ANDY HARRIMAN HAS HAD YEARS OF PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH BIG GSX SUZUKIS. HE JUST CANNOT STAY AWAY FROM THEM. WITH GOOD REASON.
Some things in life are etched in stone: like Andy Harriman always having a big Suzuki of some description. But perhaps not the Spondon 1260 turbo that managed 13 miles to the gallon.
"I pushed that into the local Tescos too many times to be funny. I lost patience with that and sold it to a guy in Ireland,” says Andy. “I did warn him about the fuel issue, but he still rang me up in disbelief a couple of times.”
Some models, and often one particular engine, can take hold of a generation and never let go. Yamaha’s LC springs to mind, Kawasaki triples too, and in the big four stroke category, Zeds and Suzukis predominate.
The reasons for anyone’s one model mania can be many and varied. In Andy Harriman’s case, he immediately explains precisely what it was that sent him crazy for GSX Suzukis:
“I was 11 and on holiday when these bikes pulled into the campsite all loaded up with tents. I was like ‘WOW’ and my dad was telling me to get away from the bikes, to leave the blokes alone. But that was it, and it was the size of a GSX11’s headlight that did it for me.”
So simple, so indelible. And yes, a GSX11 headlight is still a thing of wonder. Fully nine inches in diameter, it would not look out of place in a lighthouse.
As it is, the manhole cover-sized item that forms the focal point of Andy’s GSX7/11 is an unmissable reminder of just how a perfunctory item can assume huge styling significance. How it can define an entire machine. But let’s not obsess about cycle parts (crucial though they are) when the primary attraction of the GSX is an engine that simply knows no bounds when it comes to sucking up abuse, happily accommodating all manner of extreme tuning work, and all the while happily ferrying you to work every week, or firing you down a quarter mile strip every weekend. It has few equals.
As you might expect this is not Andy’s first big Suzuki. He’s had five, so far.
““THIS ONE STARTED OUT AS A 750, AND A MATE HAD AN 1100 ENGINE, SO IT WAS PRETTY OBVIOUS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN””
These have included the Spondon-framed, turbo'ed, nutter bastard thing and three others as extreme as anything out there. His current device is yet another iteration of a machine he knows inside out and simply can’t stay away from.
“This one started out as a 750, and a mate had an 1100 engine for sale, so it was all pretty obvious what was going to happen,” says Andy. “It’s what happens with anything from when you start riding. If you’ve got a Kawasaki AR50, then an 80 engine goes into it. I had a Yamaha RD125DX, that had a 200 engine in it. I even had a Suzuki GP100 with a motocross rear wheel, MX bars, and, of course, a GP125 engine.
“The beauty of the big Suzukis is you don’t really have to do much unless you want huge amounts of power. The cranks are bombproof, the rest of it pretty much the same. It’s probably the best engine Suzuki ever produced. They looked at what Kawasaki had done earlier and then sensibly went forward from there.
Apico Pro-taper ’bars for that oldy-worldy Superbike vibe: “I tried some Renthals but they just weren’t quite high enough. The mounts are Renthal though. Rearsets are Harris, I can’t remember what for, but they fitted first time, so that was that.”
GSX: “It doesn’t make any odds if it’s 750 or 1100 because the only difference is the fuel tap mount is half an inch further forward on the 750 tank,” says Andy. The battery box and undertray were fabbed by Andy at work. The kicked up tail piece (in a commendably Bosozoku style) is a mildly reworked GSX-R1000 pillion seat cover.
Largely Suzuki GSX-R1000 K8 with 6-inch Hayabusa rear rim. “The neat thing is the rear brake caliper mounting plate slides onto a lug on the inside of the swingarm, so you don’t need a torque arm. Keeps things nice and clean,” says Andy.
ODDS AND (INDEED) SODS
Andy is more than fortunate to work at a laser cutting firm. Any odd brackets and mounting plates he might want, he can casually knock up in his dinner break, or after hours. A bit better than being given past-its-sell-by meat if you work at Tesco. Is it not?
Being such a gnarly piece of work as a stock job, you don’t have to go to town on it. Crank and rods are standard, with just a little skim off the head, liners have been punched out to give the favoured 1260cc. It breathes through 36mm Mikuni RS flatslides sucking through Ramair filters. Sparks by Boyer Bransden electronic ignition, Dyna coils and Taylor HT leads.
“FOR ALL I’VE SAVED I’VE SPENT ABSOLUTE FORTUNES ON OTHER STUFF. IF YOU ADDED IT UP, YOU’D NEVER BUILD ANOTHER BIKE”
“The EFE was proper nice. I went to Belgium on one about eight years ago, to Spa, with a bunch of mates on GSX-R1000s. It would do 140mph all day long, and even with no fairing it was strangely bearable,” says a wistful Andy. He even flirted with a GSX1400 for a time. “I saw it at the Autosport Show and bought one there and then. It was OK, but then there were hundreds of them appearing everywhere, so it had to go.”
It’s clear then, that he’s a fool for any big Suzuki, yet has now managed his wish list down to an acceptable level that involves just the one Suzuki now. But what a machine. He’d done them before so there were few mysteries to fathom when it came to bolting this one together. “My mate’s garage is pretty much a Suzuki parts bin, so first off was persuading him to let me have a GSX-R1000 K8 swingarm in the matt black. It’s funny thinking there used to be a 130-section tyre back in the day, and now it’s got a 200 there. And the way it all fits together is really straightforward.
