A class unto itself
Dinosaurs? The Suzuki GSX-R750 nimbly begs to differ
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