Suzuki XF 650 Freewind endurance test

Suzi carefree?

With a lot of things that are good for a travel enduro, Suzuki’s inexpensive Freewind brought movement to the market. How it moves in the long run, MOTORRAD has clarified in the 50,000 kilometer test.

Sometimes the characteristics of successful motorcycles are quickly enumerated: For a mid-range travel enduro, for example, a powerful, modern single cylinder, good handling, ample comfort and enough space for two people are sufficient.

If an attractive price is added – as in the case of the Suzuki Freewind presented at the end of 1996 – hardly anything can go wrong.

It wasn’t possible either, because the importer should be completely satisfied with around 4,000 units sold so far. However, it should be emphasized that this success is also based on the decent test results of the XF 650, which not only runs surprisingly fast, but also brakes comparatively brilliantly. Which as a treat has the most homogeneous engine in the entire class.

The soft tuning of their springs was less successful, and in March 1997 the very first drivers of the MOTORRAD test machine complained about this. Too little progression at the front, so that the fork went into block when braking hard, much too slack suspension and inharmonious damper tuning at the rear: Even a heavy passenger forced the shock absorber to hit the rubber stop. Because such bad habits can only be tolerated to a limited extent, the Freewind drove the second half of this test with progressively wound fork springs from Wilbers Products. No more complaints about bottoming out, but also no new complaints about lower comfort. At the back, a WP spring was placed around the standard damper, also with success: Suzi now liked pillion, she liked luggage, and she suffered significantly less from her overstretched rebound damping.

With the current year of construction, Suzuki promises, the damper tuning has been improved. Since then, Freewind customers have also enjoyed a slightly better hinged kickstand. The first specimens were way too long, made the motorcycle stay almost in a vertical position – or, in a cross wind, simply tip over. Embarrassing. MOTORRAD initially made do with a main stand from the accessories program, which of course also provided good service for maintenance work, later the WP spring ensemble straightened the load.

When a suitable parking space was found, the ignition lock of all things annoyed. In response to repeated complaints, different workshops gave the same advice over and over again: the thing needs penetrating oil and empathy, something is hooked. Whereby, a bit wobbly in this case is a gross understatement. Likewise, as numerous readers’ letters prove, broken headlights seem to fill the warranty applications of many Freewind. This could be due to inaccuracies in fitting the headlights into the fairing, because the second light unit, carefully installed at 38,375 kilometers, held – and light bulbs no longer ate it.

Just as persistently – according to the importers’ opinion, a few – Freewind are followed by nasty oil veils around the cylinder head, and unfortunately also that of the test copy. The first reminders can be found in the logbook when the mileage is 4000. The meticulous monitoring of all screw connections in the head area as well as a suitable sealing compound initially dried the four-valve engine, but could not prevent a head screw from having to be retightened at 14,000 kilometers and the entire head replaced at 38,000 kilometers. The cylinder head gasket was blown through, the head apparently warped.

After that, oil only leaked from the left fork seal ring. The fact that it had to be changed twice within a few thousand kilometers suggests that a tiny groove on the standpipe was causing trouble. Rockfall probably, and once again the proof that bellows are part of such a practical enduro.

And suitcases. The MOTORRAD-XF carried a Hepco system for almost 30,000 miles & Becker, whose value was always praised, which offered plenty of space and did not provoke any significant unrest even at top speed. Hand protectors helped a bit against clammy fingers, and a higher MRA disc reduced turbulence in the shoulder area. Equipped in this way, the Freewind was considered a good tip by the MOTORCYCLE tourists and – to make a long story short – received excellent marks. “This salon enduro is almost the ideal tourer,” noted my colleague Streblow after a multi-week expedition to Scotland. "Motorcycling can be that easy," remarked the race-proven tester Lindner after an edifying and certainly not blade country trip.

Only at the very end of the test distance did the run on the Suzuki ease a little. First, winter was approaching; second, soft engine noises clouded confidence a little. The reassuring hints from the single-cylinder faction that such a big piston would start to rattle at some point helped over the last 1500 kilometers, and the driving performance provided quickly made the burgeoning worries forgotten.

Unfortunately, after complete dismantling, it turned out that the Suzuki single was sore: there was too much play between the inner ring of the left crankshaft main bearing and the journal of the crankshaft. As a result, the bearing outer ring had worked its way into the seat, so the left part of the crankshaft, which was pressed from individual components, and the ball bearing had to be replaced. However, the editorial team rejects the Suzuki perspective, according to which suspicious engine noise should have suggested an immediate workshop visit (see box on page ..): The running noises of the almost 50,000-kilometer-old single-cylinder were – see above – absolutely normal for the occasion the workshop hadn’t noticed anything during the last inspection at 48,000 kilometers. The lower connecting rod bearing, whose copper-plated steel cage was already bare on the outside and which had worked into the crank pin, also showed significant wear. Here too, new parts are needed.

