Suzuki GSX-R1000

Suzuki have led the open-class superbike class with their formidable GSX-R1000 for a while now. Costa checks out the new 2009 model to see if they still have what it takes.


Words: Costa Mouzouris. Photos: Didier Constant, unless otherwise specified.

In 1998, after a 12-year run, Suzuki ceased production of the GSX-R1100 — the very same year when Yamaha introduced the potent R1. It wasn’t until 2001 that Suzuki got back in the open-class game with the birth of the GSX-R1000 — a direct reply to Yamaha’s then domineering R1.


2009 sees an all new Gixxer thou from Suzuki.

Suzuki hit the mark, and the GSX-R1000 quickly became the benchmark by which all sporting litre-bikes are measured, thanks to its torquey engine, ease of operation (by open-class standards), and solid, confidence-inspiring handling — traits that have transferred through the GSX-R1000’s generational upgrades and now into the completely redesigned 2009 model.

CH …

Changes for the ’09 model are significant, beginning with an entirely new engine. While other manufacturers are moving towards broadening torque curves to smoothen the ferocious power delivery of an open classer, Suzuki has gone in the other direction by increasing the bore and reducing the stroke which it claims increases
top-end power and offers “better overall tuning potential” for racing.


More elastic power but the exhaust howl has ceased to be.

A shorter stroke tends to reduce low to midrange torque, so to compensate Suzuki has revised the combustion chambers, increased the compression ratio, inserted larger valves and installed new cams. Despite all these changes, the GSX-R retains most of its brutish bottom-end punch, while producing a more elastic powerband than the previous model.

Unfortunately, when Suzuki switched to twin mufflers with the last generation GSX-R1000, its seductively imposing exhaust growl was subdued and the machine no longer has its characteristic, almost demonic howl at high rpm.

The exhaust system is quite advanced, however, using titanium head pipes and mufflers, and a stainless steel chamber under the bike that incorporates the catalytic converter.


High and protruding clutch gives off the only heat to the rider.

The engine does produce some buzzing vibration between 115 and 120 km/h, or at about 4,500 to 5,000 rpm in top gear. While this vibration didn’t inhibit comfort, it was noticeable.


Repositioned transmission shafts shortened the engine front to rear, allowing engineers to develop a new chassis that has a shorter wheelbase while using a longer swingarm — changes meant to sharpen steering and improve corner-exit traction.

These revised transmission-shaft positions place the clutch unusually high, and then clutch cover comes into contact with your right knee when putting your leg down at a stop.

This is the only component that transfers heat to the rider, because as a whole, Suzuki has done an excellent job of managing engine heat.


Like a defecting Tory, the S-DMS switch has migrated to the left.

The S-DMS power-mode selector is retained, though the selector button has been wisely moved to the left-hand switch assembly. There are now two buttons to change between the three power modes (A, B and C, hardest to softest), one under your thumb and one by your index finger, at the front of the switch assembly.

The switch that was formerly used to select S-DMS modes, located on the right-hand switch assembly, now toggles through the instrument-cluster functions — also very convenient.

Throttle modulation varied depending on which power mode was chosen. In A mode power comes on with brute force from as low as 4,000 rpm, and increases relentlessly until the indicated 13,750 rpm redline. Throttle response is instant, but can be a bit too abrupt when negotiating winding, bumpy roads.


C mode is more forgiving for the street.

It even proved somewhat difficult to keep the throttle pinned along the bumpy front straight of Autodrome St-Eustache, where we performed the track portion of this test. But then if you’ve ridden St-Eustache it’s not too dissimilar to a winding, bumpy road!

On the street I left the bike in the softest C mode, which made the GSX-R as easy to ride as a 600, as well as reducing the unwanted bump-induced jerking caused by a twitchy throttle while in A mode.

Power modes can also be changed while riding (as with the R1, but Yamaha don’t recommend it just in case you switch from low to high power in the middle of a rain storm … mid-corner).



Footpegs have three positions.

When I first straddled our test bike, the adjustable footpegs were set in their highest position. As a result I found the seating position a bit cramped, but this position helped me move around on the machine to transfer weight when negotiating the tight St-Eustache circuit.

I lowered the footrests for the street (there are three positions) and found the seating position more relaxed — but don’t kid yourself — this is nowhere near being a touring bike.

The aggressive, forward-biased seating position soon had my wrists aching and my neck stiff. The seat, however, was very supportive, and my butt was about the only part of my body that didn’t ache after an extended street ride.


Costa firmly in control.

There’s a familiarity to the GSX-R’s handling that transcends its generational evolution. You feel immediately at home on the big Gixxer; it does nothing to startle or alarm you, and it responds to your commands obediently, making you feel completely in control.

Steering is light and responds with laser-sharp precision, while turn-in is effortless. The bike maintains a chosen line readily, yet you can change trajectory without fuss to avoid bumps or cracks in the road. All this despite being fitted with an electronically controlled steering damper, located by the lower triple-clamp, that enhances stability.

The damper is almost invisible, both visually, and when manoeuvring about at low speeds, as it uses a speed sensor to adjust the damping force; the faster you go, the firmer it gets (a bit like me).


Clocks are clean and straightforward.

Instrumentation is clean and straightforward, with a central tachometer that has a clearly visible gear indicator on its face. Other features include the usual sport bike associated dual trip meters, a reserve trip meter, time of day, and a lap counter.

There’s also a programmable shift light that uses four sequentially illuminating LEDs, but they are placed low in the dash and are hard to see.

The inverted fork now has the rebound and compression damping adjusters located in the fork caps, making adjustment a snap, while spring preload adjustment has migrated from the top to the bottom of each fork leg. The shock is fully adjustable and includes two-way compression damping. Suspension action was perfectly suited for racetrack use, and although it was too firm for the street, it wasn’t sadistically so.


