GS1100 vs CBX - page 9

After a bit of peg-dragging, the 1100 lost its right footpeg rubber, which isn't bolted in place like the Six's. The Suzuki also used more oil (about a cup) than the Honda, which used almost none. We noted something else which could be inconsequential, or catastrophic. When the GS1100 was warmed up in the morning while resting on the sidestand, the oil pressure light always flashed on and off for the first minute or so. Apparently, the oil pump pick-up wasn't quite below the oil level, and was occasionally cavitating, even though the oil was at the specified level. It didn't happen when the engine was warm or when the bike was on the centerstand. This only seems to pose a potential threat to the top end, specifically the camshafts. The cams in the CBX (and most other bikes whose cams operate directly against the valve shims or buckets) turn over in a pool of oil which collects in troughs around the valve tops when the engine is shut off. This pool of oil lubricates these cams the first time they turn over. However, the cams in the GS1100 rely on oil sprayed from nozzles in the rocker shafts to lubricate the lobes. If the oil pump isn't picking up as much oil as it should, the cams aren't getting their full quota of oil. Honda had a similar problem with the old 450 twins, some of which ate camshafts regularly. This situation may be unique to our machine (which was a production bike) or the flashing oil light may not indicate a significant pressure drop. However, GS1100 owners who don't want to take chances can do two things: (1) Never run the bike on the sidestand, and (2) always be sure that the oil is kept at the maximum level.

The only other problem we had with the GS1100 concerned the clutch, which we'll discuss later.


Most of the riding people do with these two motorcycles will be on city streets and boulevards, whether it's basic transportation, profiling or just riding. In city traffic the CBX will please you with its super-smooth gearbox, its terrific clutch and its good rideability. The Six warms up quickly and doesn't trouble you with flat spots or ragged throttle response. It pulls strongly and smoothly from 1500 rpm to the 9000-rpm redline. We've heard and read lots of praise for bikes with heavy flywheels, presumably because they make it hard to stall the engine. However, they also require that you carefully dial in the rpm after each shift or suffer from lurchy shifts. On the other hand, the CBX with its particularly light flywheels is tolerant of less precise engine- speed/road-speed synchronization. It also has plenty of low end, a useful first gear ratio and a progressive clutch, so even a moment's ineptitude shouldn't cause you to stall it.

The Suzuki also has good low-speed power characteristics and a respectable gearbox, although one that isn't as quiet or smooth as the Honda's. It took a bit longer to warm up than the CBX. We also had extensive problems with the 1100's clutch. Like the CBX, the Suzuki was already the veteran of one road test, although the Suzuki had been taken to the dragstrip and the Honda hadn't. When we picked up the GS1100 from Suzuki after they had serviced it for us, we noted that the clutch dragged, making shifting extra stiff and making neutral-finding almost impossible. We tried adjusting the clutch, but it would begin to slip before the dragging disappeared. After our dragstrip and dyno testing and some determined thrashing on back roads, the clutch began to slip, so we took it apart and sanded the glaze off all nine metal plates. That cured the slipping, but it still dragged. It even dragged when it was slipping. Finally, we arranged to ride another GS1100, a newer one. That one's clutch didn't drag at all. At that point we would have forgotten the whole business, figuring ours was a fluke-except that we talked to the service manager at a Suzuki dealership who says he's seen a few other late-model Suzukis with clutch-drag problems. So the possibility remains that, after hard use, other 1100s can have the same problem.

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