1980-83 Suzuki GS1100 E/ES

Under the Radar

| May/June 2011

Suzuki GS1100 E/ES
Years produced:
Claimed power: 108hp @ 8,500rpm (1983)
Top speed: 140mph (1983 test)
Engine type: 1,074cc air-cooled DOHC 16-valve inline four
Weight: 552lb (w/half-tank fuel)
MPG: 35-55mpg
Price then/now: $4,350 (1983)/$2,000-$4,000

It’s fair to say that the basic design criteria for today’s four-pot, racer-on-the-road sportbikes were established in the early 1980s: Kawasaki introduced fuel injection on its GPz bikes (Kawasaki GPz550, Kawasaki GPz750); Honda gave us liquid cooling in the VF range (1984-85 Honda Sabre VF700S, 1985 Honda VF1000R); Yamaha pioneered a peripheral frame in the Yamaha FJ1100; and Honda was also first to fit 16 valves on a four-banger with the Honda CB750F. But after trailing the pack as the last of the Big Four to abandon two-stroke technology, Suzuki leapt to the front with its 1977 Suzuki GS750 and Suzuki GS1000. In 1980, they moved the bar higher still with the Suzuki GS1100.

The GS1100E can truly be called the first “modern superbike” because of its use of a four-valve cylinder head with a narrow included valve angle and wedge-shaped squish band combustion chambers — technology first used by Cosworth in its race car engines. Suzuki called its version TSCC, or “Twin Swirl Combustion Chamber.” It made the GS1100E the fastest bike on the strip when introduced in 1980, and good enough to be named Cycle World’s Superbike of the Year for three consecutive years from 1981-1983.

Though based on the earlier two-valve GS range, the E used a new cylinder head with double overhead cams and shared cam lobes, each lobe opening two valves via forked cam followers. Screw and locknut adjusters made clearance setting easy, unlike the shim-and-bucket setup found on most DOHC bikes of the era. The engine’s bottom end used the built-up crank/roller bearing design of the two-valve GS850 and 1100 (a leftover from Suzuki’s two-stroke days) which, though more costly to produce, gave benefits in reduced friction losses and added strength and durability. Fueling came by four 34mm Mikuni CVs, with the gas ignited by a transistorized electronic ignition. Drive to the five-speed transmission was by a helical gear primary, and chain to the rear wheel.

Though conventional in using steel tube cradle construction, the GS1100E frame was stronger and stiffer than most, and the box-section aluminum swingarm added to the steering rigidity. The air-assisted KYB front forks featured adjustable compression and rebound damping, and for 1982 the GSE gained fashionable anti-dive forks (Cycle World called them “largely ornamental”) by Showa. These used pressure from the front brake’s hydraulic system to close damping valves, limiting fork movement. Blow-off valves allowed for sharp road shocks. Time has passed judgment on the usefulness of such accessories, but they were all the rage in 1982. Brakes were triple discs with floating calipers.

The GS1100E consistently won period shoot-outs against the 1,047cc six-cylinder Honda CBX and Kawasaki’s GPz1100. Then for 1983, Suzuki upped the ante by increasing intake valve lift and advance while revising intake and exhaust systems for an extra three horses. Forged pistons, a stronger crank and uprated transmission components maintained the GS’ reputation for reliability; a frame-mounted bikini fairing provided improved aerodynamics. The 1983 GS1100ES was the first production motorcycle tested by Cycle World to run a standing quarter mile in the tens. This was serious stuff.

11/18/2017 8:45:42 PM

I own a '81 GS 1100. with my trigger ignition installed and the 4 into 1 vance & hines pipe, it does 130mph in a 1/4 mile on high octane fuel.

bike on highway

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