Test Ride: Suzuki GSX-R 1000

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INTRO – Editor ‘arris

As you may or may not know, our Costa has recently departed the confines of the CMG family in favour of the heated and furnished offices of Cycle Canada. Although we’re not happy to lose such a good writer, racer and all-round great guy, we understand that actually getting paid is a bit of a help when it comes to making a living at this kind of thing.

During the summer we decided to expand on Costa’s contributions by trying him out with a few test bikes. Since he has obvious talents on the race track, it seemed like a good idea to start him off on the big-bore sportbikes. One GSXR1000, CBR954RR and R1 later and we have the results of Costa’s test riding abilities. We hope Cycle Canada are happy with with their new guy, and he with them …


IT’S SUPER!

Wow.

Hi everybody! Wow, I do a few races and all of a sudden I’m testing bikes! What a life eh? Well, I’m not here to talk about my good fortune, but more to talk about Suzuki’s super GSXR1000. Yes, that’s right, it’s super.

So why do I say that? Well, I like it. Yes, but why do I like it? Wow, these test rides are hard work. Well, let’s start with the engine. With four cylinders and other bits, it produces lots of power. All you have to do is turn it on, put it in gear, twist the throttle and wammo – you go. Wow. Since the wheels are round, it’s all pretty smooth too.

Wanna stop, just pull on the brakes and … wow. Hey even the suspension works, especially when going over bumps.

However, all was not roses in GSXR land. What was Suzuki thinking when it put on those orange lights on stalks? They not only stick out, but flash occasionally too. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, to sum up … wow, I liked it.

 

Scroll down …

 

 

A bit more …

 

 

Okay, sorry, that’s not what Costa wrote at all. We were being silly and trying to scare Cycle Canada into thinking they’d made a horrible mistake. Here’s the real write up from the real Costa:

The GSXR needs a good therapist.

Suzuki’s GSXR 1000 is not a motorcycle for the fainthearted. It’s deceptively easy to ride which is attractive to riders of less experience but rider beware, this bike is bipolar; it has two distinct personalities.

The first one is that of a tame, gentle mount, ready to commute in everyday traffic and around town without the slightest hint of the beast that lurks within. This is what I found when I picked the bike up at the Suzuki Canada offices. Since it still had less than 1000 km on the odometer, my first rides would be gentle – I had also agreed to continue the break-in until the first inspection was performed.

I initially used the GSXR to commute the twenty-two kilometres to work through downtown traffic and was impressed with the bike’s user-friendliness in an urban environment. Power delivery at low rpm is smooth and the injection system is balanced, not having too sensitive a throttle; the bike is manageable, forgiving. I could have ridden this bike all day at under 8000 rpm and would have been completely satisfied with its speed and acceleration. Low throttle settings are extremely smooth on a machine of such proportions, although engine vibration was noticeable and even borderline bothersome at legal cruising speeds. However, the vibration smoothed to an acceptable level below and especially above these speeds.

Mr. HYDE

Costa puts it through its paces at Shannonville.

But don’t be fooled, as this seemingly benign cycle has a mischievous speed demon cached inside, that other personality. Turn the throttle more than half way, and things go Mr. Hyde in a hurry. My first impression of a docile, obedient steed was quickly forgotten once I explored the potential of the powerplant. This bike picks up speed like no other street bike I’ve ever ridden. Power comes on progressively harder as the tach needle moves up the dial but when it hits around 9,000 rpm, things go skyward – literally. The front wheel lifts off the ground effortlessly in the first three gears. Any hard acceleration from a stop in first gear transforms the bike into a rider catapult.

The engine on the big bore GSXR is a marvel to anyone that appreciates power. I mean really appreciates power. Turning the throttle on this machine is an exercise in discipline. Holding the throttle to its stop is either an exercise in sheer boldness or outright foolishness, depending on where it’s done. The howl emitted from the intake when the engine is screaming near redline is both intimidating and exhilarating at the same time. This bike not only goes fast, it sounds fast. I was taken aback by the relatively small diameter of the stock exhaust canister; other bikes of this class having huge barrels as exhaust pipes. But it actually exudes a deep, throaty growl that hints of the power within. If this bike belonged to me, I would leave the stock pipe in its place.

While on a ride on some twisty roads north of Montreal, I kept the engine humming along at around 8,000 rpm, which translated into very exciting speeds. At that engine speed, throttle response and acceleration were almost obscene. Every time the big Suzuki would crest a small hill, the front wheel would leave terra firma until I’d let off the throttle for the next turn. My cheeks were sore from all the grinning going on beneath my helmet.

I like to believe that I’m a responsible rider. I attained some ridiculous speeds on those back roads and yet never got anywhere near redline. I was sane enough to keep myself from heeding to the temptation of feeling the throttle cables stretch. However, I am also man enough to admit that I don’t think I had the balls to do so on public roads; wilderness comes at you way too fast on this bike.

