Journal of the Motorcycle Action Group

Motorcycle Action Group, MAG
Issue 8 Jan-Feb 2007
Back Issues

Intruder or what!

Ian kerr rides the Suzuki 1800R Intruder

Just in case you have not noticed, people are gradually turning their back on Hyper-sports bikes with warp drive that will catapult you into illegality with just a twitch of a muscle in your right wrist. Cramped riding positions that might have been OK when you were in your twenties are not so great in your late forties/fifties. Whether we like it, time and tide wait for nobody!

Manufacturers are therefore looking at every which way they can to keep people in modern biking, rather than letting them gravitate back to classic motorcycling, even if it is products of the seventies and eighties, i.e. their own, rather than the fifties and sixties British iron.

Bikes are now devoid of plastic, muscle and naked bikes are back, dual purpose/adventure bikes are cool and of course there is the custom cruiser market still dominated by Harley Davidson, despite the Japanese manufacturer's best efforts.

At the risk of upsetting our esteemed editor and a few other readers, you have to admit they do make some superb cruisers and as a result it has kept HD on their toes and they keep upping the stakes, so their interest in the custom market is actually good!

However, despite some superb behemoths of late, as well as some interesting entry level cruisers, they always seem to miss the point and produce a bike that is devoid of soul. Something that is technically wonderful and aesthetically pleasing, but in so being, lacks the essential soul needed and therefore is essentially bland.

Yes I know, not having Harley on the tank is still the main reason that even collectively the Japanese have never really pushed the Americans, but times they are a changing. Suzuki has weighed in literally (315kg) with the M1800R Intruder, the largest bike they have made in this model range and something to be taken note of.

They have also gone for the large tag in every way, as this 1783cc 54-degree V-twin has the largest pistons ever used in a car or motorcycle ever!

The rubber mounted engine has offset crankpins, which allow it to still achieve perfect primary balance just a like a 90 degree V-twin without being, if you see what I mean. As you might expect, despite the size of the components, Suzuki have to use their technology honed on sports legends like the GSX-R or 'Gixer', even though it is a cruiser. Therefore, the massive bores have DOHC four valve heads and digital fuel injection. At the back sits a five-speed gearbox mated to a very good shaft drive feeding power to the massive 240 section rear tyre.

If you use it on the engine you have to use the latest technology on the rest of the machine, so it is no surprise to find 46mm inverted forks at the front. While there may be no adjustment on these as most cruiser riders are not into trying to fine tune suspension, the link type rear does have seven-way pre-load available, but this is more to cope with passengers than a handling aid!

Brakes actually come off the seminal GSX-R 1000, so the front has a pair of top-notch radial mounted 4-piston callipers gripping 310mm discs backed up at the rear by a single 275mm disc. Stopping is definitely not a problem.

In appearance the bike is long and low a fact confirmed by the 700mm seat height and 1,715mm wheelbase, so those shorter riders should not have too much trouble. The all-black test model, offset by lashings of chrome, certainly never failed to attract attention wherever it went and everybody seemed to be in favour of the overall styling.

This actually seems to be a strange mix of an Arlen Ness front headlight unit, existing Intruder styling in the middle with a sports bike rear end. The pillion seat can be replaced by the rear cowling which to my mind looks far better and finishes the bike off. The designers have made a great effort it must be said, even the radiator at the front has been nicely integrated into the overall styling theme.

So while on paper the bike throws up no real surprises, or gets the juices flowing, riding it does, this is bang on the money. This is a bike you can have fun on and you actually want to get out and ride it, bland it is not!

If it has a fault it is that you ride it everywhere as hard and as fast as you can get away with, this is the GSXR of the custom/cruiser bike scene and well on pace with Harleys own V-Rod.

From the moment you let out the remarkably light clutch and feel the response from your wrist, your face creases into a grin and stays there as you move up through the gears. Now, normally I would say that Suzuki makes the sweetest gearbox of any, with ratios sliding in with the precision of a heart surgeon, but these on the 1800 just hit home with a massive thud. Complaint? No just an observation, but who can blame them given the torque the box has to cope with!

If you are rash enough to do a clutchless change, it is just like I imagine being kicked in the back by a cart horse feels. There is a slight pause as the box sorts itself out, but then the horizon beckons at a rate that would surprise many a sports bike owner. In fact the last time I rode a cruiser with this amount of stomp it was a fully tuned factory Harley, not a standard production machine.

Suzuki do not give hp and torque figures in the brochure, but let's be honest they are pretty immaterial apart from pub talk.

This bike has more than enough of both to keep anybody happy and it will definitely pull the odd tree down as well as your arms out of their sockets if you use the throttle hard without too much thought!

Strange, but true then that they bother to put a rev counter on the bike when they have a rev limiter built into the electronics to prevent you over-revving the beast in your search of the horizon!

While riding in a sporty manner is a real blast (literally) it does have an effect on the capacity of the 19-litre tank. Unleaded refills are required at just 100 miles according to the warning light, but who cares you probably need a break by then to let your licence to take a breather.

Now I am not suggesting that you can leave sports bikes trailing in your exhaust gases on anything more than a relatively straight road, because despite a reasonably good suspension set up, the Intruder grounds out quite quickly like most of its genre.

You can though still perambulate through your favourite set of twists and turns at a reasonably fast pace providing you set it up well for each bend.

I know that cruisers are supposed to do just that - cruise, but this is more fun at the other end of the scale.

Yes, it is well balanced at walking speeds thanks to it low C of G and it will happily gives you hours of viewing pleasure in shop windows. But, a lot of Jap Cruisers can do that, what they cannot do is put a big grin on your face!

After a week I can see why they used the brake set up they have because you do need it and when called upon to act, it does it with total efficiency and you never have a moment's worry. The ride and overall riding position is very good and it's only the range that's stops you for a break rather than any personal fatigue.

So what are the Intruder's downside you might ask? Well it is not its price, at £9,149 it is bargain. However, there are a few niggles, the speedometer on the tank would be better swapped with the bar mounted LED rev counter on the top of the bars to put it more in your line of sight in order to help protect your licence.

You only have the choice of seat cowl or pillion seat, so if you are out and about you could not pick a friend up. And lastly it is not noisy enough, you just want to put a hacksaw through the twin silencers so you can hear the beast roar on full chat.

Despite racking my brains to find more faults that is about it, other criticisms like lack of ground clearance, longevity after a salty winter etc can be applied to dare I say it, Harleys as well. The bottom line is that Suzuki has really gone to town with this bike and instead of a sanitised poor relation it is close to being a brother.

This is a custom that can hold its head up at any HOG meeting and not feel intimidated. It is not a copy, it is a bike in its own right and while it will never be good enough for the purest, it may satisfy a lot of other people who do not want to invest in the real McCoy. Certainly there are not many Japanese cruisers on the market that you can say that about, so maybe things are a changing!

Ian Kerr