For 2009 Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 is entirely new, but can it still work as well on the road as it does the track, or is this a motorcycle that is only good for one thing? Abusing tyres?
Let’s get one thing straight right from the off here. I am not some wannabe Superbike racer who tests a 1000cc Superbike like it’s the final outing in a World Superbike championship.
What I am (easy now) is a road rider who occasionally gets out on track. The moment I do I am reminded that there are faster riders out there some of whom really can squeeze every last drop of speed and power out of one of these outrageously powerful things.
Why am I making this admission early on? Because I want you, MCM reader, to understand that this motorcycle is here in the paper right now because it is the latest incarnation of a superb range of bikes from Suzuki.
Because it’s at the very pinnacle of the art. Because it has loads of power that should be usable in real world situations. Because it’s brimming with the latest ideas and because it looks, it looks, well… look at it!
What I want to do is tell you what this latest version of the GSX-R1000 from a relatively quick road rider’s point of view. One who also doesn’t always travel everywhere at Warp Factor 9. I was curious enough about the new GSX-R as we flew out to the launch at the tight, twisty and punishing Almeria circuit in Spain. I wanted to know if the average rider could live with this bike when they’re not pretending to be John Reynolds on a sunny Spanish track? What it’s like to ride over a speed bump, or ten? Is the riding position so radical that anymore than five miles at city centre pace requires an emergency trip to the chiropractor?
So let’s look at those questions first, we’ll get to why this is such an interesting bike (tech wise) later. Thankfully, Suzuki laid on a launch that would answer the everyday riding questions with ease. Right from the start of the test we were into slow, congested r o a d s .
Leaving the hotel we rode the bikes into a nearby town with plenty of start/stops to contend with. Speed bumps followed and then the inevitable trickle along ‘rustic’ Spanish roads because of a slow lorry or two ahead.
While it may have served to make sure all test riders were just calming down a bit from the excitement of jumping on the new bike, it was a good show of the top Suzuki’s qualities. The Big Piston Forks felt plush and comfortable at low speed, no matter what the potholed surface underneath, the steering at town pace was a touch heavy but not worryingly so and the whole bike’s riding position is relaxed enough to avoid having to endure a back-cricking session at the next available opportunity
So far so ‘oh dear, Suzuki seem to have missed the point of this bike’. You see, I was trundling through a Spanish town thinking how un-GSX-R this was. Fairly comfortable, easy-going and absolutely nonthreatening to ride at usual speeds.
This isn’t what a GSX-R is meant to be like at all. It should be angry. And shouting. It should be a terrier straining on its lead. It should be a bull charging through the streets of Pamplona looking for hungover foreigners in white and red.
Out of town the roads opened a little and became a bit more twisty as we rode up the side of a mountain, did some pictures and then road down the other side. It was good fun and the heavier feeling turning in of the big bike eased away as we hustled around switchback turn after switchback turn. Race types might say it was still heavy and slow, this is nonsense and to prove it not one of us ended up in the side of a mountain, or plunging over the edge of a thoughtfully placed cliff that ran alongside great swathes of the route. The forks really came into their own as the speeds got higher and the road allowed for a more spirited pace.
Here too, the riding position shined. It’s spacious enough, so climbing over the back of the 1000cc motorcycle is an easy affair, you don’t have to be a contortionist to get it from pretty far over on one side to the same amount of lean on the other. But you still very much feel part of the bike, sat in – not on – the Suzuki. Good stuff.
There is some momentary throttle lag when cracking the bike open from around 50mph in top gear (as if to overtake) though, despite the variable height inlet trumpets on the motor to make sure of good pick-up in any revs (a new thing for this year) this is a bike whose gearbox really needs a stirring to keep it on the boil. Up to a point you can just pick a gear for a situation and stay with it, but it’s a waste to do that, especially when a stab at the lever with the left foot opens the taps so nicely.
So on the roads, and through town traffic, the GSX-R1000 gives an astonishing account of itself. As far as life in the real world goes, this is a thoroughly useful bike. Certainly not the maniacal super-speed genius that so many non-Superbikers would have you believe. OK, it’s not a tourer and you couldn’t load your shopping into its hard-case panniers, but it’s as liveable with as nearly anything else at the moment.
