Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT: Highly evolved sport tourer

Photo: Zac Kurylyk

These days, when you read a story about Suzuki, it often points out that the company hasn’t introduced much all-new technology over the past few years. Except for the current-gen GSX-R1000, pretty much everything is based on a design from the late ’90s or early ’00s. And after riding the GSX-S1000 GT sport tourer, I’m here to tell you—that doesn’t matter. The evolutionary process behind this bike means that even though it’s based Suzuki’s K5 GSX-R1000 engine (which debuted for the 2005 model year), this bike is very, very fun in 2022.

Tech stuff

Yeah, it’s the K5 engine, sort of—but it has changed a lot in the past two decades. Everything’s been smoothed out. Obviously there’s a refined fuel injection system; the engine is now tuned for real-world usability, not track horsepower. And there’s a ride-by-wire throttle, which allows for selectable riding modes (three modes on the current model). Slip-assist clutch is standard, as is an up/down quickshifter, so you don’t need the clutch to boot your way through the gearbox.

The GSX-S enginehas its roots in the old K5 four-cylinder mill. Photo: Suzuki

Other electronic systems include cruise control and a five-setting traction control system, which can also be switched off for maximum hoonery. Suzuki’s systems for easy hill starts and single-button-press starting are built-in, which many riders will not likely notice.

Note that the electronics are not IMU-powered. This means the GT lacks the truly high-end techno-wizardry of the latest-gen Euro sport tourers. Does that matter? Probably not, at least not for most potential buyers of this bike.

On to the chassis. There’s a fully-adjustable KYB fork; the shock is adjustable for preload and rebound. Brake calipers come from Brembo, and ABS is standard (but not leaning ABS—remember, no IMU!). The frame itself is an aluminum twin-spar arrangement, with aluminum swingarm, trellis-style subframe and six-spoke alu wheels. Those wheels are shod with “new Dunlop SPORTMAX Roadsport 2 radial tires designed specifically for the GSX-S1000GT,” according to Suzuki. Maybe that means they’re optimized for this bike, but sometimes that means an OEM optimized the tires for frugality in manufacturing, at the cost of longevity, instead. I did not spend enough time on the GT to determine if that was the case here, though.

The GT comes with considerable onboard electronics, and a TFT interface to help manage them, but there’s no IMU powering advanced safety wizardry. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The GT comes with a 6.5 TFT screen as the dash, with Day and Night modes, and anti-reflective coating. It also comes with smartphone integration capability. Suzuki’s website says: “Simply install the free SUZUKI mySPIN app and connect your smartphone to transfer its display to the GT’s large full-color TFT LCD screen where you can view the contents of your phone, contacts, calendar, music and map apps. You can also install a selection of supported third-party apps optimized for use by motorcycle riders and take advantage of additional services that bring greater convenience and fun to the touring experience. These include navigation, rider assistance, music streaming, tracking, route sharing, and weather information services. SUZUKI mySPIN is compatible with iOS and AndroidTM.” I did not download the app, as I only had the bike for a weekend, but it’s there if you want it.

Headlight, taillight and turn signals are all LEDs; fuel capacity is 19 litres. Seat height is 810 mm, and curb weight is 226 kg.

The ride

If you’ve been riding Suzuki motorcycles a while, you know that the company’s four-cylinders often feel very similar because they are very similar. My garage currently has an ’03 Bandit 1200S and a ’96 RF900R, and even though they’re very different bikes, they sound and feel a lot the same when you press the starter. No surprise; their engines share the same bottom end design, and the top ends aren’t that different either.

So, it was no surprise that I felt right at home jumping into the new GT’s saddle, and taking off. It sounds like a Suzuki 4-cyl, and it feels like a Suzuki 4- cyl. The K5 engine is a long way removed from the old GSXR-1100 mill that Suzuki based its ’90s and early ’00s designs on, and the GT engine is a long way removed from the K5, but there is an unmistakable family resemblance when you’re in the saddle.

Looks are in line with modern superbikes. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Like my RF and my Bandit, the GT is very rideable in the lower half of the rev range, and you can quickly boot the ‘box through the lower gears to get to sixth. There, you can cruise at extra-legal highway speeds at half-revs … or you can wring the throttle to untap the full 150 hp. While it’s happy at lower rpm, the engine comes alive when you flog it, and the smooth quickshifter makes that an easy task. In short: This bike is a hoot to ride.

Gone is the vibration that tended to typify earlier Suzuki fours. No doubt this is partly due to advancements in engine design, but it’s also because Suzuki rubber-mounted the handlebars and footpegs. The seat is comfortable, too, and the rider triangle of pegs-bars-seat is as comfy as most naked bikes. There’s enough room to tuck in for a racier stance, but if you found a way to lower the pegs just a bit, and raise the handlebars an inch or so, you’d have almost the same stance as an adventure bike. Clearly, Suzuki was going for rideability here, not Ricky Racer pretensions.

