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
I DARE NOT LOOK AT THE PANEL TOO LONG FOR THE HORIZON SEEMS TO BE APPROACHING MUCH TOO QUICKLY
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