Suzuki RG500 Walter Wolf: Real Deal
Test: Jeff Ware Photography: Heather Ware
The RG500 is already one of the most collectable bikes in the world but the WW special, in particular this Japanese spec model, takes it up a notch. There were 99 WW specials built for Canada, a handful built for Europe including a silver one for the Singapore market and very few, very special limited edition examples were made for the Japanese market to commemorate the legendary grand prix racer, 1979 750cc and 1982 500cc All Japan Champion Masaru Mizutani, who raced a Walter Wolf sponsored RG500.
The bike differs from the other WW specials in that is has Walter Wolf instruments, key, red wheels and a different seat material. They also had different Walter Wolf graphics and paintwork. Overall a very rare motorcycle…
Dave’s example is immaculate with only 8,000-miles on it and has a set of Jim Lomas pipes. It has recently been re-jetted and tuned and is registered and ridden most weekends by Dave, as long as it is not raining!
First introduced in 1985, the RG500 took performance streetbikes to an all time high that is still not exceeded today in comparison to what other models are on the market. When the RG500 hit the streets it was lighter, faster and better handling than anything seen before.
The square-four twin crank rotary valve two-stroke was a true GP replica based on the bike that Barry Sheene won world titles on and that Misaru Mizutani won on in 1982, thus this replica.
With huge brakes, fantastic suspension for its day and a lightweight alloy frame the RG was head and shoulders above the bulky RZ500 Yamaha. 340-pounds and 95hp were unheard of figures. Production ceased in 1987 so the rare 500 was only available for two year and so is a true collectable these days…
I nervously climb aboard the immaculate RG500 at the owner, Dave’s place. It’s sunny but a storm is building. I know I have about two hours to test ride the bike and shoot it. Heather sets off in the car to the photo location…
I sit into the bike – it feels so narrow and low compared to a modern machine. The screen is tall but the tanks and bars are absolutely tiny. I turn the ignition key on and thumb for the starter button. Oops…
I then turn the fuel tap on and kick the kickstarter with one sharp kick. The bike fires up and cackles into a crisp idle, instantly sending shivers up my spine…
I pull in the light clutch and select first. In a blur of howling pipes and blue smoke I slip the clutch off up the road with 5000rpm dialled up. It’s a noise that sounds cool enough to make me feel 17 again…
I short shift and run through the gears, the bike actually humming along really smoothly at the 4000 to 5000rpm mark with just enough torque on a lean throttle to keep momentum up. At 40mph in fourth gear the RG is a dream. Above 5000rpm, however, there’s nothing going on!
I start working the gearbox as I get up into the hills and begin to explore the top end pull of the bike, the skinny cross-ply tyres and the 1980s brakes and suspension. As I exit a second gear turn, uphill, I open it up and the screaming square four is in it’s element – howling from 7500rpm to 11,500rpm where power tails off. I glance at the speedo. Holy crap!
The next 10km of twisties are a blur of green rushing by as I pass bushland like I’m sitting on the back of a supercharged chainsaw, and I’m blown away by the power of the front brakes. They lack feel but they stop well. The bike steers ultra-fast and bites too – I accelerate too hard over a series of bumps and the RG tries to tankslap me into the weeds. Phew…
The bike is so, so light so accelerates just as quickly as any modern bike I’ve ridden through here and with better rubber and modernised suspension, this thing would kick ass!
We complete the photoshoot with me almost flipping the bike when it savagely came on the power in first gear and caught me out.
With adrenaline pumping through my body I calm down and short shift back to the owners home – via the main shopping street. That bike cackling along turned more heads than anything I’ve been on.
What a buzz. Long live the 1980s. What a time that must have been for sportsbike riders.
SPECIFICATIONS: 1985 WALTER WOLF RG500
Engine: Liquid-cooled, square twin crank four two-stroke
Bore x Stroke: 56 x 50.6mm
Clutch: Wet multi-plate cable-actuated
Carburation: 4 x 28mm Mikuni flat slides
Gearbox: Six-speed constant mesh
Chassis: Alloy beam frame and swingarm
Suspension: Semi adjustable Showa conventional forks, semi adjustable Showa Full Floater rear
Brakes: Tokico four-piston calipers (f), 260mm rotors, single piston (r), 210mm rotor
Wheels/Tyres: 110/70-16in (f), 120/90-17(r)
Weight: 156kg dry