The Suzuki T500 Titan

When 2-stroke motorcycles were king

| September/October 2010

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    The Suzuki Titan T500.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
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    The Suzuki Titan T500.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
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    The Suzuki Titan T500.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • suzuki titan t500 4

    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • suzuki titan 5
    What size was that again? Loud sidecovers were 1972 only.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • suzuki titan 6
    The T500’s 492cc twin proved a large 2-stroke could deliver reliable performance, and it did for eight years.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • suzuki titan 7
    Twin-leading-shoe front brake is still a favorite of cafe builders everywhere.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • suzuki titan 8

    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • suzuki titan 9
    A comfortable saddle and a torquey engine make the T500 a great touring bike.
    Photo by Nick Cedar

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Suzuki T500 Titan
Years produced:
1968-1976
Claimed power: 47hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph (observed)
Engine type: 492cc 2-stroke air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (dry): 408lb (185kg)
Price then: $899 (1970)
Price now: $1,400-$3,000
MPG: 50mpg (observed)

From the mid-Sixties to the mid-Seventies, 2-stroke motorcycles ruled the roost. Kings of the strip and the street, the young men who rode them put up with whisker-wide power bands and a massive thirst for gasoline to get that heart stopping power.

There were exceptions, however, and the exceptions to the wild Sixties 2-strokes were built by Suzuki. While other manufacturers promoted 12-second drag strip times, Suzuki focused on building reliable, user-friendly motorcycles like the Suzuki T500 Titan. Other 2-strokes screamed: Suzukis were quiet, designed for people who wanted to tour or commute, not race.

Interestingly, the technology Suzuki used to excel on the street may have come from the race track. In the early Sixties, Suzuki wanted to win races, both for the marketing advantage victory brings and to score points over rival Honda. In 1961, Suzuki made contact with Ernst Degner, a top rider and engineer with the East German MZ team. East Germany was then firmly under the heel of the Soviets, and Degner, eager to direct his destiny, seized the opportunity to get out. By the fall of 1961, Degner had made it past the Iron Curtain and was working for Suzuki.



Using the knowledge he gained working at MZ with 2-stroke guru Walter Kaaden, Degner taught Suzuki how to get real power and speed from its own 2-strokes. This knowledge was more than certainly used to improve the road machines as well as to win races, as Suzuki soon became known for its reliable and powerful 2-stroke singles and twins.

Bringing out the big guns

Late 1965, saw the introduction of the Suzuki T20, also known as the Suzuki X6 Hustler. Its 2-cylinder, 247cc engine had a bore and stroke of 54mm x 54mm, a 7.3:1 compression ratio and produced a claimed 29hp @ 7,500rpm. Pump lubrication oiled the lower end, and a six-speed gearbox transferred power to the rear wheel. Press tests confirmed the twin was good for 90mph.

H Glen
11/17/2018 7:20:52 PM

Excellent Bike I had a 1971 model same color as in article. Could cruise all day at above highway speed and get 60 mpg (Canadian gallons) Came back from Vancouver to Calgary one time for $5, including lunch! Good handling. I often rode it through the winter on snow packed roads. Really fast wheel lifting torque band in 1st and 2nd gears, 5th gear overdrive. Faster than friends Hondas




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