Suspension is a bit firm off the track, but brakes are great.

Brakes have been revised for improved feeedback; the radial master cylinder now uses a smaller piston, and the radial-mount, four-piston calipers are now solid. As a result, the front brake works remarkably well, resisting fade after several laps at the racetrack, and on the street, feel is precise without the hard initial bite of some other supersport front brakes.

Assisting hard braking is a slipper clutch that worked flawlessly at the track, allowing forceful yet smooth corner entry without rear wheel hop. The GSX-R has had a slipper clutch for some years now, but the 2009 model uses a cable for actuation instead of hydraulics. Yes, I thought you might need to know that.

This saves weight but also improves clutch feel. It also uses Suzuki Clutch Assist System (SCAS — what would a new bike be without a new acronym?) and it indeed works, as the GSX-R had a much lighter clutch pull than the 2009 R1.



Brett McCormick seems to be liking the new Gixxer.

All these changes must have improved the big Gixxer, at least in racing trim, as evidenced by Brett McCormick’s performance on the machine in Canadian Superbike racing.

In his first season on the bike he’s won three of the six Superbike rounds run to date, and he’s in a pretty good position to make Jordan Szoke work hard to defend his title at the final round at Shannonville, guaranteeing it will be one of the most exciting rounds this year.

However, you need not be a professional racer to appreciate the latest evolution of Suzuki’s litre-sized supersport. For $16,199 (up from last year’s $15,299) you will get the
most advanced GSX-R1000 to date, and if you attend track days with the machine (as
you should if you want to go fast), excitement is guaranteed there, too.


Back to back really shows the difference in the conventional crank (GSXR) and the crossplane crank on the R1.

I’ve had the opportunity to ride the 2009 Yamaha R1 at the bike’s press launch in Australia, where = Steve Bond also rode the bike and submitted a CMG report on it here.

More recently and much closer to home, I rode the bike at Autodrome St-Eustache alongside the 2009 GSX-R1000 and although we hadn’t originally intended to cover the bike again, a back-to-back with the Gixxer was too good an opportunity to compare.

I need not tell you that the fast and smooth Eastern Creek circuit near Sydney was a much better test venue for the R1, however, riding the bumpier and much tighter local track revealed other aspects of the

The latest R1 boasts a new chassis with revised suspension components, but the most significant change is the incorporation of a crossplane crankshaft. This is an unusual crankshaft layout for an inline four and it completely changes the behaviour of the R1.


And that thar be a crossplane crank – definitely not yer typical two up, two down …

The first indication that there’s something peculiar about the engine is that it emits the syncopated drone of a V-four, and not the steady hum typical of an inline four. The R1 is also remarkably buzz-free, especially at lower speeds.

But the biggest telltale to the bike’s twisted crank is in the power delivery.

I’ve always considered the Suzuki GSX-R1000 the king of torque among open-class supersports. It has a bountiful bottom-end punch, making it pussycat around town at slow speeds, but it is also a screamer when called upon,  making it an exhilarating track day weapon. By normal inline-four standards, it still has those traits.

However, the new R1 has changed the ground rules of inline-four power delivery, and unless you ride the machine, you’ll never appreciate just how different it feels.


The R1 is all new for 2009 as is the GSX-R1000.

Twist the throttle from low rpm and the R1’s offset crankpins deliver power pulses with the urgency of a V-twin — albeit a very, very powerful twin — though with a lack of an inline four’s progressive top-end rush.

The R1’s flatter, more linear acceleration means that the throttle can be applied with less discretion, and deceptively camouflages the impression of speed, though with a claimed output of 176 horsepower, believe me, the speed is there. It doesn’t even sound like it’s revving high despite a tachometer needle that flirts with the 13,500 redline.

The difference in crankshaft layouts was reaffirmed when stepping onto the GSX-R1000. The R1’s forceful power delivery requires taller gear ratios in the bottom three gears, so the GSX-R rounded the circuit’s tighter turns one gear higher than the R1. The GSX-R still produced higher revs at corner exit, and subsequently, the throttle demanded a lighter touch.


Costa, he like.

The GSX-R also took a bit longer to pick up speed in the first third of the back straight, as its engine needed to reach  igher revs before getting into the meat of its powerband. Once it did, however, the GSX-R took off like a rocket, which, in contrast to the Yamaha, amplified the perception of speed.

So which layout is better? Well, it depends on your riding style. If you enjoy progressive acceleration and a top-end adrenaline rush, a conventional inline four is the machine for you.

If you prefer a V-twin-like bottom-end grunt on a machine that still pulls like an open-classer — and I do — look no further than the R1.



2009 GSX-R1000


999 cc

Four-stroke dohc inline four,

Power (crank – claimed)

Torque (claimed)
17.5 L


Final drive
Six speed, chain drive



Dual 310 mm discs with four-piston

Single 220 mm disc with single-piston

810 mm (31.9 “)

1,405 mm (55.3 “)

Wet weight (claimed)
203 kg (447 lb)

Blue/white, Burgundy/black, White/silver

12-month, unlimited mileage


GSX-R1000 changes for 2009 (for the technojunkies out there)

Cylinder bore is increased to 74.5 mm from 73.4 mm.

– Stroke
is reduced to 57.3 mm from 59 mm.

Compression ratio is bumped to 12.8:1 from 12.5:1.

Intake and exhaust valves are up 1 mm in diameter to 31 and 25 mm respectively.

Wheelbase is 10 mm shorter, now at 1,405 mm.

Swingarm is 33 mm longer.

– 43
mm inverted fork now a BPF (Big Piston Fork) design.

Radial master cylinder now uses a 17 mm piston, down from 19 mm

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