There are some bikes that inspire awe and others which generate loathing. Mainly though, motorcycles are memorable merely because they are solidly unremarkable. These machines have a brief period of being fashionable, and desirable, and then fade into obscurity.
Then, very rarely, there appears a bike that engenders affection, a motorcycle that is the true embodiment of the mechanical horse. The Suzuki PE 250B was one of these.
The Suzuki PE250B designation is both elegant and mundane. PE stands for 'Pure Enduro' to show that the bike was first, last and middle a dirt bike with only a passing nod to road use. Why 'B'? Suzuki briefly had a flirtation with numbering model years by letter and 'B' refers to 1977. This means that there never was an 'A' model.
By 1976, the company had amassed huge successes in Grand Prix motocross and had made a very passable dual-purpose trail bike in the TS250A that was more than competent off-road. However, the serious enduro market was still dominated by European manufacturers, and in particular KTM, which was sold under the Penton trademark in America. It was Penton's market in particular at which the Suzuki PE was targeted.
The heart of the Suzuki PE250B was a 250cc two-stroke engine, with heavy flywheels and reed-valve induction. The engine made only 28 horsepower at 8000rpm but pulled like a train. Even regular Suzuki PE riders were often amazed at how the bike could slog up the steepest climb, or through the most glutinous bog, with the reed petals clattering merrily away and the heavy flywheels keeping the engine turning.
At the other end of the scale, the Suzuki PE was no slouch either. Using a large 36mm Mikuni carburettor, a well prepared Suzuki PE was good for in excess of 130km/h on shale roads, and the sweet, five-speed gearbox and bomb-proof clutch meant the engine never tired, no matter how hard it was ridden.
Compared with the Pentons (KTM), Husqvarnas and Montesas the Suzuki PE had docile handling which was a handicap in tight going and on special tests. The plus side was that the bike flattered the most inept of riders. Suzuki PE pilots had to go out of their way to crash the bike, in stark contrast with the Pentons, which spat their riders off at every opportunity.
The Suzuki was also incredible rugged and well made, compared with the European opposition. Given a clean air filter, a Suzuki PE would cover 1600 racing kilometers with nothing more than washing, chain adjustment and refueling. The forks never leaked, the brakes worked well after being drowned and the bike started first kick, hot or cold.
The Suzuki PE was almost indestructible too. Anyone who actually managed to bend a Suzuki PE in a crash was sure to contemplate the error of his ways from a hospital bed.
Much as the Suzuki PE won the hearts of its riders, the bike did not benefit from a serious and sustained development program. As the opposition produced faster, lighter and more agile bikes the Suzuki PE became increasingly outdated. By the time the 'N' model had arrived, the Suzuki PE was looking less like a thoroughbred race bike and more like a super sport trail bike.
Even so, 30 years on, mention a Suzuki PE to a rider who raced the first 'B' and watch the tears of delight well in his eyes; it was the trustworthy, loyal and willing iron horse personified.