The Suzuki S40 Versus the Suzuki S50
May 26, 2008 at 11:33 pm #1425uncle_bernieParticipant
I just bought a Suzuki S50 after riding a Suzuki S40 for the last three months. Ben asked if I’d post a review of the S40 compared to the S50 I just bought so here it is…
I. Initial impressions from test ride
I practiced “duck walking” the bike backward and forward and turning it around…definitely feel the extra hundred pounds…
The driveway leading out of the parking lot from “The Motorcycle Man” sloped upwards at around a 25-30 degree angle. I rode the bike up to the point where the front wheel was about a foot from the edge of the road and most of the bike was on the incline. On the S40 I probably could have kept the bike from rolling backwards by either applying the front/rear brake or just pressing down with my feet and holding the bike without applying the brakes. The S50 didn’t allow both options. I definitely had to use the technique I’d been practicing on upward slopes with my S40 of keeping the bike stopped with the front brake and simultaneously gassing and letting off the brake and clutch at the same time*. After one stall out which I attribute to my apprehension about how the bike would behave if I gave it too much gas on takeoff, I managed to get the bike moving and head out onto the road. As always, the apprehension was unfounded and, while the s50 did take off with a little more authority than the s40 it wasn’t anything that worried me once I got going.
Taking off I felt a bit of engine sputter laying on the gas. I notice the same thing with my S40 when it is “cold”. In this case I’m not talking about cold as a temperature designation so much as the engine hadn’t been running long enough to perform at peak efficiency. Like the S40, the S50 wants and needs the choke out upon a fresh start and seems to want to idle, like the S40, for a couple of minutes from a cold start before being taken out on the street. I have no empirical data at this point but I expect the S50, having a normally aspirated carburetor will behave much the same way. I did note that after test riding for a couple of minutes and stopping the bike, waiting, and restarting it to see if it had warmed up a bit (and I must note the engine sprang to life with authority the second time I started the bike…with no choke), my initial impressions are that the bike probably takes longer to get warmed up than its fuel injected counterparts, the C50 and the M50 and that longer rides will reveal once the bike is adequately warmed up the performance will improve accordingly.
When you open up the throttle on a “warmer” engine, and I only had about a half mile of road I was testing on and I didn’t push the bike very hard, I did get the very tactile feeling there was a heavier, slightly nastier beast between my legs than I was used to. With the S40 lately I felt like rider and bike were beginning to be outmatched in terms of performance and expectation. I was asking the S40 for performance out on the freeways it was striving for, and “mostly” delivering (but not quite), to achieve. The S50 feels like it’s taking “me” on a ride as opposed to “us” taking a ride together. I know that familiarity and comfort will cure that but, as I noted, this is an initial impression. I did open up the bike somewhat, and was exhilarated but definitely not intimidated by the increase in speed and power I was experiencing. If anything, I am excited by it and am looking forward to future rides. So far, so good…
*I haven’t worked on this using the back brake due to Texas’ motorcycle law that a complete stop “ain’t” a complete stop unless both feet are down, so, all my practice has been done using the front brake for this maneuver.
II. I’ve Got a Name (apologies to Jim Croce)
“Moving me down the highway
rolling me down the highway
moving ahead so life won’t pass me by”
from the song by Jim Croce, “I’ve Got a Name”, circa 1973
All of a sudden “Ferdie” literally popped into my head for this bike’s name and just stuck. And after looking up the historical derivation, the name popping into my head feels very much like kismet. So Ferdie it is! Here is the historical meaning of the name (from http://www.behindthename.com/name/ferdie):
Pet form of FERDINAND
Usage: German, French, Czech, Slovene
“Pronounced: FUR-di-nand (English), FER-dee-nahnt (German)
From Ferdinando, the old Spanish form of a Visigothic name composed of the Germanic elements frið, “peace” and nanð, “daring, brave”. This was the name of several rulers of Spain, Portugal and the Holy Roman Empire. It was also borne by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the leader of the first expedition to sail around the earth.” (emphasis mine)
I don’t know why it came to me, but peace, daring, and the freedom to discover new parts of the world all fit very nicely…
III. First Full Rides
I brought the bike home from Beaumont on a trailer last Saturday, May 24. I’ve never towed a bike before and got a pack of four ratcheted tie-downs and a pack of two “motorcycle” tie-downs (at least they were according to the package). I rented a ramp trailer from U-Haul as well to tow the bike with. All in all, not a bad trip… I asked Revon (a.k.a. The Motorcycle Man) to help me tie Ferdie down because while I’d read about how to do it, I’d never actually done it, and this guy has been involved in moving bikes from point A to B for years. We ended up needing three of the ratcheted tie-downs and that was it. The trailer had a short wall that went around the entire perimeter and a railing with shafts of metal holding it up that the hooks on the ties could be attached to. Except for one of the ties coming loose about halfway between the 85 miles from Houston to Beaumont the trip went without incident and the bike made it home safely.
