It’s interesting how events age you. For example, the first test I ever wrote for CMG was way back in 2002 on Suzuki’s first generation of their open-classer GSX-R1000, which had hit the market a year earlier. I was new to the whole moto journalism gig back then but since that day I’ve ridden every iteration of the GSX-R1000, including the latest 2012 version just last week in Florida.
Suzuki totes their revamped 2012 litre-bike as a “revised version of the 5th generation” that was introduced back in 2009. Think about that for a moment: five generations in just eight years! Those were the days when sportbikes were reinvented every two years; a sales depression and a falling sportbike market in the last few years curbed the madness, with more sensible ‘updates’ that we see today.
This latest Gixxer incarnation gains several mild revisions, and loses one of the mufflers it picked up in ’07. Also gone is the exhaust pre-chamber under the bike, with a smaller catalytic converter migrating to the pipe leading into the muffler. Aside from making the bike look slimmer from the rear, the absent left-hand muffler also shifted weight forward, towards the front wheel—maybe a little too much for the Suzuki engineers.
To compensate for this weight shift, the engineers lightened a bunch of front-end components, including use of lighter Brembo monobloc calipers, a lighter axle and thinner brake discs (5 mm thick from 5.5). Even the new front tire, part of a pair of Bridgestone S20 radials, is 200 grams lighter. How’s that for recentralizing mass?
The fork has also been altered slightly, losing 7 mm in length and 5 mm of wheel travel. There are no internal changes to damping or spring rates, though the factory now sets the damping adjusters slightly softer and has dialled in a bit more preload as standard to compensate for the slightly different weight bias. No changes have been made to the shock.
All of these changes make the new bike feel, well, pretty much the same as the old one. At least that’s how it felt to me, as we didn’t have a 2011 model on hand for comparison at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, where I got a day’s worth of lapping on the new bike.
However, the fact that the new bike doesn’t feel much different than the old is not at all a bad thing; the GSX-R1000 has always been at the forefront of power and handling, so much so that BMW used the 2005 model as a benchmark when it developed the potent S1000RR.
Granted, the GSX-R is no longer at the top of the open-class supersport pecking order (the ZX-10R is lighter, the S1000RR makes more power, for example) but that doesn’t mean it has to be written off as a serious performer. What the Gixxer has in spades is balance, and it only took but a couple of laps to feel at one with the bike.
DOUBLE DIP FIX
So what has been tweaked in the engine? Well, some minor changes have been incorporated to improve low to midrange power, including use of lighter pistons, a higher compression ratio (12.9:1 from 12.8), and revised exhaust cam profiles.
According to Suzuki, these changes eliminated two dips in the powerband at lower revs (though damned if I could ever feel them on the previous bike), while new ECU mapping has smoothed out throttle response, and improved fuel consumption by a claimed eight percent.
Output hasn’t changed though, with 182 peak horsepower available at 11,500 rpm (500 rpm lower than on the previous model), and peak torque remaining at 86.3 lb-ft at 10,000 rpm.
Regardless of the reported changes, modulating the throttle was very easy for an open-classer, something emphasized when exiting a second-gear hairpin, where the throttle could be opened wide from below 6,000 rpm without fear that the rear end was going to beat me to the next turn.
Our track session was done using Bridgestone R10 DOT race tires in place of the stockers, and they provided very good, predictable grip on the somewhat irregular track surface. Homestead’s infield road course has concrete patches through the apexes of many corners, and we were advised that although grip over the concrete was good, trail braking and hard acceleration was to be avoided over them.
Although conspicuously lacking in new technical farkels found on most of the competition, the GSX-R does retain three power modes; I used the most aggressive A setting for most of the day. B setting softens low to midrange power while retaining full power up top, while C mode reduces power throughout the rev range.
While there’s no real need for the lowest mode on the track, it proved a boon the next day on our street ride when Mother Nature spiced things up a couple of hours into our ride by treating us to a torrential downpour. At least temperatures were in the mid 20s Centigrade, so the fact that I didn’t pack any rain gear didn’t prove too catastrophic.
Switching to C mode in these conditions softened the power to a confidence-inspiring level, while still providing more than adequate power for passing.
A local dealer provided guidance on our street ride, and perhaps sensing that our nerves were wearing thin due to the poor weather and the uninspiring roadways, he brought us to visit a local landmark. We stopped by Jimbo’s Place for a pre-lunch snack, and it is like no other gathering spot I’ve ever seen.
It is truly a unique dining experience. The menu includes smoked fish, cold beer and smoked fish. Said smoked fish (a house specialty, and as noted above, the only dish on the menu) was, somewhat unsurprisingly, the best smoked fish I’ve ever had, flaky, smoky and mouth-wateringly tender.
We left Jimbo’s just as the rain began its second wave of fury. Since riding Florida’s board-flat, straight roads on a litre-class sportbike is about exciting as a prostate exam, the prospect of an extended ride in the rain were not exactly enticing.
On top of that, everything but my feet (thank you Joe Rocket) was now thoroughly drenched, so we chose to head back to the hotel, drop the wet machines off with Suzuki staff and head to the warmth of a hotel room.
LESS TECH, FEWER DOLLARS
The GSX-R1000 has been a favourite open-class supersport of mine since I first rode one in ’02. It has evolved quite a bit since then, but advances in technology come at a lightning pace these days, and its competition have gained numerous electronic aids to either make the power more controllable (traction control), or make the speeds 180hp is capable of attaining more manageable (ABS).
Surprisingly the GSX-R1000 still has neither of those, and sticklers of technology might shun the bike for not adopting them. While I don’t think ABS is a necessity, I do consider the addition of traction control a very handy tool for both street and track day riders.
But then would the lack of TC prevent me from buying a GSX-R1000? No, though it would make me take a second look at the competition. But at $14,999, it’s now $1,600 cheaper than it was last year and a few hundred to a couple of grand cheaper than the rest of the open-classers in pricing (it’s on par with the recently discounted R1, but that does have traction control this year as well).
Technophiles may be unhappy at the new GSX-R 1000 but in my books, it’s still a pretty good bang for the buck.
|Engine type||Inline four, liquid cooled, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder|
|Power (crank)*||182 HP @ 11,500 rpm|
|Torque*||86.3 ft-lbs @ 10,000 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||17.7 litres|
|Final drive||Six speed, chain drive|
|Tires, front||120/70ZR – 17 radial front|
|Tires, rear||190/50ZR-17 radial rear|
|Brakes, front||Dual 310 mm discs with four-piston radial calipers.|
|Brakes, rear||Single 210 mm disc with single-piston caliper.|
|Seat height||810mm (31.9 in.)|
|Wheelbase||1405 mm (55.3 in.)|
|Wet weight*||203 kg (448 lb)|
|Warranty||One year, unlimited mileage|