Ever since I imported two cars last year, I’ve had the idea of bringing over a motorcycle on my mind. I’ve been scanning Japanese motorcycle marketplaces looking for the one to buy. Between the bikes that are too young and old bikes that are too expensive, I’ve found myself captivated by the cream-colored Suzuki SW1. As it turns out, these aren’t just weird but extremely rare.
What you’re looking at here is not a scooter. Instead, it’s a lot like the Honda PC800, where it’s a motorcycle that borrows some traits from scooters for an easy riding experience. But unlike the PC800, the SW1 is small displacement and styled to look like a classic motorcycle.
Not much is known about the Suzuki SW1 history, and some research has thus far gotten me the machine’s brochure and not much else. As our friends at RideApart note, Naoki Sakai penned the SW1's design at his Water Design studio. Water Design itself notes that the “S” in the motorcycle’s name stands for Suzuki while the “W” is for Water, signifying the collaboration.
If you go onto Japan’s GooBike marketplace right now you’ll find 11 Suzuki SW1 for sale. A scant 200 of these bikes were ever made just for Japan and just in 1992.
That means at least five percent of the total number of SW1s built is up for sale right now. I’m a bit amazed by this because it would be like seeing five Volkswagen Passat W8s with manual transmissions for sale at the same time.
Under the metal is Suzuki’s long-running 249cc SOHC air-cooled single making 20 HP. That’s paired to a five-speed that has a bit of an inverted shift pattern. On the SW1 you move the lever down for upshifts and up for downshifts.
Being a 250-class makes it just able to go on the highway, but the bike was aimed squarely at city riders. The brochure talks about how the engine is low maintenance and that it uses a belt drive for the same reason. The SW1 also has what Suzuki says is a comfortable seat for a pillion rider.
You also get storage bins for stuff to carry with you. The engine is hidden away, unable to get you covered in oil and fumes. And there’s a big leg guard so that you can stay clean, even when the road isn’t.
All of this is pretty similar to the Honda PC800, but the two manufacturers had different end goals in mind. The SW1 is a good city bike while the PC800 was targeted at new riders who didn’t like the idea of maintaining a motorcycle or coming home smelling like exhaust fumes.
Of course, sales of the two couldn’t have been any different, either. As I said before, the SW1 stayed in Japan and was sold for just a single year, where only 200 units were sold. Some of them have boarded boats and made their way to Europe and the States, but no matter where they are these are extremely rare bikes. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while with the hopes of showing you just one for sale in America. That day never came.
I hope to uncover more about this, if more information exists. A bike like the SW1 is so out there that there has to be more to the story. But until then, if you’re like me and have a hankering for a strange Japanese bike, this one might be right up your alley.