Thursday, 21 January 2016

Suzuki GSX250: Desperation and delerium


Games. Highway insanity. Madness. Almost lost my licence on a CBR1000. An unlikely hustle but a bloody fast one. Sold that. Had to have some wheels. Slow, cheap and reliable. Sounded like an MZ for certain. Before that fall from grace, saw an ad for a Suzuki GSX250. DOHC vertical twin, 26 horses, 380lbs and 90mph. All there, 400 notes, ran okay. I'll have it.

Gutless, madly revving engine. Held its line, didn't want to brake. Back drum didn't work at all. Front disc responded to muscle with funny noises. Engine braking helped not a lot. A few swift kicks with my boot made no difference. The usual grazed knuckles in the caliper disassembly. Pads had plenty of meat, the pistons gone all sticky. Cleaned it up, reassembled, one working brake. Thank you very much.

Braking was as potent as the acceleration. Not very! Handling was heavy and slow, basically stable. Not much power to threaten the overbuilt chassis. Suspension so firm it kept throwing me out of the seat. Not stock, then.

Gearbox slick, clutch light. Throttle to the stop in all the gears. Throaty roar from the silencers, rusted out baffles. 95mph top end. Not bad from a 35000 mile motor. Front disc not up to heavy braking. Disc scored heavily, not enough pad meeting metal. Took the rear brake apart, shoes down on the rivets. New shoes, worked fiercely until bedded in. Overall stopping much improved.

Town riding easy. Not a wide motorcycle, sneaked through small gaps. Kept it in second or third, acceleration adequate. A-roads, needed the throttle hammered but went round bends very nicely. Motorways, flat out all the way, a touch of a weave at 90mph. Nothing to worry about. Cars speeded up as I tried to take them, the GSX had nothing left in hand. Could be a bit dangerous in the fast lane.

60mpg, minimal consumable wear. Kept the bank balance healthy. Oil changes every 1000 miles. Balance the carbs at 2000 miles. Ran like clockwork for 9,800 miles. Camchain death rattle. Tensioner greased, washer behind spring. Kept it going for another 650 miles until the chain snapped. False economy!

No engine damage, went at tickover. Replacement chain fitted, secondhand tensioner. Didn't run as well. 85mph and 50mpg. Must've stressed something. No use on the motorway, otherwise okay.

45000 miles, one of the silencers disintegrated. Gone back to dust. Made the sign of the cross, gave the other one a tap. Followed suit. Bellicose bellow on open downpipes. Windows almost popped out of their frames and dogs howled. Permanent eardrum damage.

Breaker gave me a pair of rusty mega's, fitted with slices of metal as spacers - from a beer can! Big hole in the midrange power. Went faster with the choke on. Some ancient CD175 baffles fitted inside the down-pipes, mega's popped back on. Music to my neighbours' ears. Slight hesitation around seven grand, otherwise nicely flowing power. Never intense, though.

Frame and tank finish still good, some alloy and wheel rot. Didn't want to polish up, soon ruined by rain. Rusty exhaust, new ones meant crazy money. More than the bike was worth.

54000 miles, the exhaust went all smoky. Worn out bores and pistons. Used stuff from a breaker, forty notes. Old gaskets plus Hermatite sufficed. No major oil leaks but a noisy motor. Performance was off, 75mph and 45mpg. The crank's bearings still tight, the gearbox still slick. Really, only of use in town. Too many things to go wrong on long distance rumbles. Was never inspired to clean the machine again.

61000 miles, partial seizure. Camshaft lobes lost hardening, piston rings ruined. I should've made sure all the oilways were clear of accumulated debris. A used cylinder head, barrels and pistons fitted. New, pattern gaskets this time. The old ones fell apart, superheated beyond their design limits. Performance improved, 82mph and 50mpg. Still didn't clean the machine.

62,500 miles, wheel and swinging arm bearings went. Blow torch heated them out, otherwise would've ruined their housings. Had to wire-brush the rust off the swinging arm and paint. Only decent thing to do. New bearings, got rid of an 80mph weave. The front brake needed a rebuild and new set of pads. Was it worth spending the dosh? Just.

64,750 miles, motor started knocking. Fearing the worst, decided not to strip it down. Did 700 miles before the main bearings went. The top end and gearbox still okay. Used crank from a breaker for fifty quid. Old gaskets and Hermatite this time round. Something wrong here, very noisy engine, only 75mph and 40mpg.

The clock broke through the 70,000 mile mark. Never ventured out of town, didn't want to push my luck. Still a solid little commuter. Never had any of the starting hassles, someone had already rewired the bike.

73000 miles, the engine was on its knees. 60mph and 35mpg. Even the gearbox had lost the plot. Before the motor blew, the front wheel developed cracks around its hub. Suicide in waiting. Grown quite fond of the old thing. A run around the breakers. One running engine for 120 notes and GS450 front end for sixty quid. Cheaper than finding a replacement hack.

Much spanner twirling later, I was in hack nirvana. 93mph and 60mpg. Stopped in an instant, almost went over the bars first time I tried. Didn't last long, the motor most reluctant to start. An old pair of spark plugs needing more electricity than the battery could generate. Soon sorted.

79000 miles, rear subframe rusted through. Spat off one of the shocks! Town speeds meant the get-off wasn't terminal. Couldn't weld it, metal so thin that it just vaporized when heated. Broke what was left, nearly two hundred quid. Brilliant as a cheap commuter. The built-in obsolescence gets them in the end.

K.F.

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