CB-Net loves the quirky, weird and downright wonderful, so let’s have a look back at those short-lived sports-touring Suzukis – the RF family…
Perhaps in our latest ‘bikes that make you go hmmmm’ we will start with the good stuff first, yes?
Price and value: both these bikes (but mainly the RF900) were just stunning value on launch. Think on this: it’s 1995 and you’re a bit skint. You want to go to both the Oasis and Blur concerts but you’re a biker and to get there you need a new big 900cc class machine to take you and the missus there (bear with us…) You could buy Kawasaki’s big and comfy ZX-9R B model but that will cost you £8095… You really want the king dick sportsbike – the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade – but Sharon tried going on the back of your mate’s and it wasn’t that much fun. It also costs £8195 on the ruddy road. Stan the local Suzuki dealer has just had some of the new RF900Rs in and – guess what – they come in at just £6799. Wow… you shall juggle/go to both balls and have plenty of cash left over for ‘Es and Whizz’!
More than a grand cheaper than the opposition, that made people sit up and take notice back in the day, even if it was more sports-tourer than sports. The RF600R was more in the same ball-park as the other sports 600s when it came to price, being only a few hundred quid cheaper.
The 900 also had an amazing motor and we mean truly muscle-bound. The 937cc lump was developed from the likes of the old oil/air-cooled GSX-R1100 and put out an astounding 125/130 claimed bhp…Yup, from zero to 12,000rpm this thing was super-smooth and just dumped power onto that rear hoop. Once more, the RF600 wasn’t really up there with the other middleweights of the time: it wasn’t as fast as a ZZ-R600 and the motor not as flexible as the CBR nor as exciting as an FZR (which at least it was £500 cheaper than). Shame.
Both machines saved their coin when it came to the chassis and here’s where we have to say ‘hmmmmm.’ A painted steel twin-beam cradled the respective motors on both. The RF900R had no front fork adjustment (pre-load after 1995 with the ‘special’ 900RS-2 version) and pre-load and rebound on the rear. The 600 had pre-load and the same adjustments available as the 900 on the rear. To show how budget this stuff was, lots of it would end up on versions of the Bandit. Even at the time, these units were fairly soft – time will not have been kind to them since.
To the finish now: be it the paint-on-the-frame (another thing adopted by the Bandit) or on the wheels or panels, you’d find it flaking off/chipping easily and the finish overall would be taking a real hammering from the British weather, including pipes and bolts.
And now those looks… well, what can we say? The RF didn’t really look like anything other than a not-so-well done VFR750F. You’ve got some strange louvres/vents in the bodywork a wide tank and seat and perhaps the largest tail light in the history of biking which would light up Sharon’s arse like a Christmas Tree on the way to the Blur gig…
OK, OK, so lighten up on the poor RFs already. Both did lots of things well, but nothing superbly. Yes, using tried and tested kit on both, they were mechanically pretty robust – even if you spent more time keeping them clean and free of rust/pitting than you did tinkering.
Time of course shows that both models were a bit of a cul-de-sac: Suzuki went full-on sportsbike in 1997 with the GSX-R600 and (eventually) did the same with the GSX-R1000 K1 in 2001. The 600 soldiered on from 1993-1997 while the 900 did from 1994-1999.
Prices today: we’ve seen 600s for under a grand with 30K on the clocks. Not bad – just check the wear and tear. These rise to around £2K for a good, low-miler – but you’d be better off with a CBR for that price. And on to the 900: well, for some reason it’s easier to find better/more examples of this model. We’ve seen sub-20K bikes start at a grand. Let us say that – if they’ve been looked after – that’s very cheap speed/touring. Of course from there you’re heading to £2500, which is straying into Honda Blackbird territory. Hmmmm….
Suzuki RF600 / RF900 Specification (900 in Brackets);
- Price: £5349 (£6799)
- Engine: 599cc (937cc) liquid-cooled (air/oil-cooled) DOHC, 16-valve four-stroke inline four. Power: 100bhp @ 11,500rpm (125bhp @ 10,000rpm.)
- Torque: 47.5lb.ft @ 9500rpm (74lb-ft @ 9000rpm.)
- Front suspension: 41mm telescopic fork, pre-load adjustment. (41mm telescopic fork, pre-load adj. from 1995)
- Rear suspension: linked monoshock, rebound and pre-load adjustable. (Monoshock, four-way rebound adjust and seven-way pre-load.)
- Brakes: 2 X 290mm discs, four-piston caliper Rear brake: 240mm disc, two-piston caliper. (Brakes: 2 X 310mm discs, four-piston caliper Rear brake: 245mm disc, two-piston caliper.)
- Dry weight: 195kg (203 kilos.)
- Seat height: 775mm (805mm)
- Fuel capacity: 17 litres. (21 litres.)
- Top speed: 150mph est. (165 est.) colours/various!