SUZUKI GS500 (1989-2008) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Looks ok and they're dirt cheap but you can do a lot better"

Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Riding

"Looks ok and they're dirt cheap but you can do a lot better"

Overall Rating 2 out of 5

Having been around since Adam was an embryo, the Suzuki GS500E may be a trusty workhorse but it tends not to inspire passion in riders due to drab handling, gutless performance, dreadful finish and its perpetual association with L plates. The GS500E looks ok and they’re dirt cheap but, for a few hundred pounds more, you can do a lot better these days…

Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5

Oh dear. The soft, wallowy suspension makes for laborious riding and bad handling whilst lack of feedback means the rider’s unable to corner with confidence, let alone speed on the Suzuki GS500E. Furthermore, it all gets worse over time. Brakes are dreadful but the gearbox is good.

Engine 3 out of 5

A sturdy lump, if ever there was one, but it’s ancient and lacking in power. The Suzuki GS500E probably performs best in town where a bit of low down grunt can see you out of any nasty entanglements. Elsewhere, however, the GS500E's a chore to get it up to speed. High mileages are common, which is a good sign, but the whole set up needs to be updated to keep the Suzuki GS500E in touch with modern competitors.

Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5

Whilst the engines are proven, the rest of the bike suffers from famously-bad build quality. The paint on the GS500E is thin, scratches easily then quickly rusts. Similarly, metal parts corrode rapidly. The welds are a particular weak spot on the Suzuki GS500E: it may be sensible to invest in shed loads of WD40. On the plus side, it’s said the old Suzukis crash well… !

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

It’s ludicrously-cheap asking price is the Suzuki GS500E’s saving grace. What’s more, it’s in a very low insurance group and does millions of miles to the gallon, making big savings over other bikes. However, owners of the GS500E may find tweaks to the brakes and/or suspension necessary, which could raise their outlay considerably. Find a Suzuki GS500 for sale.

Insurance group: 7 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The Suzuki GS500E os a basic package and, for the money, you can’t really complain. Comfy seat, wide bars, a grabrail and an adjustable brake lever almost cover it. The fuel tank’s pretty huge on the GS500E and, for Category A licence holders, a restrictor kit is available.

Owners' Reviews

30 owners have reviewed their SUZUKI GS500 (1989-2008) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your SUZUKI GS500 (1989-2008)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.8 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3.3 out of 5
Engine 3.7 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3.9 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.3 out of 5
Equipment 3.1 out of 5
4 out of 5

As a GS500 owner, I think the MCN review is total bunk.

