12/07/2024

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My Love Affair With The ‘Widow Maker’ TL1000S

11 min read
My Love Affair With The ‘Widow Maker’ TL1000S

You would have considered that a bicycle that promptly became identified as the ‘widow maker’ would put off a young, comparatively inexperienced rider like myself, but it did not. The scare stories produced it far more interesting, the rumours of ability wheelies created it fascinating and the drone of a V-Twin with race pipes on whole chat designed it audio intoxicating. And so started a enjoy affair with a bicycle that I can only explain as an Alfa Romeo on two wheels brilliant when it performs and a dog’s dinner when it won’t. Of course, it really is the famous Suzuki TL1000S, or to be additional exact TL1000SV, the first head-banging full electricity product.

My TL possession commenced at a service station on the M25 in 2004, pursuing a chat with the proprietor on eBay. I experienced positioned a listing inquiring to portion-ex my discount Kawasaki ZX6R J1 that I had bought to get me to and from college for a deal £2500 for a TL1000S. You go through that appropriate, a 4 12 months aged bicycle with only 20,000 miles for £2500 from a dealer, but that is a further tale.

The TL experienced been my aspiration bike for quite a few several years, at any time due to the fact its launch in 1997. It was the most powerful 1 litre V-twin of its time, kicking out 125bhp which was much more than its nearest rival the Ducati 916, the most renowned motorbike of them all. The press raved about the engine, its easy electric power wheelies, its superb managing and its groundbreaking rotary damper rear suspension that had been motivated by the entire world of Formulation 1. It walked all above Ducati.

Unfortunately the praise failed to past lengthy. Rumours of huge tankslappers on bumpy uneven roadways started to flow into, people today had been acquiring hurt and the inevitable took place… a journalist was killed. Blame was attributed to the rotary damper. Only a teaspoon of oil was utilised, swiftly resulting in the shock overheating when the going bought tricky and turning the bike into a large pogo adhere. It became regarded as the Widow Maker.

To tackle the difficulty Suzuki fitted an un-adjustable steering dampener, which assisted the trouble but also killed the dealing with. In later on types they also started cutting down the energy, but there is some discussion as to no matter whether this was to give its ‘bigger’ brother the absolutely faired TL1000R the edge, but in truth the R was heavier and slower.

The difficulties failed to end there however… the fuel tank leaked in warm weather conditions, the frames cracked ensuing in a mass remember for a new frame, the gasoline injection was jerky, the electrics had been next to worthless and the chain became much too tight above bumps and experienced to be run slack.

You may well now be wondering why the hell I wanted this sort of a bike! Effectively for me it was a straight ahead choice. I like the underdog, I preferred the concept of owning a bicycle that no person else wanted simply because it was much too harmful, and the reality was the bikes were not the problem. They just weren’t setup effectively from the manufacturing facility and people today were not respecting its restrictions. In addition, a variety of aftermarket suspension options from Maxton have been obtainable and other complications are effortlessly set.

Waiting at the expert services on the M25 on a gorgeous summer’s day, I could listen to the bellowing audio of a v-twin with race pipes coming up the slip road towards me. It sounded amazing! The purple TL seemed amazing in the sun, with its gold wheels, black menacing engine and polished race pipes. The proprietor instantly jumped on the ZX6 and squealed with delight, “this is exactly what I want, I detest the TL, I want anything effortless and fashionable”.

Alarm bells should have, but did not ring. I realized the TL1000S was a marmite bike. I gave it a comprehensive heading over (or so I imagined) and carried out the usual checks. The engine purred away, all the electrics ended up functioning and it revved freely. No leaks, no cracks, new body, great chain, great tyres, comfy, appears prime… I never ever lusted following a bicycle so much.

We signed the paperwork as immediately as probable and he screamed absent on the Kwack. I did not even seem at him go away, whilst the ZX6r was a superb bicycle I just could not get hooked up to it. I kitted up, swung my leg around the TL and fired it up.

It truly is not like an inline 4, as you sit there idling the complete bike vibrates and pulses with the motor defeat, receiving quicker as you rev it. The using place is far more head down than the ZX6 but comfy and the complete bike feels incredibly slender. Great to go I enable out the clutch and joined the M25.

