Squirrel Power: Making our Suzuki FA50 Road Worthy
When we picked up our 1982 Suzuki FA50 last winter, we spent all our time and effort making the old bird run. And we succeeded! But before we put some real miles under this old beast, we need to make it safer. There are no mirrors and seeing as we will be slower than just about everything other than James May in an electric wheelchair, we really need to see what’s behind us when we stop or turn. The front brakes are worn out, so we only have rear brakes to slow us down (and they are only slightly better). The tires are rotten. And we have no exhaust, so this thing is unbearably LOUD!!! So let’s make our little bike safer, more reliable, and ready for emergency parts running.
Job one is to nail down the handling and stopping of our FA50. We’re starting with the most important part of any car or bike: the tires. The tires on our FA50 were original, meaning they’re 34 years old and pretty well dead. The front tire is grooved, while the rear sports a basic block tread, both in a very hard compound meant for long wear. The bigger problem is of course, the age: both tires were showing signs of dry rot and any 34 year old tire is liable to come apart. Hell, we’ve had that happen to tires that are ? that age.
For replacements, we went with IRC’s NR77 tire in size 70/90P-14
for both front and rear. Technically this is a front tire only, but IRC does not make a rear tire in this size and anything larger will rub in the FA50’s diminutive fenders. These are tubed tires, so we brought our old rims and new tires to Central Kentucky Motorsports
, a local power sports store who not only supplied the tubes, but installed them.
The new tires look a lot better and with three decades of modern design in them, perform far better than the original tires could ever hope to. The new W-shaped tread should be more stable in the dry, as well as evacuate more water if we ever need to ride in the rain. The fender mounts were ever so slightly bent, so we had to gently bend them to prevent the fender from rubbing.
To complement our new tires, we needed to upgrade our brakes. The FA50 uses mechanical drum brakes front and rear. We found the front brake shoes were pretty much worn out (not a surprise as this bike as this bike has seen over 6,000 miles which is a lot for a moped).