Suzuki Fever hit in my teenage years. It was the mid 90s, GSXRs ruled the streets and the mighty EFE was still winning at the tracks. Gary Rothwell was my hero and Streefighters Magazine fuelled my fever. Who knew over 20 years later, my passion would lead me to Hamamatsu, the home of Suzuki Motorcycles.
The path through life has many cross roads. Back in 1995, it was going to be either a GS550 or a GPZ550 uni trak. I’d spent my first full year on the road on a forgiving and relatively new Kwak but I now had a full bike licence in my wallet and I wanted more power. The GPZ was rougher in the flesh than the photos suggested so it was the Suzuki that was to become my daily ride and the first of many Suzukis.
20 or so years later, I had sampled most of Suzuki’s big capacity engine offerings from the 80s and 90s. I even had a few of them in the shed. That turn at the cross roads had developed into an almost obsessive passion for the machines built across the other side of this globe in a town called Hamamatsu. When a work trip to Japan left me with 1 free day, there was only one thing on my mind – how do I get to Hamamatsu?
I was staying in Yokohama Bay. The sun broke over the harbour and into my hotel room. Today was the day. Japanese trains are rightly known for both their speed and timeliness. I just had to work out which ones to get. The underground from Minatomirai took me to Shin-Yokohama and then to Tokyo Central station where I could grab the Shinkansen. It wasn’t the super fast train which suited me fine and gave me the chance to take in the paddy fields streaming past the window and a view of Mount Fuji as we sped along the coastline.
I tracked the time, watching the stops go by until finally the scrolling message in the cabin said ‘Hamamatsu’.
Heart pounding, I grabbed my bag and stepped off the train. In the distance I could see the Suzuki S drawing me in.
I tripped down the steps like a kid at school kicking out time and followed the sign as it got bigger and bigger through the grid-work town until I could see it. The factory was right there.
Part II coming soon ….
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