2009 Suzuki S40
The first thing to know about a Suzuki S40 is that it isn't the biggest and baddest bike someone could choose, but that's not the point of this motorcycle. No, it isn't going to win a motorcycle drag race unless it's against another S40 or possibly a Ural. It's not a 90+ MPH bike (at least in stock form with a 250 pound rider). It's not a motorcycle for long cross-country adventures unless you are really into Coccydynia. So besides being an excuse to work Coccydynia into a sentence and check that word off my bucket list, what possible redeeming factors could such a motorcycle have and why the heck would I buy one? That's what I'm going to attempt to answer in this post!
After that introductory paragraph, anyone who's looked at my other vehicles has to be scratching their head attempting to compare this motorcycle to one of my Jeeps or my AMX. The AMX is fast enough, the Rubicon is King Jeep right off the showroom floor comparing stock Jeeps throughout the years, so why would the S40 be in the same garage? The best answer is that it's fun, and it's a motorcycle. Sure all motorcycles are fun when the are running and there is the first clue: the S40 just runs, and runs and runs. It's a very simple machine; carburettor, battery, spark plug, belt drive... Even the tool to check the belt drive adjustment is on the motorcycle itself. It's air cooled, which doesn't make it special by itself as lots of motorcycles are air cooled, but it does eliminate one more system and one more possible source of trouble. Everything on the bike is something that can be fixed with a few hand tools if you're handy with tools, and what isn't ? like tires ? are inexpensive. Need from brake pads? That's two bolts to remove the caliper from the front forks and another bolt to remove the rod the pads hang on; and the cost of new pads? A whopping $8. Yes, $8 and 15 minutes and you have done half the brakes on the motorcycle. So maybe there is an elegance in a single disk brake when the bike doesn't go fast enough or weigh enough to warrant a double front disk brake. How many chances around town are there to legally exceed 75 MPH without risking a ticket and pulling hooligan stunts? Answer: zero. Then there is the gas mileage, which was exceeded expectations with a 90 mile a day commute consistently using 1.2 gallons of gas which was around $4 a day to fill up in the summer of 2015. Given the fuel tank holds around two and a half gallons of gas, a daily fill up was required but what was 10 minutes stopping daily at a gas station compared to saving several multiples of that time spent using HOV lanes and tolled HOV lanes for free? Compare the purchase price of a used S40 to the dollars spent on gas and daily commuting in a car and by the end of a season the motorcycle is a break-even proposition at 75 MPG even adding in costs like registration, gear like a helmet, boots and jacket and a bag to carry a laptop and lunch.
Economy of riding compared to beating the Rubicon through daily traffic commuting 90 miles round trip aside, there is also the ability to ride in pretty questionable conditions. No, the S40 isn't a dirt bike, dual sport or an adventure bike but in the consistent downpours that the Denver area received in the early summer of 2015 I found myself fairly consistently nearly the only motorcycle on the road. Occasionally I would see other motorcycles on the road in the summer rain but when I did see other motorcycles it was V-Strom, Versys and BMW riders with very few iconic Harley Davidsons out in the mix. I started riding the S40 consistently in June and by the end of July I had stopped watching the weather report on the news as, 1) I'd ride anyway and 2) if I saw a Harley out in the morning I stopped worrying what time I'd need to leave work to miss the worst of the daily downpour for it would be a sunny day.
The downpours of July gave the S40 a nick name: Put-Put. Not original by any measure, but representative of how the bike s' single cylinder sounds as it beats out it's steady rhythm. It's the honey badger of motorcycles for Put-Put don't care, Put-Put don't give a shit. Sun, no problem. Rain, no problem. Wipe it down on the weekends for another week of riding. No tiny nooks and crannies to get into to make Put-Put presentable. The garden hose and a clean rag on the front lawn and about 15 minutes and it's presentable able; maybe 30 minutes if the engine needs some detailing.
Rain and more rain
June and July of 2015 brought rain to the Denver area. The Platte was running high into early August by my unofficial meter of looking at it as I rode by on Santa Fe just North of Mississippi after getting off I-25 Southbound. It was rain and more rain, usually hitting at 3 to 6 in the afternoon just in time for rush hour. To be honest, riding the Denver-Boulder turnpike with construction zones, I-25 through the Stadium Curves? and Santa Fe was terrifying at first. As anyone who rides regularly will attest, car drivers do not see motorcycles; and they see them even less in the rain. Twice, on different days in the same week, the same woman driving a Prius nearly killed me swerving out of traffic on Southbound Santa Fe just before Dartmouth at about 4:45pm as she launched her car into the HOV lane to make a left onto Dartmouth. After two times experiencing this, I was on the lookout coming up to that same intersection and I learned to slow down to avoid her several more times throughout the summer (in her defense, she was texting on her phone each time I saw her). There were other near misses, and once I had to brake so hard the rear tire locked up which was added excitement in the rain, but none so consistent as the woman in the Prius. I discussed this with another rider at a stoplight after one of the near misses and he set me straight about the whole experience by telling me ?Jesus hates a pussy.? That vulgar phrase taught me instantly to shut up about car drivers (A.K.A. Cagers) and just accept this special kind of blindness which drivers get regarding motorcycles. I also returned the favor a few weeks later to a BMW rider at a stop light when he asked me if I thought it was going to rain again because he was considering turning around and getting his car. I was still laughing that day when I got to the office.