Suzuki TL1000R (1998-2004) – Tomorrow’s Classic Today

This ‘ere is what we at CB-Net describe as Suzuki’s ‘cul-de-sac sportsbike.’

Back in the mid to late 1990s, everyone was following the fad and fashion of the V-twin (well, apart from Yamaha who went the parallel twin route and Kawasaki who didn’t care) and this was down to the likes of Ducati doing very well with their 900SS and 916 ranges. Soon, Honda had their VTR1000F FireStorm and Suzuki the TL1000S.

Now, it’s fair to say the TL1000S was considered to be a bit scary, wild and wayward. Suzuki’s reputation took a hit with the S as the 120bhp motor and flappy handling let to crashes and even one fatality. Second-gen TLs would leave the showroom with a steering damper fitted, but it was often the rotary rear shock/damper which people pointed fingers at…

Suzuki TL1000RFor their next bite of the V-twin cherry, Suzuki would fully-clothe the TL1000 and give it an ‘R’ not an ‘S’ at the end. This was to signify ‘Race’ and it was thought that – should the then-new GSX-R750 SRAD not make the grade in racing, a pepped-up TL1000R twin would hit the World Superbike tracks instead… Why else put a ‘V-Twin Superbike’ logo on the flanks?

For the R version, out went the S-model’s Ducati-esque ally trellis and in came a beefy beam frame. The R also had a more solid braced swingarm and importantly there was a revised version of the TL-S’s rotary damper system and separate shock absorber. The R’s version was improved with a temperature compensator, which saw the oil in the damper move through smaller holes as it increases in temperature. This helped a lot…

In comparison to the competition of the time, the TL1000R was blessed with a motor that even put the Ducati 916 in the shade: this was a pukka 120bhp (130 claimed) and is one of the finest V-twin motors ever developed. No surprise that some find their way into a Ducati 916’s trellis frame…

Chassis-wise the TL-R had the same wheelbase as a Yamaha YZF-R1 (1395mm) and sharp 23-degree steering geometry. Suzuki had learned the TL-S lesson and every TL-R came with a steering damper. The bike was also around 10kilos heavier than its sibling. For some, this meant the bike was a retrograde step, but the various engine mods (mapping, cams, twin-injectors) saw the R get a useful 10-12bhp more than the S overall… Today the motor is still strong and reliability is very good. At launch (Eastern Creek circuit in Australia, no less) journalists loved it but it was never loved like a GSX-R or even a TL1000S by the Brit bike-buying public…

1998-2004 Suzuki TL1000RPrices: track bikes (yes, some did make it) are out there for a grand or less, but decent road bikes start around £1500-£2000. Low-milers aren’t too rude at around £3500 – and with the TL-R being a very unique part of Suzuki’s superbike family, we’d say that’s a smart investment.

Finally – did they ever race or win in WSB? Well, yes and no… in its Suzuki TL1000R guise the bike never hit the track officially, but in AMA it ran for one season. However, the TL-R-powered Bimota SB8R won a WSB race in Australia with Anthony Gobert on board.

For: Different, quirky and that’s good, right?

Against: Looks are an acquired taste, shall we say?


Make Suzuki
Model TL1000R
Price new £8299 (1998)
Years available 1998-2003
Major changes Colour changes only.
Cost £1000-£3750

Verdict: Suzuki’s cul-de-sac sportsbike has character…