Cult Classic: 1985 Suzuki GS1150E

The 1985 Suzuki GS1150E was strong, reliable and fast, but stock survivors are now rare.

| March/April 2016

  • 1985 Suzuki GS1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1985 Suzuki GS1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1985 Suzuki GS1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1985 Suzuki S1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1985 Suzuki GS1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1985 Suzuki GS1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Owner Zeki Abed on the GS1150E. A one-owner bike, it was basically in the condition seen here when he bought it.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Anti-dive forks were all the rage in the early 1980s.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1985 Suzuki GS1150E
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Suzuki’s PDF anti-dive was considered less than perfect, often stiffening up the forks on bumps even when no braking was applied.
    Photo by Nick Cedar

1985 Suzuki GS1150E
1,135cc air-cooled inline four, 74mm x 66mm bore and stroke, 9.7:1 compression ratio, 119hp @ 8,500rpm
Top speed:
145.86 mph (period test)
5-speed, chain final drive
Weight (full tank):
561lb (254kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
5.3gal (20ltr)/34-46 mpg
Price then/now:

With 119 horsepower at 8,500rpm and torque to match — 81 foot-pounds at 6,500rpm — the GS1150E was strong, reliable and fast, and was quickly drafted as the basis for numerous race-winning and record-breaking dragsters. Never built in large numbers, stock survivors are now rare.

This particular bike is doubly rare. It has not only survived in stock condition for the last 31 years, it is completely original except for the tires. Unlike many rarities, it is also practical transportation. All these years later, the GS1150E is still a comfortable long-distance cruiser. “I think what is special about this bike is that it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” says owner Zeki Abed. “It can be ridden as a cruiser or a dragster.”

Saving bacon

Up to the mid-1970s, Suzuki Motors concentrated almost exclusively on 2-strokes — until two events convinced the company to change course: American and European environmental regulation and the Suzuki RE5 Rotary debacle. Suzuki had poured huge resources into the Rotary, only to discover the buying public wasn’t interested. Facing disaster, management quickly pivoted to the 4-cylinder, 4-stroke GS750, which was introduced in late 1976. It was a good decision: Once the buying public discovered that the GS not only handled well, but was reliable and comfortable to ride, it sold like hotcakes — and saved Suzuki’s bacon.

The GS750 set the pattern for Suzuki engines for the next few years, employing a roller bearing crank and using double overhead camshafts operating two valves per cylinder on shim and bucket tappets. It had a nice, stiff, double-cradle frame, twin rear shocks and a disc brake up front. It was soon joined by a 1,000cc big brother that proved to be equally reliable and a little more powerful. Suzuki had hit on a winning combination.

In 1980 Suzuki released the first major mechanical upgrade of the GS since its introduction, replacing the original 2-valve top end with a 4-valve cylinder head. The engine was enlarged to 1,074cc and the combustion chamber was reworked to make it more efficient. For years, hemispherical cylinder combustion chambers — hemi heads — were considered to be the acme of engine efficiency. But more recent research had determined that engine efficiency could be improved by going to four valves per cylinder and using a combustion chamber shaped more like a house roof. Suzuki’s Twin Swirl Combustion chamber design was essentially a modification of this “pent roof” design, to which was added a raised ridge running along the combustion chamber roof parallel to the gas flow of the inlet charge. This was to encourage controlled swirl of the incoming fuel-air charge in order to increase the fuel burn speed through better flame front propagation.

9/23/2020 12:09:07 AM

I own a 1985 1150E and I love it!! It's very comparable to my 83 1100F in comfortable seating. Wish I could post a Pic.

6/25/2018 7:24:49 PM

I own a 1984 GS1150ef. The buzzing at speed limit numbers, not the best canyon Carver, stong acceleration, a great sport touring machine for 1984! Fuel needs to be tended to or carburation issue will arise, but that's with all things carbureted. I absolutely agree with everything said in this article and enjoyed the read. Thank you!

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