Suzuki GSX-S1000: gain­ing trac­tion

It’s lighter than Kawasaki’s Z1000, will out­sprint BMW’s S1000R and is cheaper than Honda’s CB1000R. This is the GSX-S1000 – a bike with a fam­ily lin­eage that means it has a lot to live up to.

Motorcycle Monthly - - First Ride - Tested by: Bruce Wil­son Photography: Suzuki Price: £8999 (£9499 with ABS)

THE­mOST TAlKED about el­e­ment of this ma­chine is its donor K5 GSXR1000 en­gine. The same en­gine which pow­ered rid­ers to five world cham­pi­onships, 16 na­tional Su­per­bike cham­pi­onships and four Isle of man TT wins. But more im­por­tantly it’s THE en­gine and chas­sis com­bi­na­tion that is still widely re­garded as the best ever com­bi­na­tion for road rid­ing that has ap­peared in the GSX-R fam­ily tree.

Suzuki’s ex­per­i­ment mo­tor en­gi­neer, Keisuke Namekawa, said that he was drawn to us­ing the en­gine be­cause of its ‘fan­tas­ti­cally char­ac­ter­ful and torquey na­ture’. It’s not the ex­act same pack­age as it was back in 2005, hav­ing been sub­stan­tially mod­i­fied with new, lighter pis­tons, com­pletely dif­fer­ent camshafts and the lat­est kind of throt­tle bod­ies.

Th­ese changes club to­gether to ac­tu­ally pull-in the peak power in favour of some much more us­able low-to-mid-range driv­abil­ity. While the op­tion was there to use the lat­est GSX-R en­gine, ap­par­ently it lacked the at­ti­tude needed and its gear ra­tios weren’t as ap­peal­ing ei­ther. So now you know where this bike is aimed at. Aside from the swingarm, which is bor­rowed from the lat­est GSXR1000, the rest of the bike is all-new. It’s no parts-bin spe­cial, blend­ing a whole host of eye-catch­ing com­po­nents seam­lessly.

The Suzuki’s fit­ted with ad­justable Kayaba sus­pen­sion front and rear and there are specif­i­cally de­signed sixspoke wheels, too.

The GSX-S’s designer, Shinji Ta­mura, said he wanted to craft a mus­cu­lar, beast-like im­age for the new naked, which has very few sharp lines to be found. Each panel blends on to the next com­po­nent ef­fort­lessly, cre­at­ing a very min­i­mal­ist look to the model.

Up front are some easy-to-read dig­i­tal clocks, which spark into life at the turn of the ig­ni­tion key, giv­ing off all the typ­i­cal info you’d ex­pect in­clud­ing a gear in­di­ca­tor. The dash also hosts a three-tier trac­tion con­trol mon­i­tor.

The lev­els of trac­tion are ad­justed us­ing a switch on the left bar, from which you can tog­gle the modes be­tween Sport, City, Wet or off. On the right bar is the all-im­por­tant starter but­ton. Suzuki was re­ally keen to push the pre­miere of its Easy Start Sys­tem, which re­quires just a sim­ple touch to get the mo­tor fir­ing into life – in a sim­i­lar way to how­most mod­ern car starters work.

The GSX’s stubby, un­der­slung ex­haust sounds a treat. Deep and harsh, things only get bet­ter when you se­lect a gear and head off down the road. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the bark fromthe rear is an en­tic­ing air in­duc­tion whine, which syn­chro­nises with the en­gine’s growl.

The first few miles on our 120-mile route were ur­ban. The GSX wasted no time in show­ing off its agility, eas­ily ne­go­ti­at­ing its way through tight turns with a neu­tral and light­weight feel. Things only got bet­ter as the pace in­creased, even­tu­ally reach­ing a stint of mo­tor­way. Un­for­tu­nately, the same can’t be said about the bike’s fu­elling. The Suzuki feels su­per lean. Ev­ery time you get on or off the throt­tle the bike lunges awk­wardly. We’re not talk­ing MT-09 stan­dards, but it wasn’t the smooth de­liv­ery I was ex­pect­ing.

