A Jardine-Equipped Suzuki Intruder from the Cruiser Archives

The Intruder gets framed

Suzuki Intruder
The Suzuki Intruder gets framed by JardineFran Kuhn

For years, Harley riders have had a wide selection of aftermarket frames to choose from when creating a total custom. Though some frames could accept Honda CB750 fours back in the 1970s, owners of modern Japanese cruisers looking for a nonstock frame could select from precisely…zip. Japanese cruiser enthusiasts weren’t taken seriously as customizers, and the bikes weren’t available in sufficient numbers to make building a frame for them a viable proposition. Japanese bikes also make it difficult for frame designers, since they must incorporate such features as shaft drive and big airboxes that bulge out the frame tops.

So, the folks at Jardine got our immediate attention when they told us they would soon offer a frame kit for the Suzuki Intruder 1400. And it got even more interesting. Fabricated in Germany, the frame kit had received approval from Germany's notoriously demanding T.U.V. standards authority, which determines if a replacement component for a vehicle is safe enough to be road-worthy. Plenty of stuff that Americans blissfully bolt to their bikes has been decreed unacceptable by T.U.V. Beyond that, it was backed by a 80,000-kilometer (49,700-mile) warranty, unheard of for a custom component.

Jardine’s Drag Pipes perfectly complement the lines of the frame and actually aren’t as loud as they look. Naturally, the frame kit accepts plenty of pretty billet pieces from the Jardine catalog, including the firm’s forward footpegs and controls its new mini floorboard.Fran Kuhn

Having learned that it was accepted by T.U.V., we anticipated a frame with dimensions and geometry close to stock. We were surprised when we finally saw what Jardine was talking about. This was no cleaned-up stock chassis. The front end was extended and raked out to 37 degrees. A 16-inch wheel was laced up front, and an ultrawide Metzeler 200/70-15 on a 6-inch-wide wheel swaggered between the dampers for a plunger-type rear suspension. No one with even a hint of a clue would mistake this thing for a stock frame.

The tall air/oil-cooled Intruder engine gets even taller when you stack the stock airbox on top, but the Jardine frame swallows it all with nary a belch. The tank provides sufficient clearance for the airbox. The teardrop pseudo air-cleaner cover is an accessory.Fran Kuhn

Once we’d seen it, our expectations immediately shifted back to the other end of the spectrum. No doubt it would be a handful to ride, especially at low speeds, where all that rake and the extended front end would make it as handy as a three-legged turtle in a rocky wash. But again we were surprised. Even while making full-lock turns around pylons in the parking lot, we could confidently keep our feet on the pegs. And the bike had quite a bit of steering lock—enough to bring the handlebar ends right into your stomach during full-lock circles.

The German-built frame is available in two models, the 37-degree version we tried and another with a 45-degree steering head. Jardine plans to use the 37-degree model for its kit unless there is demand for the more radical rake. Unlike the stock Intruder, which conceals much of its frame, the Jardine-framed Suzuki flaunts it, particularly when painted metal-flake white, as on our example. The backbone draws a straight line from the steering head to just above the rear axle. A pair of links from the bottom of the shocks carry the rear wheel, but travel is limited. In fact, the biggest failing in the basic kit’s manners is a punishing ride delivered through the rear end. Since your feet are so far forward, it’s nearly impossible to stand up for bumps; you just have to sit there and take it. And “it” is coming. Even small bumps jar you, and big ones can bounce you off the seat. It’s not too far removed from a hardtail. The front rides as well as stock, however. It also steers well, a trait that can’t be taken for granted on bikes with extended forks, especially those without a fork brace. However, those long fork legs do flex some, which we noticed only on large bumps at highway speeds. We’d probably select a shorter fork and a taller front wheel if we were building this kit.

floorboards and clamps
The bike was fitted with Jardine’s latest enhancement to its billet forward foot controls—small floorboards that mount just behind the pegs to provide a choice of leg position. (Left); The triple clamp includes these sanitary settings for the instrument-panel lights, which fit flush in the upper crown. It also accepts the stock handlebar risers. (Right)Fran Kuhn

Designed to accept many stock components to minimize costs, the kit includes triple clamps, a fork brace or a fender support in a configuration to fit the front tire size you select, chrome rear shocks, and a chrome bar to mount passenger pegs. To complete the kit, you must also purchase or fabricate certain pieces. Our sample included seven items that Jardine will offer to bolt-on the kit. These include extended fork tubes ($685), Jardine’s billet forward controls ($545), side covers ($150), steel rear fender with double-barreled taillights ($343), twin-cap fuel tank ($325), and a custom-built solo saddle ($250)(a two-place saddle is an option). You can retain stock wheels and brakes, front fender, handlebar risers, handlebar, instruments, headlight, pipes, and other minor components (with different brackets). You must make minor alterations (rearrange some brackets, which involves cutting and welding) on the swingarm, battery case and top rear engine mount. At a suggested $3540, the Jardine frame kit will probably interest someone who has crashed an Intruder (or can pick up a crashed one cheaply).

