Page last modified: 10/31/13
1980-83 GS850 review
Class: sports touring
Engine: air-cooled in-line four 4-stroke
Displacement: 843 cc
Valve Arrangement: DOHC 2
Final Drive: shaft
Brakes: dual disc front, single disc rear
Weight: 558 lbs
The GS850G is noted...as a variation of the GS series. First produced in 1980*, the 1982 and 1983 model years have proven themselves to be particularly strong. The bike is easy to maintain and easy to accessorize. Features found on the GS850G that are attractive to the used motorcycle buyer include long lasting engine, large comfortable seat and low maintenance shaft drive.
The GS850 offered CV carbs*, transistorized ignition*, automatic cam chain tensioner, air assisted front forks*, oil damped rear swingarm with five load settings and four damping adjustments, mag style wheels and quartz-halogen headlight. The bike comes in GT*, GX, GZ, GD, GLT, GLX and GLZ variations.
If you want a good lightweight* cycle to fashion into a touring machine, this is a great model to build around. Do not overlook the 850's smaller brothers, the GS650E and GS650G (with shaft drive).
*Peter Huppertz begs to differ...
I happen to have a GS850 myself, and thus are in a position to provide some annotations.
First of all: we Europeans had the GS850 around when you US citizens hadn't heard of it. In 1978 we had a version designated as the GN variations. Differences with the GT (the basic model from 1980 onwards) included: slide carbs, dinosaur-type points ignition, no air assist on the front forks, and... the GN had a kick starter!
I have a 1981 GT model, which I fashioned into a distance tourer. I would not describe it as a 'lightweight cycle'. My GS1100EZ in standard trim is more than 40 pounds lighter than a GS850G in standard trim. When properly dressed up (fairing, hard bags) it weighs enough to make a grown man cry. Not as much as a 'Wing, though... but hey, this is a motorcycle (as opposed to a 'Wing, yes).
The GS850 is probably the most reliable, strongest (in terms of longevity) bike Suzuki ever built. Mileages of 120.000 or more are commonplace. Mine now has 160.000 (as of Aug. 1996). Yes, a rebuild is due.
The 850 is a downright unassuming workhorse. It does everything extremely well and in an extremely effortless way. Handling is neutral and with an emphasis on stability. Performance (mine does 70 bhp) can easily be described as adequate, with a good power curve from way down.
I like my GS1100EZ for its ecstatic, brains-off performance, better handling and joint-stretching acceleration, but I love my 850. It provides an effortless ride and a smoothness the Eleven just can't match, and I keep coming back to it. It's destined to become a classic -- most people owning a good one are reluctant to let it go.
Suzuki wanted to discontinue the bike after 1983. Problem was, the customers didn't agree to this. So Suzuki revamped the bike (and some of the other shafties, such as the GS1100GK) once again and reintroduced it. The GS850G could be bought new up until 1986, when it disappeared from the catalog. The Dutch importer even got some from Hamamatsu in 1987... making the GS850 the last of the true GS's.