Classic Steel

GP’s Classic Steel #88: Suzuki TM400

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Comments (16)
  1. I bought one of these new (cheap) that a dealer was stuck with. I used it on logging roads and trails in NW Wisconsin. The next year, I thought I should give MX’ing a try. Everything in the above summary was very true. I was often to the first corner first and by the 2nd lap, the suspension had gone rigid and absolutely beat me up and my body limp. The last race of the season had me spin the flywheel in warmups and as racers will do, decided to go for it anyway. Interesting day with the throttle acting like an on/off switch and a fellow racer bumped me at top speed off a level drop-off jump (Strum, WI track) that had me landing sideways and put the bike out of its misery with a cracked frame.

  2. I worked for a Suzuki dealer in northern Westchester Co. in N.Y. and we had an upcoming young rider who also served with me as a shop mechanic who took on the “orange tanker” TM400 in ’71. We tried and tried to find a solution for the way the thing would hop about with it’s rear end, relocating swing arm pivot location, shock replacements, welding the rear hub and sprocket carrier into a single assembly. Nothing we did really made enough difference. He sold it and moved into a Yamaha 360 and then onto a Maico. I borrowed a similar, stock TM and though I was an expert rated 250cc rider, I could not manage the beast in anything but a straight line – no trophies for me, either. Glad to see this write-up, I knew it had been a beast but this puts it in even more clear terms.

  3. I purchased a TM400 in 1972. I was an experienced riders and racer. The first thing I did was to add a 4 pound flywheel. Then addressed the rear shocks. I was 6’4″, 236 pound desert racer. The bike was everything the article said it was, a beast. I rode it in two Baja 500’s, one Baja 1000 ant two Mint 400’s. My racing career wasn’t notable, but the bike performed well. Until the rear swing arm broke at the Borego 200 in 1973. Unfortunately, I was doing about 80 moh at the time and was launched like being shot out of a rifle. End of bike, end of racing but still riding. FYI, the TM400 could climb a hill like no other. Widowmaker hill looks great from the top.

  4. I owned one but never raced it, preferring my (2) 1974 Elsinores. I did like the power of the TM because it would give me such an adrenaline surge!

  5. I had a 1975 Suzuki TS400 enduro that I doubled the port size on and added the high compression TM cylinder head. I removed the turn signals, mirrors, unnecessary frame brackets and other unwanted parts and installed a Barnett clutch and modified the brake shoes. Nothing, absolutely nothing could come close to that bike. I was in high school and pulled 90 mph wheelies past the school to impress the girls. On fire-roads I could get crossed up sliding at 80 mph. I never had any ill-handling episodes ever. Was the TM inferior to the TS ? I can’t relate to all the bad-mouthing of my bike’s close cousin.

    1. IN fairness by 1975 Suzuki had addressed and fixed many of the issues that plagued the early TM400s.

  6. It was 1972, I was a 12 yr. old kid riding the hell out of my SKY Blue Honda SL70. Denver was amazing, open trails, fields, an as yet unpaved freeway I-225 for straitaway racing, top speed runs etc., a motocross track that we “wore on” just by riding around., dirt bridges, TT course, an oval track, we had it all; right here in SE Denver, amazing time!!! We were the squirts, but gave it our all.
    The big boys rode Huskys, CZs, Maicos, even the occasional Montesas and Ossas. Those bikes were the bomb but as for the Japanese, Yamaha was it. The best Japanese bikes in the dirt. One guy did have a TM400 and I fell in love with the thing immediately, strictly based on looks. Now, decades later I find out what a lousy bike it was in actual operation. Wow. .
    My second bike, ironically was a 1974 Suzuki TS125 “Duster”, it didn’t dust much out there in the dirt. It was kinda tame and felt “electric” in sound and temperament.
    Oh well, those were the days…..soon the Elsinore, the RM and YZ bikes arrived and changed everything.

  7. In 1972 I saw an ad in cycle trader. 71 TM 400 trade down.I owned a TS185 at the time and was 14. My current Suzuki was worn out. When I showed up at the guy’s house he took me out back to show me the bike and it had a huge dent in the metal tank. He explained to me how he broke his tailbone the first time he rode it and was scared to ride it again. The bike was awesome looking and brand new!
    .I made a deal instantly (straight across I couldn’t believe it).I added Curnut shocks,Basani Pipe,Vescoe skiny fatty tank,awesome desert bike!Yes it almost killed me a couple times but what a handful to ride!An yes That was the only bike that could make the Picnic Point Hilllimb,!

  8. Test rode one, what a leg breaker. Spit me off on the high side and I didn’t do anything wrong.
    Call it suicide by motorcycle.

  9. Owned one when I was 15.. mom cried every time I took it out.. Dad laughed.. it would leave 8” deep trenches up the logging roads.. climb like nothing else out there.. but it had a mind of its own.. they said it had a wicked timing curve.. ya .. right “curve” … it was no curve it was on or off scared my friends that had elsinors so bad they never even asked to ride it.. the TM400.. feared by many .. tamed by none..
    Would like another one before I die..🤷🏻‍♂️🤔

  10. In 1974, myself and my best friend (who was mgr at the dealership) we each bought one. Of course we never read any of this. We added a 4# flywheel, new rear shocks, a big pair of balls and rode the shit out of it. We rode Endura’s in LA, MS, AR, FL AL. Southern Enduro Riders Assoc. (SERA). When we wasn’t Enduro riding we road Hair Scrambles and very rarely a motocross. We didn’t get started young, we were in our late 20’s at that time. We didn’t know better then, it was the best thing we had ever ridden and LOVED it. The 1st full year we ran the SERA circuit, I finished 1st in the Beginners class and 17th overall. Then next year in expert I was leading the open class. In most of the hair scrambles we rode we finished 1-2. Everything they say about the power was true, the 4 # flywheel tamed the beast and put the power to the ground and made the wheelie controllable. To this day, I still miss the beast. At 74 now, I ride a 2021 KTM 500 exc., a 2022 KTM 890 Adv R and a 2021 Honda Goldwing DTC Tour. I’m still a POWER junkie.

  11. I was 14 when I bought a brand new 1973 Suzuki TM using my own money I earned as a paperboy. I raced it for 2 years at local MX events. At 16,I retired my motocross career and used my TM for several years as a great off road bike that could climb hills and send rooster tails like no other. I sold it for dirt cheap. I miss that yellow monster!

  12. Back in the day, in my dad’s first marriage, he sold their car to buy this bike. The marriage didn’t last, and thank god my dad outlasted the bike. Every time I think I’ve made a bad decision/am forever doomed/etc, I remember *that* decision.

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