I gave it a fistful, the bicycle jumped forward, the entrance went gentle, 100mph came up in seconds and the sweetest sound was emitted from the pipes. The small down torque was elegant, providing it extra urgency than the Kwack and it felt much better at the prime. Regardless of whether it was a lot quicker or not is debatable simply because of the ZX6’s screaming top conclude, but overtakes had been easy.

My pleasure was short lived. The steering felt significant and the bike did not want to transform way. At very first I assumed this was down to the enormous inventory steering dampener across the leading yoke, but soon after going lanes the bicycle wobbled more than the white strains. I pulled in at the up coming solutions and checked the tyres. They were both equally as flat as a pancake. The previous owner complained about the weak handling, I marvel why?

With both tyres pumped up, the bike was remodeled and taken care of reasonably well on the bends as soon as I experienced remaining the motorway but as I commenced to gel with the bike, I discovered the various very well acknowledged troubles. The bicycle felt rear significant and pushed the entrance in quick bends generating me operate wide, the steering dampener removed any experience from the front finish and lessened responsiveness, the rear shock crashed about bumps (mixture of too tight a chain and the rotary damper) and when using by means of cities the bicycle was horribly jerky on a part throttle. So jerky in truth it was like riding a bucking bronco! I could sense that if I pushed the bike also challenging on a bumpy highway, I might be thrown skywards prior to I could say “Oh… “. I had some operate to do…

My initially process was to repair the jerky gas injection. This was a very simple circumstance of location up the TPS (Throttle Position Sensor) appropriately, as Suzuki failed to bother at the manufacturing unit. It is really pretty much a 5 moment task and transforms the bicycle. Within seconds of driving I could experience the bike was sleek as silk, there was still some transmission lash, but which is v-twin appeal.

Upcoming on the record was to type the handling. I browse numerous message boards, tech websites and talked to various suspension specialists and immediately realised the bike was just inadequately setup from the manufacturing unit. It did not need money throwing at it, it just desired a number of tweaks. I promptly dumped the steering dampener (I was told by different bikers I’d die), elevated the forks as a result of the yoke 5mm (instructed by a variety of bikers I might be even more dead) to place more weight on the entrance, tweaked the entrance and rear suspension configurations and dumped the 190 rear tyre for a 180 to pace up the steering.

I also modified the chain effectively, as due to the alignment of the rear swingarm in comparison to the output shaft, if you adjust the chain as you would on any other bicycle, it would go bow tight more than a bump and perhaps lock the wheel or wreck the motor.

A person very last modification was to in shape much better brakes from the Hayabusa, Galfer wavy discs and braided hoses to strengthen the spongy brakes. At small speed they are ordinary, but at increased speeds they are beautifully robust and two finger braking is all that’s essential.

The initially experience right after the tweaks was elegant. All the scare tales I experienced read and read through about the Tl1000S just didn’t implement to the bike I was sat on. It tuned faster than the ZX6r, I could hit any apex I desired by assumed alone and there was no trace of a tankslapper, even if I was ham-fisted and likely hell for leather. That journey was one particular of the very best I have ever had.

A couple of times later on I experienced it on the dyno, where it was tweaked from an previously remarkable 119rwbhp to 126rwbhp (later bikes produced all-around 100bhp), it was now the ideal bike in the planet. Or it was when it labored 100%… On very hot sunny days, just after each individual experience I would come again and locate gas leaking from the tank and dripping bit by bit down the aspect of the bicycle. Inspite of fitting later on product gasoline tanks, attempting sealants and so forth, the dilemma was in no way completely preset. I usually assumed about what would happen if gas dripped onto the exhaust as I was driving, sending me skywards in a large fireball.

There had been also gremlins in the electrics. If it rained the bike wouldn’t do the job. Individuals normally say how unreliable Italian bikes are, but this Japanese bike proved just as undesirable. Rain would seep in at the rear of the entrance spark plug lead producing the front cylinder to reduce out. You’d find on your own riding together and out of the blue becoming introduced out of your seat as it lower out then again in once more. My neighbour also literally almost punched me, simply because I might have to sit there revving it soon after a moist trip until eventually the drinking water evaporated, normally the bicycle wouldn’t begin in the morning. Sealant treated it… occasionally.