22 March 2017 by Scott

In my opinion, the Suzuki is the best looker out of all the middleweight standard twins. It's remained more or less unchanged since the design debuted in late 80's, receiving some small modernising touches over the years. It retains an endearing and... Read more attractive retro character that the other Japanese manufacturers lost touch with in their haste to appear ever more modern. Reviewers like MCN seem to think that the fact that it's not a fuel injected inline 4 fully faired race replica is a bad thing. Honestly, it just means that it isn't completely out of it's element on public roads. Who really needs a bike that can get them a speeding ticket in 2nd gear? The GS500 is a "just enough" bike. It never feels like it "wants" to go faster or that certain speeds are a chore. It doesn't have so much power that it's intimidating or dangerous, but it doesn't have so little power that it feels gutless or unresponsive. It doesn't have such exotic brakes and suspension that it cost a fortune to buy, but it isn't so deficient that it feels like it can't handle spirited riding down some twisty roads. It isn't so much bike that you can only get the most out of it at the track, but it isn't so lightweight that finding it's limits lacks any challenge. I'd say the GS500 is right up there with the CBR400RR, RVF400R, and GSF600 Bandit in terms of being a bike whose power is simply perfect for really getting the most out of street riding.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
I feel like the GS gets a bad rap here, and that MCN's review was unfairly harsh. Sure the suspension isn't the best in the world but does it really have to be? I've never found it "unresponsive" in the corners, nor have I felt like it negatively impacted my confidence. It's not trying to be a race bike because public roads aren't a race track. It keeps two wheels on the ground well enough to sustain the kind of spirited riding that will see you have some fun on the street without taking risks that might lead to getting yourself killed. I don't see it as a major reason to complain. If it bothers you that much, it can easily be fixed by swapping in an R6 monoshock and some PVC pipe fork spacers. I've taken my bike on both long and short trips, city and highway riding, rough and smooth, and even some unpaved roads. The GS takes it all in it's stride and I've yet to find a street riding situation where I didn't feel like the bike was perfectly capable of handling it. Riding solo the steering is light and flickable, the brakes and throttle are responsive, and it is overall a really fun machine to ride. With a pillion the suspension does feel a little bit wallowy and bouncy, but honestly most bikes are better solo than 2 up - this is really the only area where it could've used a bit more power. The seat is comfortable enough although after about an hour you have to get off and give your ass a break! Apart from that the ergonomics are about the best of any bike I've ever ridden. The brakes have been good enough to save me the few times I've had to do an emergency stop, which I guess is the ultimate test. Admittedly the brakes are a little spongy and lack feel. I think some ceramic pads, stainless steel brake lines, and some suspension mods to reduce brake dive would be all this bike needs. Ultimately though you have to remember that this bike was not built with track days in mind, and for the speed range where it shines, the brakes are totally adequate, if a little unrefined. I give this category a 3 out of 5 because although there are some easy fixes that bring the bike up to the standards of it's competition, I honestly I think Suzuki could've done a bit better here.
Engine
4 out of 5
The perfect amount of power for the street. Just enough power that you can still wide open the throttle without everything going wrong, but not so many horses that it feels like it always wants to go much faster. The GS500's motor is as silky smooth as it is reliable, with no vibration felt through the bars or seat at any point in the rev range. Sure it only has 2 valves per cylinder meaning it gets a little breathless around the 85-100mph range, but that isn't where the fun riding happens on the streets anyway. With 51hp and 41nm of torque on a bike that weighs just over 400lbs wet, the GS500 pulls like a freight train from 0-60 in a little over 4 seconds. The torquey twin means that so long as you aren't trying to set a land speed record, roll on power is instant and linear, meaning it's always available. It doesn't really seem to matter where you are in the rev range or what gear you're in, there's always more at the twist of a wrist. The only time I've felt like it needed a few more horses was riding two-up, which is why I've given it 4 out of 5. One of the nice things about this engine is it's actually in a fairly low state of tune, meaning more power can be squeezed out of it if you really feel it needs it. An ignition advance, aftermarket muffler, re-jetted carb, and aftermarket intake will net a decent horsepower and torque gain. The motor is easily tough enough to take the extra juice, so long as you don't mind sacrificing fuel efficiency to get there.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
It's not quite a Honda, but it's still very good. The only parts on this bike that really let me down were the flimsy chain tension adjusters and the exhaust header pipes which surface-rusted because Suzuki were too cheap to use stainless or chrome. Aesthetically there are some decals that have sun-faded but that's minor. The motor and chassis are bulletproof and more than make up for these minor things. The electronics are also bulletproof which is more than can be said for some bikes, and if you've never had the misfortune to experience a motorcycle with electrical issues, let me tell you that it makes you appreciate solid electrics.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
There are few bikes in the middleweight category that are as frugal as the GS500. Tires, oil, and brakes are the only things you'll have to tackle most years. Eventually you'll need to do the wheel bearings, chain, spark plugs, and battery. Overall this is a trouble free bike, and has an active owners community online who are more than willing to help you with keeping your bike in tip top shape.
Equipment
4 out of 5
I don't really believe riding a motorcycle is the time or place for gadgets, and I also don't believe a gadget is necessarily a bonus. For the GS500, simplicity is it's strength. The fact that it has a tacho is more than can be said for many bikes, and I hate not having a tacho, so it has to earn some points for that. The GS500 also has probably the best tool kit of any bike I've ever owned.
Buying experience

I paid $2995 in 2016, which is approximately 1800 pounds. They're a dime a dozen in both North American and the UK.

4 out of 5

You buy a 125 for more money if you want to

10 December 2016 by DG

When my NTV 650 failed its MOT, and it was going to cost me nearly what I paid for it to get it through, I was resigned to getting a scooter to tide me over until I got a bike I wanted. I was rescued from this indignity by an 18,000 mile GS500, which... Read more I bought for £603.00 on ebay. Much cheaper than a wheezy scooter, and I can use it happily on the motorway. It is what it is---a 500cc bike for less than the price of a scooter. It is joyless, but compared to a 125 it is a proper bike. As a winter bike to tide me over, I could not have done better. Don't compare it with better 500s, but with what else you can get for the money. A CBF1000 calls, but the GS can sit outside during the winter.