Due to commitments, my first full ride didn’t come until Sunday afternoon. I suited up, checked the air in the tires and headed out for the concrete playground that is the Houston freeways. Well, actually, first I rode the bike on some familiar neighborhood roads. For those of you who don’t know, I’m from Houston and the blog found here, http://www.burger.com/rebelb56.htm, is something I stumbled upon while researching riding techniques and good first bikes. The little “twisties” on White Oak are mentioned a lot and that’s a good place to ride through to get your bearings. Everything felt fine and my initial impression was that the S50 just felt more solid than the S40 in all respects. I don’t mean from a construction standpoint, both bikes are solidly built, more from the “how it rides” standpoint. The S40 just doesn’t feel as substantial or commanding cruising down the road as the S50.
I decided to head over to a road here called Allen Parkway which has some mildly sweeping turns and mild elevation changes as well to see how the bike handled in the 45-50 mpg range. One thing I noted is that the rear suspension felt somewhat springy and a little too mushy for my taste. There’s a manual adjustment that can be done to stiffen that up so I’ve made a note to myself to stiffen up the back springs before future rides. Everything else mostly felt fine and at the end of Allan Parkway is a tight, circular exit ramp leading on to I-45, a freeway that bisects Houston from north to south, so I hit that and thought “let’s see what this thing can do out on the highway”.
First of all, getting up to freeway speeds took no time at all. Also, the S50 feels like it was made for cruising at 70 mph. Very little vibration compared to the S40. The ride was much smoother and the bike felt like it was very much in the pocket. I noted that, contrary to what you might think being strapped to the back of a newer, bigger, more powerful machine, I felt very much at ease, much more so than on the S40. The engine was humming, not vibrating wildly like the S40. Side winds didn’t seem to affect the forward trajectory of the bike as much. I didn’t feel as though I had to do as much work to keep the bike stable as I did on the S40. The extra hundred pounds of heft really make a difference in that regard. I felt really comfortable, maybe even a bit “too” comfortable.
There was a certain technique I would execute on the S40 while changing lanes to get clear of the “wolf packs” of cars that tend to develop on the freeway. I would hit the turn signal, check the side mirror, do my head check and then, if clear, would change lanes while rolling on the throttle to get over and ahead of the cars around me. On the S40 I would open up the throttle completely and would get a very, very mild “burst” of acceleration. I tried the same technique on the S50 and, without even realizing it, found myself in the next lane to my left cruising at a little over 90 miles per hour, the fastest I’ve ever been on two wheels. I thought to myself “holy crap, what the hell?” and realized I can’t get lazy on this bike. I have to be very aware and get comfortable with and respect the extra power. This happened towards the end of the particular ride it was happening on and I was close to the exit leading to my neighborhood. Note to self, don’t get comfy too the point of forgetting where you are and don’t forget to use the gray matter between your ears or you might lose the ability to use it at all.
