Ah, the Suzuki TL1000R — introduced in 1998 to be Japan’s mighty V-twin Superbike, designed to rival the dominant Ducatis on the track and in the showroom. The TL1000R would fall short in World Superbike, but the TL-R’s liquid-cooled, 135-hp, 90-degree V-twin motor would be lauded for its high-revving power and aural character.
Though the TL-R was intended to be “the best potential Superbike winner,” it ended up overweight and overcomplicated. It weighed 434 lb dry — 40+ pounds more than the R1 of the time — and made less power. Besides that, high-speed instability in early models gave the bike a “widow-maker” reputation, and much of the bike was over-complicated, hiding the motor’s true potential.
Enter one of our favorite builders, Ezio Covelli of Magnum Opus Custom Bikes, who set out to rectify these issues. Ezio is one of those builders who leaves no stone unturned, and he approaches each build with a holistic mindset. Unlike many bikes, which are more like design exercises, he never neglects brake, suspension, and maintenance-related upgrades. The result here is “Alphamille,” a TL1000 cafe racer boasting a 23% improvement in power-to-weight ratio, along with a staggering wealth of other upgrades. Below, we get the full story from Ezio on the build.
Suzuki TL1000 Cafe Racer: In the Builder’s Words
(Words by Ezio Covelli. Highlights by us.)
The whole concept behind this build was to bring simplicity to an extremely complicated bike. The initial idea was to convert the fuel injection system and all its components to carbureted, ultimately discarded because of tuning issues in the mid range and about 10% power loss.
Braking and Suspension:
The Tokico 6-piston calipers (a true nightmare if not rebuilt properly) have been taken apart, the chambers honed, pistons polished on the lathe and seals replaced, result = one finger stoppies. New wavy rotors installed in place of the old OEM ones and new pads.
The front forks have been rebuilt with better springs and seals. In the rear, the over -ngineered rotary damper and spring (the infamous rotary damper I should say) was thrown in the trash followed by a brief celebration in the shop. I’m still wondering what Suzuki’s engineers were thinking when they came up with that thing. In its place, we installed a modern fully adjustable rear shock that does the job at ¼ of the weight of the OEM setup.
The OEM subframe was discarded in favor of a custom-built one.
GSXR Gas tank and Custom tail section: I’ve been on the fence whether or not swapping the gas tank for weeks. It wasn’t a simple choice to make, as the OEM tank uses an in-tank fuel pump powered by the ECU and relays, and I knew it wouldn’t have been a simple task. Making a gas tank designed to gravity feed carburetors work with a fuel injection motorcycle wasn’t exactly a piece of cake, after a few days in the work I managed to make everything work like it came from the factory.
The tail section was handmade with fiberglass, gel coated and painted. The whole new Gas tank / tail section setup was engineered in a way that can be taken apart without tools for a super fast maintenance.
The wiring was simplified where possible, and relocated within the frame lines (between gas tank and motor). Exception was made for the ECU, positioned as far away as possible from heating sources.
Originally known as an incredibly heavy sportbike — 228Kg /503lbs wet — producing 135HP (120 hp of which at the wheel) with a power to weight ratio of 0.53hp/kg.
After the “treatment,” the ALPHAMILLE finally feels like the type of bike that you can really squeeze all the potential out of.
After scoring a WET weight of only 420lbs (190kg) over 80 lbs lighter than stock and a DRY weight of 390lbs (176kg), this bike now places itself amongst the lightest production sportbikes available on the market even compared to newer models.
If you’re a track addict know that there are margins of improvements available regarding the weight. It wouldn’t be too hard to get into the 400 lbs by installing lighter wheels, 520 chain, removing the lower radiator and the headlight assembly.
- Based on the actual power to the wheel (120 hp) and wet weight, a stock TL1000R had a power / weight ratio = 0.52 Hp/Kg.
- Thanks to a custom fuel mapping, the motor power output increased to 125 WHP that along with the enormous weight loss we were able to achieve a NEW power / weight ratio = 0.65 Hp/Kg.
An outstanding 23% improvement — that’s equivalent of adding 30hp at the wheel on a stock TL-R!
Motor Tune up:
- 20K miles valve clearance check
- Charging system check
- Oil and filter change
- Coolant flush
- New brake and clutch fluids
- Custom fuel map
- Straight Exhaust with racing baffles
- Open intake filters
- Exhaust tips fabricated in the shop
- Custom front fender fabricated
- One off headlight with LED Hi beam
- Throttle bodies balanced
- Digital aftermarket Speedo/Tach with coolant temp reading
- Oil and filter service
- Low profile Hi flow/water resistant radiator fans
- Radiator fan switch on handlebar
- Custom fit belly pan
- New aluminum radiator over flow tank
- Map based fuel injection tuning module FI TUNER PRO
- Handlebar mounts and handlebar
- Rebuilt and relocated steering damper
- Fabricated 3/8” petcock adapter plate and new petcock with reserve
- Inline K&N fuel filter
- New 530 9000lbs tensile strenght Gold chain
- Vanzuki blue triple clamp stem nut
- Vanzuki blue stator cover plug with new o-ring
- New clutch and brake master cylinders
- New Braided brake lines
- New Pirelli Rosso Corsa II tires (front and back)
- Drilled rear rotor
- Candy blue forks legs
- LED rear brake/tail light
- Gas tank mounts
- Airbox delete
- Lithium battery 230cca
- New Sub-frame fabricated in the shop