1979-1980 Suzuki GS1000S - Archive

Photography by Art Friedman

In the late 1970s Suzuki suffered from an image problem. Although Wes Cooley was kicking unbridled ass on his factory Yoshimura Suzuki, winning the AMA Superbike Championship in 1979 and 1980, customers perceived Suzuki streetbikes as somewhat unexciting motorcycles. Suzuki's standard GS1000 could run with anything Kawasaki had to offer, yet Kawasaki still represented "performance" in many buyers' minds.

Suzuki's 1000S changed all that. The bike was equipped with top-shelf suspension components and a second front disc brake, but what really attracted buyers was the Cooley/Yoshimura white-blue paint job, complete with a fork-mounted fairing. To quote Cycle Guide, "The American public's reaction to the S-type was immediate, heart-thumping and supercharged."

Buying a used GS1000S is a good news/bad news proposition.

The good news: If you find a clean example, there are few mechanical problems to worry about. If it starts easily and idles well, the mechanicals are likely a nonissue. Suzuki massively overbuilt the GS-series engines, and many experts consider them to be the most reliable, indestructible inline-fours of all time. And if you can find one, the S-type is generally affordable. Prices run in the $3000 to $4500 range, and a careful shopper can find decent examples for as low as $2500.

When idling below 1000 rpm, most two-valve GS engines emit a metallic slapping or knocking sound. The sound is caused by the cam-chain guide design; at low revs, the chain slaps a bit. It's completely harmless, and has a simple cure: ignore it.

Now the bad news: Only about 700 examples of the 1979 model were imported into the United States. Figures vary for the 1980 model, but most sources place it at somewhat less than the '79. It seems dealers opted for the L (cruiser) version of the GS1000 over the euro-styled S version.

The single most important thing to look for is correct, complete bodywork. Replacing cosmetics is costly; Suzuki's out of fairings and trim pieces, and they're pricey on the used market.

In 1979 Cycle Guide said the S "demands recognition as the finest all-around ride motorcycling has to offer." It's still a great bike today.-Darwin Holmstrom

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