Update 10.27.2017: SOLD! Congratulations to buyer and seller! -dc
Like Ducati’s MotoGP inspired Desmosedici, the square four in the Suzuki RG500Γ "Gamma" in today's Featured Listing wasn’t actually a detuned version of the race bike's engine. Race bikes engines are built for power, not longevity, and simply “de-tuning” is probably not going be enough to make one work in a road bike. So in both cases, the engines shared the configuration and general specifications with their MotoGP racebike counterparts, but few or no actual parts. Which almost makes them cooler in my mind: in both cases, the one-off engines were built to be installed in a very limited run of exotic motorcycles, with no intention that they be mass-produced or turn much of a profit. These engines and bikes exist seemingly only for a very small group of enthusiasts, and there's something inherently cool about that. Also, I love using the Greek alphabet typing up these posts.
The "configuration and general specifications" we're talking about in this case refers to the two-stroke, twin-crank, disc-valve square four that displaced 498cc. Four very compact Mikuni flat-slides fed fuel and air into the engine, and the gearbox was a quick-change cassette six-speed. Of course it featured a power valve system, in this case Suzuki's AEC or Automatic Exhaust Control that helped smooth out the two-stroke's abrupt powerband. The result? The Gamma put just a bit less than 100hp worth of stinky, heavy exhaust smoke out of its four tiny stinger exhaust pipes.
The rest of the bike was more familiar, with an aluminum frame not all that different from the GSX-R, with hydraulic anti-dive forks in the front and Suzuki's "Full-Floater" system out back. Skinny period 16" front and 17" rear wheels mean terrifyingly skinny tires that look like they'd be more at home on a beach-cruiser bicycle today, but were par for the course in 1986. With 340lbs worth of dry weight to push around and less than 100 horses to do it with, performance seems like it would be unimpressive. But it's the very nature of that spiky power delivery, the all-or-nothing acceleration that requires constant use of the gearbox to make fast progress, the challenge that seems to get two-stroke fans excited.
Unless you're "of a certain age" or younger and a bit of a bike nerd, the appeal of the whole two-stroke thing may fly over your head. They're smoky, buzzy, and generally pretty high-maintenance. They also have famously narrow and fairly abrupt powerbands, making them challenging to ride quickly. But even though they do require more regular maintenance than a four-stroke motorcycle, the upside is that they're relatively simple to work on, lacking traditional intake valves, and therefore cams, cam chains, cam belts, pushrods, or any of the other bits typically associated with "normal" motorcycles.
This particular bike is claimed to have seen the attention of the famous Rick Lance during its refresh and appears to be in extremely nice condition, ready to become the showcase of the next owner's collection and hopefully be the talk of every motorcycle gathering when the new owner takes it out for a spin and stretches its legs.
From the Seller: 1986 Suzuki RG500 Gamma for Sale
Located in Greater Chicagoland Area 1986 Suzuki RG500 Gamma
This 1986 RG500 Gamma with 17,769 km (approximately 11,041 miles) is in near mint original condition. It comes out of the famous BAC car and motorcycle collection. It was extremely well cared for by the previous owner and the current owner. BAC has owned this bike for almost ten years. The current owner searched for almost two years to find the best one that could be found. After purchasing the bike, he had Mike the Chicagoland expert on Gammas along with Rick Lance, a Gamma guru, to supply necessary technical information to bring this bike back to its original factory condition and near mint condition. The bike runs just as you would expect an original factory bike to run. And looks exactly like an original factory bike would look after only a few thousand miles were put on it.
Over the years many of these bikes have either been raced into the ground or had the engines pulled out to put in a smaller bike leaving the close to mint original bikes very few and far between. The current elderly owner has collected cars and motorcycles and says that these Gammas have a long way to go in terms of appreciation and wants to be sure that the next owner is going to preserve the intrinsic and cosmetic value as he has invested so much time, energy and money to bring this bike to its highest level.
Mike the master Gamma mechanic and Rick spent two long years getting this bike and all its necessary parts together to make this bike one of the finest original Gamma’s that exists.
Great bike for those who want only the finest and priced accordingly.
Asking price is $18,500 negotiable.
Other two-stroke GP replicas of the period compromised: the RD500LC famously added a balance shaft to make the bike more civilized, while Honda's NS400R went with a smaller displacement to help home-market sales. Both offered a much more refined experience, and both have a far less rabid cult following than the RG500 as a result. Prices have been steadily rising, although the RD and NS have increased in value as well, perhaps simply because RGs have been nearly unobtainable for a while now. If you've been looking for an RG and have the cash to spend, this one is worth a look.