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
3 out of 5
I'm never going to like it after my 650 v-twin (going down in power is never going to bring joy), but it has enough power to keep you out of trouble, provided you remember it is not a v-twin, and will only wake-up at 4,500 revs.
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Try taking a VFR 750 in for a service, and see what that costs you. This bike is so simple, it costs flupence to keep going.
Equipment
4 out of 5
What equipment? Just out fuel in it, and get to work.
Buying experience

Bought it from a reputable ebay seller. A chap had a large selection of bikes, and decided to get rid of some of them, as he was just taking the bikes to the MOT station every year, and not using them. He asked the reputable ebay seller to help him reduce his collection. I felt a bit guilty when I picked it up, as I only paid £603.00 for it---I put a maximum bid of £750.00 in, but no-one else seemed to realise that, whilst most other 500s are better, it is better than a scooter.

4 out of 5

Like old BSA 500, just keeps going

08 November 2016 by Maverick Octane

Simple design makes easy cheap maintenance. Good seat comfort, relaxed riding style, great every day bike. Can be ridden hard if experienced, gets a bit spongy in fast hard corners. Great urban bike for its capacity and category. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
I prefer dual front disc for better responsive braking, overall it's fine. I fitted braided brake lines and better tyres made an improvement. Rear brake is huge 250mm, front is good with HH pads.
Engine
5 out of 5
Basically its a detuned engine but more powerful than most and more grunt than the 500 V-twin on the USA market, technically it needs head porting to flow better and re-jet the carbs.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Rugged, time proven, been around so long because it is actually a good basic bike. I bought mine with 15,000kms in 2015 and everything still worked and passed a vehicle test, that's proof of a good design.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
I do my own servicing, mainly tyres and brake pads.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Has the main essentials.
4 out of 5

07 April 2016 by Carmadgaz

Bought as a first "big" bike just before I passed my test and been very happy with the old girl. May not be the most modern of bikes but the old fashioned simplicity and cheap running costs mean when I fancy going out for a ride it's always there... Read more and willing to put a smile on my face but not a dent in my wallet. Keep toying with the idea of swapping it only has 11500 on the clock and does exactly what I want it to.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
After a 75 mile non stop trip I found the 'bike comfortable enough, the relatively narrow rear tyre seems a little prone to moving around though Brakes are...adequate...
Engine
5 out of 5
A little lumpy pottering in first but aside from that it's a perfectly acceptable for a little ol' carb'd 500.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Thin paint and some rough looking welds mean I've had to crack out the rust protection within 12 months of ownership. I own Landrovers though I've seen worse on newer! Reliability wise as long as the battery is kept charged it's been bulletproof
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
£59 VED, under £150 for insurance and I've seen 73mpg on a long run. Really can't argue with that for a toy.
Equipment
5 out of 5
Basic as they come. Sidestand and the fly screen on mine about the only things you could take off without removing vital bits and all the better for it
4 out of 5

Extremely harsh MCN review. In reality it's your old friend

25 January 2016 by Thisberich

Extremely harsh MCN review. In reality it's your old friend. Reliable, rugged, go anywhere on road in all weathers. You can perform the service & maintenance yourself. Parts are easy to come by & the 487cc twin gives enough power to still be fun. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
3 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

13 August 2015 by Ro

My starter bike from seven years ago that I never got tired of riding. Every year I swore was getting a Ninja 650. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
The brakes are spongey. It's not a race bike. Surprise!
Engine
5 out of 5
Anvil
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Starts every morning.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
2 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Great workhorse and fun toy

