by Shawn Downey
Water Buffalo, n. A large buffalo, Bubalus bubalis, of Asia and Africa having large, spreading horns and often domesticated, especially as a draft animal.
Bubalus, bubalis? Is that like na-noo na-noo? Ah yes, the 1970s. A decade forgotten by many due to outrageous butterfly collars, newly created recreational drugs and a deficient supply of oxygen past the skin-tight polyester elephant winged trousers. Between the butterfly collars and the parasail pants, it was not uncommon to see your average pedestrian take flight during sudden gusts of wind. This explains the great number of UFO sightings.
The 1970s were very important years in motorcycling history. They marked the decade of record sales and new-age experimental creativity that produced a host of cult classics. One such classic is the Suzuki GT750&emdash;alias Water Buffalo, original sport-tourer, grand-daddy to the infallible GS engines still preferred for drag racing today. It was just plain ugly to some, which is why the parallel to the water buffalo developed, both being somewhat ugly and docile beasts with a pent-up rage just waiting to be unleashed when provoked. The motorcycle was released in 1972 exhibiting a water-cooled, three-cylinder, two-stroke engine praised for its quiet ride and supposed 13 second, 93 m.p.h. blasts down the quarter mile.
Two-stroke engines were status quo at the time (Emissions standards? We don’t need no stinking standards. We have plenty of ozone for everyone!), which was evident by Kawasaki’s frighteningly fast 500 Mach series and the ever popular Yamaha RDs. Suzuki surrounded their two-stroke engine with a water jacket. Water cooling gave them the edge by reducing vibration, piston clearance and number of rebuilds. Two-strokes are known for creating more heat than four-strokes, because they fire twice as often. The increased heat usually called for greater piston to cylinder clearance to make amends for heat expansion. A greater piston-to-cylinder clearance also resulted in a reduction of obtainable power due to blow-by of the piston rings. Factor this in with the excessive noise and rattling of the engine, and you have the motivation for the fine engineers at Suzuki to figure out how to give the public what it wanted: two-stroke, right-now power; a quiet running engine, and reliability for thousands of carefree miles. Ahhhh…sounds like an advertisement for a commercial airline carrier. Hot towel anyone?
Now that you are armed with the knowledge of what an incredible contribution the Water Buffalo was to the motorcycling community, I expect reactions a little different from what I have been witnessing as I accompany/drag my colleagues out to my cavernous garage. When I open the door and illuminate the surroundings with the single bare light bulb, I have become accustomed to hearing remarks such as, “What the hell is that?” or “You got it for free? Man, did you get screwed.” True, it is a step up from the howling laughter that I experienced before removing the Nixon stickers, but it is still not the kind of respect that should be garnered by such a powerhouse. This is the original sport-tourer, man!
This week I finally freed the remaining carb and procured an unobtainable widget used to secure the choke plunger in its little hole. My thanks go out to all of you shade tree and professional mechanics who contributed your time to locate that element from hell. You can all take satisfaction in knowing that the Downey household is a much quieter place now that the unobtainable has been obtained. I had begun to tire of hearing, “Sorry, dude. You couldn’t purchase that part when the bike was new. What makes you think that you can buy it now, 25 years later?” After talking to a plethora of unfamiliar dealers, it became quite apparent which ones were going to earn my future business and referrals and which ones were going to make my web page titled “Dealers That Suck, And Here’s Why.” Countless hours and bushels of dimes have taught me some very important lessons on how to detect if a dealer is worthy of your credit card digits. Allow me to share the top three characteristics of a dealer that is going to make your life a living hell:
1.) When you ask for the Parts Department, they reply with “Hold please…” Hours go by and suddenly someone picks up only to say, “Hold please…” You hear that disconnecting “click.” I advise you to immediately call Dominoes to order them 12 dozen pizzas with extra onions.
2.) The hold music or automated attendant spews a message something to the effect of “And on special now…buy a leather concho vest and get an oil change for free while you wait.”
3.) You find yourself in the bowels of the Service Department doing jumping jacks and squat thrusts while everyone ignores you and continues their Twinkie inhalation.
Remember the very important lessons that we have learned here today. Number one: Water Buffaloes rule and should receive the same amount of recognition for motorcycling as Farrah Fawcett did for “feathering.” Number two: never hand money over to a dealer unless you feel they have earned it. Number three: motorcycles with Nixon stickers are not meant to be laughed at. They have feelings too. Now go forth and prosper. Bubalus, bubalis.