Super Commuter: 1973-1977 Suzuki GT185

Comparing the Suzuki GT185 with its main sub-200cc competitors, the Yamaha RD200 and Honda CB175.

  • 1973-1977 Suzuki GT185
    Photo courtesy Rizingson Vintage Motorcycles
  • 1974-1975 Yamaha RD200
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1969 Honda CB175K3
    Photo by Robert Smith

Suzuki GT185
Years produced:
21hp @ 7,500rpm (claimed)
Top speed:
79mph (period test)
184cc air-cooled 2-stroke twin
5-speed, chain final drive
280lb (w/half tank fuel)/46mpg (period test)
Price then/now:
$925 (1975)/$500-$1,500

Sales of new motorcycles peaked in the U.S. in 1973, with more than 1.5 million units leaving showrooms — five times the number of bikes sold in 1992 and triple 2015’s figures. And while the sales surge could be attributed to the baby boom, there was another factor at work; the OPEC oil embargo. The price of a barrel spiked from $3 to more than $12, and many stations simply ran out of gas. So it made sense to keep a commuter bike in the garage that you could fill from your lawn mower gas can and would better 45mpg — at least four times a typical gas guzzling auto.

Combining most of the comforts of a bigger bike with small size and nimble performance suiting both experienced riders and newbies alike, the sub-200cc category was suddenly taken seriously.

“Best in its class,” Cycle World wrote of the 1975 Suzuki GT185M Adventurer. Under its “Ram-Air”-cooled cylinder head was a 184cc 2-stroke parallel twin with a four main-bearing crank. The conventional piston-port design used one intake, two transfer and one exhaust port per cylinder. A pair of 20mm Mikuni carburetors fed the cylinders and lubrication was by Suzuki’s CCI (Cylinder Crankcase Injection) system. Helical primary gears drove an 11-plate wet clutch to a 5-speed gearbox. The electrical system was fed by a 12-volt DC generator that also doubled as the starter motor, mounted on the left-side end of the crankshaft. A kickstarter was included as backup.

The powertrain slotted into a single downtube steel tube frame with a telescopic front fork and a rear swingarm controlled by a pair of coil spring-over shocks. Both ends ran on 18-inch wheels, with 2.75-inch front and 3-inch rear tires. First year bikes had a twin-leading-shoe front drum brake, but that was quickly upgraded to a 9.3-inch hydraulic front disc for 1974.

The GT185 came fully equipped with grown-up features including a paired speedometer (with trip) and tachometer, electric start, a lockable seat, a dash-mounted ignition switch and adjustable rear shocks. Cycle Guide tested the 1975 GT185M, enjoying the “docile power characteristics that make it easy to ride, even for first timers,” and finding that the engine wasn’t peaky, but delivered “a smooth, constant flow of power throughout the rev range.” That said, the engine needed to be kept spinning: “… open the throttle wide below 3,500rpm in the upper two gears, the engine bogs out.” And while the GT185 was quite capable of reaching highway speeds: “It takes a little more time … but once you get there it moves along effortlessly.”

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