of the roads you will be travelling on in Asia, and the low speeds in towns, it will be NO fun solo or two-up on a bigger machine.

I know our ego tells us more is better, however the reality is different once you hit the road.
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  #11  
Old 26 Jun 2010
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Two up on an RD350 from Australia to UK hats off to you.

It could be that I'm still in France, seeing the big tourer bikes with hard luggage, wind protection, comfy seats, etc and I'm wondering why I haven't swapped my bike for one of those. Speed is not really a problem with the GS, even fully loaded, I don't know why I meantioned that.

You put my mind at ease a bit with the valve clearances, although I will get them checked once I get to a cheaper country in Eastern Europe.

The main thing missing from my bike is luggage racks, that could be causing the problems, I only have soft side panniers and a backpack tied onto the back seat... so I have no space for a passenger.

I should have left my comments for the end of my trip... I will be more competent to give a review then. So far it took me where I wanted to go, and that's the main thing.
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  #12  
Old 13 Jul 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barothi View Post
I don't know how long the fork seals will last, but they usually went every 8k miles in ireland (some bad roads).. this might be an issue once i leave europe.
My suggestion would be to ALWAYS use OEM (manufacturers) fork seals and carry a spare set. All my problems with fork seals in the past have disappeared when I have reverted back to manufacturer supplied seals.

I am also thinking of a GS500 for a trip - including doing work with suspension, rear subframe, seat, electrics and security.. It's my wives old bike and we have had it for nearly 10 years - it's been very reliable (if a little under used)

Good luck

Martyn
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  #13  
Old 9 Aug 2010
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I am more than 10k km's into my trip from Ireland to Japan, travelled through half of Europe in three months and took my GS500 to very difficult roads and off road. I felt guilty for saying bad things about her and I am beginning to change my mind now... she is actually quite good for touring. I went off road with it, managed to get into brilliant rough camping spots because it's small and light, got through this distance without being left on the side of the road (for too long) and even managed to take over many BMW 1200 tourers on twisty roads Valve clearances were checked and are still within spec.
I had no problems with the fork seals so far (I started with new OEM ones), one of the dust seals got damaged by some branch, but that's not a big deal.

I had a few niggles as well. The bike is stopping every half an hour when it's raining (probably an electrical fault which I will soon have a chance to investigate). I went through a set of Bridgestone BT45's, spark plugs, probably a set of brake pads, oil and filter twice, the light bulb in my tachometer and a chain (DID O-ring) during the 10000 kilometres. The rear suspension wasn't set to hard when I started the trip, which could have caused the early wear of the chain I think. One cold morning I found that my exhaust has a hole on the silencer, but that's from a crash last year.

Now I am back in my home country, Hungary and I will fit a pair of alu boxes and a top box or rack on it, plus an engine guard, a holder for a jerry can and maybe a sheepskin on the seat . Other than that I am now happy with the GS.

When I get to India, I will let you know how I feel again (just in case it might be useful info for others).
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  #14  
Old 10 Aug 2010
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As regards cutting out in wet weather, I'd suggest checking the wiring to and from the ignition switch where it passes through the headlamp shell, the live feed from battery to switch had chafed on the shell on my bike and the final straw was some wet weather that helped it short.
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  #15  
Old 11 Aug 2010
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A Possible Alternative

If it's a simple and robust, road oriented, aircooled Japanese bike you're interested in consider something somewhat bigger and perhaps more comfortable for touring.

I ride a 4 cylinder, 738 cc., 2003 Kawasaki ZR-7S which has ranged from the Yukon to Baja without a hiccup. Air cooled (with an oil cooler), 2 valves per cylinder (therefore lots of torque), carburetors, 5 speed transmission, half fairing, no fancy electronics, basic suspension, 22 litre tank, and a pretty upright seating position.

The engines in these bikes derive from the GPZ line, were manufactured for 25 years and deserve their reputation as bullet proof and long lived. They were never terribly popular in North America but sold in quite large numbers in Europe in both naked (ZR7) arnd faired (ZR-7S) versions. They were last manufactured in 2004. Basically they are about as modern as UJMs got.

Norm
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