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Author Topic: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler  (Read 21065 times)

Offline Northish

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1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« on: May 23, 2016, 22:31:09 »
This build thread might start out a little differently, so I hope you can bear with me on it.  My hope is that someone will be able take something away from it.  Maybe something they like, or maybe an example of what not to do  ;)

Firstly, I've never owned a motorcycle.  I've also never logged a single mile on public roads on one.  This whole "scrambler" build started because I was slated to go to Nepal in Nov. last year as a volunteer to help build houses for a couple weeks.  On my one day off I was going to ride a Royal Enfield to the foothills of the Himalayas, which was kind of a dream I guess.  Long story short, the trip was cancelled less than two weeks before departure due to political unrest, but I fell in love with the idea of owning a smaller displacement, rugged, simple motorcycle.  I was a bit obsessed with the idea.

My brother, who has a huge heart, had an '81 GS450L in rough shape that he didn't pay anything for and decided that it would better off in my hands (I'm a bit more meticulous, I suppose.)  So, he surprised the heck out of me and gave me the keys to his GS450 on Christmas.  What a guy...

I'm not sure how many previous owners the bike has had, but when my brother someone had put pod filters on it without any carb changes, put a rear tire that was so big it rubbed the swingarm, chopped off the back end behind the rear shock mounts and welded in angle iron for some reason, hacked apart the electronics, etc.  It also looked like it was crashed at some point because the handle bars were bent and all the tree bolts on one side were different from the other side.

Here are a few pictures of it as received:
« Last Edit: Jul 27, 2016, 10:15:10 by Northish »

Offline Northish

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2016, 22:45:38 »
Being that it was handed over to me in the dead of a MN winter I had a lot of time to decide that its current state wouldn't do.  I've never worked on a bike before, so I wasn't quite ready to dig into engine stuff just yet.  I just knew that I wanted to build something I would feel comfortable on, whether it be on city streets or on the gravel roads to my brother's place, and a scrambler or tracker seemed to fit the bill.  There are a lot of inspiring projects on this site.

So, I felt that the 16" rear and 19" front wheels were going to have to go.  I was able to find an 18" front and a 17" rear wheel so I started there.  I did a lot of looking for tires that I thought would do well on gravel without being to loose on pavement, so decided to get some IRC GP-110 Dual Sports.  The rear is a 4.60-17 and the front is a 4.10-18.  I got the wheels cleaned up and was even able to mount the tires myself, which was a new (and difficult) experience.

« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 00:09:40 by Northish »

Offline Northish

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2016, 22:57:53 »
Here is a good side shot of the bike once I was able to get it to where I could start working on it. I try to use this same shot position for most future pictures so that I could make sure it was heading in the right direction.  You can tell it was cold out because if you look closely at the engine you can see it is covered in frost.  It was -18F that first work day.  A lot of hot coffee was consumed  :)

I also included a picture of the rear frame section where it was cut and welded (I'm no expert at welding but it looked rough.)  The PO had welded the rear fender in place to the angle iron and the plastic fender was just sitting in there, held down by the seat.  I couldn't quite tell how it was all supposed to go together originally.  They had put some Progressive shocks on it, but the bushings were gone.  I measured their length at 12" tall.  I think stock is supposed to be 13", but If someone knows for certain please correct me if I'm wrong on that.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 00:11:20 by Northish »

Offline Northish

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2016, 23:40:26 »
Looking at the side view of the bike I could tell that the back end definitely needed to come up some, so I set about finding some shocks.  I did some researching and decided to try TEC's remote reservoir ones.  They had a look that I liked, and I could afford them.  Ideally, I'd buy Ohlins, but that wasn't an option on my budget.  I did know that I wanted to stay away from the remote reservoir RFY versions on Ebay after reading some negative comments about them.  I also appreciated this nice write-up by Chris: http://chrislivengood.net/wp/tec-alloy-reservoir-shocks-analysis/

I ended up getting the TEC's with the adjustable dampening option and at 14.6" tall to help level the bike out a bit and increase clearance a bit.  They also have a ~1" spacer that one could use to raise them higer, but I think I will leave that out for now.  It was in place in the picture below.  I was a bit nervous about how they would look in person, but once they arrived I was pleasantly surprised.  They seemed on par for the price paid so I think it was a good choice given my budget.

The stock seat wasn't really helping the direction I wanted to go either, so I found a seat on Ebay for a Honda CB350 that I thought I could make work without breaking the bank.  If I messed it up then I wouldn't be out too much money.  This project is a learning experience, after all. And my first bike so I know that I'll be making plenty of mistakes as I go.

To make the new seat work and to get rid of that questionable angle-iron at the back of the bike I got an upswept hoop section from Dime city.  I like the upswept seat look, but the Ebay seat was flat.  It had an ABS base to it, so I figured I could do some trimming and heat-gun work to bend it as needed.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 00:37:01 by Northish »

Offline Northish

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2016, 23:54:52 »
By this point I've got the old modified rear end cut off and put a slight bend into the new seat to see if I liked where it was heading.  I still don't really have an exact picture of what I want it to look like; rather I'm just kind of feeling it out as I go.  I can say that I think the new seat is in the right direction.  I can also say that the gas tank is definitely going to need some attention.  It's got a weird slope to it from it's cruiser roots, so I have decided to cut the mounts and re-position them to make the bottom of the tank run parallel with the new seat and frame.

Offline Northish

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2016, 00:03:29 »
Here's a better shot of the bike's guts with the tank and seat off.  I found that the ignition coils were simply zip-tied to the frame under the tank, and were pretty loose.  I've got the rear section close to being ready to weld in the new hoop and the gas tank mounts have been removed so that I can start mocking up some tank angles to create some lines that seems to match a scrambler or tracker style.  I'm still not really sure which is which at this point, so I hope this tread is in the right section.  I should also note my brother found an airbox for it, so that got put on for the time being to make sure it ran OK.

By dropping the front and raising the back of the tank it seems to create a nice flow, so decided I'd go that direction with things.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 00:13:32 by Northish »

Offline Northish

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2016, 00:24:29 »
At this point the tank mounts have been modified/created and welded into place.  The front was dropped just over an inch and the rear was raised about as much. 

I bungee-corded the new seat on to see how things were looking and I was still thinking it was going the right way, more or less. 

So, I set about welding in the rear hoop into place.  I used frame slugs (also from Dime City) to get a good connection and I was pleased with the results considering my inexperience with welding (I did take a class in high school, once) ;)
« Last Edit: May 24, 2016, 09:03:15 by Northish »

Offline advCo

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2016, 00:59:18 »
Sweet! I had a red GS450L as my first bike. I loved that thing. Sold it to a kid who lives down the street and I think he still has it. Looking solid so far.

I like the tread pattern on those tires, may look into them for the XL when the time comes.
"He broke the mirrors off his Cadillac, 'cause he doesn't like it looking like he looks back."

74 CB360 - Luna - http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=63294.0
82 GS550L - Tracker-ish - http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=67229.0 - Sold
74 XL350 - The Turd - http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=70252.0
Suzuki FA50 "No-Ped" - http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=71189.0
73 Suzuki RV125 -http://www.dotheton.com/forum/index.php?topic=73875.0

Offline julian.allard66

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2016, 02:27:15 »
Nice

Offline NoRiders

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Re: 1981 Suzuki GS450L - Cruiser to Scrambler
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2016, 19:22:53 »
Looking smart...the rear end raise, coupled with the chunky tyres might make the centre stand redundant.....I'm ditching mine in favour of side stand only....paddock stand in the garage.

Waiting for your next update.... :D