1973 Suzuki GT380J
Piston-ported air-cooled two-stroke triple

She wasn't the first bike I ever owned, but she was the first really...serious one, you might say; and the first with which I ever really went anywhere.

I bought her back in 1983, while I was living in Little Rock. She only had 1200 miles showing on the OD, but those shocks showed the effects of a lot more than that, as did the sun-faded paint. The kid I bought her from had begun some performance mods, but hadn't finished up; he'd fitted oversized carbs from a 550, with K&N air cleaners, but the pipes and the suspension were stock.

The intake-system fiddling had produced some interesting results; she was amazingly fast out on the open highway - I never had any trouble keeping up with much bigger bikes, and burned a good many fast cars - and she would accelerate fast enough to give you whiplash, if you got the rpms up first and weren't fussy about how many tires you kept on the ground. On the other hand she didn't like low speeds, particularly stop-and-go city traffic, and would surge and bang like the Devil's popcorn popper when stopped at lights; and she could be a bitch to start, particularly if you didn't have the points timed absolutely right. She also screamed like a buggered banshee, which I rather enjoyed but which drew some bitter complaints from people who rode with me.

She gave lousy mileage, but would run on the cheapest grade of gas. Like all two-strokes, she had to be taken down and cleaned out at regular intervals, and she went through plugs pretty fast; but otherwise she was a marvel of simplicity, with no valves to fool with and no temperamental electronics.

Handling was pretty good on a clean surfaced road, but she got squirrely on rain grooves or steel-mesh bridges. (Particularly the latter; she nearly killed me going over the Brooklyn Bridge.) With that original three-into-four muffler set, she was too heavy for her size, and the shocks, as mentioned, were sacked. Braking was surprisingly good. Shifting was smooth - as with most Suzukis - but the six-speed transmission represented overkill; the power band wasn't that narrow.

Over time I made a good many changes: new shocks, lightweight three-into-one expansion-chamber exhaust system built for me by a guy in California, new paint job, even a small windshield. Better tires did wonders for the handling, too. Toward the end she was quite a machine. It was a real blow when she finally expired in '85 - though I guess it was inevitable; I'd just worked her to death.

But all that came later. She was still as she was when I got her, nothing changed but a set of new plugs, when I took her on the longest bike run I ever made. You can read about it, if you like, via the link below.

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The Long Way Home: Across The US And Back

The Last Run: Final Trip With An Old Friend