Speak­ing at the end of the test to one of Suzuki’s devel­op­ment rid­ers, they con­firmed the fu­elling had been an is­sue through­out the whole devel­op­ment process. But ow­ing to tight leg­is­la­tion, which de­mands the bike’s fuel sup­ply is re­strained, there was no way around the prob­lem.

With ev­ery mile passed, I did feel my­self ad­just­ing to the throt­tle, cal­i­brat­ing my hand to smoother, less ag­gres­sive ac­tions. The en­gine it­self is pretty im­pres­sive. It does de­liver the strong and char­ac­ter­ful de­liv­ery that Suzuki said it would. Once you’re over that ini­tial throt­tle pick-up, the revs rise through the range ef­fort­lessly and I was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the bike’s abil­ity to roll on from a low rpm in top gear.

With glo­ri­ous sun­shine and dry, grippy roads, the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem was mostly un­em­ployed. To get a feel, I’d tog­gled be­tween the modes, but the only in­ter­ac­tion I wit­nessed came as I gassed the bike up over a slip­pery white line. With the sys­tem set on Sport – the least in­tru­sive of the three modes – a small slide hap­pened be­fore the bike’s ECU stepped in and dulled down the mo­ment.

It wasn’t overly med­dling, sim­ply re­duc­ing the out­put for the best part of a sec­ond be­fore the litre mo­tor was free to go ban­zai again. The ABS had a very sim­i­lar per­sua­sion. It never com­pro­mised the ride, but I was glad of its pres­ence when I started brak­ing over some gravel and it al­lowed me to stay on two wheels.

This bike is oth­er­wise low-tech. There aren’t dozens of modes to switch be­tween, or a mul­ti­tude of elec­tronic sus­pen­sion ad­just­ments to be made. It’s real world.

The more I rode the bike, the more I liked it. It showed it­self to have a play­ful char­ac­ter, es­pe­cially on the un­du­lat­ing, cracked roads in the moun­tains above Ali­cante. At high speeds, the bike felt a lit­tle wal­lowy and it was also easy to un­set­tle on bumpy bends. But it never once felt danger­ous. Gassing hard out of cor­ners got the front wheel loft­ing slightly and the bike wasn’t op­posed to the odd play­ful head­shake, but the Suzuki’s road hold­ing was oth­er­wise fan­tas­tic.

When the pace less­ened, it felt as planted as any­thing, and held a line nicely through the cor­ners. The route we rode was re­lent­lessly twisty and this re­ally high­lighted the won­ders of the pack­age. It tack­led all that came its way and planted a smile on my face in the process.

Best of all, on com­ple­tion of the route, I wasn’t aching in the slight­est. The rid­ing po­si­tion is a com­fort­able one, with plenty of leg room and a sen­si­ble reach to the ta­pered Ren­thal Fat­bars. They proved fan­tas­tic for lev­er­ing the big bike around and of­fered a nice, re­laxed stance for my arms.

The wind pro­tec­tion is ob­vi­ously min­i­mal, but the bike’s aero­dy­nam­ics felt no worse than any other naked’s. One thing I did pick up on was a lot of vi­bra­tion, es­pe­cially through the pegs. Get­ting off at a cof­fee stop, my feet were ac­tu­ally buzzing as a re­sult.

Thank­fully, the same res­o­nance didn’t af­fect the bars as much, or the seat for that mat­ter. The rider’s perch is low, large and lov­ing. It’s kind on you and the pil­lion seat looks half de­cent too, although we didn’t get a chance to try it out for size. You can tell it was con­structed with func­tion in mind, which is the story of this bike. It’s been well-built and well­priced, too.

Start­ing from £8999 (£9499 with ABS), there’s a lot to be said for the model’s value for money. It’s priced very com­pet­i­tively and de­liv­ers a good qual­ity of ride, with fan­tas­tic looks. Suzuki’s done pretty well with the GSX-S, and I’d like to think it’s go­ing to be one of the bet­ter sell­ers in its seg­ment, de­spite its late ar­rival to the mar­ket – reach­ing deal­er­ships in June. A test ride’s es­sen­tial, but be pre­pared to part with some cash, be­cause I’ve a feel­ing you’re go­ing to like this bike a lot.

Three colours are avail­able.

The de­tails are very race-track bred.

Dash is ba­sic but easy to read.

The face is sharp and strik­ing.

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