Machines like the Suzuki GS1100E have been rare in the US of late, where motorcycles are most often owned and flaunted by weekend warriors: lifestyle accessories don’t need to be rideable for more than a few miles at a time, so you’re free to buy shrieking, peaky race-reps or 900 pound feet-in-the-breeze Barcaloungers, whichever fits your personal taste without regard to practicality.
Suzuki’s GS series bikes were do-it-all machines, the epitome of the UJM or “universal Japanese motorcycle”: four cylinders, twin shocks, no fairing. Bikes that were reliable and frugal enough for daily use, handled well enough for weekend scratching, and comfortable enough for distance work.
The GS-designation described a huge range of motorcycles built over almost forty years and powered by singles, twins, and four-cylinder engines of varied displacements. The GS1100 was powered by Suzuki’s durable air-cooled, 8-valve and later 16-valve, dual overhead-cam engine slung into a stable chassis.
It made for a blank canvas that could be turned into just about anything you wanted: the famous “Pops” Yoshimura turned the earlier 1000 version into a successful racebike that spawned the Wes Cooley race replicas that sometimes show up on this site for sale.
This example is the much more basic “E” model and as such would have been nothing much special at the time. But the curse of the ubiquity and reliability of the UJMs was that they were treated like the appliances they resembled: used and often discarded, left to rust and rot by less than sympathetic owners. You couldn’t own a Triumph or Norton unless you were ready to get your hands and garage floor dirty, unless you were invested. But anyone could [and did] buy bikes like the Zook, and they were often used as intended, so nice examples are getting harder and harder to find.
From the original Craigslist listing: 1980 Suzuki GS1100E – $2995
1980 Suzuki GS1100E in very nice condition. Almost bone stock except for “crash bars” and cruise control, both easily removable. 30K miles. Just completed a full going over by former service manager of large local dealership that specializes in working on 70’s/80’s/90’s vintage bikes. Runs PERFECTLY. Starts, idles and everything works.
This one’s in the Denver, Colorado area. Nearly $3k is pretty serious cash for an old GS, but makes more sense when you think instead that that’s pretty small price to pay for reliable, do-anything transportation. Not too many cars or trucks that can give you this much entertainment AND reliability and cost so little to run.
Not a glamorous bike, but perhaps the perfect tool for a trip down memory lane for someone who remembers just how good these really were at being motorcycles. Don’t bother shipping it: just show up with your riding gear, bungee your duffle bag onto the tail, and ride it home.