I don’t want to give the impression that the Suzuki has been neutered, or is something less than the family lineage that went before it, but there’s just something a lot more considered about this bike. Could it be the first real Superbike for the masses? Once at the track the bike was let off the leash, and any worries about the heart of the beast being subdued too much were quickly blown away. Especially once we’d added a couple of clicks of Preload to the rear shock (on advice from Suzuki race director John Reynolds) to get the steering that smidgen sharper and help the bike track a line in the corners.
There’s little here that would make you shake with the sheer adrenaline rush after a ride, because this motorcycle does so very little wrong – even at track speeds. It is always composed and ready for the next ham-fisted move the rider makes. It is a motorcycle that will flatter your skills, and because it’s a GSX-R it won’t take any of the credit for it. It’ll let you pretend that you conquered the rip snorting animal beneath you.
Those BPF forks, a version of which was first seen commercially on the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R, are brilliant. While they gave a plushness on the road it was on track where they came to life, holding the bike pretty level at the front, even when as hard on the brakes as possible (especially so during the first few laps when… ahem… rider error saw some panic-braking to avoid gravel traps, the back end skipping lightly as the front planted securely. If I’d meant it to happen, it would have looked terrific…) but immediately easing into a more light-touch flick into the corner. It’s not quite a Jekyll and Hyde transformation, but it is quite amazing how much feel and range you can get from them
As for the brakes themselves, there was plenty of bite and feel but they were prone to a touch of fade when used hard. To be honest though, if you ever used the brakes hard enough to suffer from that on the road, you’re riding your bike in the wrong place.
As for the engine and that cracking gearbox, it’s a gem. On the road, the throttle lag in top gear certainly isn’t enough to write home about and at no point did the motor feel anything other than eager and powerful at all revs as long as you stayed on top of the gear changes.
At the track it was quite possible to stick the GSX-R into second gear and ride all but 20 per cent of the wide ribbon of El Tarmac by just rolling on and off the throttle. The superb, addictively aggressive bark from the two exhausts just egging you on to push that little bit more. But at Almeria there is a terrific, two-part right hand corner just before a 1km long straight that lets bikes just clear their lungs and snick up through the gearbox. Every lap, every time the GSX-R fired out of the long corner the world disappeared backwards in something similar to the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It is eye-meltingly quick when you get aggressive with the right hand. Do that too often and you’ll cook the tyres. The launch bikes were shod in Bridgestone BT016s which gave good, predictable grip but in the hands of hard-pushing riders and the abrasive nature of the Almeria surface the pair on my test bike were cooked after a few 20-minute sessions. That might sound excessive if you only change tyres once a year or less, but in this class of motorcycle on this type of track, it’s pretty much the norm.
Any motorcycle that has 169bhp at the rear wheel, and is asked to dump it onto the world lap after lap, will do that to a tyre. On the road it’d be a different matter – but at least the BT016s gave a very good account of themselves there, too. Suzuki has a lot resting on this latest version of the factory’s icon. A Superbike that’s been a little overshadowed on track in recent years by the likes of Ducati’s 1098 bruiser.
Leaving the glory of the track behind, I’d say the Suzuki has got to be in with a good shout of being that very rare beast; the Superbike you can use every day of the week. It really is quite possibly the best GSX-R for some time.
■ Engine: Water-cooled inline 4-cylinder 4-stroke
■ Bore x stroke: 74.5mm x 57.3mm
■ Capacity: 999cc
■ Compression ratio: 12.8:1
■ Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection
■ Transmission: Clutch multiple-plate hydraulic slipper
■ Gearbox: 6-speed, constant mesh
■ Frame: Aluminium twin-spar
■ Tyres: Front 120/70 x 17. Rear 190/50 x 17
■ Suspension: Front – 43mm Big Piston forks, fully adjustable. Rear – Single shock, fully adjustable
■ Brakes: Front – Double 310mm disc, 4- piston radial calipers. Rear – Single 220mm disc single-piston caliper
■ Dimensions: Length 2045mm
■ Seat height: 810mm
■ Wheelbase: 1405mm
■ Weight: 203kg, oil, fuel and water
■ Fuel tank: 17.5 litres
■ Performance: Max output 185bhp (claimed), max torque 79.2ft-lb
■ Price: £9800
■ Available: Now
■ Colours: Blue/white, black
■ Contact: 0500 011959,
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