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A trip to Finland with my Suzuki GSX1400

Here's some pictures I took during the first 24 hours I owned the motorcycle. Here's my first thoughts of the brand new bike and why I choose to buy it. Here's a page about the initial (1 000km / 600 miles) service. Here's a page about the first ride after winter. Here's a page with some pictures I took of my bike in May 2002. Here's the page with comments after the second service and after a day on the race track in Karlskoga.

On this page I tell you what I think of my bike now in September 2002, twelve months after the purchase and after the first tire change and after a trip to Finland.

My first tire change. Click to enlarge.

Right after the 6,000 km service I bought a new rear tire for my GSX1400. The guy at the the tire shop claimed that I could still ride a few more miles with the old tire (see a picture above) but I was planning a longer trip to Finland and I felt safer with a fresh tires. The old rear tire was still great when the tarmac was dry and the road straight. Actually it wasn't an awful tire even when the weather was damp and colder but when you are used to 100% grip, any tendencies of losing grip feels unpleasant.

I remember some guy telling on a discussion board that he had bought a 180/55-17 rear tire to his GSX1400 instead of the stock 190/50-17. He thought the bike was steering quicker with improved cornering as a result. I considered it a short while but then somebody else notified that you should change the rear wheel as well if you wanted to make the rear tire any narrower... Sounds correct to me.

Anyway, I made the same choice the Suzuki engineers had made and went for the original brand and dimension: Bridgestone BT020 190/50-17. The boss at the tire shop was an old friend of mine and I got a great price as well. I took the wheel off myself, took about five minutes, no problem. The balancing of the tire went also really quick, there wasn't any need to take off the old weights, the tire was 100% balanced without removing or adding any weights!

About an half an hour later (putting the wheel back again took a bit longer than taking it off) I had a new rear tire I remembered the comments of the guy that bought a narrower rear tire— I had the same feeling, even with the standard dimension! I had forgotten how easy it was to corner a bike when the tires. were perfectly round! It was like I had a new bike!

This time I knew how fast the rear tire can be worn out if you weren't easy on the throttle. I'm not made out of money so I decided to try ride smoother and by that way adding the life of the rear tire We'll see how long the second rear tire will last. I'm writing this in the middle of September and the new tire has already seen almost 5,000 kilometers of tarmac. The old tire was almost totally worn out at 6,000 km. I'm not entirely sure but I think I can ride additional 5,000 km with the tire before I need to replace it. That's quite a difference! Now the front tire has almost used up but that's another story...

A trip to Finland

I was hoping I could make a longer trip to Southern Europe this summer with my bike but my poor economical situation didn't get any better (unemployed since last summer) and I didn't have the money. Instead of Europe, I chose a shorter tour in Finland. I have relatives there and therefor I don't have to pay any hotel of camping place bills. Together with my brother Risto I own a summer place in Northern Finland where I could also stay for free.

Between Sweden and Finland, meeting another ferry.

On the morning of the 16th of July I packed my bike with some necessities like some clothes, a sleeping bag, toothbrush and a road map I started the trip from Stocholm to Turku with a ferry. I planned to overnight in Southern Finland, at my cousin's house in Toijala. I don't like riding at dark and I wanted to continue the trip the morning after to Northern Finland.

The weather was perfect, the sun was shining and the weather cast promised similar weather for the whole week. I was planning to stay a week or two in Finland, depending on the weather and how I was enjoying myself.

It was really nice to visit my cousin's family in Toijala. It was in the middle of the week and they were both working so it suited fine to all of us me continuing my trip early in the next morning.

Ready to ride on. I had planned to buy a set of saddle bags for my bike but it will have to wait, I haven't had the money.

As I already mentioned, the weather was fine. Very fine. At noon it was about hot as it can be in Finland, over 30 degrees Celsius, in a shade. My Gore-Tex jacket wasn't too hot when riding the bike but soon I was to find out that it wasn't that great a jacket when pushing the bike uphill on a highway...

I had filled the gas tank just before leaving Sweden, in Södertälje, about 40 kilometers south of Stockholm. I calculated that I could ride to Jyväskylä before I ad to fill the tank again. But I didn't. I run out of gas on the highway short before I got to the gas station. ”I'd guess I have to push to bike the last kilometer or two”, I thought, feeling quite silly. I had never ran out of gas with my GSX1400 before. The meter showed 328 kilometers and I had rode 380 kilometers before without running out of gas. But the evening before I had traveled the distance between Turku and Toijala very fast, not wanting to arrive too late in the night to my cousin's place. I'd guess the bike had used a few extra liters on that distance.

