Monday, August 14, 2006

Remembering Rotary: Suzuki RE-5


In 1975, the rotary-engined Suzuki RE-5 was the bee's knees... :-)
imagebam.com Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5 Suzuki RE-5
In September 1974, Suzuki issued a press release about the RE-5, which said that ‘The Suzuki RE-5 rotary-engined touring motorcycle is the ultimate achievement in motorcycle design, engineering and workmanship. The RE-5 is powered by a unique liquid-cooled NSU-Wankel type 497cc Suzuki rotary engine specially designed and improved for motorcycle application by Suzuki Motor Company Ltd.’

Ah, well. That 499cc NSU-Wankel made a claimed 62 horsepower and was solid mounted on a weedy double downtube frame. Suzuki claimed that rubber bushings weren’t required for the RE-5 to deliver virtually vibration free performance. This was a rotary-engined motorcycle after all!

The mid-1970s was a time when everyone wanted a rotary engine in their lineup. Yamaha was working on the twin rotor RZ-201, Honda were testing a CRX rotary prototype, Kawasaki were working on the X-99 rotary, and even Sachs/Hercules of Germany were readying the W-2000 rotary machine. Wow! Norton, of course, went on to actually build and race their rotary-powered F1, a very few of which were also sold to the public.

Anyway, coming back to the RE-5, the bike had a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes at the front. Suzuki offered a 12-month/12,000 mile warranty on all internal engine and transmission components on this bike. The RE-5 was launched simultaneously in Germany, England, France, Spain, Belgium, and the United States. Suzuki started selling the bike by January 1975, but there were problems with fueling and other engine components and the company ceased production of this bike towards the end of 1976. And with it ended yet another chapter in the saga of rotary-engined motorcycles…

The RE-5 was heavy and unreliable, and Suzuki stopped production of this bike in late 1976
A pic of the RE-5 out in the open somewhere. Proof that people actually bought and rode this thing! :-)

12 comments:

Jess Stockwell said...

I find it interesting that folks who have never owned an Re5 take great pleasure in discussing them. I cannot say how many times I have read "they(Suzuki Re5's) were unreliable". That is patently incorrect. They were an excellent motorcycle in terms of reliability and longevity. Were they perfect... no, but what motorcycle is perfect in everyones eyes.

They were a technological marvel for their time, and quite an enjoyable motorcycle to ride. Set up properly, they are dead nuts reliable, and will outlast most riders. They are unique and rare, and becoming quite valuable.

Were they commercially sucessful? Nope... but if that is they only criteria for judgement...then Brittney Spears and Snoop are the greatest musicians ever...

Just my 2 cents...

Anonymous said...

MY RE5 ROCKED! It was a blast to ride and always turned heads.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Stockwell is absolutely correct. The RE-5 was quite a reliable bike. It's poor sales were due to several factors. 1)It was strange. 2) It got dismal fuel milage. 3) It was strange.

Anonymous said...

I have owned and ridden my RE5 constantly since 1985. It has travelled 82,000ks all thats been done is a new set of rubber orings in the side scraping oil seals but didnt need doing. Now im back riding it just come back from a 100k ride. went perfect as usual.

Anonymous said...

"A pic of the RE-5 out in the open somewhere."

Kokkoralli 1977 or 1978, Finland

HOPMAH said...

When I returned from over seas duty a buddy and I bought the first two sold in California, Saddle bags and fairings. We took a long cross country trip to break them in and found they were burning a lot of oil. Suzuki sent over techs who tore them down ans told us we were being to gentle do the seals had not seated. So we took another trip and drove them like the wind, miss my great ride. In fact I have not ridden since we parted. Bride said no. Bride gone now I want my RE5 back!

Denis said...

I think I bought the 1st one that was sold in the Montreal, Canada area in may 1975 and yes it was burning a lot of oil (1 quart every 450 to 500 miles)and it was fouling plugs every 1000 miles. Oil was $3.00 and plugs $10.00. That was a lot of $$$ back then.
I really enjoyed riding it and for a 500cc it was quick and very smooth.

Anonymous said...

I owned my blue RE5 for 8 years and done 46,000 miles on it. I got 43 mpg with normal riding so how the magazines got 18mpg god only knows! The engine failed at 18 and 38k respectively with the same fault - a cracked rotor housing due to overheating around the spark plug. I had it modified after the second blow up by a rotary car (Mazda RX7) specialist and all was well. A fabulous touring bike, smooth, solid on the road and comfortable. It was not a sports bike and would not perform or handle like one which is what the press expected it to do for some odd reason. As far as oil consumption - it was designed to use oil hence the under seat tank similar to the Suzuki CCI system on their two-strokes. Some parts were a problem however with a special and difficult to find NGK spark plug costing £6.50 (in 1980) and oil filters were cheaper sent to the UK from the USA than those available in England. Mainstream Suzuki dealers knew little about the bike only a few years after it ceased production and a dealer in Berlin thought I had made it myself!
Overall my favourite bike out of dozens I have owned. I only sold it because parts were becomming very hard to find and some were impossible. I knew that if I dropped it, the bike would never be the same because some damaged parts were simply not available.

Steven said...

Unreliable? I think not! Have one with over 145,000 miles and still running. still riding it back and forth to work every day, well maybe not in the snow, any more. Have more than one even, a very enjoyable motorcycle. I work at a Suzuki, Yamaha, Harley dealership so I do have the chance to ride newer macines, parts haven't been a problem, yet, Still turns heads, Still sound like no other motorcycle,

Anonymous said...

Damn all the memories of up and down the West Coast, Alcan and back to Washington DC off to New Jersey then to North Carolina. Had a wreck due to a very large pot hole backed up by a frost heave shattered both drums at 100+ mph but kept it up brought it to a stop and my wife said no more bike. Wish I could find another one.

Anonymous said...

Wow 1976 I brought a GS435E, 78 a GS550E in 80 a used Re5 cause I also owned a 80 mazda RX-7... them were the days, people, unlike today, people just dont give chit about motorcyclist anymore... they will run you off the run, cause the can..
in 1989 I went to Honda V65 magna, that was a power house bike.. then in 99 went to Yamaha Virgo 1100.. then fracture C-4.. not riding anymore..

Anonymous said...

I just picked up an RE 5. The original seat has been replaced by a king/queen ugly thing. Does anyone know where to get an original or nice after market original looking seat? Kevin

HA102@aol.com

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