Depending on how long you've been aware of the motorcycle timeline, you might hold a few opinions about Suzuki as a manufacturer.

Up until the debut of the shiny new engine found in both the GSX-8S and the V-Strom 800DE, the last new powerplant the firm had dreamed up and introduced to the public was the first-gen Hayabusa. Considering that Suzuki was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Hayabusa in 2023, we don't even need to really do the math here to tell you that was quite some time ago. And that we're old. 

With that in mind, it's probably no surprise that a common criticism lobbed at Suzuki prior to the new platform was that it played things too safe.

That people enjoyed many of its existing bikes, on the other hand, was obvious. All you have to do as even a mildly interested bike person is to go out on the street for a little while. Chances are excellent that you'll see GSX-Rs, Hayabusas, and SV650s aplenty. Even the odd V-Strom or three. It's certainly not that people don't like Suzuki's bikes. 

But much like a disappointed parent asking why you only got a B- on that test when they know you could've gotten at least a regular A (not even an A+) if you just applied yourself, the enthusiasts grumbled about why Suzuki wasn't giving us more.

But there was also at least one valid reason why Suzuki might have been a little gun-shy in terms of new...anything, and its name is RE5.

A Short Overview Of The Suzuki RE5

As those who take the long view of moto history might know, some of that perceived overcaution could well stem from this bike, as the Suzuki RE5 bears the distinction of being one of only a few rare attempts at building a rotary-engined production motorcycle and bringing it to market.

First introduced at the 1973 Tokyo Motor Show, the RE5 represented a complete departure from anything that Suzuki had previously made. Or, as would later become clear over the course of the following decades, would ever produce again. 

It's clear proof that well before many of us were born, Suzuki did have at least a little adventurousness in its veins. You can call it compulsion, or you can call it insanity. Just don't call it a home run in the sales department, because that's the one thing it most assuredly was not

Suzuki made the RE5 from 1974 to 1976, and the heavy expense of the R&D coupled with its disappointing sales are said to have nearly bankrupted the company. Powered by a 497cc NSU Wankel engine from Germany—you can guess what Wankel was doing during the years 1937 and 1945, though he wasn't the one who'd finally make the design work—the pistonless power Dorito made a claimed 62.8 brake horsepower at 6,500 rpm when new.

Top speed was reportedly around 112 miles per hour. 

What were its problems? Complexity, for one. For another, it gained a reputation as a bike that was incredibly thirsty for fuel, as with all rotary motors. For a third, its hot combustion habit was apparently incompatible with tightening emissions standards. 

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Will It Run?

That brings us to the actual RE5 shown in this video from the Bearded Mechanic on YouTube. TBM, whose name is Craig, is a known lover and wrencher on lots of vintage Japanese bikes. But the RE5 is well out of his wheelhouse, so he called in his buddy Max, who has two RE5s, for help and is already pretty comfortable diagnosing and working on them, so he was happy to help.

The main issues on this bike seem to be some questionable wiring and the carburetor. Neither of those things seems like it should be particularly surprising, given the fact this bike is about 50 years old.

Still, if you're at all familiar with less exotic carburetors, you'll find the little differences in watching Max take this one apart (and then take it apart again later, because there's a leak) fascinating. It's like looking at a weird alternate universe timeline, where things look very similar to what you remember but are just ever so slightly off.

Is this Earth? Or is it Earth-2?

The dash on this bike is also astonishingly nice to look at. Like, it's 50 years old. The clarity of the gauges should NOT look as good as it does. And yet, it's really quite nice to behold. That's a good thing too, because as Craig observes at one point, finding a new dash pod now for an RE5 would either be incredibly expensive or else virtually impossible.

In any case, if you like weird bikes and/or motorcycle history, add this video to your queue. If you're already a Suzuki RE5 stan, you've probably already watched it. But on the off chance you haven't, you should add it too for reasons that are probably obvious. Happy brow furrowing!

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