Furthermore, the piston was at the wear limit, but the cylinder showed a perfect image. An exhaust valve in the cylinder head clouded the overall positive impression. It struck the valve seat. The diagnosis is to replace the valve and seat. It is also worth mentioning that the gears of the fifth gear show the first signs of pitting, the rather hard and gripping way of working of a single takes its toll here, even though the gears would have lasted for several thousand kilometers.

AT.On the other hand, it had rubbed off the anti-skid on the swing arm. It should be replaced every time the chain set is changed, which – presumably due to a lack of maintenance instructions for the workshops – did not happen. Result: Now the swing arm also has deep scores. It’s a shame, because the rest of the vehicle is in good shape. That was different with Suzukis, but thanks to the careful paintwork and stainless steel muffler, the Freewind honors and impressed with good workmanship. Nobody got stuck either. And that’s why the crankshaft damage and the malaise around the cylinder head are all the more worrisome.

Reading experiences

We liked the concept, but quite a few readers had similar concerns with their Freewind as the editorial team: Oil around the cylinder head, defective headlights and – the side stand

When looking for a successor to the NX 250, the F 650 and the Freewind remained in the end. Comparative test results and the groovy appearance were decisive for the Suzuki. I have been using this machine since the end of July, and with my height of 1.65 meters, it made sense to lower it immediately. The seating position is ideal for me even on longer stages, the bench is well padded, the wind protection is good for me. I got used to the digital instrument quickly, but I miss a temperature display. I never have an unsafe feeling on the motorcycle, it’s easy to control, has excellent straight-line stability and turns precise and smooth radii in corners. I’m excited about the powerful front wheel brake. The suspension is sufficient, I haven’t had any bottoming out yet. The only thing that was really annoying was the side stand that was too long, which always required an advance command to find the right parking space. Nevertheless, a gusty cross wind knocked the whole load over once – the damaged parts were replaced on goodwill. Meanwhile my Freewind has a main stand, the side stand has been bent to fit. Sunhild Adolph, 66787 Wadgassen On March 30, 1998 I bought a Freewind. On May 26th, at mileage 2027, the motorcycle had to go to the workshop because of oil loss on the cylinder and was sealed there. Three weeks later, at 3600 km, there was another oil loss. Again the workshop, sealed again. At 5312 kilometers the problem arose again, now a new piston and cylinder were installed. The motorcycle then made it to 7431 km and had to go to the workshop again. It was then that I learned that other customers were having the same problem with their Freewind. According to the seller, I received revised parts. The cylinder, cylinder head and piston were exchanged. Because I didn’t trust the matter, I wrote a letter to Suzuki asking for clarification. I’m waiting for an answer until today.Joachim Härig@t-online.de I bought my Freewind in March 1997, the mileage is now 25,000. It was adapted to my taste over the course of the year: MRA-Winschild (doesn’t do anything, even with my size of 1.70 meters), stronger cranked handlebars, fully upholstered bench for free choice of seat, bellows. The ugly black rims were swapped for bare, two-inch smaller Akront rims with thicker tires. It doesn’t do any good in terms of driving behavior either, but I like it much better. If it bothers you that the dirt flies into the radiator, buy a plastic mudguard from an accessory store, saw off the front end and screw or rivet the rest onto the front fender stub. Otherwise my XF shows the apparently usual weaknesses: The headlight started to close gather dust. I have now fixed the reflector with pieces of foam rubber to keep the vibrations off. When the mileage was 10,000, oil leaked from the left front cylinder head screw and the head cover. The screw tightened almost a full turn, and it was probably a matter of luck that the head gasket held in place. I sealed the cover, and since then it’s been quiet. Fredy Falbe, 10629 Berlin Even before the 1000-kilometer inspection, my Freewind was leaking oil on the cylinder head and the oil filter. After the inspection, these problems were resolved for the time being. But then, at 1448 kilometers on a beautiful Sunday, I suddenly found myself in a cloud of blue smoke in front of a red light. As it turned out in the workshop, oil leaked from the valve cover and ran onto the exhaust. The next 1000 kilometers went quietly until the headlight was defective at 2500 kilometers. In the workshop it was said that this had happened several times. The headlights were changed for free.Ingo Setzer, 57078 Siegen I bought my XF in March 1997 and have driven over 30,000 kilometers so far. After 2500 kilometers I noticed a film of oil on the cylinder head. During the 6000-kilometer inspection, only the head screws were tightened, which also helped temporarily. At the 12000 inspection, another dealer finally renewed the cylinder head sealing compound, but not on guarantee. The seat was completely worn out after 3,000 kilometers, and warranty claims were rejected by two dealers. An upholsterer helped for 70 marks. The gasoline consumption was just over five liters, the first set of tires lasted 14,000 kilometers, the second already 16,000. A new set of chains was due at 22,000 kilometers, new brake pads were fitted at 30,000. Conclusion: a handy, versatile and affordable bike.Maik Rüter, 50334 HürthMeine Freewind, built in 1997, has so far covered 21,000 kilometers. There was no major damage. At 19,000 kilometers, however, the headlight was fogged with fine dust and was replaced. The icing on the cake of the motorcycle is its extremely powerful engine, which delivers its power without any major outbursts of violence. On the other hand, the much too soft chassis is deficient. The fork hit the bottom fully under normal braking. This was remedied by Wirth fork springs, which respond well, but do not block even when the rear wheel lifts. The rear suspension strut can just about keep up in solo operation, but only when the spring is fully pre-tensioned. With a pillion passenger it’s all over. A little more progressiveness was brought about by five millimeters shorter tension struts on the link lever, and so the occasional touching down of the footrests disappeared. Jörg Stahr, 90574 Roßtal

