CLASSIC MOTOCROSS IRON: 1976 SUZUKI RM370

BY TOM WHITE

By the early 1970’s the manufacturers figured out that increasing the suspension travel on motocross bikes would allow the rider to go faster over challenging terrain. Backyard mechanics were cutting the frames and swingarms to allow the shocks to be moved forward and installing cooling fins and heavy springs to help dissipate the extra heat generated from the additional leverage. Yamaha introduced the new monoshock, but they didn’t seem to understand that allowing more suspension travel would improve this design. In hindsight; thank you Yamaha as you opened up a window for me to start the  White Brothers Cycle Specialties.

Olle Pettersson working the kinks out of the Suzuki prototype. Photo: Justyn Norek

Suzuki had jump-started the Japanese involvement into motocross back in 1965 when they sent one of their road racers and two engineers to Europe to develop a 250cc motocross bike. The first editions—RH65, RH66, and RH67—fell woefully short, but that would change when they hired Olle Pettersson to develop their bikes in 1968. Olle recommended they hire the top riders of the time, Roger DeCoster and Joel Robert, and they did. World Championship’s came to Suzuki as a result.

Suzuki followed up their racing glory in 1971 with a production TM model that didn’t remotely resemble their factory race bikes. The TMs came in 125, 250 and 400 versions. These machines were woefully lacking, even compared to Yamaha’s weak offerings of the era. For the next four years, the manufacturers just put lipstick on a pig.


Fast forward to 1976, the Suzuki engineers went to work and built a completely new machine, using every bit of ingenuity that came from the efforts of backyard mechanics, newest information and lessons learned from previous failures.

Of all the MXers introduced in 1976, the Suzuki RM370 was far superior to any of the other Japanese Open bike. Why? It was lightweight, the frame was durable, handling was in the ballpark, the power was usable albeit it little quick off the mark, and the suspension travel was over 9 inches. For a Japanese Open bike it was quite easy to ride. And, within the ranks of loyal Suzuki riders it was considered the “Best Open Bike Ever” and with Roger DeCoster winning the 1976 Trans-AMA series, we all signed on! The suggested retail price was $1200. And, on the collector market, you’d be surprised to learn that these “Best Open MX Bike Ever” machines are available at discount rates. They even came in RM125A, RM250A and RM370A versions.

 

 

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