Illustrated March 1971
To Suzuki's credit,
never before has one of their motorcycles given
anything more than the kind of trouble that
is redeemable at the turn of a screwdriver.
From the reports of other Stingers, this one
was one of those unfathomable production drop-outs,
whose salvation only ever lies in a transplant
of everything save its skeleton. To read this
test as representative therefore of Stingers
as a whole would be unfair, but read on anyway.
When I collected it, the air cleaner had been
removed in an attempt to make up for over-rich
carburetter settings. Smaller jets were unobtainable
for the Japanese set instruments, which had
proved themselves to be unsuitably jetted for
our climate, at least on this particular model.
The Stinger was duly returned for correction
and collected some days later, apparently serviced
and running properly. New carburetters, an air
cleaner, re-timed ignition, and a new set of
correct grade sparking plugs suggested that
this time things would be different. Up to a
point they were. Performance had picked up noticeably
all round. Tick-over was steady at 1300 rpm,
acceleration had improved and so had the rev
ceilings, but not by a great enough margin to
satisfy either Alan Aspel or me that optimum
efficiency had been acheived.
Suzuki state that maximum power is produced
at 8500 rpm. In my experience with other Suzuki
machines, this is perhaps the only weak spot
in the Suzuki company's claims. In most cases,
their machines tramp on past the maximum claimed
power revs, and only really get into their stride
once into the red painted danger zone on the
rev counter's face. Believe me, it has caused
some headaches in the past when attempting to
nail down gear ratios, speed and revs. Once
accepted however, the problem becomes little
more than a characteristic to remember.
Then along comes the Stinger and shatters the
tradition by either producing less power at
lower revs than the manufacturers claim
— which I doubt — or is at fault
— which I suspect.
Although Suzuki claim a maximum power development
of 15.1 bhp at 8500 rpm, on numerous occasions,
the Stinger's engine would not even reach 8000
rpm in bottom gear, let alone any of the higher
ones. And, when I pulled in to a lay-by in a
frustrated attempt to discover the cause of
the power loss, it refused to reach more than
that in neutral, free of load, under full throttle.
7000 rpm in any of the higher gears was the
limit at such times, and 7000 is supposed to
be the maximum torque development speed. In
the face of the slightest hill or headwind,
road speed would drop so low as to require fourth
or even third gear at such times.
As time progressed, the engine performance
became symptomatic of (once more) an over-rich
mixture, especially on the right-hand side cylinder,
which had caked up its spark plug with a soft
Another suggestion of poor carburation was
the ease with which the engine would start from
cold without use of the choke lever. On frosty
mornings it was necessary, but not otherwise.
So much for the worst. What about the brighter
side? Happily, it was blazing bright, and it
was this that, despite the previously mentioned
engine performance troubles, ensured a balanced
outlook on the Stinger. For, whereas the engine
misbehaved itself, at times showing its true
self and at others refusing to perform, the
general behaviour of the rest of the machine
Handling of the Stinger was so good that, as
Roy Buchanan said, it was dangerous. Of course,
such a claim is an exaggeration of the facts,
but I know what he meant. To change line required
nothing more than a thought and the Stinger
responded instantly and exactly. Small section
tyres, low weight, light steering, and a responsive
engine combined to return an agility as yet
not experienced on any motorcycle, whether roadster
or racer. Perhaps the exception to that was
the AS50 (50cc two-stroke sporting single) Suzuki.
Although fine on long sweeping curves, the
razor-sharp ability to corner quickly did not
show up, until a succession of tight yet contrasting
bends on a minor road were attempted, and then
did the Stinger go! The back end was slightly
under damped, but without any apparent effect
Under damping seems to be common on small motorcycles,
so presumably the difficulty in arriving at
a compromise, acceptable for all riders and
passengers must favour softness. For instance,
two-up, even with the adjustable rear units
" on maximum strength, spring strength
was too soft. But with Alan solo, undeniably
too hard, yet in each case, without any appreciable
deterioration in handling. The conclusion being,
therefore, that Suzuki have to their credit
designed a frame capable of withstanding the
awful motion of soft springing without noticeable
Late one fine afternoon, with a cold sun low
over the gentle hills of the Essex countryside,
and black elms like great networks of veins
silhouetted against the pale sky, I hung the
'bike on its throttle cable and, suspended on
that tensioned wire, we swung along the narrow,
twisting lanes going nowhere but onwards.