Other electrics were also problematic, with melting connections currently being a standard incidence ensuing in brief circuits, or if you were being really unfortunate you would be using along a highway in the middle of nowhere in the dark, and the headlight would are unsuccessful.

The straw that broke the camel’s back even so was when the out-shaft bearing unsuccessful. This was most probably triggered by the preceding operator owning the chain too tight and resulted in an £800 maintenance invoice. Most bikes you can eliminate the bearing from the outside, but on the TL1000S you have to break up the circumstances then wait two months for sections. Quickly just after repairing it, I marketed it just after 2 several years and 20,000 miles of possession.

Do I regret advertising it? Perfectly I’m lucky enough to be back again with my old bike 8 many years later on for a person last ride. Considering the fact that offering it I have owned a ZX9r and the monster that is the Kawasaki ZX12r (which I crashed on ice 8 months in the past, oops!), both of those are noticeably faster than the TL with 140bhp and 175bhp respectively, but did they have the identical character? They ended up more responsible for a start off, possessing covered 75,000 miles and 30,000 miles without the need of a hitch. My major regret about offering the TL1000SV however is that they are now worthy of twice the quantity I marketed mine for!

Observing my outdated bike yet again surely gives me goose bumps. It even now appears to be amazing, regardless of starting off to show its 17 many years with flaking motor paint and the odd little bit of corrosion, and despite the fact that the design is now out-of-date it however appears to be like menacing. It truly is also been fitted with the optional lower fairing, which I am not confident if I like.

Slinging a leg over the bike feels pretty aged school. It feels dense and the using placement isn’t as comfy as a more contemporary bicycle with a narrower seat. The fittings and fixtures search cheaper and really don’t healthy alongside one another as nicely as the deluxe ZX12r. The clocks are also quite ’90s and minimalist, but they convey to you every thing you require for the trip ahead.

Starting off the TL1000S up yet again, the sound is intoxicating. I will normally like the sound of a v-twin, in particular on total chat, it offends no-a single as opposed to a screaming 4. Sitting there and revving the engine having said that is when you truly commence to detect its age, the way it vibrates feels incredibly unrefined, it feels as however the motor is loose in the bike and it truly is about to slide aside. It is not going to though, it presents it character.

Placing off at lower velocity, you observe the change between extra fashionable gasoline injection and the TL’s, even though it can be a v-twin. The experience is snatchy, practically cumbersome, you have to feel about what you happen to be performing in any other case you can expect to stall conveniently. But as you wind the motor up, the bike will come alive and it feels just as superior as any modern engine. There is relentless torque and electrical power right to the pink-line and the sounds is sublime. Heading into a bend, the suspension feels tough and completely ready, crashing at the rear and experience underdamped at the front. This may possibly just be scenario of needing to suit the Maxton rear and modern-day internals on the entrance to enhance points. The managing is still tight even though and it retains a very good line, monitoring the road just wherever you want it. The braking is also however quite spectacular as the set up hasn’t adjusted considering the fact that my ownership.

Riding my aged TL1000SV once again has been amazing, but it won’t really feel like the animal it when was. It is a bicycle you can grab by the scruff of the neck having said that and experience to inside an inch of its life, while nevertheless heading at a reasonable and not way too unlawful pace. The power wheelies do not materialize as very easily as I don’t forget (most likely mainly because I’m heavier) It is total of character and is even now one particular of the very best sounding bikes on the highway and in spite of the horror stories is also fairly benign by present day requirements.

Would I own just one once again? Of course, it was the ideal most fulfilling bike I’ve ever owned, but I would convey it up to day with considerably additional modern day suspension and it would have to have all the other difficulties previously ironed out. The engine life on in other motorcycles, but none have the very same existence. It would be the fantastic bike for my guy lose alongside my subsequent dream undertaking, a Ducati Café Racer, and obtaining a cult position, earlier total ability styles are going up in benefit building it a good expenditure.

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