Few bikes change the world. Fewer still do it more than once. But then the Suzuki GSX-R750 has never been a run-of-the-mill motorcycle.
Launched in 1985, the original was the first true racer-replica, instantly setting the template for all superbikes to come. Then, in 1996, this time taking its lead not from superbike racers but Kevin Schwantz’s RGV500 GP racer, it tore up its own template. The result, the new SRAD (the acronym for the Suzuki Ram Air Direct system it adopted), was, simply, the sportiest 750 built with an all-new, ultra-compact, twin beam chassis, screaming 128bhp engine and a fresh ultra-aerodynamic look.
Unfortunately, although significant and a poster bike to many, the new 750 didn’t quite rock the world as much as Suzuki hoped. On track, in British Superbikes, it never quite managed to dislodge the dominant Cadbury’s Boost Yamaha YZF750S nor challenge the Ducati twins – although it did come close... very close.
In 2000, Srad-mounted Chris Walker famously lost the title with just three laps of the last round at Donington to go when his engine blew up. "It was still the best year I’d ever had,” he told MCN later. It wasn’t to be until John Reynolds' triumph in 2004 on the 1000cc version that a GSX-R would triumph in BSB. The close-but-no-cigar SRAD story was repeated in WSB. The works Suzukis failed to make a significant impact either in 1997 or 1998 with James Whitham, Mike Hale and Peter Goddard on board and only improved slightly with a regime change and Pier-francesco Chili thereafter. Much of that, of course, was due to regulations, which favoured 1000cc twins such as Ducati’s dominant 996.
Despite the SRAD’S purity, focus and style it was a similar hard luck story on the street. After barely a year, the Suzuki’s thunder was well and truly stolen by a certain all-new 1000cc Yamaha: the first YZF-R1. In short, when it came to sportsbikes, 750s just weren’t where it was at any more.
But that didn’t completely diminish the SRAD’S appeal and it still garnered an army of followers and a generation for whom the three-quarter litre Suzuki was a life-changing machine.
MCN reader John Dale was one of them – though perhaps not for the reasons you might expect. “As unlikely as it sounds the GSX-R750 SRAD was the first bike that opened up the world of touring for me,” he told MCN. “With the SRAD I took my first big trip into Europe, riding down across France, Italy, taking a ferry into northern Greece, before arriving at Istanbul. Since that trip the SRAD and I have racked up over 25,000 miles together, not to mention lots of trackdays and local blasts. This bike can do it all!”
And while it may have never quite set the world on fire as much as Suzuki hoped when new, the GSX-R750 SRAD was still a hugely important and influential machine.
Its very creation paved the way for an all-new style of GSX-R, with a twin beam frame, water-cooling and fuel injection, which was at the very top of the tree for the next decade, not just in 750 guise, but as a 600 and 1000, too.
Even more importantly, with the demise of Yamaha’s YZF and Kawasaki’s ZX-7R, the SRAD and its descendants lived on as the sole surviving 750cc Japanese fourcylinder superbike, a status it retains to this day. Purists often refer to a GSX-R750 as ‘the sportsbike for the true connoisseur’ thanks to its unique blend of power and weight. That wouldn’t have been possible without that first SRAD.
Best of all for us today, however, is that an original SRAD still remains a great used buy. Although starting to appreciate, the 750 is a long way off achieving the ‘classic’ status that the first R1 or the Ducati 996 now has. And that means that, even though very much a classy machine with still impressive performance, the SRAD is still something of a bargain. An appreciating, iconic superbike or even merely an effective, fun track example can still be yours for under £2000. And isn’t that something, still, to get very excited about?
‘Taking its lead not from superbikes but Schwantz’s RGV, it tore up its own template’
For more than just a hooligan, the SRAD was a great day-to-day bike