Viewed alongside other machines from the period, the Suzuki is highly advanced, using design techniques developed in the ground breaking 250 and 500 twins. Horizontally split crank case make for easy assembly while a fluid, six-speed gearbox matches the engines desire for acceleration well while rider aids such as vacuum fuel taps may appear unnecessary but none the less do prove to be handy. This is especially true for those who have ever forgotten to turn off the fuel and had an engine full of petrol, and its resultant new plugs and exhaust pipes full of the stuff, as the end result. The “Posi-force” auto lube system meters oil directly to the parts that need it rather than just dumping it into the inlet tracts and letting it find its won way to the needy bearings and reciprocating parts.
Externally The Rebel is exactly the same size as the T250 in every respect, the same chassis, clean lines, brakes, all except the piston and carburettor dimensions, are carried over to the 350. The extra power and torque on tap from the 350, make the front end unpredictable when hard on the gas, while at any kind of lean the front wheel washes out and calls for a great deal of respect to be given.
Switching the ignition on and getting ready to start the T350 reveals the only fault found with the design, both the switch and kick-starter are placed on the left hand side making it difficult for those more accustomed to having these on the top yoke and right hand side respectively. It never feels natural to be kicking with the left boot, the Suzuki is a sprightly starter but none the less, it is clumsy and fraught with bruised shins until mastered.
Power comes on strong and healthily from a shade over 3500 and for the next 1500 revs this is the best place to be for pottering around and minding your own business. The bike has little to say for itself within this range and is happy to keep up this pretence all day long, let the revs rise however and a second wind is achieved, the engine takes off again on its way to the redline around 8000 rpm. Unlike its gearbox happy 250cc stable mate the 350 will stay in one gear right down into the lower reaches of the tacho and then back up again, gear shifts are few unless you really want to race something else.
Looking at the frame reveals a conventional and hefty looking, twin down tube design that is echoed at the rear end as the loops meet the top rail at the mid point of the seat. There is a distinct absence of any tubes doing any serious work in the middle of all this however and the hole left between the headstock and rear swing arm pivot is vast in comparison with other designs. With so little metal work in the chassis one could be forgiven for thinking the ride could be compromised, in truth however, the handling is as sharp and predictable as anything else in its age group, with only the powerful engine sticking its nose in and ruining the show.
Quite strange in modern times is the feel from the front forks, they are very soft and compliant but, have very little in the way of travel, with a mere three inches of usable movement the result is more like ten, such is the way they handle bumps and unevenness. This is totally at odds with the rear that, by comparison is very stiff, riding out the bumps of the road surface but, rarely removing them before they reach the rider perched on the slimly padded, and not at all soft, seat. A twist or two of the friction damper that runs down the centre of the steering stem, soon has the Suzuki playing ball again although, this in turn spoils the low speed handling once back in traffic, so constant adjustment of this damper is needed to get the ride just ride for the relevant surroundings. It isn’t all-good when on the move, at speed the twin leading shoe front brake does lose much of its composure, the initial grab that is so keen below 50mph is almost none existent above it. The bike does slow but, with no sense of urgency, until down shifts and rear brake is thrown into the equation to ease the poor guy up fronts work load.
The engine is so torquey, thanks to Suzuki’s desire not to produce a true fire breathing monster, the bore sizes may well be increased from the T250’s 54mm but, the all important ports, by comparison, are not enlarged to the same extent. Using Suzuki’s “ Vol-U-Matic” porting technique has created an engine with tons of usable grunt that doesn’t get out of hand like a one might expect a powerful piston-port stroker to do. The capacity actually adds up to 315cc which is a good 32cc’s shy of the Yamaha R5, even with such a disadvantage the T350 gives a good account of itself especially with that extra ratio in the box compared to the Yamaha’s five speeds.
Aesthetically the T series is very pleasing to the eye, on its side stand the 350 is pert and willing with a tail down and head up attitude. The overall design is simple and not in any way ostentatious, not bristling with chrome like many from the period but rather functional and business like with every thing in the right amount. This doesn’t diminish once on the move and the twin is eager to go. For a little machine the 350 Suzuki is a real mover, feeling like a 250 but going and pulling far stronger. The carburetion is complex, using instruments of a size previously unseen with this capacity of engine the potential for an over rich mixture, and with it bogging down low in the rev range, in use however the 32mm Mikunis are smooth and well controlled, creating a low down grunt not normally associated with piston-port, two-stroke engines.
