Suzuki TL1000S (1997): Future Investment

Author: Bike Social Investment Specialist Posted: 14 Aug 2015

TL1000S was also known as the widow-maker


When Suzuki released the TL1000S in 1997 it is fair to say it wasn’t expecting the reaction it received. In fact, the next few months were the stuff of nightmares as phone lines to Japan went into meltdown, law suits were threatened and eventually the bike was recalled for a highly embarrassing safety update. It’s fair to say the TL1000S was a complete disaster for Suzuki, but were we all being a bit dramatic?

The TL1000S, or widow-maker as it was very quickly dubbed, was a brand new concept for Suzuki. Seeing the popularity of models such as the Monster, and with V-twins the 1990s must-have engine thanks to Ducati’s WSB domination, Suzuki decided to build their own version of a sporty naked V-twin. The problem was they went overboard and didn’t bother listening to the firm’s European testers…

Developed in Japan, the TL1000S employed some radical new technology. Not only was its brand new, water-cooled, V-twin motor a serious bit of kit that pumped out a claimed 123bhp, the TL-S also debuted Suzuki’s controversial rotary rear damper. At the time, Suzuki claimed that, due to the size of the V-twin motor, they simply didn’t have any room to fit a conventional shock and therefore turned to F1 to find a solution. Very quickly Suzuki discovered that what works very well on a car, doesn’t necessarily work on a bike.

Water-cooled V-Twin was a serious bit of kit

Even at the bike’s launch on a smooth race track in Miami, there were concerns about the TL’s lively front end. The combination of a V-twin’s instant punch and very sporty geometry, not to mention ‘that’ damper, made the TL shake its head. What would it be like on bumpy European roads? Suzuki had no idea as unlike most bikes, the TL-S was developed and tested purely in Japan. Very quickly things went from bad to worse…

As soon as the first TL’s landed in the UK the motoring press was filled with horror stories about the bike’s handling. You couldn’t read anything about the TL without the words ‘tank slapper’ and ‘widow-maker’ in them and after several serious accidents, Suzuki recalled the bike to have a steering damper fitted. The next year they even went as far as reducing its power from 123bhp to a more modest 110bhp (unrestricted TL1000S ECUs have ‘00’ as the last two digits, restricted bikes have ‘01’) but the damage was done. Or was it?

With another sales disaster on their hands in the shape of the hugely unpopular TL1000R, Suzuki pulled the plug on the whole TL project and by 2001 both models were killed off. Yet the very thing that dented TL-S sales was now beginning to work in its favour. Everyone likes a bike with a reputation and the TL1000S’s as an evil bit of work made it very appealing to a certain section of riders. And it is this notoriety that makes it a bike to consider as a future investment. If you can find a good one.

The problem with investing in a TL1000S is the fact so many have been butchered. As well as the shock being replaced with an aftermarket unit on the vast majority of bikes, the frames like to crack around the shock mounting point (this was another recall) and the finish is pretty terrible. Add to this the chances of finding one with its OE exhaust cans and you are really up against it. But they are out there, it just takes a lot of looking.

Horror stories about the bike's handling lead to a recall for steering dampers to be fitted

In an ideal world you will stumble upon a 1997 model with the original ECU, OE cans tucked away all safe and sound in a neat box, standard indicators and the rotary damper left untouched. Find such a bike and you should be able to make a few quid on it in a few years as this is a bike with a story to tell and a reputation that makes it stand out. Good luck with that search…



Liquid-cooled, 8v, 996cc V-twin


123bhp @ 8,500rpm


76.3ftlb @ 8,000rpm



Original price



ASK THE EXPERTS: - James Holland is the UK’s foremost TL expert and owns an immaculate TL-S The name says it all. A forum packed full of fans of Suzuki’s wild naked, and faired, V-twin.

Have you owned one? Have you ridden one? Tell us about it.  or