What was it?
Well, if we’re honest (sorry, Suzuki) it was nothing more than a fashion-follower. You see, the Honda FireBlade of 1992 lit a fire under the manufacturers who had – for a fair few years – stuck to 1000cc or 750cc formats. Well, until the 893cc Blade turned up. Suddenly Kawasaki (with their ZX-9R B in 1994) and then Suzuki in 1995 decided to get in on the action…Sadly, like the Kawasaki it wasn’t quite what people wanted at the time.
Well, reading the original launch articles all was well with the RF900R… It was a cheap, very fast motorcycle which did the job, but – well – when you looked at its cubic capacity, the magazines of the day had to lump it in with the FireBlade when it came to group tests… and…well… that’s when the bike had an issue. The RF900 just wasn’t the same thing as the FireBlade. It was a much more comfortable bike, not an out-and-out sportster but it had lots of good bits: such as that motor. This was based on the GSX-R1100W, but with smaller 36mm carbs. This gave it useful torque but a still-good top-end of around 165mph. The chassis utilised a steel beam frame which really embarrassed the GSX-R1100’s and 750’s in the handling stakes, even if the RF itself was never deemed quite as fashionable as a GSX-R – which is a shame…
Weight was the bike’s major problem: at 203 kilos it was 18 kilos heavier than the CBR900RR FireBlade and had lazier steering geometry (and a 17-inch front) even if it was lighter than the Kawasaki ZX-9R. Either way, while it was not quite as sporty or cutting-edge as the FireBlade or even the ZX-9R, it did have many positive attributes…
What did people like about it?
Price, mainly: a FireBlade was £8195 in early 1994, a ZX-9R £8095 and a ZZ-R1100 was £8350. The RF900R was just £6799 and a grand cheaper than the Suzuki’s own GSX-R750: it was a deal faster and more comfy, too. That made it perhaps the best pound-per performance machine on the market at the time. That meant the real people (you lot, the bike buyers) love it. It may have sacrificed outright sporting ability for comfort, stability and poise with a pillion, but that was A-OK for many of us: and more so, since…
Who bought the bike then and now?
If you want something big, fast, cheap and comfortable there isn’t much better today – even with prices of some other ‘peer models’ heading north. The RF is still under the radar, it seems. Many people don’t care how much quicker a Blade was around a track or how much cooler the ZX-9R was, they wanted a bike that was cheap and did the business. And they still do…
Savings had to be made somewhere, so – yes – there are some compared to its peers. Finish is the big one: you’ll either find really mint Suzuki RF900Rs or those that were bought cheap to use as commuter bikes until they dissolved. Suspension was also basic then and now: the rear was fully adjustable, but the front was rebound and preload only. Brakes were also the marginal at the time, but since popular Nissin calipers and colour schemes often needed sunglasses to be seen to be believed…
What’s the RF like today?
Well, here was a bike that was great value, but was ignored by Suzuki themselves. Many of us loved the looks, size, price and practicality. Sadly the bike was deleted from the Suzuki GB line-up by 1999…
Today a decent RF is still phenomenal value. Even with the stiffening-up of many bargain-basement 1990s machines over the last year or so, the RF is still at the cheap end. But, today that means a grand as a starting price tag. Where minters would be £2500 now they’re a grand more… but that’s not such a bad thing. We at CB-Net say there’s a lot to love about the RF900R – it’s got a big heart and all for a good price. Give one a go and be prepared to fall in love with its charms. As many have at the: www.rfownersclub.co.uk
Suzuki RF900R 1994-1999
Price when new: £6799 (June 1994)
Price now: £1000-£3500
Engine: Liquid cooled 16 valve DOHC
Power: 120bhp (rear wheel)
Weight: 203kg (dry)
For: Brilliant value still… we love the looks…
Against: Some hate the looks! Budget with a capital B!