I used to read about bikes and stay pretty up to date, but that ended a while back. So when I ran across this Suzuki Savage, I thought to myself: “Whoa; look at the size of that single cylinder”. I have a bit of a thing for one-lungers, but I’ve noticed that some cheap Chinese bikes make their engines (125cc) look a lot bigger than it really is. So I had to look up how big a Savage is: 650cc. Impressive, but I assume that engine builder are better at taming the vibrations of a large single. And it’s not the biggest single bike: the KTM 690 Duke R has a 690cc single (natch), with a whopping 70hp. Things have come a long way since the BSA Victor 441.
CC Outtake: Suzuki Savage – Now That’s A Thumper
– Posted on May 5, 2013
I got into bikes in a big way, via thumpers.
My first “real bike” (the 1972 Yamaha R5C organ-doner two stroke didn’t really count) was a Yamaha SR500. Big thumper. Kick starter with compression release on the handlebars.
That was a moderate seller for Yamaha and they were emptying out stock, when the Suzuki Savage showed up. I remember it displayed at…I think it was, a ski fair. The ex and I looked at it; I was impressed with the electric start. And the cruiser styling. Not to mention the belt final drive – I thought that was the way to go.
Years later…just three years ago, actually. Getting back into bikes after twenty-plus years away…road-rash does that to you. But I got hold of a used Savage, cheap.
Cheap is as cheap does. Style is why that thing exists; and is its only purpose in life. Speed? Seventy TOPS. Drivability? On cool (60-ish) mornings I’d have to warm it up fifteen minutes just to get it to pull without stumbling and backfiring.
Room? NONE. That thing…it may say Easy Rider, but only until it’s parked next to an adult-sized cruiser. It’s literally sized as a woman’s bike…now, very few bikes fit me, which is why I went for this one; but the more I sat on it, the more I dreaded it.
At least on the SR500, which was built as a UJB with the straight-back saddle…at least I could slide back to get legroom. Not on a low-saddle step-up pillion cruiser like this one.
I’m presuming the SR was as much a pain in the ass as the XT500 to have to kick over. I had one of the latter, and if the timing wasn’t *just* right…quite the work out. All the more if it was hot.
There was a window in a cover over the camshaft on the head…you had to use the kick pedal to crank it over to where you saw red. That was just PAST the compression stroke. Give it a vigorous kick, and the flywheel would – hopefully – carry it through the next compression cycle. If all went well, you were off and running.
Try doing that if you stalled it at a light, trying for a fast start. Also…try that if everything wasn’t just so; if it was cold or the carb not perfect…and it kicked back. It could just about send you over the handlebars.
Ever heard of the Ryca kits for the Savage? They are quite pretty and supposedly very well thought out.
I had a ride on one of these once. Not particularly exciting, and ran out of puff quite quickly. The low seat height makes it a popular choice for the short of stature.
Unit Single BSAs were my mount of choice for a while, and I still have a half-share in a B40, stuck in my dad’s garage. Once their many shortcomings are addressed, they are a light and willing motor, and iirc the Victor frame is based on the army-spec frame, and is a good one. BSA unit singles dominate pre-65 scrambling.
The purpose of this bike is to mimic the classic single cylinder cruisers. Good “in town” and rural highway bike, don’t take it on the interstate. It sort of has a “Fonzie” vibe to me.
The ryca kit is probably the best thing that happened to this model. For thumpers in general the counterbalancing shafts make them livable.
Last month I picked up a running Yamaha 1975 DT175. I don’t imagine it’s much slower than this and it certainly is lighter. I’m looking forward to riding again.
I think it was a better bike than the DT250 or DT360/400. I think the 360/400 would eat up a lot bigger bike than this. Eye candy.
My late wife (then current girlfriend, as long as her husband was still in the dark) had one of these back in 1998. Never rode it much, and sold it to buy me a fully restored ’69 BSA A50R Royal Star. I rode it . . . . . . once.
Absolutely the opposite of the BSA 441 Victor. Quiet, gentle, well mannered, and absolutely gutless. A perfect beginners bike, ride it for the first year, take care of it, then sell it to the next newbie and buy a real motorcycle (750 V-twin, at least). I understand that a few EPA illegal tweaks to the carburetor made it act a lot more like a traditional big single.
Suzuki peddled an 800cc DR-variant nicknamed “Big”; not sure how that made it into production, and I’ve never seen one. Also, I believe ATK manufactured a 700cc stroker for desert racing, which would make for an…interesting street bike, no?
650 is big enough.
In fact, the 500 I had was plenty big.
The street thumpers I’ve seen and had…nice lookers; clean styling. Simple to maintain; rugged as an old shoe.
They were also a quick way to neuralgia on the fingers, hands, arms and shoulders. No way around it…that vibration was gonna be there; and it was gonna screw you up.
Was just watching this video of someone racing a big thumper (Manx Norton) around Brands Hatch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bax6oH6Bbjw Fantastic sound track, and the way the picture pulsates as he hits peak revs actually makes me feel that authentic tingle in my fingers and toes. Great for a ten minute thrash around a race track, not so great for a couple of hours along a main road.
There was a reason why thumpers were used on the off-road rally venues.
Between power strokes, the rear tire would stop slipping…giving a chance to hold traction. With a multi-cylinder engine, the power just stays on…wheel spins, rider dumps.
On road, the only advantages – big ones – are simplicity and weight savings.
About ten years ago someone was putting those engines into a replica Norton Featherbed frame, hopping up the engine, and making a pretty nice street racer. Saw one at Daytona Bike Week. Don’t remember the price, but I do remember it was awful steep for what you got.
I went looking for a single-cylinder road bike thinking they would be an inexpensive way to pick up a small bike for commuting. Boy, was I wrong.
They go even bigger, Suzuki’s biggest single is the DR800S off road bike, targeted at adventure touring and desert racing. Apparently balancer shafts let you get away with building a jumbo single that won’t shake itself to pieces.
On a related note the Ducati Supermono single’s balancer was made from the con rod of what was normally the rear cylinder on a Ducati V-twin which was a unique solution at the time.
I saw a ducati (possibly on kneeslider) to continue your thread. It was special built and IIRC had turbo pipes mounted where previously had been the cylinder. I never had a bike with balancer shafts but did have a couple that needed the treatment. 650 yam has both slugs going up and down at the same time but firing on alternate strokes. It would have been an ideal candidate.
If you cancel out the vibrations of the strokes with vibrations that you make it seems to work like adding multiple cylinders. It’s interesting what they can do to make bikes less primitive and more comfortable.
I had a Yamaha don’t laugh ..enticer..lol 200cc of pure single cylinder ..raw power..it was great a very strange bike built for the Indian market only a mix of Yamaha and royal Enfield parts ( engine) with an Indian take on harly Davidson,ish styling 3 speeds only slow ,noises,vibrations,crude,tiring…but I absolutely loved that bike and did 15.000 miles on it I lived on that bike..and it never broke down once ever..rust killed it in the end to us in the west it was sort of comical but it was a high end bike in the 3rd world how it ended up in the uk is a mystery..but I loved it