Anyway, here I was, trying to avoid being run over by the cars on the highway, walking my bike suddenly felt very heavy and the sun was slowly cooking me brain up inside the helmet. I knew that the gas station was not far way now, my brother Yrjö and I had stopped there last summer. Although the GSX1400 is quite heavy a bike, it wasn't any brother to push it until it was uphill. Then it was almost impossible. After every ten meters or so I had to sit down for a short brake. It was hotter than in hell now and I was sweating all over and didn't have any strength left.

I'm very thankful for the kind fellow that stopped his car on the side of the highway and helped me to push the bike the last hundred meters of the last uphill between me and the gas station. ”I ride bike myself so it's only natural that I stopped to help”, he said and showed me the easiest way to get to the gas station, using the bicycle lane instead of the main street.

It should have been easy to take me to the gas station if I had been all right. After a short downhill there was only a couple of hundred meters to push the bike on a horizontal tarmac. But I didn't make it. I wasn't even thinking straight anymore, all I thought was that I needed to get out out my biking clothes, helmet and I needed something to drink. I managed to get as far as 50 meters from the gas station but I I couldn't take a shortcut over the lawn. I was having problems with pushing the bike on a hard surface. When I realized that I would have to take a detour of additional 200 or 300 meters to get to the gas station I gave up. I throw off my helmet and jacket and just sat down on the ground.

There it was, the gas station. But how could me and my bike get there without any gas? I decided that I wouldn't.

After few minutes I left the bike, the luggage, my jacket and my helmet and went to the gas station myself. I thought the lady behind the counter that I had run out of gas ”a short way from here” and asked if I could borrow a gas canister of some kind. She loaned me a canister and the problem was solved. I got some gasoline in the tank and could ride the rest of the way to the gas station.

I knew that I wasn't feeling all right. After putting the helmet back on I almost passed out immediately. But I managed to ride to the gas station where I rested a good while and drank cool drinks.

When I thought I was feeling quite all right., I walked in to the car part shop next door to the gas station. The salesman asked me if I wanted to use the personnel's rest room to wash my face with cold water or something. ”Yes, please” I replied, wondering how he could knew I was feeling hot. After seeing my face in the mirror I knew why he knew. My whole face was red, like I was cooking inside. There was a shower in the rest room as well so I put my head under the shower and poured cold water over my head for a good while. It felt wonderful.

Never again, I thought. I didn't want to run out of gas ever again!

On a dirt road in Northern Finland, in the neighborhood of Sukeva.

The rest of the trip was far less dramatic. After leaving Jyväskylä (with full tank) I took a swim in one of the thousands lakes to get rid of the sweat and continued my journey towards my older sister's place nearby Kajaani in northern Finland.

This was the longest trip I had ever made with my bike. The GSX1400 is a really pleasant motorcycle to travel with and if it wasn't for the vibrations from the rear tire (it was ruined when rehearsing panic breaking at the race track in Karlskoga) I couldn't have anything to complain about the ride. The first 100 kilometers or so after every stop were really pleasant but after that you could feel the vibrations and slowly but surely they would feel in the hands making them numb.

After couple of hundred kilometers I took off the main road at Sukeva. My sister had warned me by the phone that they were renovating the road and there were placed with no tarmac on it. I noticed that, a large stone flying from the front wheel (I suppose) damaged one of the exhaust pipes making an ugly scratch on it (damage number one). The day after I noticed another damage on the bike: dirt underneath the tank bag had damaged the paint on the fuel tank (damage number two). I was not glad about it but what can you do? I didn't buy the bike in order to keep it shiny and new, I bought it so I could use it and sooner or later there will be some marks after use.

After couple of days at my sister's place I continued my trip. My mother was still living in Puolanka, a small community in Northern Finland I left in mid-eighties. The distance was only about 150 kilometers.

I stopped for fuel in Paltamo, a small community between Kajaani and Puolanka. I was glad to notice that cruising really slow through Finland paid off when refueling. The GSX1400 had needed only 5 liters per 100 kilometer after Jyväskylä. I celebrated the new record by riding the rest of the way almost at full speed (and using a much more fuel than earlier)...

