Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Bikes...The GS Years

Although the BMW was an excellent bike, procuring parts was a nightmare. At that stage there was only one BMW bike dealer in NZ, located in Auckland. That's about 600kms from here and they would not run an account, so everything had to be paid for in advance. Remember this was in the days before internet banking. Sometimes a small item would cost nearly as much in freight as the item itself. If you planned on doing an oil change at the weekend, invariably the filter wouldn't arrive till Monday ! I decided I would buy a new bike from a dealer in my area. I was now convinced that shaft drive was the way to go for touring, so without resorting to a large capacity machines like a Goldwing or XS1100 Yamaha, the choices were Kawasaki GT750, Yamaha XS750 or Suzuki GS850. I tried them all. They were all nice machine, but somehow the GS850 stood out over the others. So in August 1979 I bought the first GS850 in this region. It proved to be a good choice. The Suzuki was a 100%  reliable two-up tourer. That big seat was superbly comfortable on long trips and my new girlfriend, who didn't even mind getting wet on the back of a bike, found it so comfortable she would often lean against me and go to sleep, especially travelling at night when there was no scenery to view.....we've now been married for 26 years.
This is how the GS arrived with high American style handlebars. As far as I know all GS850s came with that long rear mudflap, but most dealers left them off as they assumed the owners would think they looked daft. I was there when my dealer assembled the machine and I told him to fit it. Practicality comes before looks for me.

After a few years of riding a BMW with low narrow bars, I needed something similar for the GS. I chose XS1100 Yamaha bars and fitted a replica GS1000S fairing. Also added a rear carrier with the necessary adaptions to carry the pannier racks I had kept when I sold the BMW.

I wanted the fairing to look as though it was original equipment, so had it painted black and ordered the original tailpiece decals which I installed inverted on the fairing. There was a gap in the decal where the reflectors are at the rear so I fitted two of the Suzuki badges off the handlebar crash pad. I had many people ask where had I got a factory fairing for a GS850.
As you can see I also had to relocate the rear direction indicators to make room for the panniers.

Although the lowish bars were OK for weekend blasts, I found on long touring rides I would get a pain in my lower back. The foot pegs were slightly further forward than the BMW, so I tried going back to high bars and resurrecting the touring screen I had used on the Z650. It took a little getting used to, but it removed the aching back problem. From then on I used the low bars and fairing most of the year and at holiday time I would spend about an hour fitting the touring gear. Although this riding position puts more weight on your butt, this wasn't too much of a problem with the big comfy GS seat.
This photo I would say was taken after a trip, not before as is evident by the road dirt on the main stand, exhaust system and final drive housing.

I was so pleased with the GS850, that after 45,000kms I decide to trade up to a newer model of the 850 which I took delivery of on the 20th of August 1981. Apart from some cosmetic changes the only other difference was  the use of CV carburettors. As you can see in this photo, I again fitted the replica fairing, painted to match the rest of the bike. One slight difference was the direction indicators were now rectangular and mounted on shorter stalks. This required making up spacers, for the front items, so they would stick out past the edge of the fairing. This job was done by an old fellow who was a friend of my boss at that time and who loved using his lathe. He made a superb job of them and in fact I still have them in a box of bits in my garage.
In this photo taken by Graham Morrell I was trying genuine Suzuki bars as supplied on European models, but I found them too low.

Here is the GS loaded up while on a tour. Parked here beside Lake Taupo. Taupo is NZ's largest lake and is in fact a huge drowned volcanic crater. These are the XS1100 handlebars again. Compare with above photo.

Again I used the higher handlebars and screen for long tours, especially in colder weather.  The previous screen had got accidentally cracked while the bike was being serviced, so I replaced it with this item I bought from a bike enthusiast in Dunedin who was forming them in an old baker's oven. It was more effective than the previous item as it extended out to protect the hands and came partly down the fork legs to keep the wind off the knees. Here the bike is parked near the Huntly coal fired power station. In January 1983 I was almost tempted to buy a GS1100GK (that was the model that came with fairing, panniers and top box as standard), but after a short ride on one I just found it too bulky. The Suzuki was my only vehicle at this stage so it got used for the short commute to work as well as for touring. In January 1984 the mufflers finally got beyond patching up and I replaced them with genuine Suzuki items. This was no doubt brought on by the short distance running.

Early in 1985 I saw a nice GS1100G with very low kms for sale in the Suzuki dealers in Hamilton. This dealer also had a used Vetter fairing and panniers in stock in excellent condition. I thought trading the 850 on the 1100 with the Vetter gear would be the ultimate deal. But for some reason the dealer didn't want to trade my 850. He seemed a bit unsure of whether he would be able to resell it with around 60,000kms on the clock . I went home a bit depressed. After being home a few days I started to think about how nice that Vetter would look on my current bike. One phone call was all it took and the deal was done. This photo shows the GS with it's new Vetter, but at this point still carrying the Krauser pannier racks. By mid year (1985) the GS was starting to use a little bit of oil and I elected to put rings in it in August before things got too bad. The mechanic who did the work said the engine was in perfect condition internally, but the rings had got a little "tired", and in his opinion that was probably due solely to the short distance commuting. I decided right then that when I replaced the GS, I would also buy a small bike for running to work.
By 1985 BMW had now established a reasonable network of motorcycle dealers and although there was no dealer in my hometown, there was a dealer each in Palmerston North and Wellington. Both cities around 100kms from here. My wife knew I desired another BMW, but at over $14,000 for an R80RT, we decided they were just too expensive.

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