In August I was asked to cover Suzuki’s 50th Anniversary party at the Indianapolis round of MotoGP. It was a lovely party, especially because I got to see the Suzuki that was my first real motorcycle. They had this nice history wall, with media highlights from all their 50 years of selling bikes in the US. You can read my story on RideApart. Before the GS450 I’d only had scooters and an MZ150, which looked like a motorcycle but ran like a very high-maintenance scooter. The GS450 was the most powerful bike I’d owned. I bought it from my friend Jaxon, who’d been using it as a motorcycle messenger. At the time I was a scooter messenger, delivering letters and packages around San Francisco on a 1965 Lambretta TV175. The Lambretta had been properly rebuilt by Barry at SF Scooter Centre, so it ran like a champ even under the hardest conditions. But I saw the messengers on proper motorcycles getting the higher paying out-of-town runs, and wanted a piece of that. In the early 90’s in San Francisco, all the cool kids rode BMWs and the REALLY cool kids rode Ducatis. I didn’t have the kind of money for either, and needed something practical. So I bought Jaxon’s GS450 when he upgraded to a bigger bike. It was a blast as a messenger bike, and I did indeed make more money.
Then I moved to LA, as I’d been planning to. I couldn’t find the messenger scene in LA, it just didn’t seem like something my friends were doing for work. There were messengers, but it wasn’t the same. So I focused on school, lucky I didn’t have to work to get through school. Somehow I came across a videotape of the 1990 MotoGP highlights. I watched it and was blown away. I’d never seen anything so awesome. Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, all those guys duking it out on the most bad-ass machines. I wanted to be like them. Riding to work the next day, I came to my usual freeway exit ramp and decided to lean the bike waaaay over just like the racers did. Only I’d had absolutely zero formal training. I hadn’t even read Twist of the Wrist. So I lowsided, having not changed my body position and going way too slow. Lucky for me that 18 wheeler exiting behind me was moving slow enough to stop and help me. The Suzuki and I were fine, and continued on our way to work. I then took the MSF Experienced Rider Course, since I clearly had some learnin’ to do.It helped me improve my street riding, but when I took California Superbike School years later, that made the biggest difference. I’ve done levels 1-3 and tell everyone with at least a few months of street riding experience to take it. It will drastically improve your enjoyment of canyons.
However, that’s not my oldest Suzuki story. The man who hooked me on this drug, Rob Bond, gave me my first ride on his Suzuki GS850. He took my best friend Cheri for a ride, and she loved it. That was about all it took to undo a lifetime of parental conditioning. My mom said I’d always had an ear for motorcycles, turning my head to look for them even as a little one. When Rob took me for a ride around the hilly neighborhood where I grew up, I knew I needed to own one. Not a boyfriend with a bike, but a bike. I was 14. I spent the next year working my parents over until they relented and let me get a scooter. The Vespa P200E was a great starter bike and certainly kept me out of trouble. When Suzuki introduced the GSXR line, I wanted one. Mainly because they had purple wheels. Experienced riders like me always tell people to start out small. Smaller, less powerful bikes are less likely to send you to the ER while you’re learning throttle control and all that fun stuff. But at the 50th Anniversary party I met an exceptional woman whose first (and current) motorcycle is a Suzuki Hayabusa. Only one of the most powerful bikes ever made! Listen to the interview here: Rebecca Ebert Busa Stampede
A funny thing about that GS450… I sold it to my buddy Donal Logue. Yeah, that Donal Logue. It was his first bike. That’s life in LA.