The Naked ’88 Suzuki RGv500

Back in the Day They Didn’t Have to Pretty


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It may have not been the prettiest without its Pepsi Suzuki fairing, but the somewhat makeshift-looking and largely hand-fashioned frame of the Suzuki RGV500 ridden by Kevin Schwantz and Rob McElnea proved to be a top-notch handling GP machine.

Sure, the welds look crude, but chassis worked well on 1988 Suzuki RGV500.
If you see a MotoGP bike today sans fairing, it surprising how tidy the fit and finish, even in the normally unseen parts of the machine. That wasn’t necessarily the case in the earlier days of GP racing.

Take this photo of the 1988 factory Suzuki RGV500 ridden by Kevin Schwantz and Rob McElnea for example. Compared to production models the race-only RGV had rather unpolished looking welds and frame passageways. The thing looks like it’s built like a tank, but you can tell making the working parts of the machine beautiful was not a top priority. It was definitely a case of function over form.

Check out the large three on the inside of the fairing–chassis number three. Also note the holes drilled under the seat mount.

Hand-formed and welded or not, the RGV500 was a strong enough handling machine that it carried Kevin Schwantz to a pair of GP victories in his first full season in the championship.

Schwantz rode the 500 like a nasty bronc. A nine-year-old kid watched those ’88 races on TV and dreamed of one day being Kevin Schwantz. That kid’s name? Valentino Rossi.

“I loved Schwantz because he rode like he was f**king crazy,” Rossi remembered.


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