A Small Street Bike Stripped & Ripped For The Dirt

Editor note: Mark Zweig of Janus Motorcycles has been sharing stories from his younger riding days, and we’re grateful for the glimpses back into his moto yesteryears. As Mark recently told us, “I wish I had made more photos of those old bikes. Photo development was expensive back then for us, and we spent all of our money on our motorcycles.” So we’ll share what photos Mark has, and supplement where we need to with shots of similar bikes that he sends us, from an age before smart phones with built-in high quality cameras.

 

Sometime back in 1974-75, I was in high school and bought myself an almost new 1972 Suzuki TC125 Prospector. It’s gorgeous metallic red and white striped tank was without a scratch, and still had it’s luggage rack, gargantuan taillight, turn signals, dual mirrors, and chrome fenders all intact, with probably no more than 500-600 miles on it.

For those who don’t know anything about these, the Suzuki Tc-125 motorcycles were typical street/trail “Enduro” type machines of that era- a single cylinder, oil-injected two stroke with a high mounted front fender and motocross handlebars. What made this particular model so cool was it’s dual range 4-speed transmission, which effectively gave the bike 8 gears.

Time to strip it to rip it in the dirt.

Back in those days, if you bought one of these motorcycles and planned to ride it in the dirt, as soon as you got the bike home you would start stripping parts off it. I pulled the mirrors and turn signals and tossed them in a parts bin. Off came the rear rack and chrome fenders, which I replaced with a brand new set of white Preston Petty “Mudder” fenders for and aft—the rear Mudder had an integrated taillight that I thought was so cool. I also laced up a new 21” rim and spokes for the front wheel. I put on a new set of Nitto knobbies and some white number plates in place of the stock side covers. I changed out the grips (stock grips on Japanese bikes were horrible back then), put on some serrated metal footpegs, added a metal “rock guard” (think cage) on the headlight and another white number plate with a cutout over the headlight.

While I had a pretty decent street/trail machine by that point, what really made it cool beyond cool was the $125 Suzuki factory hop-up kit that I picked up from my local Suzuki dealer where my friend Dave Rozier worked as a mechanic (he’s called “Hodaka Dave” today—look him up). What a bargain! It came in a single box and included a different cylinder, piston, and head, along with a larger carburetor, performance air filter, and a beautiful downswept expansion chamber. To say this “kit” transformed the little motorbike is a huge understatement. Suzuki claimed it would take the bike from 13 to 21 hp, and my “seat of the pants” dyno confirmed that was real.

An early magazine ad for the Suzuki TC-125J Prospector that Mark bought and tranformed.

My “Prospector” was instantly transformed into a motocross-like screamer that you could ride on the street. In fact, I got this one up to 88 mph on it’s high range on knobbies—something I would not do today, but back then, we thought it was amazing! And what a wheelie machine- I could ride wheelies on that thing forever, with that big 21” front wheel dancing proudly in the air in front of me.

One warm night, my friend Tim Dunn and I were riding around on our bikes. If I recall correctly, he was riding a hopped up Honda XL 250, and I was on my Suzuki. I pulled a wheelie (crossed it up, of course!), turning from somewhere onto Lindberg Boulevard and immediately got pulled over by a couple of police officers right there in front of Steak ‘n Shake at Lindberg and Highway 44. Before the cops could write me a ticket (or multiple ones, because the bike wasn’t even registered properly), they got another call on their radio and jumped back in their car. As they were accelerating away in their pursuit of someone or something on Highway 44 eastbound, the one in the passenger seat yelled back, “Today is your lucky day, Buddy!”

I can’t remember a whole lot more about that bike, or how or when I sold it. I do recall another time, however, that I entered a hare scramble event with it that required entrants to run a 10-mile road and trail course with a motocross track at the end, five times in a row. I was so excited thinking no one would have a 125 that was as fast as mine. I was going to kill everyone on top end. But no more than a mile or two into the race, I blew my front tire on a rock and completely destroyed it, so I threw the towel in. I figured I would just have to pass Malcolm Smith on some future Sunday!

Mark Zweig

Janus Moto

Mark astride his Janus Motorcycles Halcyon 250.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Ronald Ecke

    I vividly remember those Suzuki’s !
    I was a little to small for the 125, but an older friend had just bought the 90 cc , it was green, and with the dual range transmission and I was just able to touch the ground with my tip toes when riding it. Can’t remember the year, 72 ? But only one year that the green 90 cc dual range was made. How I coveted that bike ! He was 16 and driving, and had a small business cutting grass in our area. Ha, that was before landscaping had a name. I was 12 and at the time had a 1964 Yamaha Trailmaster 80, Google it ! Came with a back rack behind the single seat. Fugly bike but ran like a clock ! It was thier very first trail bike ! Thinking back, I guess we were both lucky to have had a piece of motorcycling history. Too bad we never thought of taking pictures of those bikes.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Good memories, Ron! Yeah, we all wish we’d made more photos back then.
      We’ll definitely look up the ’64 Yama Trailmaster 80!

      Reply
    • Mark Zweig

      That 90 was a cool little bike and they were green in ‘72.

      I had a new TS90 in 1972 and I put a 21” wheel on it and a chamber. It was the 5-speed. Loved it.

      Reply

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