Suzuki is now commemorating its entrance into the motorbike industry seventy years ago. The first motorized vehicle sold by Suzuki was the Power Free motorized bicycle, which debuted on the market in June 1952. 70 years later, the Hamamatsu firm highlights a significant milestone that honors the journey that made Suzuki a pioneer in the field of mobility and a key player on the global industrial stage.
The creation of textile looms provided the industrial knowledge that made the move from the design board to the workshop quick, allowing the first prototype's tests to start as early as January 1952. The initial prototype was dubbed the Atom, and was fitted with a 30cc engine. Suzuki went back to the drawing board to create a more potent version since the power, which was only 0.2 horsepower, seemed to be too little. A second prototype was put on the road on March 3, 1952, this time with the actual production engine: a 36cc unit with a maximum power of 1 horsepower at 4,000 rpm.
Shinzo Suzuki, the company's then-director, and Michio Suzuki, the company's founder, participated in the tests to personally attest to the comfort and usefulness of Suzuki's first motorized vehicle. Based on their suggestions, all essential adjustments were adopted into the series model, which was followed by the continuation of production with the assistance of outside suppliers.
The Power Free was created as a result, and it was equipped with a double crown mechanism, no suspension, and wheels and tires straight off a bicycle. This allowed it to move imperceptibly like a regular bicycle while also having the convenience of a motorized vehicle. An innovative two-speed transmission system with an oil bath multi-plate clutch, another novel innovation at the time, was also fitted onto the Power Free. This simple mechanism would go on to lay the groundwork for the development of powertrains in the decades that followed.
The Power Free was introduced to the market on June 5, 1952, but it was not an immediate success because, following the implementation of an updated Highway Code in August 1952, there was a push for the development of larger, more powerful engines that would better meet the needs of the general public. The 60cc Diamond Free, introduced in 1953, took over as the brand's flagship, with sales initially hovering around 4,000 units per month before surging to 6,000 as a result of its victory in the first uphill race held on Mount Fuji, also in 1953.
In comparison with Suzuki's modern-day motorcycles, the Power Free looks like something built in somebody's backyard. This just goes to show how much technology has advanced, not just for Suzuki, but the motorcycle industry in general. Interestingly, however, vehicles like the Power Free are becoming increasingly popular once again, however, this time, in the form of pedal-assist electric bicycles. Who knows, perhaps Suzuki could soon release a tribute electric bicycle that pays homage to the Power Free?