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"

  • At a glance
  • 487cc  -  47 bhp
  • 50 mpg  -  220 miles range
  • Medium seat height (790mm)

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… !

Value & Running Costs 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

23 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.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.7 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3.3 out of 5
Engine 3.6 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3.8 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.1 out of 5
Equipment 2.9 out of 5
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!

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
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.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
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?

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
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
4 out of 5

A great 500

29 January 2012 by rupert009

Better than the Kawasaki er5 and up there with the Honda cb500 (almost). For the money the best 500 your gonna find. Cheap fuel, cheap insurance and very reliable. The perfect commuter or first big bike. MCN's 2 stars is way off the mark! Read more

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

It is what it is

22 January 2012 by mattsway

And it is good! I picked up my GS500EY a couple of years ago in near pristine condition with only 6k miles for under a grand. The thing is, you can get on the twisty mountain roads and take this bike to its limits - but you have to do this - other... Read more bikes will ride themselves to an extent. With this one, you need to know exactly what you're doing to get the best out of it at 7k revs+ where it flies. Mine is totally reliable, uses no oil, cruises at 85 on the M4 all day if I need to crunch miles, is comfy and returns 50+mpg. Finish is still good if you use the modern cleaners - ACF 50. Been biking for 29 years now and this twin is great fun.

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

Good for restricted licence holders

02 December 2011 by bristol21

I got my gs500 after passing my restricted licence, and had it restricted to 33bhp. For the first few months I loved it, better than scooters and 125's I'd been riding before, but after that I soon got bored (and still am) with it. The restriction... Read more doesn't take too much off it but I will be trading it in as soon as possible! To give it credit, it does the job for the 2 year restriction, good economy and easy to ride. Had a few problems with oil leaks but not too expensive to get fixed. What MCN say about corrosion is 100% true, no matter what you do it will start deteriorate. Would recommend this to any first time rider who wants a restricted 500 as its cheap to insure and run, but I cannot see why anyone would choose to have one of these for any other purpose when there are plenty of great naked 600s out there.

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5
Engine 2 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

What more could you want?

24 October 2011 by Crunkfingaz

So I picked up my 2001 Suzuki GS500 at the weekend from deepest darkest Kent, ready for the ride back to Bristol. This was my first time riding this particular bike, having previously been using a Honda CB500 which I enjoyed, and was a little worried... Read more about the GS being smaller or more uncomfortable than the Honda. No need to worry, the bike was incredibly comfortable (I'm 6'6") even on such a long journey back, and I was surprised to find that my wrists didn't ache as they used to on the Honda - not sure what this is down to - maybe the handlebar position, as the Suzuki bars seemed to have a wider grip? Who knows! I did stop after 100 miles to check the fuel usage, and was happy to see that I'd only used half a tank, so topped it up with £12 and of I went again. It handled really well and at no point did I feel I would lose control or that the bike would punish me for any minor mistakes I'd make. Even with a large Givi box on the back, I managed to get it to north of 90, and would have been able to exceed that had I a) not had the box on, and b) not wanted to be disqualified for breaking the 100mph barrier... The wind was quite rough that day, and my neck and head took quite the barrage, so I will be adding a wndscreen to deflect some of the resistance - even by pretty much lying on the tank to be more aerodynamic, you feel it would benifit from having the screen. Around town and in built up areas it handles nicely, and has a nice safe lean feeling even at low speeds. Great for filtering through traffic, even on the motorway, and has a nice burst of speed for getting away at lights and overtaking, even in top gear there's enough power to get into the overtaking lane and push past those dreaded middle lane crawlers! All in all this is a quality bike. Yes, it's a commuter and not a race bike, you won't be able to throw it around corners with reckless abandon, BUT, you will enjoy it and not feel out of place on the motorway or in areas where speed is required.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Excellent Starter bike.

20 October 2009 by Anonymous

I brought this bike off my brother just before passing my test. A month later and I passed, I couldn't wait to get on it. It is restricted to 33bhp which is enough power to start with. I went out on my own on a Friday afternoon on roads I was very... Read more familier with and soon learnt how fast this machine is when you've just passed your test. There is more than enough power to get you in to trouble if you're silly enough. It took about 200 miles to start to get used to it, to ride it without thinking hard about the machine you're on. The brakes are excellent. With the restrictor in, 1st, 3nd and 3rd gear don't seem to be effected when solo which gets you up to 60 in about 4 seconds. Drop it in to 4th and the speedo needle starts o creep up abit slower, and you seem to hit the restrictor at 8,500, knock it up to 5th and you hit the restrictor at about 7,500 knock it up to sixth and you'll not get a lot. Down the bottom end of the rev range there's plenty of torque. In 6th you'll do 40 to 60 in about 5 seconds. However, you do notice a difference in the power when you're two up. 0-60 is about 7-8 seconds, and when want to overtake a car, make sure you knock it down a couple of gears and be ready to knock it back up when you hit the restrictor. I found changing gears at 6,000 revs solo and 7,000 revs two up is best when riding this bike restricted. MPG is good brilliant. On a good run two up I've calculated 68mpg which is great, solo must be about 75mpg and thats excellerating as i've described above. Commuting 4miles acorss town does drag that right down though, about 55-60mpg on cold mornings. The big bikes might grin when they overtake you, but you'll be laughing out loud when they've all pulled over to refill there tanks and you go sailing past. After 4 months and 2,500 miles I ride it confidently and I feel ready to take the restrictor out as I now feel as though its a hinderous hitting that flat spot. The only things that have needed to be done is a new chain and sproket that were previously abused by my brother. There is also some rust around the swingarm and the brake torque arm rotted right through. Other corroding area's highlighted as a winter cummuter are the little nuts around the handle bars and brake lines. Overall a great first step after passing your test.

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

a super old dog

25 August 2009 by scottashcockayne

i got my gs500e...back when i traded in the old 125...a tzr125l.... my first "real" bike.... being sensible i read review after review about most bikes i thought would be a sensible step up... bandits 600, cb500's and the like.... but i fancied a... Read more bike i could buy brand new... plus insure without the need to sell a kidney or two!!! first ride from the bike shop was fun, after 2 strokes the bottom end grunt was awesome!! let the clutch out and off it pops!! once run in, i got my nerve.. and decided to hear what it sounded like!! the engine was fun, compared to my fireblade now it was dull and gasping for breath at the top end of the rev range, but back then it was great!!! and the handling even after a sporty 125 was good!! the brakes did there job, and it was actually comfy!! i took it two up to the isle of man TT ... me and my mate, but two up, up hills was a little bit too much for the gs, but we had a ball, overall it was a great bike to start on ... fuel consumption was great, comfort was good, and it actually sounded good too!! performance was actually rather impressive at first, although once used to it it was hardly heart stopping!! build qualtity was not as bad as the press would tell you, just wash it after a winter run!! but the rear break did seize!! .... the mirrors were a but crap though, vibrating so much you could not see what was behind you!! but overall, it was a fun bike to start real biking on!! it was the first bike i ever got to 100mph... something ill always remember!! and too be honest, even after owning yzf600's and fireblades, i do miss it!! it had a real good charector!!

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

nice bike

29 June 2009 by buzz79

my second 500(the first being a cb500)although not as fast i find it to be more reliable,top bike Read more

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
Read all 23 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1989
Year discontinued 2008
Original price £3,349
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 7 of 17
Annual road tax £58
Annual service cost -
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

  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Riding
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Engine
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Riding
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Riding
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Engine
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Riding
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Suzuki GS500E motorcycle review - Side view
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