Egli-Suzuki GS1100 (1985 specification)
Engine: DOHC, 1075cc air-cooled, 16v inline four.
Intake: 4-34mm Mikuni
4-into-1 header, velocity stocks
Five-speed w/chain final
Chassis: Nickle-plated steel spine
Front: Egli braced fork
Rear: Monoshock swinging arm
18” Campagnolo alloy wheels
Wet weight: 435-lb
Photography: Scott Darough and Rich Cox.
Along with brothers Don and Derek Rickman and Bimota, Swiss engineer Fritz Egli is perhaps the best known production specialist. Parlaying his hill climb championship success, Egli began marketing speedy Vincent-powered specials for the public starting in 1967. In the new Honda Four Egli found yet another engine on which to invest, applying his original design to the 750 to beget a succession of Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki powered models, and much more. A report found in the October, 1985 issue of Cycle, tester Ken Vreeke not only noted Japan's rapid ascension up the chassis ladder but a clear preference for the perimeter shape. At that time, countless copies had cemented a belief the perimeter design was better Still, Egli, aided in no small way by partner in crime Roger Slater continued to earn favorable results with his trademark stressed-engine backbone. Much better results it seems, than Vreeke expected.
The motorcycle industry owes much to the production specialist. Engineered to a level beyond the grasp (or need) of the satisfied owner, the special build advanced ideas and ideals to focus on a very specific task. Yet, speed without composure wastes the effort by bringing the machine back within the confines of mass-produced compromise. If the 1970s are remembered as the decade for engine development, the 80s ushered in the era when chassis technology closed ground. Weary of comparisons that left their brightest and best eating dust when the trail grew twisty, Japan's Big Four tackled the problem with time-proven methods of adding trickle-down racetrack technology to improve the mainstream breed. Before that, inline owners seeking better had a choice of aftermarket frame specialists to choose from, but the market for these decreased drastically in the 1980s.
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A trianglulated subframe attaches the seat and makes room underneath for the battery and rear shock. Drilled for lightness flat plates run horizontal to mount the controls, exhaust and master cylinder. Built to order Vreeke's described the Egli as a low production ‘standard’ featuring Egli's traditional nickel-plate frame and ingenious braced fork, Campagnolo wheels, twin Brembo front discs and a single Lockheed disc at the rear. With a 57" wheelbase, the Egli Suzuki weighed a full 100-lb lighter than Suzuki's GS1100.
Standing in contrast to exotics including the NS400R, Ducati's TT750 and Suzuki's own RG 500 Gamma featured in a special "High Rollers" edition of the magazine, the Egli's inline four might have seemed old hat by comparison, but its performance evened the score. Assembled by Egli in Switzerland and shipped to Slater in Kenwood, Califoirnia for test prepping, the Egli’s stock (save for a 4-into-1 exhaust and velocity stacks) 16v four was hung beneath Egli’s massive 100mm spine, which splits in two before diving directly behind the intakes to connect the swingarm pivot plates.
Vreeke reported his Egli GS1100 test hack was plenty fast during his top speed evaluation; "Steering at sane speeds is slow and heavy despite a fairly steep 27.5-degree steering head angle and short wheelbase. On all but the fastest passageways the Egli GS1100 is an uncompromising instrument. The suspension is harsh, the ergonomics inexplicable. But slash past the ton and you begin to understand what the remarkably stable Egli is all about." Vreeke's description of Egli as a 'homebrew coachbuilder' is priceless if not exactly accurate, but the engineer's expertise was never in doubt.
For riders who appreciate hand built craftsmanship and view spartan accoutrements as the defining nature of a true high performance motorcycle, the Egli is certain to appeal. Often miscast as a toy for the affluent, the Egli's price reflected the time, skill, materials and dedication required for a build of this specification. All too often and certainly in this case “high price” reflects a common misconception. The truth of it reveals the Egli was a bargain, especially considering the heritage and value attached to the maker's name now. That reality exposes Vreeke's only editorial misstep; claiming that even Egli himself knew his rough-hewn specials would never attain mantelpiece status. Sorry Ken, it happened anyway. Nolan Woodbury