Somewhere along the route, a police-driven
Cortina GT pulled out in front of me and accelerated
away along the short straight road. I caught
up at the first bend, and" held my place
close behind. The passenger in the car looked
around and studied me for a few moments, then
turned back to his driver. They talked. Trouble,
I thought. He looked around again, and the car
accelerated to the next bend where, instead
of slowing, it scratched around in a tight drift.
I followed. Our speed was somewhere between
50 and 60 mph. The passenger grinned, just a
little, but a grin all the same. For maybe four
miles the police driver skilled his car around
one bend after another, but the Stinger held
on. Not.by reason of its speed, but by reason
of its roadholding ability. I think it surprised
my friends of the moment. It certainly impressed
Grounding was difficult. Once or twice, right
on the limit of adhesion, my feet tippy-toed
lightly, but unless a pillion passenger was
aboard, scraping any part of the machine was
bordering on the impossible.
Alan discovered, to his delight, that cornering
fast on a certain series of poorly surfaced
curves in Surrey induced the rear wheel to hop
as it passed over the bumps. This might not
sound good, but remembering my earlier
argument over the difficulties of lightweight
machine suspension spring strength, I would
suggest that the mere fact that Alan was able
to enjoy, and obviously therefore control, th&-movement
is suggestive of rare handling quality. At no
time did the front end do anything but point
in the direction it was intended to, and never
was there any suspicion of unwarranted movement
at the steering head. Neither the frame nor
the swinging arm became involved in any flexing
problems, so that at all times the ride was
completely assured and predictable.
Braking was reasonably good, but the little
sis devices, particularly the front, were not
really up to the job of stopping quite as adequately
as the speed of the machine suggested they should.
Two-up riding brought home their weakness. They,
as with most of the cycle parts, are identical
to those used ontheTrailcat,and from my point
of view, trail bike brakes cannot cater for
the requirements of fast roadsters.
I have said it before, and shall say it again.
Japanese bulbs are rotten. For why else should
an otherwise identical range of motorcycles
display such a variance of lighting characteristics
as to suggest that they come from different
factories? The Trailcat lights were magnificent
things which far exceeded the requirements of
the 'bike, whereas those on the Stinger were
mediocre. Dip beam was fine, but main beam was
nothing but a vague scatter of light without
the vital degrees of lift so necessary beyond
dip. Another bulb would undoubtedly cure the
Thoroughly appreciated were the flashing indicators,
particularly for overtaking and night riding,
but the activating switch spoiled the set-up.
Situated on an alloy block next to the throttle,
its horizontal movement ensured that instinctive
operation was out of the question. In a pair
of riding gloves, Winter ones at that, locating
any switch is difficult enough. If, however,
the switch is a vertically operated unit, it
requires only a sharp flick up or down, as the
case may be, to operate it without the need
for location; thumb movement ensures success.
Incorporate two other controls to be operated
simultaneously with the switch, and operation
becomes tricky. Then ensure that the hand operating
those controls has to be re-located to activate
the awkwardly placed switch and efficiency is
halved. Finally, design the switch so that it
requires an uncomfortable and unnatural thumb
movement to use it and all pretence at efficiency
is lost completely. And yet that is exactly
what Suzuki have done.
Flashers are required precisely at the same
time as is the front brake (direction changing
requires a change in road speed) and the throttle
(the same applies). In my opinion, the dip switch
and flasher switch should both be mounted on
the left-hand handlebar, and both should move
in line with that of the machine.
The ignition and lighting switch was thoughtlessly
mounted under the left-hand side of the fuel
tank nose. Headlamp flashing is a very necessary
signal on many occasions on the road, but on
the Sting&r was, for all practical purposes,
Silencing of both exhaust and induction was
good. Only in the medium rev ranges under hard
acceleration were any perceptible overtones
of irritating noise evident and that, I suspect,
was mainly induction roar and therefore limited
to the rider only.
