1975 Suzuki T500 Titan

E-bay motors 07/07/02: “Absolutely beautiful T500. Barely 2000 miles. Runs great. Way too fast for its chassis and brakes. Oil injection has been supplemented with 32:1 tank premix…I never trust auto-lube, etc.” While never really lusting after the Suzuki 500 as a young man, being older and mellower now, I was intrigued by this model. My collection of 70’s twins had become a bit too European and, after all, the Japanese were the new kids on the block. Besides, the price was right, even with shipping, and it was already a runner according to the ad. The reports of excellent condition were supported by flattering E-bay photos.

The design is simple and utilitarian, but Suzuki took a big chance building such a humongous two-stroke. For years, conventional wisdom dictated that no 180-degree twin this large could survive the inherent vibration amplitude. The Titan was introduced anyway, in ’68, as a gothic Japanese rice burner, with the functional-but-frumpy styling elements you might see in an old Godzilla movie. Over the years, it shed some of that image, losing the instruments-in-the-headlight-shell and rubber knee pads and gaining a more contemporary look along with improved electrics, bigger carbs and several more ponies. Final versions even had a modern front end, electronic ignition, and a disc front brake. Suzuki got its money’s worth from the long production run, and the consumer benefited as tractability and reliability steadily improved, while the price of the simple machine remained a bargain.

When my Titan arrived, I was a bit let down by its tired look. However, it cleaned up easily, and parts were readily available from either Suzuki dealers or numerous shops specializing in obsolete components. I discovered that an incorrect banjo installed at the oil tank outlet was starving the pump and the power-generating parts of the engine of injection oil. This was easily rectified, and I also fitted the most modern pistons and ring sets, from a GT750 Water Buffalo, into freshly bored cylinders. Adding a self-lubing drive chain, Hagon shocks, Metzler tires, and new brake cables and shoes all around made the chassis better able to cope with 500cc of two-stroke fury. Electrics were updated with a gel-cell battery, quartz lighting, and electronic ignition. Now I had myself the best possible example of this venerable old twin, and was ready to let the fun begin.

The left-side kick start looks intimidating, but is easy to use in conjunction with the kick stand. Pulling away, one notices slightly anemic low RPM response from the piston-ported motor. Spin it up a little and power smoothly increases; it never gets really scary but definitely gets the job done. The five-speed tranny is a delight, and the clutch action light. The machine is pleasantly low in height and weight, but stability is good thanks to firm suspension and amazingly long swing arm. The brakes work about as well as drums can. This bike is fun to ride quickly, especially on a tight road, but the rider has to remember about the lack of engine braking on a two-stroke.

The seat and ergonomics are very pleasant, but vibration gets pretty serious at high RPMs. Certain elevated engine speeds can make the rubber-mounted handlebars feel like baseball bats, but one soon learns to cruise at the sweet spots. The machine exudes a feeling of dependability and willingness to keep pulling that is pretty impressive. The corrected posi-force system does a great job of precisely metering oil for a mostly smoke-free ride, and the steady, predictable handling allows for serious bend swinging. After some time in the saddle, you too will be ready to exploit this King Kong two-stroke.