As you’d expect, the Suzook steers well. Again, it’s part of the family heritage. On smooth pavement, you can heel it over and absolutely rocket through corners, showing off that Gixxer DNA. I was even more impressed with its ability to handle bumpy back roads. It doesn’t take on rough pavement with the aplomb of an ADV, but on a couple of local routes with a decent sprinkling of potholes and tar snakes, I was very happy with the bike’s determination to stay on-track when picking a cornering line through some mangled tarmac.

Again, this is a sport tourer, not an adventure tourer. On one stretch that had miles of bad frost heaves, I was feeling pretty beat-up after an extended period of spirited riding. The fork doesn’t have the same capability as the long-travel suspension on adventure-sports models like the Multistrada or Versys 1000, but it did leave me wondering what might happen if Suzuki decided to put this engine into such a chassis …

Plenty of comfortable real estate on the seat. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

I had no opportunity for an emergency test of the ABS system (thankfully), and didn’t note any issues otherwise with the stoppers. The Brembos slow you down as they should; the manufacturers and their third-party partners have this stuff pretty squared-away these days. I will say that I’d be most curious about the brakes’ usefulness with a passenger on board, and loaded panniers, but I also didn’t have that opportunity. This test bike came without the sidebags (optional on the standard GT, standard on the GTA model), and I didn’t have the machine long enough to find a pillion for testing.

What about comfort? I liked the seat, but after about 400 km in the heat with insufficient break time, I was getting squirmy. I think this problem would probably disappear after a couple of days in the saddle, as my backside would adjust quickly. No doubt some riders will want an aftermarket seat immediately, but I think most will be OK with the stocker.

I was neither pleased nor displeased with the bike’s wind protection. For some reason, Suzuki didn’t put an adjustable screen on the GT, something that’s increasingly available on even budget-friendly bikes. This is a rather shocking oversight on a sport tourer. I rode on a sunny day and didn’t have any issues with the wind, but if it had been cold and rainy, I might not have been so happy. I was definitely in the wind, but the streamlined bodywork kept the worst of the pressure off me. As it was, I found the screen at least didn’t cause any helmet buffeting, one of the most important considerations on a touring machine.

The sidebags are standard on the GTA model, but my tester didn’t come with them. Photo: Suzuki

Another comfort feature missing off the GT: Heated grips. Too bad. Although they’re not listed on the bike’s Suzuki Canada webpage, I understand they’re optional in some markets. In today’s CANBUS world, I’m not sure if you could easily install a set of generic Oxford heated grips, but if you can, they’d certainly be less money than the factory accessory grips.

Finally, I know many touring enthusiasts would love a shaft drive, but let’s be real here. There is no way that Suzuki could do that and keep the cost down. The chain drive will be fine, as long as you maintain it.

Closing thoughts

I think the GT is a lot of bike for the $15,399 MSRP, but it would have been nice to at least see a basic rack included for that money. The GTA model is $16,999, and is pretty much the same bike except for matched saddlebags. I’m sure a lot of buyers will simply head over to a Euro luggage manufacturer (GIVI, SW-Motech, etc.) and find an equivalent set of luggage, but I doubt you’d save much cash that way.

There’s a lot to like about this machine. It’s got loads of power on tap without an overwhelming urge to use it, unlike more high-strung counterparts from Europe. It’s a tight-handling package, but you can push your pace down a beat-up back road, as long as you exercise caution. It has all the electronics you need and many you don’t, and they’re all programmed in without the help of an expensive IMU. I even got excellent fuel economy while running the bike, often noting the bike was in the 60 mpg range when cruising in top gear.

The stripped-down GT, with no bags, is a reasonable $15,399. Photo: Suzuki

My main question would be whether the price tag would be low enough to deter riders from simply going with a middleweight adventure bike, which are increasingly taking over the touring market. Maybe, maybe not; but even those bikes are around the same general price mark, and if you don’t want one because you want a sport tourer—well, the Suzuki is about as cheap as it gets, and again, it has everything you need. It’s certainly a lot easier to throw a leg over this bike than a GS.

If these bikes live up to the brand’s reputation for affordable reliability, they could indeed prove to be quite popular, as there is less and less competition for this segment all the time. I believe sportbikes are going to regain some of their former popularity as ’90s fashions slide back into style, and the GT could be well-poised to grab some of that momentum. I know I’d certainly be happy to have one in my garage, if I was looking for a strictly-street machine.

 

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. The lack of factory heated grips in the Canadian market is inexplicable, as is the lack of provisions for a centrestand on what is supposed to be a sport-TOURING motorcycle. It’s always fun trying to lube your chain when on the road on a bike with no centrestand.

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