I’ve always been a bit of a purist when it comes to motorcycles: 1 engine, 2 wheels, at least 1 seat - but 2 is ok - and something to hold it all together. I’ve even been lucky enough to try out various different versions of purity over the years. But every now and again, the distillation process creates something very different. Indulge me. I did and this is the result.
When my editor told me there was an intruder waiting for me round the corner I had 2 thoughts.
First of all that he’s not much of an intruder if he’s outside and we know about it. Then I sort of drifted onto 80s films involving something unpleasant going where it shouldn’t.
One thing I was not expecting was the following phrase: “It’s a 1.8 litre Intruder and you’re reviewing it.” Cue nervous giggles and an internal “fnarr” until I saw the Intruder in question. Giggling turned rapidly to a kind of Niagara Falls of drool. This is one fine looking bike.
One problem as far as I could see though, was that the Suzuki badge must have been put on the wrong bike. They make top selling sports bikes and Bandits (I’m beginning to see a naming theme here), but cruisers? Well, how wrong was I!
Just walk around it and you get a sense of impending fun and comfort. It’s big, yes, and it sort of has to be. The only thing I’d seen with an 1800cc engine in it recently was my car, and I get lots of people in it. This had space for me and one lucky pillion. And as far as looks are concerned, this certainly grabbed the attention. The version I was about to be put through my paces by was the full silver and chrome “eye-catcher” and everything on it was shiny. Suddenly, keeping it shiny side up was not only important to the dealer - Premier Suzuki who were lending it to me - but, quite apart from anything untoward, painful and unnecessary happening, I really, really didn’t want to hurt it.
I’ll start at the front. That huge, slightly downturned headlight cowl sets the tone from the off: there’s an air of controlled menace about the Intruder and the lines from bow to stern swoop with a barely contained violence. And it doesn’t matter what angle you see it from, it fills its space and then takes up anything else that happens to be lying around unoccupied as well.
There’s an aggressive rake to every angle, with the flow unspoilt by the 19.5 litre tank past the dual slashed chrome pipes which take the line and make it theirs, right up to the 240 (!) section rear tyre. I genuinely couldn’t wait to see what it was like to ride. So I didn’t.
Swing your leg over the low seat and everything just seems to fit. Now, admittedly, I’m quite long in the leg, the arm and the body, but I am reliably informed that makes very little difference. It would on most bikes. But this isn’t most bikes. Straight away, I felt right. Stand it up from the side-stand and the balance is spot on. The low centre of gravity invites confidence.
So, now the moment of sonic truth. Was I going to be shunted out of the seat as the four-stroke, fuel injected DOHC V-Twin shouted its existence to an unsuspecting world? Well... no. It barked, it throbbed and that was it. No shuddering, nerve jangling vibrations as the big V tried to hurl itself out of the chassis. It was just... right. Don’t get me wrong, those cans are loud. But they’re loud in a way that isn’t shouty. They suit the bike, people notice and yet they accept it as being the proper sound, without being angrily intrusive. This is barely tamed power and it’s not shy about announcing itself across traffic islands, but everyone’s ok with that. Not bad for an intruder.
Right, I’ve letched enough over the looks of this beast, and I was hoping that it would prove as gorgeous to ride as to look at. And once you get moving, it’s a perfect blend of stability and style. The balance is spot on, so slow town riding is not a problem, and unlike other cruisers we’ve reviewed, you don’t feel like you’re going to cook your lower limbs if you have to sit in traffic.
Slow control is a delicate balance between easy clutch use and gentle throttle, because the shaft drive offers such an immediate response. And when that’s allied to the astonishing torque all the way through the rev range, you really do have to be aware of what you’re doing. It’s unforgiving if you over-cook it and you’d better have a good grip on the bars, because you will be hanging off them if you’re not careful.
Once the traffic’s out of the way, things get interesting. Torque translates very quickly to very quick. For a bike that weighs 319 kg dry and carries a full tank of 19.5 litres – not to mention yours truly – it really does shift. At least in a straight line. And the 5 speed constant mesh transmission is geared just right to keep it interesting and involving. Cornering is to be dealt with care. Even a gentle lean at speed will have you scraping the pegs, so just ease off a little. It will wallow in bends, perform an impressive imitation of an oil tanker when pushed too hard, but ultimately will make you smile if you ride it as it was intended. Just sit on and enjoy.
