A story about a Bike.
by Pierre Martins
I would have liked to start this story off by saying that I owned a TL1000s because I liked to be the underdog, but truth be known, more often than not one’s financial disposition forces you to be the ‘underdog’ whether you like it or not.
Sometimes you just can’t afford the best and you end up buying second best and turn it into something sweet as you go along. Yes, at the time I would have much rather wanted a new 998sps Ducati, but you know what they say about Ducati – They break if you park em in the sun. And besides, I’ve always thought Ducatis were made for the Chinese – They’re small, unreliable and that dry clutch go “ching-ching-ching-ching”, but before I get accused of racism I better get back to my Suzuki TL1000 and the chequebook I threw at it, so to speak.
When the TL was first launched in ‘97 it quickly developed a bad rep in the British press for being a bad-handling bike. A few Pommy journos got spat off the beast and that made the TL the official bad bike from Japan in the late nineties. Eh?
Now lemme ask you an honest question about motoring journalists in general – How often do you see their names on the entry list on race days? Huh? huh? Just what the hell do they know about handling cars and bikes that the rest of us don’t?
Anyway, the bad press forced Suzuki to de-tune later models of the TL and fit a stupid steering damper that didn’t really work, but I was lucky enough to find an un-molested ‘97 and quickly set out to sort the handling issues. A braced swing-arm, Ohlins rear shock and stiffer Ohlins front inners did the job. At the time a buddy of mine, Barry Scholtz, was in Japan and phoned me with a line of high-performance stuff he found over there – Special cranks, rods, pistons and cams. Cash-flow was good so I told him to get the lot.
Back in SA Barry installed all the go-fast goodies and turned the TL into a true Duc-eater. It turned out to be a very, very strong bike, so I decided to race it. First race I entered the bike was a ‘Battle of the Twins’ race at Kyalami. Started from the back of the grid and got myself up to P5 before I got fatigued and finished 9th eventually. Keeping the front wheel down was a problem. The next race I entered was Superbikes at Welkom. I remember that race to this day. It was the first and only time my wife ever came to watch me race. I pulled a podium for her in the Super-mono race before I got on the TL. Ian Emsley got killed in during the opening laps of the Superbike race, and as fate would have it he was also on a strong TL. My wife had seen enough. That was the first and last time she ever came to watch me race…
And that was that. I put the TL back on the road, albeit with upside-down shift and track gearing and used it for odd breakfast runs and track days for a year or two. Barry pulled a Beretta blow-job on himself and blew his brains away a few years later, sad story. My urge for bikes kinda dwindled as time went by, I started racing four-wheelers and eventually sold the TL to one of my employees. He enjoys the bike and still hangs with the best that modern superbikes have to offer on breakfast runs. The other day he told me people still talk about the TL like they used to on Sundays, but I just know it’s not being ridden and looked after the way I used to…
Times do change, eh?