In sum, this bike has power to spare, much more power than the S40. You can roll on the throttle at 75-80 miles per hour and the S50 will just take off. I had read a forum post by a guy that claimed to hit 120 on his S50 (and he said he didn’t think he’d maxed it out at that point) and while I haven’t tried, nor do I want, to hit that high a speed I’m prone to believe, based on the quickness with which the S50 got to 90mph that this is very possible. So far, I love the bike and am having fun but I’m also trying to remain cognizant of the increased power and speed and am trying to remain mindful of that when out on the road.
The S40 is a fine motorcycle for what it is, a basic, no frills, lightweight, mildly powerful, good-looking little cruiser. In a blog post I’d read on this site someone referred to it as the Ninja 250 of cruisers. I can’t agree more. If you’re not into sport bikes and want a good first machine to learn on that has enough power to get you around but not so much you’ll get into trouble then the S40 more than fits the bill. In my estimation it is a very good first bike.
The S50 is the S40 on steroids. There’s more weight, more power, and “gobs” more acceleration. While I’m loving it so far I am aware that it’s a bike that, given my current accumulated hours “in the seat”, is a little ahead of me. I felt though, based on my freeway experiences I needed a bike with a little more heft and power and have found so far that the S50 is delivering what I need. I don’t think the S50 is a proper bike to start on if you don’t have previous street riding time, but I do feel as though I’ve ended up in the right place with the S50 which is a place where I can have a lot of fun, feel in control, and not feel outmatched by all the four wheelers around me.May 27, 2008 at 7:31 am #6738smadaakramParticipant
awesome review! even tho I’ve never ridden one, i love the way the s50 looks and I’ll prob look into getting one next summer since I’m really wanting a cruiser bike.
//@R!<May 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm #6739MattParticipant
Great review, thanks!May 27, 2008 at 4:28 pm #6745shagglesParticipant
Thanks for the review. Sounds like a cool bike. I looked at the S40 and S50 before I bought my bike. The 50 was too expensive for me (and wouldn’t have been a wise choice) but the S40 seems like a real nice bike for the $$$.May 27, 2008 at 4:44 pm #6746BenParticipant
Haha, send me a PM or something next time bernie! I gotta make this front page!
~Best Beginner Motorcycles AdminDecember 21, 2008 at 5:45 am #15369DaveWalkerParticipant
I have just read uncle_bernie’s review and it matches exactly my impressions of moving from a LS400 Savage to the S50. I too felt like the S50 was in charge for the first few days especially after being so comfortable on the Savage. One thing I am still getting used to is the engine breaking, especially in low gears. I just throttle back slightly and the bike practically stops ( or feels like it does). I’ve learned to change up more quickly than in the Savage which seems to help. I’ve only had the S50 for a week and am looking forward to long rides over summer.
DaveMarch 28, 2009 at 2:44 am #17359DannaParticipant
Well I got my first bike last week it was the S40 and I love it! I am a shorter female so it fits comfortably. I hadn’t ridden in thirty years but jumped on felt comfortable and off I went, just a perfect fit. I wouldn’t mind a bit more power but this will be good for an over 50 women who hasn’t ridden forever! As a child I had dirt bikes. But this is a nice bike so that I can cruise aorund w/my other half and sister and friends..Only problem I have is it backfires on occasion something to do w/compression I guess but I hope as I get better that will too!April 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm #17552bigguybbrParticipant
The boss (social director, or live in girlfriend if you will) has a 2006 s40 and it’s having and issue that it back fires like crazy when you shut it off. BABOOOM! I read online that it could be from a dirty carb, but I really don’t have any experience with cleaning one out.
Also I hear they are a real bear if you don’t go out all to winterize them. Does anyone have similar experiences?January 21, 2010 at 11:28 pm #24131mmallenParticipant
Glad to find this review while researching the S40. This would be my first bike (if I pass the safety course this spring) and hesitate to get anything larger than a 650.
