Words and photos by Colin Kinsman
You’ve probably heard this before—my wife said for years, “What are you going to do with that old Suzuki motorbike in the garage, you haven’t ridden it since the kids were born in 1989”. I didn’t wish to sell it, as my old faithful Suzy (TS250J 1972 model) had been a part of my life since I was sixteen years old, when I bought it for $520 (new was about $700) with 500 miles on the speedo and the bike was only about ten months old. The lady I bought it from sold it, because it was too powerful. It was about the best dirt bike on the block in 1973, excluding some expensive European bikes. Some would state, that the TS250 in the early seventies was a better dirt bike than the Yamaha DT1 250. The Suzukis in those days certainly didn’t have any chronic engine rattles that afflicted the Yamahas, plus the TS250 just looked racy against the DT1 250, with its high mounted plastic guards and the shrink wrap and webbed crankcase. I had some great times on my Suzy.
When I was a teenager, the Suzy took me riding through the bush around
Victoria with my late Father. My Dad, who owned a Velocette 500cc (1939
model) when he was a young man, had bought my previous bike off me, a 1969
Kawasaki G4TR 100cc Trail Boss with a 10 speed gear box, when I bought the
Suzuki. The two of us went riding together in the mountains near Yarra Glen,
Bright and to the Dargo High Plains.
Closer to home in Melbourne, my mates and I would travel, (pushing our bikes), to the local Macleod paddocks near La Trobe University and would ride along the banks of the Darebin Creek at Preston. On any given Sunday in the early seventies I can remember hundreds of young guys on bikes and mini bikes racing around these paddocks. Today that kind of free for all fun would be impossible, which explains the number of bored youths sitting around shopping centres today. In the late seventies, the Suzy was pressed into commuter work, first taking me into the city to University for 3 years and then to work in the city for four years in the mid eighties.
The bike was so reliable, I even took it on a ten day, around Tasmania
trip in January 1979 and it never missed a beat. I have a great story I
like to tell from that trip. On the ferry across Bass Strait, a Ducati V-twin
750 rider laughed at the Suzy, as he thought it wasn’t a suitable
bike to travel around Tassie. Six days later, I met up again, with the same
Ducati 750 rider in Hobart; he was stranded in the city for three days waiting
for a part to be flown in for his broken Duke. I guess I had the last laugh.
In February of last year my fourteen year old son expressed an interest to go dirt bike riding with me and get a bike of his own. This was enough to spur me into action and do something about restoring the old Suzuki to its former glory. My wife hardly saw me for two months. I completely dismantled the bike, re-sprayed the frame; polished the alloy; sand blasted the head and barrel; cleaned and polished by hand the crankcase; re-chromed the forks/headlight and re-upholstered the seat. The motor was in such good condition, that a new piston, rings and small end bearing was all that was necessary. All the engine and gearbox seals, bearings and clutch are perfect. The best feature of the bike is that the petrol tank, (I made a vinyl tank cover for it), plastic oil tank cover (in cupboard) and front guard (wrapped in paper) are original, like new and have not seen the light of day. This bike is nut and bolt original with some parts like the wheels, spokes and hubs being in such good condition they only needed a time consuming clean and polish. The front and rear suspension units are in fantastic original condition, as is the whole bike. (The blinkers and tail light are removed for dirt riding). I have a spare trials pattern rear tyre for originality, as well as the original (not used) hand grips, rubber fork scrapers and foot peg rubbers.
I decided early in the restoration of the TS250 not to over-restore it,
to concourse condition, as I felt the bike was more valuable and far more
interesting to be in as original condition as possible. The fact that the
bike was to be still ridden was also a taken into account, along with a
substantial increase in restoration costs that would have occurred in renovating
the chrome wheel rims and alloy hubs and the re-spoking of the wheels. The
total cost of the restoration was only about $800.
The most surprising part of this restoration is that Mick Hone Suzuki could get all the parts I needed. I remember the first time I approached them for two cables. I thought they’d burst out laughing, instead they said, “We have the parts in stock”. To my amazement, they had all the parts I needed. I replaced two cables, cylinder gaskets, carby rubber boot, air filter, fork seals, wheel bearings and the top end of the engine. By Easter last year it was finished. I was thrilled to fire up the old Suzy once more. Last May, I bought my son a Suzuki DRZ125, 2006 model, and the two of us have been away riding several times since. It is a great feeling being on the steep mountain tracks again.
The Suzy’s engine is as strong as ever, with a great band of torque between 2500 rpm and 5500 rpm, (maximum torque of 19.5 ft lbs is at 5500 rpm). Short-shifting is all that is necessary to get good acceleration and there’s not much point revving past 6000 rpm either (max of 23bhp at 6500rpm). I believe the fat torque curve and the low revving nature of the TS250 engine, has helped its longevity. My TS250 can be fitted with two different sets of final drive sprockets. One set for dirt riding, which is 10% lower geared than standard and the other set gives road gearing 10% higher than standard. The road gearing gives the Suzy the ability to cruise on the highway at 100kph at about 4800rpm, which doesn’t stress the engine (80kph at 5000 rpm on dirt gearing).
It has been a great experience to teach my son something new and to share
in the dirt riding experience together. I’m pleased to say I havent lost
my ability to ride hard and fast and the Suzy is as reliable now as it has
ever been. Although riding the DRZ125 shows how much suspension has improved
over the years.
Doing up the TS250 has inspired me onto the next project the restoration of a Suzuki PE400 1980-1981 model. Does any one out there have an intact PE400 in need of some love and attention?