Rotary Bike: 1975 Suzuki RE5

1975 Suzuki RE5

As many of you already know, my daily driver is a Mazda RX-8. Well I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with rotary powered sports cars since I bought my first RX-7 at the age of 15. The rotary engine is possibly the most fascinating motor I’ve ever dealt with, which would explain why this Suzuki RE5 that Jim S, sent in caught my interest. You see, rather than being powered by a conventional piston engine, it gets its power from a 497cc rotary engine. And if you are thinking that isn’t much displacement, remember rotary engines don’t work like piston engines. This screamer was rated at 62 horses with 55 pounds of torque. It’s not the most powerful bike engine, but it had its strengths! Reviewers of the RE5 gave it top marks for handling and smoothness, but complained about hesitation. If you’re like me and want to experience this rotary powered bike, you can find it here on eBay in Cleveland, Ohio with bidding just over $500. Thanks to Jim for the tip!

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Comments

  1. francisco

    Wankel engine!

  2. Sam

    How much does this wankel engine weigh, compared to a comparable piston engine? This one is also water cooled, which adds weight as well. I’m just curious.

  3. Rocco Member

    I found some info about these rotary bikes. Just thought it was interesting.

    Here’s a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_RE5

  4. Howard A Member

    I remember when these bikes came out. Just plum different. A little too different. Apparently, the owners reviews say the bike was a great, reliable bike. The storage thing would make me wary, rotary or not. I think if I was to go with this style Suzuki, I’d go with the “water buffalo”, the 3 cylinder, 2 cycle, liquid cooled 750, although, I bet this bike, when running properly, was a blast to ride.

  5. randy

    I bet this goes a lot higher than most here would believe. (pricewise)

  6. Kenny

    We’ll see it go well over $5,000. Probably closer to $10,000.

  7. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    A friend has one of these, bought it new and still has it. Great bike as even I’ve put miles on this cycle.
    Originally my friend was skeptical about the engine as the dealers were not prepared to do any major engine work. Suzuki had given instructions to all dealers that any major work to the engine would result in a customer’s bike having it’s engine removed and another put in its place while the first was dissected to determine why it failed. Always wondered how the whole VIN number situation would have played out and whether or not the original engine would make it back to the original owner after it was repaired.
    Compared to other bikes I don’t remember it being heavy, though the idea of a radiator and the possibility of that thing springing a leak and burning me was always in my mind. Have to remember radiators and bikes were reasonably new technology.
    It did have one thing that seemed to be universally disliked, the gauge cluster. It looked like a 36 oz Fosters Lager can sideways. There was a round smoked plastic cover that pivoted over the gauges for some unknown reason, possibly sun bleaching the gauge faces?
    Used to shut the engine down with the kill switch when going through tunnels for a few seconds then turn the kill switch back on and listen to the backfire and watch the flame come out of the pipes. Eventually that was curtailed just in case the apex seals didn’t like that, probably didn’t.
    Dan bought a gasket set and apex seals about 15 years after buying the bike but has yet to change anything but plugs and the radiator and a water pump.
    Wouldn’t know what to do with one if it didn’t run, The dealers have no personnel with experience any longer. Must be a specialty vendor that takes care of these but don’t know of one personally.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Ross, that’s hilarious. I always wondered about the gauges. I think they were trying to go with the “rotary” motif. I owned an Evinrude rotary snowmobile once, that had similar styling. Got it for nothing, looked brand new ( but was 10 years old already when I got it), the previous owner put about 10 of the original 200 miles on it, so I assume it was troublesome. It weighed a ton, and I never did get it running either. I heard, when they DID run, they were very smooth.

  8. z1rider

    I worked at a Mazda dealer in the 70’s and one of the mechanics who loved rotaries had one. He rode it daily. And worked on it daily. it is a single rotor engine, but they need two carburetors, sort of a stratified charge with one rich and one lean. Not for the faint of heart.

  9. Barry T

    I remember when these came out. I was riding a Suzuki GT380 and hung out at the Suzuki shop quite a bit. The guys were not thrilled by the looks of the rotary (especially the tin can instrument cluster. They had poor gas mileage also, sometimes as low as 28 mpg. Hard to take a trip.

  10. krash

    ….cool comments..
    …I had totally forgotten about these bikes.
    ..from a decade of two and four strokes, rotaries, turbos, automatics….what an interesting period in cycling history. The fact that the attempt was even made speaks volumes about manufacturers willingness to look at any and all configurations..
    ..some good, some not.
    ..but all offering something odd or unique …
    ..nostalgia does alot in glossing over the flaws…
    …another find for someone’s collection.

  11. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    If I remember correctly Sachs also had a wankel or there was another one called Hercules.
    krash is right. There were so many different offerings to try to lure you away from whoever you had already chosen. Manufacturers actually fighting for your business.

    Might be the reason the current fare doesn’t interest me. Love riding but only need to go so fast.

    Seems like it should be time for the makers to be working on efficiency in as much as they have fuel injection.

    Now give me something that protects me from cell phone users and texters, otherwise I’ll stay in the dirt.

  12. Lee

    Probably one of the most under estimated bikes of the 70s, most of the above is correct the remainder has lost it’s way.

    http://www.angelfire.com/retro/roadster/index-12.html

    http://www.angelfire.com/retro/roadster/index-9.html

    These were my restorations.

    Z

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