I t’s no coincidence that the 2017 GSX-R1000R won on its British Superstock racing debut – in the hands of Richard Cooper straight from the crate – and leads the championship at the time of writing. Nor is it a shock that Mickey Dunlop jumped aboard his superbike and managed a 125mph standing start on his first lap of the TT. It should, therefore, be no shock that the road-spec Gixer was so fast at SBOTY, but to be so close to the Aprilia was a minor, earth rumbling bombshell.
There’s nothing Gucci about the Suzuki. From looks and finish, to build quality and brakes, suave rivals outclass the GSX-R in most departments before the wheels even turn. The dash looks like Casio was closing a factory and offered Suzuki its stash of old components for a bargain, and there’s already some fluffy corrosion on this month-old press bike. But, fuck it, it’s all about the riding experience, and there’s really something very special about smashing the granny out of it, an intangible edgy, raw and ballistic conduct to the Gixer that’s so bloody involving.
Much of this lies with the VVT engine. Whereas the Fireblade’s poor dyno performance feels slow in realtime, the Suzuki’s modest numbers prove entirely rampant, clocking the fastest terminal speed at the end of the start/finish straight and, more importantly, feeling bloody fast. It makes all the right noises; rattly, metallic, cantankerous noises that you would have never experienced, urging you to twist the throttle harder and further, although we’d like a slightly more refined set of power modes to prevent the jerky throttle mid-RPM.
Conventional inline four-pots have, historically, lacked excitement and character, requiring a crossplane or vee formation to get the juices flowing. Suzuki obviously has a new fleet of moto-alchemists at the factory. While its rivals were limited to one gear per corner, the Gixer swaggered into tighter bends with the ability to run taller gears, such is the grunt on tap throughout the rev range. In true Gixer heritage though, life is better during an intense top-end and flirting with the limiter.
Becoming better with speed and committed riding is a rare and fantastic trait to brag. But, with an engine and other components that push boundaries in 2017, having a braking system from the Jurassic era simply isn’t good enough and seriously hindered the GSX-R’s lap time. Not only did the ABS become too intrusive (you can’t disable the system) and bugger corner entry, the lever came back to the ’bar within four laps and continued to suffer in the heat of the Algarve.
Thankfully, there’s a chassis that can cope. The Suzuki isn’t as intrinsically racy and nowhere near as stiff as the Aprilia or Yamaha, with more flex and weight transfer as you’d expect from a Japanese manufacturer. The whole ride is a lot softer and more forgiving, yet somehow doesn’t sacrifice agility and relies on one of the sexiest front-ends in the business. It whoops the Aprilia in change of direction and high-speed steering – a key facet at Portimao – which is one of the reasons why the lap time was so
impressive. The balance of the bike and the way in which it maintains a supernatural fulcrum, regardless of input, is also vital.
Its pace certainly isn’t as intuitive as the RSV4. The GSX-R was the only bike of the podium hunters that we thought required set-up tweaks. While those Showa BFF forks provide a plush stroke and heavenly control, the shock suffered, particularly on the exit of turn 5 where the bikes are accelerating on the side of the tyre. Its electronic aids are as good as anything out there though, subtly tidying slides and diminished grip, but the shock
started pumping away in extreme thrashing conditions.
There are palpable GSX-R elements wafting through the ’bars but the L7 is on another level of performance and outright pace. Bravo, Suzuki.
THE RIDE IS SOFTER AND MORE FORGIVING, YET SOMEHOW DOESN’T SACRIFICE AGILITY...
Looks conventional, rather than Gucci... Argh, our eyes! It’s a rocketship!
Suzuki is back, bitches!