Luck of the Draw: 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX

Found in rough condition, this Suzuki GS1100EX was rescued by Trace St. Germain.

| July/August 2014

  • The 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX is classic ‘80s Japanese big-bore fare, with plenty of sharp lines and lots of chrome. Square headlight was controversial.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX is classic ‘80s Japanese big-bore fare, with plenty of sharp lines and lots of chrome. Square headlight was controversial.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX is classic ‘80s Japanese big-bore fare, with plenty of sharp lines and lots of chrome. Square headlight was controversial.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX is classic ‘80s Japanese big-bore fare, with plenty of sharp lines and lots of chrome. Square headlight was controversial.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The GS1100 is classic ‘80s Japanese big-bore fare, with plenty of sharp lines and lots of chrome. Square headlight was controversial.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The 1981 Suzuki GS1100EX is classic ‘80s Japanese big-bore fare, with plenty of sharp lines and lots of chrome. Square headlight was controversial.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Tall, wide handlebars make the big GS easy to wrestle. The air-assisted front forks featured adjustable damping and preload.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Tall, wide handlebars make the big GS easy to wrestle. The air-assisted front forks featured adjustable damping and preload.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Twin 11-inch front disc brakes perform adequately.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The big GS hustles: In 1981 it was the fastest production bike money could buy, running the quarter-mile in 11.10 seconds and peeling off 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds.
    Photo by Nick Cedar

1981 Suzuki GS1100EX
Claimed power:
105hp @ 8,500rpm
Top speed: 142mph (period test)
Engine: 1,074.9cc air-cooled DOHC inline four, 72mm x 66mm bore and stroke, 9.5:1 compression ratio
Weight (w/half-full tank): 557lb (253kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.7gal (18ltr)/47mpg average (period test)
Price then/now: $3,999 (1981)/$2,000-$5,000

This Suzuki is one lucky motorcycle. Found in rough condition, unloved, for sale and facing an uncertain future, it had the good fortune of being adopted by Trace St. Germain, perhaps the perfect person to rescue a deserving but shabby Superbike from the 1980s.

Trace originally wanted to buy the bike just for its parts, but ended up with the factory-spec restoration you see here. “I brought the bike home, and I don’t know what got into me. I decided to restore it. It was really badly oxidized, and I had never done a Suzuki before.”

Trace was lucky enough to be born in a motorcycling family. Instead of having to hide his passion from his parents, as many kids did, Trace’s parents encouraged him. “I have been working on bikes since I can remember,” he says. “I mowed lawns to get my first bike, a Yamaha 80 with a stamped steel frame. I rode that thing to death.” The Yamaha was replaced by a Suzuki 250X Hustler and then a Honda 350. Trace also got into racing quarter midgets on the tracks at Sacramento and Baylands in Northern California.



An accident when he was serving in the Army stopped Trace from motorcycling for awhile, but eventually he was able to resume riding. “Sporty, big displacement motorcycles get me going—I like the horsepower,” Trace admits. A Kawasaki Z1R was Trace’s street bike for a long time, and he still has it.

Trace also got back into racing. After trying road racing and other types of motorcycle competition, he settled into drag racing as his sport, starting in 1982 by building a Kawasaki into a drag racer. “I didn’t want to do stupid things on the street, and I enjoy being around drag racing people. People in drag racing help each other. I have given people parts they needed, and they beat me because they had the parts,” Trace says. But that doesn’t stop him helping his competition. “You have a better feeling about yourself,” he adds.

wiredsol
8/23/2019 8:16:57 PM

In the early 80's I was riding a GS750e. I happened across an 81' GS1100ex for sale with 600 miles on the clock. The owner had also purchased a Honda V65 (foolishly) and his wife said one of them had to go. I took the big GS for a test ride and scratched a check on the spot. I rode my 750 back home and it felt like a child's toy. Sold the 750 and shared many rare times with the big fella (we both probably should be dead). NEVER got beat in a race in full stock condition. Loved the machine but took a part time job selling bikes at a new Honda dealership for extra chips. Had to sell my love to the kid next door, and bought a CX500TC turbo (FUN bike). Looked better to prospective customers to ride the brand you are selling. Go forward nine years, I was visiting a friend's new home when I got out of my car and spotted my old friend for sale parked on someone's terrace. My gal was skeptical that I could identify my old bike from a block away - but I knew. After our visit I went right to the bike and traced the previous owners back to my neighbor's kid. She was ragged in spots, stored outside for lengths of time, leaking oil, etc. Bought it back for $500. Drove it home, shut it off in my driveway and could hear pressure leaking from the engine. Knew right off. Pulled off the seat to pull the tank and sure enough some had routed the crankcase breather hose incorrectly so it pinched shut under the tank. rerouted properly', degreased the machine and took it for a ride. All the oil leaks stopped except for a seal on the cam chain tensioner. that was a quick fix. Over time I did a fairly decent restoration and cleaning. Hand polished and recoated all covers, honed the cylinders back to round, new rings, and clutch plates/springs, tires, chain/sprockets. It looks good and runs nicely. I cannot find a set of stock exhaust pipes to save the world . I am still looking. If anyone has a line on stock chrome exhaust for my 81' please let me know. With a set I would be able to return it to stock, (remove the V&H header and K&N intake). I have the stock air box, and can re-jet back to stock. In my opinion then I would really have something of a conversation piece!


Bruce "Chook" Fowler
9/29/2018 6:35:24 AM

Hello, I owned an Australian model GSX110EX, blue like this example. However the tank on this bike is from a GSX1100ET, which is the previous model. The EX tank is rounder along the top whereas the ET had a slimmer tank like this one. It is still quite a stunning reno nonetheless. Regards, Bruce "Chook" Fowler.


Willie
8/7/2014 1:27:33 PM

I was selling bikes when the GS Series came out. In the early 80's I liked the Honda CB1100F better and it still has a better resale value today. However, in '93 I bought an '82 GS1100EZ and still own it today. I haven't ridden it in about 4-5 years and it has 53K on it. It is not the original color and has an aftermarket V&H exhaust. It pulls like a tractor and can hit 60mph in first gear. Very comfortable for long distance and rock solid reliable. I'm torn between trying to give it a new face lift or just selling it as it is. It's something I've been contemplating for 4-5 years. It is a great bike and as the saying goes, "they don't make them any more." Suzuki has done some great underappreciated work over the years. The GS Series was such, as was their earlier X6 Hustler (have one of those also). Now for the Superbike/MotoGP Series, they need to freshen up a bit.




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