“The Japanese are great when it comes to keeping things more or less the same. Sure, they’ll change little bits here and there, but with a couple of spacers each side and machining a little off the gearbox sprocket it all lines up. As for the front-end I was all set to rebuild some SRAD forks, and just as I was about to tear them down an entire SRAD front end appeared on eBay that had already been sorted by K-Tech, so that was a stroke of luck. “Almost the same thing happened with the exhaust. I was all set to go with black powdercoat on the Harris system, then a set of brand new original Harris downpipes in chrome appeared on eBay. So I put a bid in and forgot about it, fully expecting not to get them, and of course I ended up getting them for ninety quid. That meant cutting the whole thing to ribbons and re-chroming the collector and can.”
As ever, a minor inconvenience when an opportunity to make a significant improvement presents itself. Plus, a change of plan midway through a build is always preferable to a major rethink if a big element of a build turns out to look substandard at the final twirling of the spanners. So much for the more substantial ‘big bits’ of the build. When it came to the real nitty-gritty, the bracketry, spacery and cleverness that truly defines the quality of a special, Andy had it made – literally. Working at Bystronic laser cutters in Coventry provides him with access to high-end machinery most of us imagine only exists on spaceships in other galaxies. “A Yoshimura tail tidy is £119” says Andy.
“I’m lucky I can copy one at work. The oil cooler mountings are another work job, the battery box, lots of stuff. I must have saved a few quid here and there, but I honestly don’t count, it’s a bit scary. For all I’ve saved I’ve also spent absolute fortunes on other stuff. The oil-cooler was £350, the Yoshi sprocket cover £200. I’m not even going to mention the sandcast clutch cover. If you added it all up, you’d never build another bike again. You’ll never get it back either, but that’s not the point is it?” It’s not. But don’t get the impression Andy is one to merely throw money at random projects. “I find it hard to comprehend certain bits of the bike world these days. For example, like a lot of people, I quite fancy building another LC. I’ve got a soft spot for them after I got knocked off my first one and bought a GSX1100ET with the compo money. But, try finding something – you’re looking at anything from five to seven grand. I remember building one in my bedroom – and then not being able to get it down the stairs – the bits we used then cost fortunes now.
And while I’m at it, my first X7 was given to me. In bits, admittedly. I remember shovelling it into the back of my dad’s Talbot Alpine. You won’t find anyone giving away X7s now.” You won’t be finding any Talbot Alpines either. It’s not for want of trying Andy’s had little luck in finding any two-wheeled experience to rival that of his beloved GSXs. “I had a Ducati nine-nine-something for a bit, but got rid of that. Unless you were on a nice A-road doing about 130 it was a complete waste of time. I mean how painful do they want a motorcycle to be?” Andy is a man who appreciates enormous quantities of grunt in a comfortable sit-upand- beg package. Hence his appreciation of the GSX-R11. “The first slabbies were great,” he says. “But then they got more and more uncomfortable over the years. A mate of mine had the millionth anniversary edition 1000, whatever it was, and yes it was great, mental, but the whole thing is getting a bit ridiculous now. In the Isle Of Man the Superstock bikes are just seconds off the pace of the Superbike spec machines...
So to try and address the less mental side of things Andy has a Harley-Davidson Nightster. “It sounds a lot like a house falling down, but sort of makes sense if everyone else is on a Harley. You wouldn’t want to ride one when everyone else has got a proper bike.” Quite. And just as you think he might have actually turned a corner in his quest for a slice of the more sensible side of life he reveals his GSX is not finished (even though it is). “I think a lock-up clutch is next,” he says. “And despite my previous experience I’ll probably end up turbocharging it too. These things go so well with a turbo.”
SPECIFICATION 1982 SUZUKI GSX7/11
ENGINE 1260cc (oversize cylinder liners), dohc, 16v, air-cooled, inline four, skimmed head, Mikuni RS36 carbs, Harris four-into-one, sandcast clutch cover, Ramair filters, Boyer Bransden electronic igntion, Dyna coils, Taylor HT leads.
CHASSIS GSX750 frame (cut down to within an inch of its life). GSX-R1000 K8 swingarm and rear brake, Hayabusa rear wheel, Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD forks and front brake calipers, petal discs, Apico Pro-taper ’bars on Renthal risers, handfabricated battery box, Yoshimura-replica tail tidy, Suzuki GSX-R1000 seat cover as tail-piece, non-specific Harris rearsets, all fiddly bits by Andy including spidery-web-thin headlight mounts.
“Chris Stokes, who usually does scooters, did the paint,” says Andy. “He mixed both the blues himself, which are pretty much Suzuki blues but with a bit of pearl in them.” The simple Suzuki S nudges anyone unfamliar with the machine in the right direction for the name of the manufacturer, while a refreshing lack of stickers completes the clean look.
Here’s a bit of sensible thinking. Why faff about with all manner of disparate components when you can (if you think about it) simply draft in one big lump – in this case a GSX-R1000 K8 swingarm, sprocket carrier and brake. Line it all up at the pivot end and that means only one set of spacers to make up. Unless you like making spacers, it’s the way to go.
Mikuni RS36 flatslides do not come cheap, but then they are pretty much the zenith of high peformance carburettors, unless you want to play around with Lectrons or other such rare groove devices. Ramair sponges do the debris-sieving duties, and let’s be frank: Nothing really beats a nice bank of quality carbs for either simple, effective fuelling, or looks.