The year is 1997. The Ducati 916 is dominating WSBK racing, which also means sales success in the showrooms for the homologated bikes on sale. The halo effect is paying dividends for Ducati.
Wanting a slice of the V-twin action, Honda launch the VTR1000 Firestorm, with Suzuki joining in shortly afterwards with the TL1000S. While the Honda is friendly enough as a roadbike to take home to meet your parents (despite the slightly snatchy throttle – fuel injection for motorcycles was still in its infancy), the Suzuki has other ideas. The engine is brutal, delivering its 125bhp punch from low down the rev-range, and wheelies are a given. There’s a stretch to the ‘bars too – it’s not a comfortable ride.
Neither is it that forgiving either – a design flaw with the rear shock left the bike under-damped and overheating, meaning tankslappers weren’t uncommon. Suzuki’s immediate response was to fit bikes with steering dampers to tame the wobbles, and just two years later the fully-faired TL1000R was revealed, complete with a completely different frame and redesigned rear suspension.
These days, both TLs enjoy a cult following but the one people will remember the most is the half-faired S – the bad boy of modern biking.
Ironically, Ducati moved the goal posts again, increasing capacity to bring out the 996, then another update saw the 998 until eventually making way for the all-new 999 in 2003.
Today, V-twins don’t enjoy the popularity of the 90s, with more affordable and less complex 270-degree cranked parallel twins appearing on every other motorcycle from all the main manufacturers, their characteristics mimmicking that of a V-twin from the sound to the torque-fest drive out of corners. Even Ducati has moved on to the V4 configuration for a huge chunk of their range.
But for many, the V-twin will still hold a special place. Suzuki still have them in the modern day line-up in the shape of the SV650 and V-Strom 1050.
I wondered what a 21st century TL1000 might look like…
A capacity hike to 1100cc would mean an increase in power – the TLR was making a claimed 135bhp 1000rpm higher than the S version. Today’s 955cc Panigale V2 makes over 150bhp, I’d expect a new TLS would make a comfortable 160bhp.
With an updated frame and suspension set-up and some new clothes, including a fuel tank nicked off the GSX-8S, I reckon Suzuki could build this in a day if they worked through the lunch break. Would it be worth it? Let me know on Facebook and Instagram.