Growing up as a teenager in the 1990s and watching the likes of Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz smash themselves to smithereens on a weekly basis, it was then I dreamt of becoming a motorcycle racer. That golden two-stroke era of tobacco sponsorship and obligatory highsides was inspirational for many, with a hedonistic lifestyle far removed from today’s cleanliness to match the racing. Having soon realised the small matter of talent and endless spondoolies were going to be an issue, these dreams were reduced to owning a factory racer from that era.
I was extremely fortunate to ride Kevin Schwantz’s 1993 RGV up the hill at Goodwood FoS, which only fuelled the frenzy. Riding priceless pieces of exotica in front of thousands of petrol heads was both remarkable and petrifying for obvious reasons, and the fantasy of owning one, staring at one, maintaining one, cuddling one at bedtime and riding one like you just don’t care continues to linger…
So when 44Teeth follower, Patrick Morgan emailed us to see if we would like to share some recently captured studio images of his factory Suzuki RGV500, the jizz was soon wiped off the screens and we were straight on the blower. Just how the bloody hell does one go about acquiring such a steed? Over to Patrick…
“Team Classic Suzuki’s Steve Wheatman brought two bikes up to the aerodrome we’re based at several years ago. I got talking to Steve, who’s a really genuine, easy-to-deal-with guy, and said to him, if you ever want to sell one, just let me know.
“A couple of years ago, Steve phoned me and said he was thinking about selling one. I said I’d be there in ten minutes. He couldn’t show me the whole bike as it was stuffed in a garage full of things but we shook hands on it. His mechanic [and Team Classic Suzuki’s] Nathan Colombi rebuilt it for me and we shook it down this time last year.
“It’s literally the last bike Schwantz rode in ’95 before he retired. He did three races on it and then Scott Russell raced it once at Assen. It’s still got the scrutineering sticker on it. It wasn’t immaculate when I bought it but Nathan put a lot of effort into making it tidier, and did an amazing job in doing so.”
Having been embroiled in F1 technologies and working for a brief stint in MotoGP, Patrick knows his onions. While my limited knowledge simply means drooling over such exquisite curves, even his appreciation for Suzuki’s graft is palpable.
“It’s exquisitely built. I was really surprised at how well engineered it is. Things like the crankcases, cylinder head and gearbox: I was surprised at how close to F1 technology they were. I imagined a more simple and antiquated design but the frame is constructed beautifully. It’s another level. And as you can see, the exhausts are an absolute work of art. Being titanium, they weigh nothing and they must have made God knows how many to get a good set.
Edging past its 20th birthday, I was intrigued as to how you even start the RGV. Its exotic, prototype factory internals must require delicate care and consideration, although this ’95 bike looks far more robust than the ’93 bike I rode.
“There are a few things you need to do before you run it. It’s obviously on carbs but it does have four solenoids and the carbs are extremely complicated. Two solenoids are basically like fuel injectors but they don’t actually inject fuel into the air stream, they maintain the float bowl height, so instead of having a float as such, it’s electronically controlled. The other two control how the main jets switch on and off, and making sure this works is important because you only need to run one cylinder accidentally lean and the thing will nip up, which is bad news!
“The oil is premixed into the fuel although there is a little auxiliary oil tank incorporated into the frame that bizarrely feeds the outer left-hand crank bearing, which, for reasons I don’t fully understand, the mixture doesn’t get to that particular bearing. This was phased out by 1997 I’m told.”
Patrick has several other collectors’ items (more on that another time) but doesn’t like to see them gather dust as ornaments, which only has to be respected. At the same time, these are stunning pieces of GP history that don’t warrant being thrown down the road, needlessly spanked or t-boned by Rossi wannabes.
“The staggering thing about these bikes is how much torque they’ve got. You really expect them to be nothing, nothing, then everything and they just aren’t like that. Having talked to Mick Doohan many years ago, who said you pretty much have to hold them on the limiter all the time, I suspect the Hondas were but looking at period footage with a bit of hindsight, you can see the Suzukis and Yamahas were much more stable. I’d love to be able to take it on a track, so hopefully next year”
Can you imagine that, rocking up to a trackday and wheeling out a 1995 factory RGV500? And what of parts? It must be a nightmare sourcing some? “Some parts are available but I think the current headache is either rod or main bearings, as they’re graded in two micron steps. Finding someone who can produce a caged element rolling bearing to those sort of tolerances is pretty difficult. We do try to be as friendly to the engine as possible. On cold mornings, we’d definitely put a heat gun on the thing.”
Despite the frequency of highsides and relatively simplistic technology of its time, crude forms of traction control and even electronic suspension (including corner-to-corner damping) were being used by Cagiva in the 90’s, although Kev’s bike doesn’t feature such technology.
“There’s definitely no traction control! There’s a quickshifter that has a very rudimentary system, which is just a sidestand switch that as you start to move the gear lever, it closes the circuit and momentarily cuts the ignition. It’s no more complicated than that but it works fine. It’s not the quickest shift but it does the job and saves you looping the thing!”
These stunning shots were captured by James Ward. While we can only thank Patrick for sharing, they’ve done nothing but enhance the yearning for GP exotica. For thine is the kingdom, two-stroke power and the glory, forever and ever, Castrol R…