My mother was glad to see me but I didn't stay there long. I tried to find some of my school mates in Puolanka but didn't find any. I'd guess they had all moved from Puolanka for years ago. I decided I'd ride to Vaala instead. That's the place where our summer place is located, by the lake Oulujärvi. I had stopped there only for a quick look the summer before when traveling with my older brother's GoldWing but it had been years and years I had spent some time there. This time I was all alone and I wanted to just take it easy and enjoy the summer.

I'd guess nobody had mowed the lawn for a while. It was still nice to get to our summer cottage in Vaala.

For a couple of days I just sat on the porch, had a few Finnish beers and red interesting articles from the old motor magazines my father had left behind on our summer cottage. The oldest magazines where from the 1950's and there were hundreds of them. I realized that there were dozens of great articles of Suzuki motorcycles I planned to scan for you some day.

I should probably have left the cottage after only couple of days if my older brothers hadn't decided to come from Sweden to the summer place as well. Yrjö, the GoldWing dude, called me and asked me to stay put, he was coming and he had taken my other brother with him. So I stayed.

My brother had had an accident earlier that year at the work and broken his heel, making him unable to ride a bike for few months. So my brothers arrived with a car instead. They took the long road, not using the ferry shortcut. A 20 hour ride, or something like that. But I had time to wait, good reading and there were more beer in the shops.

Only minutes after my brothers arrived, I managed to cause another damage to my bike. As you see on the picture above, the lawn hadn't been mowed for a really long time and it wasn't easy too see where you were going. I accidentally rode on a small concrete block hidden in the grass that made ugly damage to the alternator case on the left side of the engine (damage number three). I was glad to notice that the damage wasn't visible for anyone else unless you were lying on the ground and looking upwards. Although a piece of the alternator case was missing, there was no hole through and no water or dirt could find its way inside the case. But to be absolutely sure, I put some silicone to fill the hole.

Taking it easy. My brother Risto resting in the back of the car, my brother Yrjö lying on my Suzuki.

After couple of weeks with my brothers at the summer place, working most of the time (mending everything that needed to be fixed, and there were many things that were worn down), it was time to get back home. There's no much to tell about the ride home. I stayed a couple of hours at my sister on my way southwards and stayed the night at my neighbors' summer place at Konnevesi (close to Jyväskylä) and the day after I took the evening ferry from Turku to Kapellskär in Sweden. Home again.

Oh yes, I was close to making the same mistake again as I did on my way to north. After leaving my neighbors' place in Konnevesi I decided to take smaller roads instead of the boring main roads on my way to Turku. It was raining all the time so the roads weren't that fun to ride (I think nothing is fun at rain), but that wasn't the problem. I had forgotten that when traveling on the smallest roads, there are not that many gas stations everywhere. Suddenly I realized that I had to get more fuel really soon and the nearest village was 60 kilometers ahead. I took it really slow to save some gas and I did make it to the next gas station, but it was really close. The fuel tank displacement is 21 liters and that was exactly the amount of fuel I filled up...

What did I learn from all of this? I learned that the Suzuki GSX1400 is a wonderful bike for any purpose except when riding on a wet and soft dirt road. After visiting my sister for the first time, it had been raining the day I left and the dirt roads (30 kilometers) were not fun to ride on a heavy bike with high speed road tires. I also learned that you can't count on that your bike uses the same amount of fuel if you ride on different speeds. When riding on legal speeds it rewards you with great mileagebut it begins to drink much more fuel when you double the speed. And believe me, you don't want to run out of fuel and have to push a GSX1400...

What else? Riding more smooth gives you more tire mileage and avoiding concrete blocks hidden in grass, dirt between the tank bag and loose stones on the road help in keeping the bike looking like new...

The trip was about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) long. The rest of the summer has been great here in Sweden and I have made several shorter trips after that (more of them later). The odometer shows almost 11,000 kilometers today and as I mentioned earlier, the rear tire is till in very good shape. The front tire has less than 2 mm on it and should be replaced soon. I'm still very satisfied with the bike and love it more and more every day.

I bought the bike exactly a year ago (I got it on the 17th of September 2001) and plan to have it for a long time. But this winter I try to avoid using it on salty roads. It was so difficult to wash the salt off the bike last winter.

Maybe I even keep it inside when the snow comes this year...

Jarmo Haapamäki
September 18, 2002
Still a proud owner of a Suzuki GSX1400 K2, a year after purchase

More: Suzuki GSX1400

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