My Adventure to KY on this Old Beat Up Suzuki GS550L Part 1

This proved to be my most intense motorcycle adventure to date. 1,000 miles one way in 19 hours on a busted old bike that I hadn’t owned for even 1 day. It breaks down, I almost die. I get frozen and drenched and stall out at every toll booth. Great times! Here is part 1 of the story.

I started talking about this bike and my extreme road adventure on it but never really extrapolated on the details. Well, here it goes.

I bought this bike for a lean $250 up in New Hampshire. When I went to pick it up I was told it ran, but got there only to find it did not start. I took the guys voltmeter and found the electrical short on the spot and got the bike started. At the time it fired right up but ran rough and bogged when given throttle. I paid the cash and towed the bike home.

I was planning on drive to Kentucky the following day (about 1000 miles) and really wanted to take a motorcycle instead of my Jeep. So, now that I had this GS 550 I needed to get it ready for a 2000 mile trip, pronto. I fired it up and took it out for a drive. It bogged fairly bad at low revs but once opened up it seemed to run OK. I tossed some seafoam in the gas tank and let that drift through the system a bit while I worked on other areas.

I knew the Suzuki had some wiring issues because I had found a bad connection prior to bringing it home. While looking through the bikes harness I found that nearly every connection had some form of corrosion on it. So I ended up disconnecting everything and cleaning them up with sand paper and steel wool. Flat connections can be sanded, but pin connections are harder to clean. I use a wire brush and some determination on the pins and female ports.
Once I got the wiring all fixed up to where I was reasonably comfortable I moved on, but not before packing some spare wire and connectors into my tool kit.

I flushed the oil in the motor (without putting in a new filter), inspected the brake pads, and gave my cables a quick inspection. Once I was done with that there wasn’t much more I could do. I began loading the bike up for the trip to Kentucky. Did I mention the bike had 29,000 miles on it?

I managed to pack an enormous amount of stuff onto the back of the bike. Thankfully I have a great set of Honda saddlebags that I got for free with my Honda v65 Magna. I ended up overstuffing them with tools and spare parts so that the straps began ripping by the end of the trip, but I digress.

So the following night I left for Kentucky. I left around 10pm because I didn’t want to hit any traffic anywhere along the way. I also wanted to drive straight the entire way to become a member of the Iron Butt Association. 1000 miles in under 24 hours was the goal. I fired up the bike and let it warm up a bit, it didn’t idle so I had to massage the throttle the entire trip. The bike was very difficult to get under way in first gear due to bogging, but once up to speed it ran well. I made it a point to stop every 30 miles or so for the first tank of gas to look for leaks and wheel bearing failure. Who knew what kind of problems this bike might present over the next thousand miles.

I quickly discovered a few downfalls of this bike for a hurried highway trip. Number 1 – it doesn’t zip along all that fast. In order to maintain highway speeds of about 70mph I had to really wring the motor out. I held the throttle wide open almost the entire trip. Number 2 – with the throttle pinned this bike didn’t get very good gas mileage. I only got low 30’s which for a 550 is pretty low. Number 3 – the fuel tank is tiny. I hit reserve at about 2.7 gallons, so I really couldn’t go far between fuel stops. I ended up stopping every 80 miles or so, which proved difficult in the wee hours of the morning on deserted highways. Lucky I carried a 2 gallon gas can with me in one of my saddle bags just in case, and I’m glad I did because it ended up saving me on one occasion.

More to come . . . The best parts are yet to come. I nearly died. The bike breaks down. Adventure!


By ef

Hey, I'm Evan and this is one of my motorcycle sites. You can find more about me on my homepage, or visit me on Google Plus: +Evan Fell


  1. Evan, I just found your blog and I think it’s great! I wish I could fix old bikes like you do. I’m originally from Brockton and always glad to see a Beantown Biker on the Internet.


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