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Spec II Fairing for GS500.

Review by Tom Monroe

My wife owns a '97 Suzuki GS500e, and after I got a fairing for my bike, she decided she wanted one for hers as well.

We looked at what was available, and finally settled on the Spec II. http://www.spec2.com

According to the website, the painted version was $699, while the unpainted runs $499. When I called Spec2, I was told that the price on the website for the painted has gone up and is now $750, but they haven't updated their prices on the website yet.

Since I have a compressor and a professional HVLP paint gun, I decided to go ahead and get the unpainted version. I'm fortunate enough to have an automotive paint shop in my neighborhood that does computerized color matching. The guys at the shop recommended a Dupont Basecoat plus clear coat. A pint of base cost me $60.00 (I had primer and clear coat from other painting that I've done, but I'd guess they cost me less than $20.00).

The fairing arrived, with a primer coat on the outside, and bare fiberglass on the inside. The outside was fairly smooth, but I did need to use body filler on some pits, and several layers of primer, and the associated wet sanding to get a nice smooth surface.

Once I finished painting, I started the task of installation.

The instruction sheet for the fairing is 3 pages. The instructions are in bullet-point format, with about a page and a half for the steps, with the remaining being a half-page illustration, and a page of very dark photocopied pictures. The instructions are very high-level, and give general directions, with almost no detail whatsoever.

I would certainly expect anyone attempting to install this fairing to be pretty well mechanically inclined, as well as familiar with the GS500, and probably also have a service manual handy.

Most of the parts have adjustment tolerances, and I found that I spent a significant amount of time tweaking the positions of the pieces. I suppose this is necessary if Suzuki made small changes to the configuration of the motorcycles. I also suppose that the manufacturer might possibly have put a little more effort into giving helpful tips. Perhaps at least in a little more detail then this:

"It maybe necessary to bend the brackets to insure that the bolts will lay flat on the fiberglass".

I was also generally very disappointed with the quality of the parts used. The fairing has nice styling, however there are several very serious issues:

1. The whole headlight system used with this fairing is complete garbage. Its of very questionable quality. There is no height adjustment on the headlight. The opening on the fairing does not correctly match the shape and size of the headlight supplied:

Notice the gap along the bottom of the bulb. If the opening was just a little bigger, the bulb could protrude through it on all sides. If it was just a little smaller, the bulb could be pressed up flush with the hole.

When installed, the headlight produces a significant amount of glare and light leakage.

even with duct tape as suggested, way too much light leakage (yes, that's light bleeding through the BACK of the bulb)

Here's what the manufacturer suggests to correct the glare problem:

"You will probably want to seal the headlight shell to the upper cowling to reduce glare. Black duct tape will work. A large rubber band like piece of rubber would be the hot setup. A Yamaha RZ350 came such a piece of rubber. It might be worth looking into."

I honestly cannot believe that a manufacturer would make such a statement in an installation manual. The whole point of purchasing a product like this is to get a kit, ready to install and not to have to rummage around and customize it. The headlight on a motorcycle is a very important safety feature. To treat this so flippantly does not reflect well on this company.

The manufacturer does not even supply the rubber boot for the electrical connection on the headlight (the seal that comes with the bike does not work with the headlight supplied).

Without correcting these glare problems, this headlight is probably not even street legal.

Instructions for wiring are another very weak point on this product. To quote from the installation instructions:

"To tidy up the wires, you can get coiled plastic wrap from an electronics store."

I sincerely hope the manufacturer reads this review. If he does, this is what I hear when I read something like this:

"I'm too cheap to even include something important like a little plastic wrap to keep the wires from becoming damaged. Hell, its not my motorcycle, go out and buy it yourself".

Once the fairing is installed, there is only one word for the view from the cockpit. Fugly. Apparently the versions that are painted are painted on the outside, and left bare Fiberglass on the inside. At least I sprayed paint on the inside... but its still raw ugly fiberglass. If you buy a motorcycle with a full fairing, you can't see "inside" the fairing. But on Spec2's, you can:

From the "Outside" though, the fairing does look pretty sharp:

I bought some Vinyl Suzuki stickers that are a near-perfect match to the stickers on the tank. I actually put them on before I painted the clear coat (just like Suzuki does with their tanks). I think the overall effect is excellent. If I do something like this again, I will pay the money to have custom stickers made.