Brakes. They stop you. Well, that’s what they’re supposed to do, and these do. Eventually. You do need to give it a handful though and when you do, the twin disc brakes at the front and the single at the rear do what they’re designed to – albeit in a rather leisurely fashion. That’s if you’ve decided not to use the engine braking, which is, as you’d expect, good and powerful.
And you might just as well be sitting in your favourite armchair. The riding position is so natural once you’re in it. But getting into it from a standstill caused some slightly hairy moments. As did getting out of it – more of that in a minute. The pegs seem a little high, so it’s initially a bit of struggle to get to them, particularly if you’re used to a more aggressive, feet back style. But the forward position is just right once you’ve acclimatised. One thing that caught me out was that the flared, boot cut leg of my draggin jeans caught on the end of the peg, preventing me from putting my right foot down. Not a happy moment as I could see me and the bike lying snugly together in an embarrassing and potentially painful tarmac based pose, had it not been for me being able to shift my weight and put my left leg down first. Unnerving, but a problem quickly solved by tucking my jeans in my boots. It did only happen the once, so it’s not likely to catch you out all the time. But the pegs are a little high – and yet you still scrape them round corners. And that tells you all need to know about ground clearance, which is not great. The thing is though, that even with the low ground clearance, you don’t notice it as much as you perhaps should , bearing in mind that this bike has an immense wheel base. It’s over 5 feet long, for heaven's sake!
The seat is awesome. It’s genuinely all-day comfortable. And that goes for the pillion seat too – although I’m reliably informed that the grab strap is not the most helpful thing in the world, trapped as it is between the rider and the pillion. And the comfort is enhanced by a very forgiving suspension set up, with inverted telescopic forks and link type rear, oil-damped, coil spring suspension. All of which just adds to the feeling of immense enjoyment, comfort and fashionable, stylish cool.
If there’s one quibble that I have about riding it, apart from its rather laboured handling and lazy brakes, it’s that you can’t see yourself while you do. And you should be able to. It’s almost impossible not to try and catch a glimpse of yourself in shop windows and shiny car doors and why shouldn’t you? You’re riding the INTRUDER and you look good. Well I did, and I’m a bit lardy.
In conclusion, Beauty met the beast, fell in love, bought a garage and together they created this hulkingly gorgeous monster. I love it. Some might say that it’s just a wannabe Harley. Well, if that’s the case then any make of cruiser is, but this stands out on its own, for being special. And it really is very, very good. If you don’t believe me, you should give it a try.
I’d like to thank the guys at Premier Motorcycles in West Wickham for sorting out the M1800R at and being so willing to let me play with it. It’s not often I get to say things like “fancy a ride love? I’ll just get the Intruder out...” but now? Well, that’s for me to know.
Second Opinion - Simon Bradley
Nobody makes huge American motorcycles with stupid names better than Harley Davidson. But Suzuki come pretty damn' close with this behemoth. I didn't get to ride the Intruder for very long, unfortunately, but it was long enough to come to a few conclusions. The engine is frankly staggering. It genuinely wouldn't be out of place in a car with the amount of torque ot produces, though that would be a waste. Mind you, if Suzuki were to put this engine into something like a B-King that would be hilarious. But I digress. The Intruder handles better than it has any right to, within the obvious limits of its size and style. After all, while you could imagine a large opera singer gliding elegantly across a ballroom, you'd hardly expect her to do hurdles, would you. Especially not in those heels. And so it is with the Intruder - treat it as the designer obviously intended and you'll be rewarded with a thoroughly pleasant experience, liberally peppered with broad smiles as the horizon gets rapidly reeled in while you remain cosseted and supremely comfortable. But get too far outside that fairly broad performance envelope and you'll be in a world of increasing workload and decreasing satisfaction as the available power quickly overwhelms the chassis, ground clearance and brakes.
The Intruder is a genuinely great motorbike which will forever suffer from not being "real." And that's just plain silly because as Mars said at the beginning it clearly is a real motorbike. And perhaps if you fancy trying a cruiser but your prejudices or preconceptions won't allow you to go to a Harley then this might be a fine place to start.