This two-inch speedometer (which did not work properly on this bike) was installed as shown on the sample we tested, although the triple clamp accepts the stock speedometer bracket.Fran Kuhn

We suspect that most people who opt to customize an Intruder to this extent will add plenty of their own touches. This bike has quite a few personalized items, starting with the rectangular headlight and ending with the 6 x 15-inch rear wheel laced to the stock rear hub. The 3 x 16-inch front wheel was also built for this bike on the stock hub. The brakes are stock but require custom hoses, in this case braided stainless steel. A little two-inch speedometer sits alongside the top triple clamp.

frame and fork
No one will mistake this low, wide view of the bike for the slim stock Intruder. The frame leaves plenty of room for the new generation of superwide 200mm tires. This bike has a 200/70-15 Metzeler. The wide bars were awkward during tight turns. (Left); The kit will accept the stock 21-inch front wheel, but Jardine had this 16-incher laced up to show what can be done. The extended fork is eye-catching but does flex slightly. (Right)Fran Kuhn

A wide, low handlebar was chosen. It gives plenty of leverage but is awkward during full-lock turns, because one end is up against your torso while you have to stretch to reach the other end. On the highway, it also set up the rider in the wind like a sail. Naturally, Jardine’s chrome aluminum grips are used. Bullseye-style bar-end turn signals, like those fitted to old BMWs, are used in conjunction with small, rear marker-light–style signals in the back. The swingarm, shaft-drive housing, fork sliders, front and rear hubs and handlebar switch housing were chromed. Jardine drag pipes ($261) were installed on the bike we rode. The sound was throaty, but didn’t offend our conservative sensitivities about loud pipes. And Jardine also has a quieter baffle system.

Jardine has this steel fender with dual taillights to fit the kit, although we suspect many builders will want a different look for the back on their own bikes and choose something more contemporary.Fran Kuhn

The finishing touches can make or break a project like this. Paint is the biggest of these, but everything counts, from the quality of the fasteners to the way the license plate is mounted to the care with which all the components are fitted and aligned. Be prepared to spend plenty of time and an additional chunk of change getting everything the way you want it. This particular bike was rushed to meet our deadline and arrived with minor unfinished details like a crooked custom fender, wiring that hadn’t been tucked out of sight, and a hose or two that could have been routed better. The stock airbox is retained, but you could clean up the area under the tank and probably get better performance with individual pod air filters. Not that we had any performance complaints with this setup. The bike certainly carbureted and ran well with the stock airbox and the Jardine pipes. You can also adapt the riding position to your personal style and physique. Most riders will probably chose a different handlebar, and the Jardine billet foot controls can be moved rearward.

tank and rear suspension
This Jardine fuel tank works with the Intruder, but you could find others that work as well particularly if you replace the top airbox with a pod-type filter to give more room.(Left); The rear wheel is suspended via the link from the lower end of the rigidly mounted damper assemblies. Jardine’s drag pipes were acceptably muted. (Right)Fran Kuhn

If you build a bike using this kit, don’t expect the finished machine to be as functional for everyday use as a stock Intruder 1400. That jarring ride from the rear limits comfort, and the seat isn’t as well padded as the stocker’s. However, the Jardine-framed bike isn’t the handful that other radically altered machines can be either. Handling is barely less manageable than stock.

But the bike’s look is anything but mild-mannered. Most other riders do a double-take when they realize it’s not a Harley. Everyone simply assumes it’s a one-off fabrication. Go ahead, say it’s scratch-built. We won’t tell anyone.

This article was originally published in the June 1997 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Jardine-Equipped Suzuki Intruder
Jardine-Equipped Suzuki IntruderFran Kuhn
Basic Measurements Intruder 1400 Jardine 1400
Wet Weight 572 lb. 592 lb.
Wheelbase 63.8 in. 68.5 in.
Overall Length 91.9 in. 92.1 in.
Rake 36" 37"
Seat Height 27.8 in. 27.9 in.