11 August 2015 by VFR247

Great value, comfy and reliable. Considering its still going strong 19 years after it rolled off the production line I would say it's pretty damn good! Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
I've given 5 out of 5 because for this size engine and type of bike it really is great. You constantly feel like its trying hard for you, as a result you can have some real fun. It won't match anything remotely speedy, but it will make life easy through corners and will also be comfy to commute. The brakes are responsive and the ride is smooth. The seat and position is really comfy and there is an actual seat for pillions rather than a token effort like some others.
Engine
4 out of 5
Could do with just that bit more power sometimes, but it is just a 500cc so you can't expect that. Numerous occasions I've come off a roundabout and in seconds found myself sitting at 90mph without a thought. It does what it says on the tin and will even surprise you sometimes.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
It is reliable, but it's not finished to a particularly high standard. Starts on the button every time and runs great. The overall finish isn't great, but its nearly 20 years on so I guess some wear and tear is to be expected!
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Cheap parts and easy to pick up. Fuel efficient.
Equipment
5 out of 5
Have given 5 out of 5 because there isn't really anything to rate. The steering lock works! I use Avon Roadriders.
Buying experience

Bought privately for £950 and it was well worth it. Had it for 3 years and will probably get most of my money back.

4 out of 5

You will think that i'm mental

15 March 2014 by steve180798

I bought a 1998 model as a winter hack and then discovered that it had tons of history and had never missed a service, so I've still got it. I've scored the engine a 5 because it puts out 47hp (new A2 category) and is so reliable and easy to service... Read more because it is really basic. I agree with the rust comments, buy a cover, WD40 and some hammerite! Equipment is low but I fitted a screen, heated grips and cheap chain oiler for next to nothing! Cheap and reliable is what you want for a commuter, in a recession where congestion is terrible, fuel and parking cost a fortune. Not everyones cup of tea, but maybe I got a pearl amongst the swine!

Ride Quality & Brakes
2 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
2 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
2 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

great bike

06 February 2013 by alex819

just want to start by saying that I think that a score of 2 is very unfair for this bike, overall quality and reliability may let this bike down a bit but the engine (as long as its well maintained) is fantastic,has plenty of torque and power to get... Read more you into trouble and great fuel economy if not ridden like a maniac, have had 70mpg on it before by being super frugal. suspension a bit soft and can wallow out if a pillion is on the back but is very forgiving and can almost bounce out of pot holes, a great little cheap roadster.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
2 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
2 out of 5
-
3 out of 5

Suzuki gs500

17 December 2012 by Anonymous

The GS500 represents probably the best budget middleweight buy out of any of them. I say that because it's so cheap, and cost's very little to run, and is so easy to maintain. Boring? yes maybe, but the point of biking is to get the best value for... Read more your hard earned cash. I own another bike just for leisure,and the GS is my daily hack and is ridden all weathers all year round. My GS500 has done 60k miles and still on it's original motor, and sounds and looks no different to when I purchased it new. That's testimony to a recipe that hasn't changed since it was first introduced to the UK. So anyone who expects more from this old gem, I say look elsewhere. For me. I'll run it til it drops. Cracking value for money motorcycle. But I've only been riding bikes for just over 36 years, so what do I know?

Ride Quality & Brakes
2 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
3 out of 5
-
Equipment
2 out of 5
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Read all 30 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1989
Year discontinued 2008
Original price £3,349
Used price £1,000 to £2,400
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 7 of 17
Annual road tax £62
Annual service cost £350
Performance
Max power 47 bhp
Max torque 30 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 14.8 secs
Average fuel consumption 50 mpg
Tank range 220 miles
Specification
Engine size 487cc
Engine type 4v parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame type Steel twin spar
Fuel capacity 20 litres
Seat height 790mm
Bike weight 174kg
Front suspension Preload
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Twin 300mm discs
Rear brake 220mm disc
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 130/70 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1989: Suzuki GS500E launched as an unfaired roadster. Very few, minor tweaks (front forks became adjustable, as did the brake lever, it got lower bars etc) until 2001 when it was discontinued.
1992: A fully-faired version of the ‘E’ joined the stable.
2001: The new Suzuki GS500E was launched. It got a make-over with new bodywork, redesigned seat, larger fuel tank etc.
2004: Suzuki GS500E gets a catalytic converter. GS500F is launched with a full fairing.

Other versions

Suzuki GS500F: faired version, whose current, jazzed-up paint job is influenced by the GSX-R range. Looks a bit antiquated but quite smart, all the same. Same basic spec as standard model although weighs in at 180kg, is slightly taller and has more ground clearance.

Photo Gallery

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  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review
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  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Riding
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