If you want to cut through a race track the Suzuki GSXR1000R is as sharp as the cut­ting edge of a Katana


This is Suzuki’s blade to cut through litre-class com­pe­ti­tion

“GOD, SHE LOOKS HOT,” I THINK AS I STARE shame­lessly at her svelte form. Garbed in that bright blue liv­ery, she looks sharper than any of her fam­ily has and it’s dif­fi­cult to tear my eyes away. A lit­tle zoned out I catch the PR chap telling us some­thing about sign­ing an in­dem­nity form. Ex­er­cis­ing supreme willpower I re­gain self-con­trol over my­self and head to the me­dia tent. Truth is I can’t get any­where close to that fresh-out-of-the-crate new Suzuki GSX-R1000R un­til I am through with the pa­per­work.

Up close and per­sonal, she looks even bet­ter than when I had first seen her from a dis­tance. The form is mus­cled but in the lean fash­ion of a fig­ure skater or a dancer as op­posed to the stout physique of a wrestler. The only thing that mars this oth­er­wise per­fect sil­hou­ette, is that much-too-large ex­haust. “We know, but there’s noth­ing that can be done. It’s a nec­es­sary evil that ex­ists only to help the bike com­ply with tight­en­ing emis­sion norms,” we are told. That outof-place canister not­with­stand­ing the GSX-R1000R’s form reeks of ag­gres­sion. Again, not the overt ag­gres­sion of a WWE wrestler but the ag­gres­sion of a gen­uine sportsper­son who is ready to take on the com­pe­ti­tion. And boy is she ready to lock horns with her ri­vals or what. But first, the con­text.

The year is 2001, Yamaha’s YZF-R1 is the un­chal­lenged king of 1000cc sport­bikes. Only a hand­ful can dare to eye­ball the R1 for any length of time. So it comes as no small shock when the Suzuki GSX-R1000R comes and blows the world away. It tears up road and race­track alike and de­thrones the Yamaha to be­come the ‘King of Su­per­bikes’. Six­teen years on, the sixth heir has ar­rived to chal­lenge the realm once again to re­gain the lost crown. Does it have what it takes? There is only one way to find out…

To its credit Suzuki has kit­ted the Gixer (that’s how the world refers to the Thou’ as op­posed to the

Gixxer, which is the name for the hum­ble 150cc bike we have here) out al­most to per­fec­tion to be able to chal­lenge for the crown. Un­derneath the lu­mi­nes­cent blue, white and lime green of the fair­ing is an all­new alu­minium frame that has been matched with a pair of Showa bal­ance free forks at the front and a bal­ance free monoshock at the rear. The frame it­self is nar­rower by 20mm com­pared to the pre­vi­ous model and is ten per cent lighter as well. The geom­e­try too has been changed. The rake is now sharper at 23.2 de­grees (23.5 on the old bike) and trail is shorter at 95mm (98mm on out­go­ing bike). As a re­sult, the dis­tance be­tween the front axle to the swingarm pivot is 20mm shorter, which should help the bike turn in even faster than it has in the past. To en­sure that this doesn’t com­pro­mise on straight line sta­bil­ity, the swingarm has been length­ened by 40mm, re­sult­ing in an in­creased wheel­base of 1420mm (1405 on the old bike). The change in geom­e­try also moves the en­gine closer to the front, which Suzuki says should im­prove front end feel.

Pow­er­ing this lithe su­per­bike is a brand new liq­uid­cooled 999.8cc four-cylin­der en­gine – it gets new pis­tons, new pis­ton rings and new con rods, which pro­duces 199bhp and 117.6Nm of torque. The en­gine


sports a big­ger bore than be­fore at 76mm and a shorter stroke at 55.1mm. Com­pres­sion ra­tio is now higher too at 13.2:1. Suzuki has got­ten rid of the bal­ancer shaft and the en­gine is now red­lined at a heady 14,500 revs! That’s more revs than I’ve seen on any other bike. Part of the credit def­i­nitely has to go to the much talked about SR-VVT, short for Suzuki Rac­ing Vari­able Valve Tim­ing. The sys­tem is cen­trifu­gally op­er­ated and re­tards the in­take valve tim­ing at a pre­set rpm. This adds sig­nif­i­cantly to power to­wards the higher reaches of the rev band but with­out sac­ri­fic­ing bot­tom- and mid-range grunt. The en­gine’s ex­te­rior is new as well. At its widest point, the mo­tor is 6.6mm nar­rower than be­fore and… wait for it… is shorter by 22.2mm. This, de­spite the in­crease in ca­pac­ity. This also means bet­ter aero ef­fi­ciency since it has a smaller frontal area.

Crack­ing the throt­tle open as I get on to the 800-me­tre straight of Kari I steal a glimpse at the alldig­i­tal in­stru­men­ta­tion. The num­bers are climb­ing at a lu­di­crous pace and it is fas­ci­nat­ing but I dare not look at the panel too long for the hori­zon seems to be ap­proach­ing much too quickly. By the time I reach for the brake lever we are hurtling at well over 200kmph. And it feels like there’s still plenty to come. Ini­tial feel at the lever is spongy and I panic ever so slightly.

Then, in­stinct takes over and I tug the lever a lit­tle harder and I find out the brakes are sharp. They bet­ter be, for at the end of that straight is a tight right-han­der fol­lowed by another right-han­der. The point at where I start the turn, the bike is back down to a very sane 75-80ish kmph I reckon. And then I tip her over only to dis­cover another facet to this ma­chine. Thanks to that bril­liant chas­sis work­ing its charm in con­junc­tion with the Showa sus­pen­sion, han­dling is sub­lime. Most of the turns at Kari are taken at rel­a­tively slow speeds but so sweet is the bike’s dy­nam­ics that none of its 203-kilo bulk is ac­tu­ally felt.

There are no nasty twitches or ap­pre­hen­sive skit­tish­ness. She leans in with con­fi­dence, stays the course and then comes back up as I pre­pare for the next turn. It’s a dance rou­tine that I soon get ac­cus­tomed to and then fall in love with. Such is the bike’s abil­ity to make the rider feel com­fort­able. I want to con­tinue till the end of the day but alas, my time with her is lim­ited to just 15 min­utes. All too soon, I see the fran­ti­cally wav­ing che­quered flag sig­nalling end of ses­sion. I nod an ac­knowl­edge­ment as I fly past. Past the che­quered flag I slow down and pull into the pits. The bike is no longer on song and could have been a hand­ful be­cause sport­bikes are meant to per­form at speeds. But the Suzuki re­veals her ver­sa­til­ity here for that en­gine has not only been tuned for peak power out­put and out­right per­for­mance but also for daily us­abil­ity.

I get off the bike and hand her over to the next eval­u­a­tor. As I pull off my hel­met, I re­alise I am smil­ing. It has been a day well spent in the com­pany of a mo­tor­cy­cle that has ev­ery­thing that it would take for this Suzuki to be ‘King of Su­per­bikes’. But here’s the thing. Even if it doesn’t win the crown back, you’ll for­give this bike and think not a jot less of her. For this will be your bike for all sea­sons, for all rea­sons. ⌧

Above: Ini­tial brake feel is spongy. Fac­ing page top: Han­dling is sub­lime. Fac­ing page, cen­tre: The Showa bal­ance free monoshock is mar­vel­lous. Fac­ing page, bot­tom: Dig­i­tal clus­ter is nice but not ex­cep­tional

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