The Suzuki GS850, introduced in 1979, sported a bored-out two-valve GS750 engine mated to a shaft drive, offering 77 horsepower and a top speed of 119 mph — a heavyweight brute designed for the touring enthusiast more than the sport rider. While that may not sound like a recipe for outright excitement, the hard-to-impress journos of Cycle gave the big 850 their Seal of Approval:
“Suzuki’s new GS850, by virtue of conspicuous merit displayed in all the standard categories of evaluation, easily earns the Seal—with laurel clusters, which is an award our jaded test riders bestow on a motorcycle they judge to be simply, totally and supremely nice.”
They went on to note that the GS850 might not be the absolute fastest, best handling, or most comfortable thing on two wheels, but it was a bike you just wanted to ride…
“Just perfectly nice, in ways that make you want to ride when the weather report says you shouldn’t and leave you with a warming residue of regret long after the days of riding are done.”
Four years later, Motorcyclist had similar thoughts, noting the conservatively-styled machine had been largely overlooked and underestimated since its inception, yet it had a winning effect on the magazine’s gaggle of jaded test riders:
“As soon as the GS850G got here, a funny thing happened. As staff riders, jaded by the latest crop of superbikes, luxury tourers, and high-performance sporting bikes, rediscovered the 850, the enthusiasm and excitement we felt for the bike four years previously reappeared in each person who rode it. The GS850, you see, is an excellent motorcycle.” —Motorcyclist, 1983
Enter Barry and Blythe Wise of Basan Metalworks — a small workshop in Bremerton, Washington, which specializes in commissioned bikes and cafe racer parts. We first came into contact with them after sighting their ’87 BMW K100 at the 2019 One Moto Show, clad in glorious aluminum bodywork — one of their specialties.
Strangely, this ’79 GS850, 40+ years after it rolled out of the factory, seemed to have a similar effect on Barry as it had on those jaded test riders of long ago, surprising him with how well it lent itself to customization:
“I had never worked on this model, and have to say it was a pleasure, the frame was easy to modify and translates well in any design direction.”
The most striking aspect of the build is the hand-formed aluminum bodywork — Barry’s main medium — and includes the battery box, side covers, mud guard, front fender, fairing, speedo/tac mount, brake strap — all in 0.08 3003 aluminum. The result is one of the most elemental big-bore fours we’ve seen, a full-metal bruiser sure to turn heads in the city and eat up miles on the backroads and byways of the Pacific Northwest.
Below, we get a few more details on the build from Barry himself.
Suzuki GS850 Brat Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
Here is our latest build, Ryan’s 1979 GS850 brat. I had never worked on this model, and have to say it was a pleasure, the frame was easy to modify and translates well in any design direction.
We started with the usual, detabbing the frame, welding in some new tabs, a tail hoop with an integrated tail light mount, and cleaning up all the frame welds.
My beautiful wife and shop assistant Blythe stripped, sanded and brushed the air box covers and fuel tank.
As hand-formed aluminum is my main medium we added a battery box, side covers, mud guard, front fender, fairing, speedo/tac mount and brake strap all in 0.08 3003 aluminum.
We also added a stainless steel plate holder and headlight cradle.
We moved the ignition to the rear side cover, upgraded the front calipers and rotors to those from a GS1100 and added some new exhaust tips from Dime City. Hope you guys dig it!
Purpose Built Moto headlight and tail light
Morimoto front and rear turn signals
Dime City exhaust tips, ignition, and bars
Shinko Tour Master tires