A class unto it­self

Di­nosaurs? The Suzuki GSX-R750 nim­bly begs to dif­fer

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - MOTORCYLES - By David Booth

BIRM­ING­HAM, Ala. — It’s hard to be­lieve, con­sid­er­ing Suzuki is the last ma­jor man­u­fac­turer to pro­duce a three­quar­ter-litre su­per­bike, that 750s once ruled North Amer­i­can rac­ing.

Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, ev­ery man­u­fac­turer pro­duced a 750 sport bike. Kawasaki’s whole Team Green mo­tif was the re­sult of the dom­i­nance of the com­pany’s im­mor­tal ZX-7R. The first Honda In­ter­cep­tor was a 750 and the most fa­mous of Yama­has was the OWO1, the rac­ing ver­sion of the com­pany’s FZR750. Then the 600-cu­bic-cen­time­tre class be­came North Amer­ica’s pre­miere rac­ing se­ries and, like di­nosaurs, the 750s died out. All ex­cept the GSX-R. By far the most fa­mous of the 750s — the orig­i­nal GSX-R750 vir­tu­ally in­vented the 750cc su­per­sport cat­e­gory in 1985 — the Suzuki sol­diers on as the last of the breed. The last shall of­ten be the best, how­ever, and the 2011 GSXR750, based on the GSX-R600, cer­tainly makes a good ar­gu­ment that news of the demise of the 750 was pre­ma­ture.

Es­sen­tially the same mo­tor­cy­cle — the 750 is only five mil­lime­tres longer and three kilo­grams heav­ier than the 600 — the two GSX-Rs are, save for dif­fer­ent graph­ics, barely dis­tin­guish­able. Of course, with an added 151 cc, the 750 boasts a lot more power and, more im­por­tantly, more torque than the 600.

Cer­tainly, if you’re look­ing for a rea­son to buy the 750 in­stead of the 600 (in Canada, sales be­tween the two mod­els are split fairly evenly; in the United States, where su­per­sport rac­ing is even more pop­u­lar, the 600 pre­dom­i­nates), the 750’s added grunt is first and fore­most.

Where the 600 needs much dancing on its gearshift lever for max­i­mum mo­ti­va­tion, the 750 can sim­ply ride its sub­stan­tial mid-range torque curve, Suzuki’s 750 mak­ing a good ar­gu­ment against the need for 1,000-cc su­per­bikes. In­deed, litre bikes of only a few years ago would have been jeal­ous of the 2011 GSX-R750’s per­for­mance.

The down­side of the ex­tra dis­place­ment is you can ac­tu­ally feel a dif­fer­ence in han­dling be­tween the two bikes. Yes, I know the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two — again, a measly five mil­lime­tres and three ki­los — are pal­try, but the 750 is just a teensy bit more re­luc­tant to turn and a lit­tle front heavy.

It might be be­cause all of the 750’s longer wheel­base re­sides be­tween the steer­ing head and swing-arm pivot, or maybe the weight dis­tri­bu­tion isn’t quite the same. But the 750 doesn’t quite have the per­fectly lin­ear steer­ing of its smaller sib­ling around Alabama’s twisty Bar­ber Mo­tor­sports Park race track, feel­ing not quite as happy about chang­ing di­rec­tions.

To be fair, it’s a prob­lem that the GSX-R750 suffers only in com­par­i­son with the 600. At 190 kilo­grams (eight kilo­grams lighter than last year thanks to a new frame, swing-arm and body­work, not to men­tion lit­tle things such as a lighter starter mo­tor and seat), it’s cer­tainly a light mo­tor­cy­cle.

The steer­ing, if not quite as del­i­cate as the 600’s, is still plenty pre­cise. And thanks to ad­di­tions such as the Showa Big Pis­ton front fork and lighter wheels, sus­pen­sion ac­tion is noth­ing short of won­der­ful.

Even the Suzuki’s tra­di­tional buga­boo — weak front brakes — is all but ban­ished be­cause the new GSX-R750, like the 600, gets ra­di­ally mounted Brembo monobloc brake calipers and a match­ing mas­ter cylin­der. The front brake lever, un­der in­tense use — such as heavy brak­ing at the end of Bar­ber’s long front straight — will get spongy. Even then, the Brem­bos re­tain all their vaunted power, re­quir­ing only two fin­gers to ap­ply max­i­mum brak­ing.

Judged on its own, the big­ger Gixxer han­dles, stops and rides very well. Only in con­trast with its smaller sib­ling does it suf­fer and only then be­cause the 2011 GSX-R600 has been im­proved so much. The con­trast ac­tu­ally makes choos­ing be­tween the two Suzukis rel­a­tively easy, es­pe­cially since Suzuki Canada has priced the two bikes sim­i­larly — the 750’s $13,999 re­tail price is only $600 more than the 600’s $13,399 price tag.

If you’re look­ing for a high-per­for­mance street bike that of­fers a lit­tle more bal­ance than a 1,000-cc mon­ster and han­dling that’s al­most as nim­ble as a 600’s, go with the 750. If you’re go­ing to spend a sub­stan­tial amount of time grind­ing away knee pucks on a race track, then the 600-cc ver­sion makes more sense.

— Post­media News

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