THE OTHER BITS

The fuel management system is well tuned – the slight surging of last year’s model having been addressed in 2002, making the bike ready to ride almost immediately. Starting it in the morning would consistently take two attempts however. The bike would initially fire up, burble for a second and then stall. It would then fire up and stay running on its automatic fast idle circuit on the second attempt. After the engine warmed up, it would idle rock-steady at 1000 rpm.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the LCD bit.

While riding it at reasonable speeds, the fuel light would come on consistently at around 250 km. 14 to 15 litres would top up the fuel tank from that point which would translate to a fuel consumption reading of approximately 5.8l /100 km. Turning the throttle aggressively would prompt Mr. Hyde to slurp fuel at an alarming rate. On one challenging ride, I managed to empty a load of fuel in only 180 km!

A factory installed steering damper is a welcome addition although it does make the steering somewhat heavy at low speeds. It adds confidence as the speed increases, doing a good job of keeping the front wheel pointed in the proper direction over bumps. The bike tracks straight and true in high-speed sweepers and doesn’t require constant effort on the bars to keep it leaned over. Although the bike is a lightweight on paper, weighing in at a claimed 170 kg, it doesn’t feel as such on the road. It seems hesitant to make quick changes in direction at lower speeds.

Six piston calipers up front are needed.

Hitting bumps in mid corner doesn’t upset the chassis although the suspension was on the stiff side as delivered. Softening the compression damping by ten clicks front and rear transformed my riding style from “slalom bump avoidance” mode to “relax, this won’t hurt” mode. I was pleased to see the suspension’s range of adjustment was wide enough to tackle most riding conditions including a stint at Shannonville.

On the short Nelson circuit where I dared ride it WFO, the power of the litre GSXR was almost too much. Coming on the gas on the front straight would cause the front wheel go skyward and make turn one come faster than I thought possible. I was on the brakes more than I was on the throttle during my time on the track.

The stock Bridgestone BT 010s were not quite up to the task of handling the delivery of the brute power the GSXR put out. The rear would slide easily under power in the slower corners and both tires would slide in turn seven, a tight left-hander. The combination of monster power and slippery rubber made for a bike that was tiring to ride at speed after a short period of time, my chest and arm muscles bearing the brunt of my on-track experience.

PAIN IN THE ARSE FACTOR

Not passenger friendly.

The seating position is a typical supersport crouch with a reasonable reach to the clip-ons, rearward footpegs and a hard flat seat. Most of my upper body weight was supported by my arms. About fifty minutes of riding was enough to make me start looking for a reason to stop and let blood flow back into my arms let my hindquarters cool off. Riding quickly through twisty roads and moving to transfer my weight distracted from the discomfort but any time spent sitting still on this bike is too much idle time.

Carrying a passenger also proved to be a painful experience. My volunteer co-rider, Patricia would prop herself up by placing her hands on the fuel tank but this caused her to rest her chest on my back. This would normally be a very pleasurable situation for me but the extra weight my arms had to bear as she rested on me proved too much to handle for more than half an hour at a time. Her experience wasn’t any better as she complained about the hard seat and sore arms she was getting by holding herself up. Carrying a passenger on this or any other supersport bike is truly a matter of desperation; you do it only because you truly have too.

The footrests are the strangest I have encountered on any bike. They bevel upwards at the tip causing my ankles to bend in an unnatural position. I thought that they might perhaps grow on me with time but I never quite got accustomed to the awkward position they placed my feet in. Had this been my bike, I would have either filed the tips down or replaced the pegs with ones from another bike.

The instrument panel is typical of what has become the norm on supersport bikes with a prominent tachometer offset by a digital speedometer. There are two trip meters and a clock that comes in handy when pressed for time but tardiness is irrelevant on this bike, just turn the throttle and you’ll get there on time. The fit and finish are nothing to get excited about with brackets and wires exposed behind the fairing but Suzuki engineers did manage to trade fancy finishing panels for ultra light weight, a fair trade-off I’d say.

I enjoyed the schizophrenic nature of the Suzuki GSXR 1000. Any time I got bored riding it, all I had to do was twist the throttle rearward and hold on for a wild ride. It certainly isn’t a motorcycle for anyone and when I hear of some fresh, inexperienced rider thinking of buying one, I cringe. This motorcycle demands a very disciplined throttle hand, anything else and there’s a beast lurking in the midst waiting to bite the hand that feeds it…too much throttle!

Costa Mouzouris.

 

Bike

Suzuki GSXR1000

MSL

$14,399.00

Displacement

988 cc

Engine type

Inline dohc four, liquid-cooled

Carburetion

Fuel Injection

Final drive

Six speed, chain drive

Tires, front

120/70 ZR17

Tires, rear

190/50 ZR17

Brakes, front

Dual discs with six piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single disc with two piston caliper

Seat height

830 mm (32.7″)

Wheelbase

1,410 mm (55.5″)

Dry weight

170 Kg (374 lbs) (claimed)

Canadian colours

White/blue, Black/Red

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