Stories

A Tale Of Two Suzukis

“What goes around comes around.” This saying applies to a great many things in life. If you’re nice to other people, other people are likely to be nice to you. If you help a friend when they’re down, that friend is likely to help you when you need it most. If you pound a tetherball as hard as you can, that tetherball is likely to fly around the pole and smack you in the face. And now, I’ve had two motorcycles come back to me, too.

The Suzuki Savage, a.k.a. LS650, a.k.a. Boulevard S40, is a small cruiser – too small for me, to be honest. Yet it’s an excellent and popular choice for smaller riders, particularly new ones. It’s low enough for them to flat-foot, and light enough (381lbs wet) to not feel overwhelming after the small 125s and 250s of the MSF course. Yet unlike another short rider favorite, the Honda Rebel, the Savage’s 650cc single cylinder engine provides adequate power for all types of riding, including the highway. My old CM250 Custom, on which the Rebel is based, would have Scotty call me from the engine room and say “I’m givin’ ‘er all she’s got, Captain!” as I tried to maintain the speed limit on the interstate. It was for these reasons that a number of years ago my girlfriend at the time, Pam, bought a 1986 Savage off Craigslist.

1986 Suzuki Savage
Looks great. Too bad it didn’t run, but we knew that going in.

She got it for a song because it was in non-running condition. The previous owner was completely honest about having run out of oil on the Maine Turnpike, and it had never run since. But the engine wasn’t seized, either, so we figured there was hope. The tires were old and dry rotted, so she replaced those. Because Pam had no motorcycle license when we started this adventure (she later took the MSF course, as all new riders should), she couldn’t get insurance for the bike to register it. That seems kind of backwards to me – how else are you supposed to get the experience to be a safe rider besides riding? But that’s the way it was. So we registered and insured it in my name instead. I already owned and insured my Honda Silverwing, so we just added it to my policy.

Meanwhile, I’d brought the Savage over to a nearby biker buddy’s house, who was convinced that we could rebuild it together in his garage. It’s like an oversized lawn mower single cylinder lawn mower engine. It’s so small that it fit in the trunk of my Miata for transport to the machine shop to get the cylinder rebored for a +1 size piston. How hard could it be?

Hussey's General Store
Really, I’ve been here. But I didn’t try on any wedding gowns.

We were only a couple of miles away from this place that the internet has made famous. Yes, Hussey’s General Store really exists in Windsor, Maine, where my friend lives. They have an excellent hardware section, which we raided more than once to replace rusted or busted bolts and such.

A year passed, consisting mostly of not working on the bike, and goofing off while we were. There was frequently cold beer involved (we were close to Hussey’s, after all). My friend also had a sweet R/C car track, which was a frequent distraction.

I vividly recall one work session where, out of blue, he asked me, “Do you wanna shoot a gun that’ll KICK YOUR ASS???” So I did. Don’t ask me what his hunting rifle was. I know almost nothing about guns aside from how to be safe around them and what I’ve learned watching FPS Russia. There wasn’t even a target, just a big pile of dirt to catch the bullet. It did not kick my ass, but it did have quite a kick, and I was thankful for his insistence that I brace the stock with my shoulder before firing.

As you might expect, the work on the motorcycle (there was a motorcycle here?) was haphazard at best. Eventually, pretty much when my friend finally wanted that part of his garage back, we got it all back together again. And with a bit of cranking, it started, and it actually ran! Mission accomplished.

I broke down halfway home when the freshly rebuilt motor let the magic smoke out. A lot of smoke. It never ran again.

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