So what does my wife think about the fairing? She loves the way it looks. I took the bike out for a ride, and it seemed okay, so I brought it back for her to try.

About 15 minutes into the ride, she almost wrecked the bike. The steering wheel would not turn to one side.

In another example of an utterly sloppy set of installation instructions, the manufacturer said the following:

"The rubber mounted headlight subframes that are attached to the forktubes can be left on, it they are rotated outward and aimed straight backward. But you must be careful of the tank. They can, also, be removed by removing the top triple clamp and pulling them off"

So the manufacturer seems to believe that the subframes can be left on the bike. Let me warn you right now: REMOVE THE SUBFRAMES. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RIDE YOUR BIKE WITH THE SUBFRAMES ATTACHED.

At least on my wife's bike, once the headlight bracket is removed, the sub frame is free to rotate around on the fork tube. There is some friction, but eventually with the vibration and forces applied to the bike the sub frame will get in any position it darn well wants to:

What you're looking at here is the headlight sub frame still on the bike, but not attached to the headlight. It is rotated outward, but a little further than  suggested. The bike is steered nearly straight, and as you can see it cannot be steered any further because the sub frame is bumping the frame of the bike. In case you don't know, its a really really bad thing when you can't steer your bike. Needless to say, my wife was not amused.

When its rotated all the way back, it becomes impossible to steer the bike in that direction. I verified that this can happen on both sides on my wife's '97 GS500E.

I think maybe on other GS500's, the sub frames may not move as easily as they do on my wife's. Otherwise I'd think that just about everybody who bought one would wreck their bike pretty quick.  I'm going to give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt on this. The only other reason he would intentionally do this is because he wants people to crash their bikes. Since the instructions mention the sub frame hitting the tank, perhaps this is a difference from one year to another (as you can see in the picture above, the sub frame cannot possibly come in contact with the tank. Still, its either just plain old sloppy, or malicious, and I don't like either.

Conclusions:

You want the good news first, or the bad news?

Pros:

Okay, it does look nice (at least until you can see behind the fairing).

Cons:

Very very weak instructions. A headlight that is unsafe for a variety of reasons. I'm not even going to mention the sub frame issue (yes, I'm completely pissed at this manufacturer for this...). A general lackadaisical attitude on the part of the manufacturer from what I can see.

Looking at the kit, I believe that this kit was originally designed to be used as a skin for racing (which didn't include a headlight). The fiberglass is very light and cheap compared to plastic, and anybody racing would have removed the headlight sub frame to save the weight.

My golden standard for add-ons to a bike is that the overall quality and integrity of the bike should be maintained... (in other words, add-on parts should be as good quality as original equipment). Sadly, I do not feel this fairing is consistent with the overall quality of the GS500.

From what I understand, Spec 2, TCP and Airtech are the only three manufacturers of full fairings for the GS500.

I have heard some really good reports about the TCP fairing, however as of this article, there are no distributors in the US.

I opted against the Airtech fairing, simply because I didn't like the idea of keeping the round headlight. Also, the airtech requires the use of Clubman style handlebars, or switching to clipons.

Unfortunately, I fear that the best option for a sportbike may be to trade in the ol' Suzuki on a Ninja 250 or 500.

3/26/03

Follow-up.

The whole headlight thing has been bugging me alot. I decided to see if there was something I could do about the shabby headlight that Spec II included with this fairing.

I got the idea that what the bike needed is a real headlight bucket, only rectangular. I went to Bentbike to scavenge around in the "bins". Bentbike is the Northwest's premier motorcycle salvage store. They had row upon row of motorcycle parts (like headlights.)

I pretty much stopped in on a whim. I had a good idea of what I wanted: a rectangular DOT Approved motorcycle headlight.

Most buckets are round, but I did manage to find one from an '81 Yamaha Vision XZ550 that looked about right:

Not only is this headlight completely legal, since its a bucket, it gave me a nice place to tuck all of the motorcycle's wiring!

The glass of the headlight is just slightly smaller than the hole of the fairing... so the glass can neatly protrude through the rectangular headlight hole in the front of the fairing.

The bucket was a little bit narrower than the chintzy box that Spec II gave... so I had to use spacers on the sides... but it doesn't move up or down... so even if I took the fairing off the bike, I could still safely ride it.

 

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Last modified: March 15, 2006