First Impression: 1998 Intruder VL1500LC

Last of the Big Boys

story by MO Staff, Photograph by Billy Bartels and Tom Riles, Created Mar. 19, 1998
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American Suzuki recently invited us to a showdown in Tombstone, Arizona to introduce their brand new giganto-cruiser, the Intruder VL1500LC. A dozen desperate hombres were rounded up in Old Tucson, packin' as much heat as they could muster.

We were shown the beast that was to be our mount, and we shuddered to think what kind of day it was to be.

Before the Suzuki fellas let us mount up they wanted to tell us about the new beasts, just so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We learned that the new VL1500LC is loosely based on the VL1400 Intruder.

Providing monstrous and ever-present torque is a 96x101mm v-twin powerplant with single over-head cams and hydraulic lash adjusters for less engine maintenance. An extra flywheel has been added for more low-end grunt, and the cylinders have been plated (as on their sportbikes) for better durability.

In a major re-work, the fuel tank has been placed beneath the seat. Taking its place between suspiciously fuel tank-looking covers is a massive airbox feeding two linked Mikuni 36mm carbs. As a result, the battery, which formerly resided underneath the seat, now sits in front of the motor.

All of the handlebar wires and cables funnel into a scoop atop the headlight cell.

Behind the right side casing that looks like the air-cleaner is an air-injection system to aid carburetion. On the left, under a slightly fiddly chromed side cover is the toolkit, which you'll need to use in order to remove the right side cover that hides where you add engine oil.

After sitting through all that technical hoo-ha, we couldn't wait to toss a leg over the bike. It could have been the dimensions, or perhaps the light, but it felt even bigger than it looked.

The final word isn't in, but it appears to be the longest bike in its class.

The bulbous, incognito fuel cell.Despite the low 27.6 inch seat height, shorter riders may have a problem with its massive girth and long reach to the floorboards.

The Intruder LC cruises comfortably along at 80+ miles per hour. Although not mounted with a stock windshield, the front end pushes so much air that you almost don't need one.

The LC (which stands for Legendary Classic) is most comfortable around 75 mph. Before our visit, we heard a lot of hype that this beast is a massive torque monster.

"Well, you can believe the hype. Gear selection is simply a matter of how much vibration you can handle and how much gas you want to burn. Down shifting for a pass is usually unnecessary."

Skipping off the Interstate, we rode the beasts south down Highway 83 to Sonoita. Here we found the twisties. Not floorboard grinders (although we did throw a few sparks coming off the freeway) but sweeping blacktop, one corner after another.

It was there that we discovered some minor hiccups with the transmission: The LC occasionally missed shifts.

This glitch, coupled with the racer-boy clutch that fully disengaged after about ½ of an inch in, forced us to give the tranny a thumbs down.

At Sonoita, we made a turn east down Route 82. This road has seen more than its share of semis over the years, and it shows, with ripples for most of the 30 miles to Tombstone. The hidden link-type rear shock and the 41mm forks did a respectable job keeping our kidneys intact. Somewhere rolling down this lost highway the fuel light began to blink. Mind you, there is no reserve. Luckily, when it starts blinking, you have almost 35 miles to reach the next watering hole.

Rolling into the infamous little town of Tombstone, the exhaust announced our arrival with a muted basso rumble that resonated down the street.

However, after the battering we took on the highway and with what looked like armed gunslingers prowling the streets, we had no desire to rumble.

After some terrific chow at the Nellie Cashman Restaurant, we roamed the streets of Tombstone on foot. It turned out that the roaming gunslingers were in reality actors passing out flyers for an upcoming $3 "shootout" at the O.K. Corral. And all those cool looking dry goods stores and grain emporiums were actually gift shops. Heading back to the Intruder we couldn't help but notice a similarity. Covers and hidden components clothe the brutal beauty of the LC with a cosmetic shroud of theme-tinged nostalgia rather than allowing it to let it all hang out as does, for example, Honda with the strong-selling Valkyrie.

But back on the road priorities fell back into perspective as the torquey v-twin pulled strongly into the sunset. With its competence as a road going mount and its less than $10,000.00 retail price, the Intruder VL1500LC will be a hard bargain to match.

The chrome and black tombstone-shaped instrument panel strikes a nice profile. Although painted black, the front master cylinder/pedal assembly is a bit of an eyesore.
The tank-styled airbox above the airbox-styled air-injection system. A two-piston caliper hauls the big bike down from speed.

Specifications:

Manufacturer:           Suzuki
Model:                  1998 VL1500 LC
Price (two-tone):       $9,895.00
Engine:                 air-cooled V-twin 
Bore and Stroke:        96 x 101mm
Displacement:           1462cc
Carburetion:            Two BSDR Mikuni 36mm 
Transmission:           5 speed 
Wheelbase:              66.9 in 
Seat Height:            27.6 in 
Fuel Capacity:          4.1 gal with 1.1 gal reserve 
Claimed Dry Weight:     644 lbs 
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