It isn’t just aesthetics the ergonomics are pretty good too, the bars fall to hand exactly where they should for a comfy ride while the footrests and seat are just spot on. Looking back at magazine tests etc from the period and Suzuki did indeed place great store in this model and has to get every aspect right for the super competitive, and choosey, US market place.
We in the UK didn’t get a good shot at this model and few will have actually seen, let alone ridden one. This is a great shame as the T350, had they have ever met, would have been a worthy challenger for the now legendary RD350. If things had been different, Suzuki may well have developed the 350 twin along the same lines as the RD series and, with that scenario, would have come greater strides in two-stroke technology. We will of course never know as the middleweight T350 was axed before it could ever flourish to make way for the GT triples.
Suzuki T350 Rebel Model History
In the mid 60’s the general consensus within the motorcycle press was that the production of a two-stroke over 250cc was highly unlikely, the belief being that the two stroke engine was little more than a fragile toy on the road, and a small capacity machine for race use only. Suzuki broke that mould in the latter part of 1967, first with the T500 twin and, despite serious doubt being placed upon that machines mechanical integrity, began the emergence of the type as a serious motorcycle. The first of the middleweight Suzuki twins, the 305 Raider appeared a year after the donor machine the T20 in 1969, identical in every way to the 250cc bike but featured a larger 60mm bore size to give a capacity of 305cc. Even when fighting shy of the full 350cc engine size, the Raider gave a good account of itself against other machines in its class and was well received by all who rode it.
For the original Raider, the gearbox remained the same as the 250 donor bottom end but for the Rebel, introduced a year later in 1969, it was soon recognised that a slight “touring” edge would be desirable in the US market that the type was created for. The whole gearbox came in for revision with a lower top speed being the result but with a good deal more fun to be had in the midrange.
The capacity was increased yet again by taking the piston diameter out to 62mm to give a total volume of 315cc, still well short of the rest of the middleweight bunch on paper but not evident in use. The T350 remained in the line up as the 70’s arrived and looked like staying too, however when the GT range emerged the middleweight was sadly missing. Suzuki had pampered to the US market once again and replaced the bike with the GT380 triple, the smallest of a whole range of such designs culminating in the water-cooled GT750. If the T350 had grown into a disc brake GT, and been allowed to develop like the 250cc version was, Yamaha may well have not had such an easy ride in the two stroke twin stakes, it pure conjecture, but just imagine a GT400 to keep the RD400 honest throughout the 70’s.
Suzuki T305/350 timeline
1968 T305 Raider model code 180
Basically, an over bored T20, the chassis and cycle parts are identical with only the panel badges giving the game away.
1970 T350 II Rebel model code 185
Rear grab rail was the only distinguishing component between this and the first model.
1971 T350 R Rebel model code 185
Very much the same machine although the tank has lost its 60’s feel and looks more like the upcoming GT series. 2 kgs was also lost in the detail, making it slightly faster away from a standstill. A restricted GT version was produced for the Japanese market, identical in every way to the T’s but with around 6bhp less.
1972 T350 J Rebel model code 185
The last of the series and destined for axing from the line up to make way for the GT380 triple, the twin never did get the chance to don hydraulic brakes and take on the RD350.
Suzuki T350 Rebel Specifications
- Engine – air-cooled, two-stroke, piston-port, parallel twin
- Capacity – 315cc
- Bore & stroke – 62 x 54mm
- Compression Ratio – 6.9:1
- Carburation – 32mm Mikuni
- Max Power – 39bhp @ 8000rpm
- Torque – 29ft-lb @ 6500rpm
- Ignition – contact breaker
- Transmission – 6-speed, wet clutch, chain final drive
- Frame – steel twin loop cradle
- Suspension – 33mm telescopic forks twin shock adjustable spring pre load
- Wheels – 300 x 18 3.25 x 18
- Brakes – 180 mm twin leading shoe drum front. 180 mm single leading shoe drum rear
- Wheelbase – 1295mm
- Weight – 147kgs
- Fuel capacity – 12 ltrs
- Top speed – 97mph
Suzuki T350 Rebel Gallery
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