A comfortable, dawdling commuter or a hair-raising hot-rod, a six-speed gearbox which transports you from a conformist 30 miles-an-hour to a rebellious ton! These are the delights of Suzuki’s new 350 two-stroke twin, aptly named the Rebel.
There is very little difference between the 250 Hustler and 350 Rebel in appearance as cycle parts and accessories are identical. It is in the actual performance of the two bikes where the Rebel is obviously superior.
The bottom-end power from those extra 100cc, actually there are only 315 and not a precise 350, is quite surprising. With 3500 rpm showing on the tachometer, the Rebel would accelerate rapidly when the taps were opened.
This meant useful performance between 3500 and 5500 rpm without having to scream the motor to its 8000 redline peak. By keeping to these intermediate revs, mechanical and exhaust noise was kept to a minimum. On the other hand, if you made use of the 6000 to 8000 front-wheel-lifting rpm band, the motor took on a semi-racing yowl, emitted clouds of blue smoke from the exhaust and the Rebel took off like a scalded cat.
The six-speed gearbox also meant that if you used all the revs and brake horses available, there was no chance of finding an “out-of-power-band” ratio. Consequently, rapid cog-swapping was the order of the day when accelerating hard or braking rapidly for a junction.
Fortunately, the gearchange was so light and positive that cog-swapping was a pleasure. It also allowed virtually all cog changes to be made without use of the clutch. With slight pressure on the lever, up or down, the momentary slack in transmission as one closed or opened the throttle allowed the gear to slide home.
Obviously, this method of changing gear isn’t to be recommended to all, as bad changes can easily wreck a gearbox. In our case, we attempted it just to prove how good the Suzuki is in the transmission department.
Starting the Rebel proved no problem, even when covered in the last of winter’s snow. A minimum of two and a maximum of eight prods on the kickstart, with “easy start” lever depressed on the twin carbs, were all that was needed to bring the buzzy two-stroke motor alive.
Half a minute to warm up and the “easy start” lever could be raised. However, a few more minutes’ riding were necessary before wide throttle openings could be used without signs of protest from a semi-warm motor. Quite loud piston slap was apparent during this warming-up period, but this improved once the motor had reached the normal running temperature. However, there was still quite a lot of piston ring rattle on the over-run when decelerating at high rpm. High-frequency vibration also made itself apparent at engine speeds over 5500 rpm, but the thoughtful Japanese had accounted for this on instruments and the handlebars by rubber mounting these components. But it didn’t stop the tingle through rider’s and passenger’s feet.
Apart from this vibration, another sound reason for keeping revs down was fuel consumption. Used gently, this 350 would be quite reasonable with a happy 65 to 70 mpg. But use the revs and performance and just over 40 mpg was the penalty.
However, this isn’t common only to this particular motorcycle, for all two-strokes seem to suffer this same thirst for fuel when used hard.
As already mentioned, performance from the Rebel is very good and it is a fact that the front wheel lifts off the ground in both first and second gear if hard use is made of the throttle. Consequently, it is necessary to treat the twist-grip with extreme care.
A combination of greasy London roads, Japanese tyres and lively acceleration leaves nothing to the imagination when we say it is possible to become involved in tricky situations if care isn’t taken in the wet.
Fortunately, adhesion proved no problem in the dry and in spite of excellent ground clearance, it was found that the prop stand was grounding on tight right-hand bends.
Handling for average road speeds was good, but when forced the Rebel protested with a pitching motion. Damping appeared too light and failed to take the bounce out of the springy suspension at front or rear. The suspension would bottom when carrying a pillion passenger and riding over bumpy roads. The pillion passenger accommodation was also cramped for anybody but a small person. The steering lock was very good for about-town riding. It was possible to manoeuvre in the tightest spaces, and with a reasonably low saddle height a small rider could easily touch the ground with both feet when at a standstill.
The riding position was good with all controls within easy reach of both feet and hands. A pleasant feature was the flashing indicator control, which was sufficiently positive to be able to operate effectively even when wearing gauntlets. This definitely makes a change. Foot controls for rear brake and gearchanging were good, but one criticism here is thefootrests which are so shaped as to rub against the heel of the rider’s boot when changing gear or braking.Consequently, boots suffered with patches of leather being graunched from the heel.
The Rebel, similar to the many other models in the Suzuki range, has Posiforce lubrication. It is one of the new breed of two-strokes introduced by the Japanese a few years ago, which seem unaffected by revs and can outpace four-strokes of almost twice their capacity The Posiforce system is one of the two-stroke improvements which make this possible. Posiforce feeds oil directly to the main bearings, big-ends and cylinder barrel without having to be diluted by petrol. The oil is also controlled and fed into the motor according to the load placed on the motor by the amount of throttle being used.
This is a marvellous system which not only provides far superior two-stroke lubrication, but a large saving on oil consumption.Posiforce also cuts out the petroil mixing, and pump attendants still question the fact about putting neat petrol in the tank of what is obviously a two-stroke motorcycle.
Talking of petrol, it is best to run the T350 on three or four star fuel to avoid pinking, for although the compression ratio appears very low, this is because it is taken by Japanese-type measurements, which do not consider that compression is taking place until all ports are closed. In other words, a straight comparison between Japanese and British figures is not possible.
So far we have mentioned almost everything about the Rebel except possibly the most important thing with regard to safety, and that’s braking.
The twin-leading-shoe front brake is good at low speeds, but could be improved for highspeed use. The actual lever movement is soft and brake response gradual, but it takes real effort to get the front wheel/ tyre squealing. Perhaps harder linings would prove the answer for somebody who wishes to use all available performance from the Rebel.
Anyway, apart from these few minor criticisms, we found the Suzuki T350 Rebel to be a very exciting machine to ride because of its true heavyweight performance with lightweight looks. It’s a pity the chrome and weather protection couldn’t be improved to suit the British climate!
Suzuki T350 Gallery