The Turbo motorcycles of the 80s

Whatever happened to motorcycles with factory mounted turbo's? When turbos first became 'en-vogue', in the early 1980s on sporty hot-hatches, it wasn't long before motorcycles became targets for these power accessories.

Turbo-charging works by forcing more air into the engine via a turbine, which is driven by escaping exhaust gases. The first bikes to feature turbos were the Honda CX500 Turbo of 1981 and the Yamaha XJ650T a year later. The old Maggot could gallop along at around 210km/h thanks to the turbo, and this was replaced by a 650 version in 1983.

Suzuki's first foray was the forgettable 650cc XN85, in 1984, the same year that Kawasaki launched perhaps the definitive turbo bike, the Gpz750E1 Turbo. Here, finally, was a bike that delivered what a turbo bike should: much greater performance that its much bigger brother the Gpz1100 had.

So why didn't they last? Firstly, new and more efficient normally aspirated machines started to come out, such as the Gpz900R, followed by the likes of the FZ750 Yamaha and the Suzuki GSX-R750. Secondly, turbo bikes were so complicated.

Turbos needed 'proper' fueling and that meant fuel-injection and loads of complex black-boxes powered by little computers to make it all work. Not forget it was the mid-eighties, when the smallest office computer could break your back. This meant expense. Lag was also a problem. This is the time taken from opening the throttle to the turbo firing up and giving boost.

You also had to let the bikes tick over a couple of minutes before you actually switched them off. A lot of people didn't do this vital thing and they, or the next owner along, would pay the price with a costly complete strip-down and re-build.

  • Currently 1.50/5
Rating: 1.50/5 (2 votes cast)

Share It!


Saturday, 09 August 2008 @ 06:20 AM ICT
The XN85 was actually a 650cc


Saturday, 09 August 2008 @ 08:06 PM ICT
Thanks for the correction of the XN85, I corrected it... 85 and then 650cc. Okay I can understand how I made the mistake...


Tuesday, 28 April 2009 @ 03:11 AM ICT
XN85 capacity is actually 673cc, the 85 refers to the claimed output of 85bhp :-)