The concept of a machine such as this one owes
much to America. As testing proceeded it became
pretty obvious that it was not designed with
any pretentions to serious motorcycling. Although
the riding position is comfortable, it is at
loggerheads with the other qualities of the
machine. Handlebar, footrest, and seating relationship
is pure town or low speed touring, without any
concessions towards sportiness or windcheating
which, frankly, the Stinger could do with.
Only two motorcycles have ever come my way
that have ever suggested to me, by merit of
their performance style, that they needed clip-on
handlebars, rear set foot-rests, and back-stop
seat. One was the Kawasaki Mach III, and the
other was the Stinger. In its present trim any
pretentions to a windcheating crouch are nominal,
no more. Yet even so, such an action had a definite
effect upo^i performance, especially when
riding into the wind when, at the machine's
optimum speed, another five uiph could be persuaded
from the engine. Given the full English treatment,
including a small racing fairing, the useable
top speed of the Stinger would be raised by
as much as ten mph.
Alan squeezed more from the 125 twin than I
did, which only rivets home the need for a small
frontal area, Alan weighing some 42 Ibs less
than I do. He, on a couple of occasions, forced
needle around to 80 mph, which even allowing
for the five mph speedometer exaggeration is
an extremely creditable speed for such a tiny
engine. Moreover, it agrees with the manufacturer's
claimed top speed. I could not manage more than
69 mph, and found that fourth gear gave me as
good a turn of speed as fifth.
Petrol consumption suffered from the engine
peculiarities. At top speed cruising, only 41
mpg was accomplished, while more sensible, all-round
commuting, shopping and testing speeds
returned 57 mpg. Both could be improved on by
a correctly tuned engine. Oil consumption was
something better than 300 mpp, although
due to a faulty oil injection gun at a filling
station, I cannot state exactly what.
Starting was good. Usually the engine burst
into life on the third kick, a characteristic
of diaphragm operated fuel taps, even with a
free flow device as fitted to the Stinger.
Fashionably dressed in the trendy coulours
of the season — lime green tank and matt
black exhausts — Suzuki have produced
one of the best looking machines of the year,
and this is probably the greatest appeal of
the 'bike. To most people, non-motorcyclists
as well, it was all too apparently irresistible.
Few will buy it because of its sensible specification.
Sales success will be directly attributed to
Flat parallel twin. Portirtg, piston controlled.
Capacity, 124 cc. Bore and stroke, 43 x 43 mm.
Compression, (from exhaust port closure) 7.3:1.
Power, maximum claimed torque, 9.98 ft/lbs at
700 rpm, bhp, 15.1 at 8500 rpra Carburetters,
twin 18 mm Amal MD, breathing through paper
Generator, crankshaft mounted alternator. Battery,
6 v. 7.5 ah. Ignition, twin coil and contact
breaker. Headlamp, 25x 25 w.
Primary drive, gear. Final drive, chain, incorporating
rubber cush drive in rear hub. Final drive gear
ratios, bottom, 24.88:1,16.20,12.21,9.70, top,
8.53:1. Gear selection, RH foot pedal, up-for-up.
Fuel and Lubrication:
Fuel tank steel, 1.5 galls, including 3 pint
reserve. Oil tank, 2.5 pint. Posilubeoil injection
direct to crankshaft and cylinder walls.
Front, 2.50 x 18 in, ribbed tyre. Rear,2.75x
18 "in, zig-zag tyre. Brakes, 5.5 in sis
front and rear.
All welded double loop tubular steel. Engine
suspended cantilever fash ion beneath lower
Front, hydraulically damped tele-fork. Rear,
hydraulically damped pivoted fork, adjustable
three ways for load. Performance:
Speed through gears at 8500 rpm, 1st—24
mph, 2ndr37 mph, 3rd-49 mph, 4th-61 mph, 5th—69
mph. Under reasonably favourable conditions,
this last speed could be comfortably exceeded
by revving into the danger zone. Dimensions
50 in. Clearance, 6.5 in. Weight, with full
tanks, 230 Ibs. Price: £249.50.
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