1983 Suzuki Tempter GR650-X

| 1/12/2011 10:34:00 AM

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tempter 1 
The 1983 Suzuki Tempter GR650-X Model in red with aftermarket
windscreen and backrest/rack.

Imagine the weight and handling of a classic British twin. Then update the suspension with a rear hydraulic swing arm style mono-shock and adjustable front air forks. Make the bike look good with chromed exhaust and fenders, contrasted by black cylinders and frame, pay homage to the classic Triumph twins with a teardrop tank and clean lines, and oh yeah, keep it affordable – very affordable. That’s what you have with the 1983 Suzuki Tempter GR650-X, and with all it had to offer it failed to catch on in the U.S. I have yet to see another besides the one parked in my garage. The country was gripped in a recession at the time, and U.S. buyers who did buy new bikes flocked to four cylinder bikes with their wallets, including Suzuki’s own GS models, and in doing so they missed the GR650. Too bad – it’s a very sweet bike, as many Europeans can testify as they snapped them up. I bought my used Tempter in 2004, so this review may be a bit biased – I think it’s a terrific bike and it's a shame the marketplace missed a real gem.

tempter 2 

The Suzuki Tempter GR650-X was produced in two models, the budget “X” model pictured has traditional spoked wheels, a single color paint scheme and non-adjustable front forks, all out the door for $2,149. The upgraded “D” version got a two tone color paint scheme, magi style wheels and upgraded adjustable front air forks for $2,399. Cycle World’s test boasted, “For a little over 2 grand you can own a real, honest-to-gosh, full-size, brand-new undented motorcycle.” Today a low mileage model will run about $1,500 – and most well under that reasonable sum – if you can find them.

tempter 3 
The upswept dual chrome exhaust help creates the look
of a classic British twin.

martin buck
3/15/2013 11:02:01 PM

When this bike first came out, I (ab)used my friendship with the salesman at Wellington Motorcycles (the late great racer Robert Holden, who perished at the TT), to borrow a GR650 for the day. I was amazed at the comfort from the thick seat and Full Floater rear suspension. The engine gave few signs of the transition between heavy (low speed) and light (higher speed) crank weights. It was creamy smooth, impossible to stall from take off, and rich with mid range torque. It was agile, capable and fun. There has been some fragility in the recently available used models, with oil leaks from the heads, the usual Suzuki electrical faults, and the very high mileage of some examples. But to me at the time it was the perfect bike. If only I'd had the money...

robert wetzel
9/17/2011 11:22:38 PM

I bought a 1983 GR650 in June 2011. I am the third owner and the bike had 5975 miles on it when purchased. It came with a wind screen. I was told that the bike was cold blooded when starting but I have never experienced that. I have put 2200 miles on the bike and the only thing I have done is replace the rear tire. This winter I would like to change the sprockets to a 36 rear and 16 front as I agree the motor seems to run hard at cruising speeds. I have gotten 55 mpg at the high end and 47 mpg at the low end. seems to average about 51 mpg This is my first road bike and my decision to buy it had to do with the condition and price. I paid $1500 and had to do nothing but ride it. It seems to be needing a valve cover gasket as its seeps oil. The local motorcycle mechanic gave it a listen and said that it sounded good to him. I was looking at newer bikes but I am enjoying this and it is paid for. I am looking for a rack that would fit.

dave reiss
4/2/2011 12:26:40 PM

sorry that 60's Honda s90 was a single thrown in the mix...but been riding twin street bikes ever since.

dave reiss
4/2/2011 12:25:43 PM

sorry that 60's Honda s90 was a single thrown in the mix...but been riding twin street bikes ever since.

dave reiss
4/2/2011 12:14:20 PM

Many thanks to all who have read and commented on this article - one of my first as I got the vintage japanese bike bug. Starting w/ a 80's Honda MB5 50cc, moved to a 80's Honda CB 125, then onto twins starting with an 80's Honda CB 400, then a late 60's Honda S90, a 70's Honda CB175, the the Suzuki GR650, my only 4-cylinder a 90's Yamaha Seca II 600. Back to twins I tried a Triumph Speedmaster 865cc cruiser for a year, and traded it in for my daily rider - an 2007 Triumph Scrambler 900. I also have a 2003 Kawasaki KLX400 Enduro for serious off-road work. Down to 2 bikes - but I confess the "Tempter" was a favorite. Again thanks for the comments and dafe riding to all! - Dave Reiss

dave reiss
4/2/2011 12:05:49 PM

After owning a long list of used classic japanese bikes - my daily rider is a new 2007 Triumph Scrambler 900. Check my website for more articles including an US east coast solo tour an a Yamaha Seca II 600: http://davidreiss.com/links.html.

