The Underestimated Suzuki Titan

Long and low, the 2-stroke Suzuki Titan was built for putting on the miles.

| March/April 2013

Suzuki Titan

Long and low, the Titan is still a solid and reliable road bike, capable of piling on the miles.

Photo By Phillip Tooth

1975 Suzuki T500 II Titan
Claimed power: 46hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 110mph (period review)
Weight (wet): 435lb (198kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.7gal (14ltr)/45-50mpg
Price then/now: $1,175/$1,200-$3,000 

Doug Strange turned into the diner’s parking lot with a huge grin on his face, caressed the metallic blue gas tank as if it was the body of a favorite girlfriend and said: “I haven’t ridden a Titan for at least 10 years, but it feels just as I remember it.

“The engine pulls like a diesel locomotive and the handling is rock-steady. It might not be the most exciting 2-stroke in the world and they have zero sex appeal, but Suzuki’s 500cc twin is probably the most underestimated motorcycle ever built,” Doug says with conviction. As a teenager, Doug learned to ride on a 50cc Suzuki Titan before progressing to a T200. When the time came to trade up, the local motorcycle dealer tried to sell him a Velocette Thruxton, but as a hard-core Suzuki fan he couldn’t be tempted by a British single. He was looking at a new T350 Rebel. Then a friend took him for a ride on the back of his T500.

“I didn’t know enough to be scared while he ran his Titan through the gears, but I was captivated by the howl of the big 2-stroke,” Doug remembers. “My decision was made and I promptly bought a new 1969 T500 II in Colorado Gold.”

The Suzuki T500 Titan’s beginnings

Launched on the American market in late 1967 as the 500/FIVE — a reference to the 5-speed transmission, a first in the 500cc class — the big Suzuki had to fight the myth that a large capacity air-cooled 2-stroke twin was doomed to run hot and seize because of the enormous heat generated. As there was a power stroke every time the piston came around, there would not be enough time — so it was thought — for the engine to cool off as it did in a 4-stroke. But Suzuki blew that theory to pieces with a 46 horsepower, 110mph twin that blasted down the quarter-mile drag strip in 13.2 seconds and still ran as cool as an ice-cold Pepsi.

Order the March/April 2013 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1975 Suzuki T500 II Titan. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email. 

Mark Johnson
4/25/2013 4:27:16 PM

Cool! All those bikes were things I wanted but never got. Especially the Yamaha 750 triple, I thought that styling was better than any of the 750/850 Yamahas that followed it.

4/24/2013 8:20:00 PM

I put 28K miles on a '72 Kawasaki 500 triple. Motor never broke but crank seals wore out twice making it lose compression and it fouled plugs constantly. Carb cables always stretched and required almost daily adjustment, baffles would not stay in, bad brakes and worse "handling". Got hot quickly and would run badly after that. Later got a '76 Suzuki GT500 and put 20K on it. Awesome engine with incredible torque. Never seemed to get hot and always ran the same. Cruised around often at 80 - 90 mph. Never fouled plugs or required carb adjustments. Handling was unspectacular but miles ahead of the Kawi.

4/12/2013 5:44:10 PM

As at least a partial answer to Mike, the Kawi 2-stroke Triples were wicked fast in a straight line but their stock frames were rather a bit limp in comparison to the others you've mentioned; ie: the Kawis suffered from profound frame flex, in stock, unadulterated form, when pushed hard through the twisties.

G L Cote
4/12/2013 4:14:33 PM

I rode a 1968 Yamaha 350, which I crashed. Soon thereafter, I bought a 1973 RD350, which was crazy quick, but for riding two-up, I needed something bigger. I bought a 1976 GT500 Titan, and thought it was a great bike, but eventually realized that for long-distance 2-up riding in the midwest I'd need something bigger. The roads are long, straight and flat, whereas the GT500 was best in hills and twisties. I eventually bought a 1978 Yamaha XS750 triple, and two-strokes became part of history for me and most other riders around that time.

Mark Johnson
4/11/2013 9:01:51 PM

I am not John but let me say something about the choices available at the time. I lusted after the Suzuki, test drove some but never got around to buying one. But the Suzuki was very simple in design, road tests got ~45 mpg vs. the Kawasaki 500's ~30 mpg. The Suzuki was proportionately slower, road tests got more like 14.2 second quarter mile. The Kawa was about 1 second faster, far more of a hooligan bike. The Suzuki was a more mature touring bike, especially with the longer wheelbase of later models. Its front drum brake was better in my experience, from reputation I would say the Suzuki was better handling. What Yamaha, the 650 four-stroke? Rather heavier and more expensive, those buyers no doubt wanted the rumbling sound and absence of 2-stroke smoke. It was viewed as a Triumph wanna-be at the time, while the above two were true originals.

Robert Rode
4/11/2013 4:28:26 PM

IN late 1960's I worked at a local Suzuki shop in Chicago on Archer Ave. When Titan came available, they were very impressive..They would pull out of a corner like a Harley in 3rd gear. We (I) would ride past local Yamaha dealer. full bore, and in a few minutes, they would send a rider past us !! I took many of them for "extended" test rides with speedo cable disconnected. Dealer was "Action Center" Also sold scuba gear.. Thanks for memories Robert Rode

Mike Browne
4/11/2013 3:31:10 PM

John, I'm curious about what the motorcycle culture was like back then and would like to know why you chose the Suzuki over the Kawasaki triples and Yamaha twins that were available at that time? What was you're impression of the other manufacturers bikes that made you decide to go with the Suzuki?

4/11/2013 12:32:25 PM

I bought a brand new T500 in 1971, It was fast, handled extremely well and had a bullet proof engine. The only issue I had with it was that if only ridden around town for any length of time the plugs would load up and I would have to take it out on the highway and open it up for 5 or 10 minutes to blow everything out. After that it would run just fine.

bike on highway

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