Status

Pistons, cylinders, crankshaft drive and valve train pistons with an acceptable running pattern and coking appropriate to the mileage. Piston at the wear limit. Piston rings with correct groove clearance. End play of the upper piston ring at the wear limit. Minor tracks on the cylinder liner. The inner ring of the left crankshaft bearing has too much play in relation to the crankshaft journal. The outer ring of this bearing has left slight scuff marks on the bearing seat. Right bearing okay. Copper coating rubbed off the cage of the connecting rod bearing, the connecting rod bearing has left clear marks on the pressure side of the crank pin. Connecting rod eyes and piston pin with good contact pattern. Seat surfaces of an exhaust valve and the valve seat clearly incorporated, valve leaking. Valve stems and guides in good condition. Valve springs true to size. Camshaft bearings true to size, camshafts and rocker arms with small tracks. Clutch, clutch cage and hub with slight cat marks, discs without distortion, friction discs in order. Gearbox Beginning pitting training on both gears of fifth gear. Shift forks with good running pattern. Bearing seats in the housing in good condition. Exhaust manifold in good, stainless steel muffler in very good condition. Chassis frame without significant corrosion. Swing arm with clear traces of wear on the drive chain, as the anti-skid was worn. No visible wear on the shock absorber, slight scratches (probably stone chips) on the left fork tube. The bearings of the steering head, swing arm, reversing levers and wheels are in good condition.BrakesFront brake disc without distortion, but slightly grooved and just below the wear limit. Rear brake disc without distortion and above the wear limit.

Suzuki comments

…to the leaks in the area of ​​the cylinder head. We are aware of several cases of oil leaks. According to our investigations, it was usually an inadequate / uneven application of sealing compound on the sealing surfaces of the cylinder head cover. With careful sealing and the use of original Suzuki sealant as well as professional, tension-free assembly with the upper frame screw connection, these leaks can easily be eliminated … in addition to the frequently expressed criticism of the spring elements that are too soft . In our opinion, this is up to the respective fundamental assessment of the driver. Our specifications for the manufacturer were to develop a chassis with a lot of driving comfort. We are of the opinion that the set-up in this form suits the character of this motorcycle and its rider / buyer … wear on the crank pin and excessive play between the left crankshaft main bearing and crankshaft. In our opinion, we assume that this damage must have been recognizable in advance by clear engine noises. Since the motorcycle was unfortunately continued to be driven, the extent of the damage came about to this extent. If repaired immediately, the defect would have been limited to the left main bearing. Regardless of this fact, the repair can be carried out inexpensively, since all components are available as individual parts … for pitting the gears of the fifth gear. We consider this to be harmless and would reinstall these gears, especially since no increased running noise of the transmission was complained about …. about the hammered seat of the exhaust valve ((answer will come soon))

Repairs and wearing parts

5369 km Oil leakage on the cylinder head repaired22721 km H4 lamp replaced26899 km Steering head bearings and front brake pads renewed30275 km H4 lamp replaced32544 km Chain kit and H4 lamp replaced33454 km H4 lamp replaced36699 km Fork seal renewed38375 km cylinder head (guarantee), headlight insert (guarantee), headlight insert (warranty) Sprocket carrier and both rearview mirrors renewed , 47655 km fork seal renewed

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