wayne medlock
3/30/2011 6:26:04 PM

HI, i have a 650 tempter ,im restoring now,if you are looking for used parts for same.go to ebay,look up,bike bandit.com,pinwheel.com,mtororcycle motrury.com,mtoro sports warehouse,up in canada,and several others,check them out,in ebay,type in tempter,and you will have a list of sellers.....good luck...GOD BLESS......wayne

mal gooch
3/23/2011 10:10:26 AM

1983 gr 650 great machine i have had mine for 4 years now and it suits my budget very nicely i just treat it like my old 69 bonniville and we get along fine when they were new i was rideing a gs1000g but i did the superbike thing in the 70s so this old girl does the job for me and just like a big dollar bike i to get wet when it rains i can get booked for speeding and i cant have a beer and cigie while rideing lol

dana shifflett
1/14/2011 7:43:00 PM

I suspect the poor market reception had something to do with the bike's complexity; more specifically, the dual-mass flywheel and valve shims. The KZ750 twin sold more, but never in XS650 numbers, and I suspect that was at least in part for the same reason, in this case meaning counter-balancers and (again) valve shims. Features treasured by xs650 and brit-bike enthusiasts include simplicity and simple maintenance; the Tempter, good as it was, may've been too much for the intended market to accept. Gotta give Suzuki credit for trying. I would've been interested in the bike myself, but at the time I wouldn't consider a bike with less than 6 gallons fuel capacity and I never cared for the fat rear tire business. My memory is cloudy on this, but as I recall, one of the magazines entered a Tempter in a mileage contest (Vetter's, I think). They went up 2 teeth on the countershaft and had Bub build a one-off exhaust for it. That was the limit of their modifications, except perhaps a fairing (Rifle?). I forget how they placed, but I remember being impressed by the mileage they achieved.

1/14/2011 3:45:31 PM

I had one. It was number five of, I think, nine bikes I've owned. Great bike. It compares well to the Triumph Bonneville America I ride now.

1/14/2011 3:44:48 PM

I had one. It was number five of, I think, nine bikes I've owned. Great bike. It compares well to the Triumph Bonneville America I ride now.

1/14/2011 6:01:24 AM

Neat bike and nicely cared for! It has Triumph TSX lines, I'm sure that is no accident, but it's no doubt far more reliable. Thanks for sharing. I see you have Maryland plates, maybe I'll bump into you some day and see it in person.

bruce isaachsen
1/13/2011 12:08:14 PM

Dave, Great article about a vintage Japanese Motorcycle (are you a member of VJMC yet?). I have to agree with you about buying 70's and 80's Japanese bikes. They may not be a Vincent but they still have parts available, are dependable, easy to work on, do not take a lot of effort to get running well again and are just fun to ride. Now if I can just find a 1965 Honda CB 77 just like the one I learned to ride on. Bruce '88 Honda VT800C (my youngest bike) '77 Naked Old Wing (very fast and smooth) '80 Honda CB750C (just got it running has a Vetter fairing cut down by previous owner and looks a little like Craig's Mystery Ship. AHRMA racer?)

gordon baker
1/13/2011 11:27:30 AM

In these days with rising gas prices, a motorcycle like the Suzuki GR650 would be an excellent commuter vehicle. Unfortunately, with the exception of few models,most bikes are either sporters or cruisers. Neither variation lends itself to the day to day riding back and forth to work. I wonder when the manufacturers will pay attention and bring out sensible bikes for the working folk.

1/13/2011 9:29:37 AM

Had one myself. I even sprung for the cast-wheel version. It's still about as it's now owned by a friend. Very comfortable and easy to ride and relatively trouble-free. It looks like the Vetter-designed Triumphs. With the supplied sprockets, it struggled to get into the 90s. Never changed them, though. I never understood why it wasn't as popular as the Kawi and Yamaha Britalikes. And yes, the name was silly.

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