Suzuki TL1000S Custom
A number of motorcycles have earned the moniker "Widow Maker" through the years, reportedly because they can propel you into the nearest oak tree with an ill-considered twist of the throttle.
The original Kawasaki H2 earned the name and wore it as a badge of honor, but it was the Suzuki TL1000S Custom that had automotive media forecasting doom, lawyers counting their money, and the Japanese manufacturer issuing recalls.
This late '90s bad boy has since become a cult classic, and Rajputana Customs have provided it a slick and sporty modern makeover.
Suzuki decided they needed a strong 90° twin of their own after the success of Ducati's L-Twin sportbikes and Honda's renewed devotion to the V-Twin in increasingly pepped-up packaging. The problem is that the chassis and suspension package were an afterthought. It appears that they put all of their time on the engine, which was and continues to be a blinder. The TL1000S had a rotary style rear damper, a separate rear spring, and steep steering geometry when it was released.
Those early journalists who had the opportunity to test one on a silky smooth track understood that calamity awaited them on the open road.
The underlying issue was the poor rear damper, which burnt its oil, raised the front end, and when it came crashing down, the front shook its head so violently it was uncontrollable; Suzuki recalled the bikes, replaced a steering damper, and dialed down the power, but the damage had already been done.
Now this short-lived model is making a comeback, and some ingenious solutions are maximizing the utilization of that lovely power plant. Vijay and his crew, for example, have completely redesigned the TL and given it a new moniker.
That process begins with a thoroughly cleaned frame, a well-built replacement rear subframe that is far more durable than the original's prone to breaking, and a coat of enticing metallic grey. The half-faired bodywork, which was a clear attempt to imitate the Ducati SS, has been replaced with a new belly pan that has been carefully shaped to frame the massive twin-cylinder lump. The front now bears a little mask constructed from a number plate board with a drilled-out number and a single LED lamp to illuminate the road ahead. The back of the bike is then given the most classic look with a bespoke 'cafe' type rear hump that gives plenty of room for the hand-stitched leather seat, allowing the rider to truly sink into the machine.
The tins are sprayed with a stunning sea green metallic that completely transforms the look of the bike and is brilliantly offset by a judicious application of gold across a number of components. The ultra-lightweight Marchesini wheels, which assist minimize some of the unsprung weight that caused part of the TL's steering difficulty, have the most of that precious metal tone. A set of grippy Michelin tires also helps, but it's the work on the rear suspension that makes the biggest difference. Many firms have devised solutions, one of which is installed on this machine: a shock from another sportsbike, such as an R1, is stripped of its spring and damper and replaced with the terrible rotary unit, with the standard spring on the right side remaining in place. The front end has also been reworked, with changes that make the handling even more confident.