In 1997 the Suzuki TL1000S was released and very quickly was dubbed the ‘widow maker’, it was a motorcycle that caused endless issues for Suzuki in the beginning resulting in a worldwide recall.
Equally it became an instant cult classic with a brilliant engine, a difficult to tame beast, built to be ridden hard, to meet consumer demand and compete as a V-twin sports bike with other V twins from the likes of Ducati.
Let’s dig into the legend of the TL1000S and see if it really was as bad as it seemed at the time and if it holds any merit today.
By the mid-90’s World Superbikes were dominated by the Ducati 916 V-twin racer and so many manufacturers were turning to the power of a V-twin engine to both meet the trends in the market while also competing with the European racers.
The TL1000S was Suzuki’s offering to the V-twin sportbike mix for 1997, the all new engine would go on to later be used in the SV1000 and V Strom along with the Cagiva Raptor and Bimota SB8.
However, the Suzuki TL1000S wasn’t quite the hit Suzuki needed, perhaps due to rushed development many owners of the first generation were hit with the dangerous problem of the bike being known for its tank slapper reputation. This was largely due to a radical rotary rear shock that simply couldn’t keep up with the new motor.
Suzuki were quick to recall affected motorcycles and fit a steering damper which was a cheap fix along with a slight adjustment to the engine.
The problem was the damage was done and even though Suzuki changed the bike to make it more suitable and improved the overall build quality, it would only last a few years in production.
The TL1000R was released in 1998 as the superbike version of the TLS, this model wasn’t plagued by the same issues the S model had early on.
Production ended in 2001 and that was the end of the TL1000S; it was not replaced, the TL1000R however continued to be produced until 2004.
Suzuki TL1000S Review
Upon its release the reputation for serious tank slappers causing accidents was almost instantaneous and the worldwide recall was an essential claw back by Suzuki for them to be able to regain some traction in the V twin sports market.
Aside from this major issue, riders at the time were very clear about the Suzuki TL1000S, it was a powerful bike with fuel injection, that was fun to ride despite its somewhat gnarly handling.
With a maximum power output of 125 horsepower and 130 Nm of torque and a slick gearbox for you to run through the 6 gears the new engine was a sure fire hit.
Today you would consider the bike pretty tame in comparison to something like the new Panigale but providing you take it easy on the throttle you have a smooth power delivery that can have you feeling quite relaxed at speed. The torque is spread nicely to carry you in and out of bends where needed and you won’t be left lacking or wanting for more.
It was the first Suzuki sportster to receive fuel injection, the trellis frame, inverted forks and torque limiting clutch also made the TLS a bike ahead of its time, these features appealed to riders then for the same reason they appeal to riders now.
So, despite the unsteady start, a quick fix with a steering damper meant the TLS was still a bike enjoyed by many and to some extent applauded as a V twin sporting success.
The engine went on to be used in various models and is considered rock solid; while the fancy rear suspension was built with good intentions it was the bikes achilles heel. The fact is though today if you pick a bike up you can switch it out to something like an Ohlins shock and you will have a well set up motorcycle.
Suzuki TL1000S Specs list
Engine and Transmission
- Engine – Four stroke, 90 degree V twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
- Capacity – 996cc
- Bore x Stroke – 98 x 66mm
- Compression Ratio – 11.3:1
- Cooling System – Liquid-cooled
- Starting – Electric
- Transmission – 6 speed
- Final Drive – Chain
- Clutch – Wet, multi-disc, cable operated
- Top Speed – 160mph
Chassis and Dimensions
- Frame – Aluminium trellis frame
- Front Suspension – 43mm inverted fork, coil-spring, fully adjustable
- Rear Suspension – Rotary damper, fully adjustable
- Front Brakes – 2 x 320mm discs, 4 piston calipers
- Rear Brakes – Single 220mm disc, 2 piston caliper
- Wheelbase – 1,415mm/55.7″
- Length – 2.065mm/81.3″
- Width – 715mm/28.1″
- Height – 1,175mm/46.3″
- Dry Weight – 191kg/421lbs
- Seat Height – 825mm/32.9″
- Fuel Capacity – 17 litres
There was only one variant of the TL1000S and that was the TL1000R that was released a year after the original model. It was the racing version, a superbike V twin that skipped the issues the first TL had.
Prices in the US start from around $2,500 and go up to around $5,000 but they are few and far between.
There are more models available in the UK with prices on average around the £2,500-3,000 pricepoint.
Prices are slowly creeping up as more riders are seeking out bikes with some history and the TL1000S has a fearsome reputation.
Does the TL1000S make for a good Restoration project?
You can pick up a really good ready to run TLS for under £3,000 in the UK and under $3,000 in the US. Therefore picking one up that might have a few issues is a breeze, and finding one for sale at a good price is even easier.
Parts are easy to come by, cheap to get a hold of and eBay is your best bet for finding what you might need for sale from the onset.
A TL1000S makes a good restoration project for someone who wants to work on restoring a sportsbike and get to grips working their way round a big V twin engine.
There isn’t much benefit to restoring one for profit right now, but prices are on the rise so you might be able to make something on your investment in a few years time.
Is the Suzuki TL1000S a future classic?
With a bad boy reputation and more power than most people will ever need on the road, the value of good TLS models is on the rise.
While some of the hype surrounding the TLS in regards to just how mental it is might be slightly exaggerated, the fact they are now pretty coveted is not.
If you like to collect bikes that have impacted the motorcycle world and are considered to be a bit of an odd breed then one of these might just be for you.
Who doesn’t love a rebel or an outlaw, a bike with a comeback story?
Alright, admittedly the TL1000S was a more than a little bit of a disaster upon its release, but today it will give any modern V twin sportster a run for it’s money. If you are brave enough to hop on, you can have serious fun riding around on the thing, twist the throttle, hold on for your life and shoot for the top end.