1987 Suzuki VS1400 Intruder
Superb engine, mediocre chassis
Swing arm bearings disintegrated from lack of lubrication.
Chrome fell off in big flakes from aluminium rims and engine.
Periodically, the automatic compression release stayed engaged, causing a racket for the first couple of miles until it disengaged. Didn't seem to cause any permanent harm.
I want this engine in a proper motorcycle! Twisting the throttle at 40 mph in top gear was intoxicating, something one would do because it felt good. There were no hills with this bike, no headwinds - the big torque erased issues that strain bikes with lesser capacity.
The engine vibrates quite heavily above 60 mph, rendering mirrors useless. Luckily, the way it vibrates doesn't numb hands like a buzzing inline four. Still, few would enjoy riding at 80-90 mph for long distances, due to the tumbling, big twin.
The chassis, however, wasn't nearly as good as the engine. And even worse, it's not suitable for modification into something better in any easy way, either. An engine as good as this deserves to be fitted into a standard style, naked motorcycle.
The seating position was good, what with the fairly low and straight handlebars fitted to a pair of risers. This leans the rider slightly into to the wind, omitting the typical sail effect you get from most cruisers. Had the pegs been moved back around the swingarm pivot, the seating position would have been typical for retro standards, but the narrow frame didn't lend itself to relocating pegs. In fact, the pegs and foot controls were fitted to a traversal running under the frame, because there was no useful way to fit them to the frame. The same traversal limited cornering clearance, as did the low set mufflers.
The fuel tank is too small for long distance touring, limiting range to around 150 miles. Still, that's longer than your behind can survive in one sitting on the stock seat. So I fitted a Mustang touring seat that was a lot better, but still far from great. Part of the seating issue is down to the legs not being able to take some of the weight off the butt.
The pillion portion of the stock bike is useless for anything larger than kids 8 years old or younger. The seat is narrow and thin, and the pegs are placed VERY high and back. With the Mustang seat and passenger pegs relocated down and forward 4 inches each, it was possible for an adult to tag along.
The paint had held up well for such an old bike, but being parked on a concrete floor for a couple of years, had resulted in badly flaking chrome.
The clutch was horrible, and would engage abruptly. The only way to take off somewhat smoothly was to use very little RPM, and be very, very gentle with the clutch. Any hint of enthusiastic take-off would be met by a loud protesting clank from the shaft drive. This ruined what would otherwise have been very fun with a machine of so much grunt; beating sportbikes off the line. As it was, mopeds would be halfway across the intersection before one could open the loud handle on the big Intruder.
Handling was not the bike's greatest forte. It demanded written notice well in advance to change direction, and getting it off the side stand took a massive effort. Compared to the 1400, the 800 Intruder feels like a little toy, almost weightless.
Suspension is adequate, but rebound damping on rear shocks had left the building after 25k miles. I replaced them with heavy duty shocks from Progressive Suspension, but even they were too soft. Damping also deteriorated quickly. Not impressed, although they bottomed and topped out far less frequently than the old but worn stock units. Ideally, I'd like to have fitted shocks 1.5 to 2 inches longer than stock from Ikon, as they would have quickened steering and improved cornering clearance. But even set up like that, the bike simply wouldn't handle very well.
After having my right foot ripped from the foot peg by a mid-corner bump and forced back and under the muffler, ripping the sole off the bottom, I decided it was time to move on to something a bit more useful.
Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 19th October, 2012