P.S. Your picture made me gasp. I know your twin.April 16, 2010 at 7:54 am #25778Russell123Participant
hi friend yesterday i buy new bike yamaha with my own earned salary. bike is very nice and comfortable.July 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm #27431AzAcerParticipant
Just purchased a used 2008 S40, and appreciate all the positive things said here. I was sold after sitting on the bike. I haven’t ridden in 15 years or so and was a little intimidated by the heavier bikes. I Used to ride a small ’82 Kawasaki CSR 305 back in the 80’s and find this to have much more power, yet not so heavy and/or intimidating. I like how it rides and especially it’s look! This is great website with some good info for those of us getting back into the life!July 10, 2010 at 9:27 pm #27432Jeff in KentuckyParticipant
I found these comments at another forum:
The Suzuki Savage is delivered running very lean for environmental reasons. That means it will accumulate unburned gasses in the exhaust pipe at shut down and they in turn will find a hot spot in the exhaust system and kablam – you get wild backfires everytime you decelerate or shut down.
Over the 10 years I have ridden my Savage I have learned to modify my riding style to reduce this to a minimum. My trick is as follows
When slowing down and using engine braking only do so with the throttle fully closed. Keep your speed up until you are ready to make positive throttle changes – then completely close the throttle – this will reduce the amount of intake gasses getting into the exhaust pipe during the period of engine braking and will reduce the backfires to a mild wuff – still there but not shotgun sharp and loud
When shutting the engine off – let it run for 5 seconds at idle before cutting off the ignition. It will pop but not quite so loudly.
Regularly I ride my Savage on the highway at 100-110 kmph. A few 10 mile runs at steady speeds will blow a lot of carbon out of the exhaust pipe – it is the carbon that is the source of ignition when the bike backfires. Reduce the carbon – reduce the backfires.
by polar pilot
I own a 1987 Savage and also get the back firing. I tried slowing down gradually (when possible) seems to reduce the frequency and the loudness of the backfires
There are a couple of fixes – and you will have to search for the exact procedure to deal with the first one.
1. You can raise the needle in the carb – this involves drilling out a brass plug to allow access to the low speed idle adjustment screw and and shimming the needle to get more gasoline into the engine. Search for detailed instructions on this one elsewhere on the net.
2. Take your bike out for a long steady run on the highway at 100 kmph – this will give the exhaust system time to burn and blow out most of the accumulated carbon and will reduce the hot spots causing the ignition and backfires. You need to ride 20 or 30 miles to burn all this carbon out
3. This one is the most difficult – change the way you control the throttle. What I mean by this is use the throttle more like an on off switch. Do not decelerate with partial throttle open – when you go to slow down – close the throttle completely. This will reduce the amount of unburnt gasses getting into the exhaust pipe and the backfires will be reduced from a sharp crack sounding like a pistol shot to a mild wufff –
Getting back to your Savage 650, Coney, here’s how we can specifically cure its problem. We need to richen those two areas of the carburetion curve that are factory set on the ridiculous side of leanness. Remove the diaphragm slide from the carburetor and look down inside its bore. Two small screws hold a plate over the slide needle.
Removing the plate, you’ll see a small, white plastic spacer with a hole through it sitting on top of the needle. Throw that spacer away and reinstall the plate. A spring under the needle clip will now push the needle up to the plate occupying the space vacated by the white spacer. The distance that the needle has been ‘lifted’ is the thickness of the discarded spacer – and that’s ideal. With the needle raised, more fuel will flow by it, meeting the actual needs of midrange running.
We can also fatten up the low end of your bike’s carburetor by turning out the low-speed mixture screw. To gain access to this screw, you’ll need to drill out the brass plug pressed in over it and yank it out with a sheet-metal screw attached to a slide hammer. You’ll find that plug up high on the right side of the carb about where the mouth enters the carburetor. Usually Suzuki applies a splash of white paint over the brass plug so that it’s immediately noticeable. With the engine warmed up and idling, turn the mixture screw out incrementally until you achieve the highest idle. There will be no doubt in your mind that you’re making progress because the idle will come up and sound stronger. At this point, turn the idle adjuster knob out and bring the idle back down to a leisurely gait.
Just these two, relatively simple adjustments will not only eliminate the backfire, they will make an amazing improvement in throttle response and driveability.
Visit http://www.suzukisavage.com where there is lots of help for us thumper owners.
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