Big UK road miles on new Blade and GSX-R1000

For­get sunny Spain & su­per-smooth tracks, this test pits the new stan­dard Blade & GSX-R in a bat­tle on Britain’s roads

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week In Mcn - By Adam Child SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

Just two weeks ago we brought you our ex­clu­sive su­per­bike shootout. The bikes went through six days of test­ing on road, track, drag strip and dyno. In that bat­tle, the new Fire­blade SP eclipsed the new GSX-R1000R and romped on to take the over­all test win.

But if your pock­ets aren’t deep enough to stretch to the hottest ver­sions – sal­va­tion might be found with their sim­pler sib­lings. They might lack a lit­tle bling, but they share the same en­gines as their ex­pen­sive sta­ble­mates, and at £13,599 the stock GSX-R is £2500 less ex­pen­sive than the R ver­sion, while the base Fire­blade, at £15,225 will cost you a whop­ping £3900 less than the SP.

Sex ap­peal

By sheer co­in­ci­dence both firms supplied us with matt black bikes, which made it eas­ier to com­pare the aes­thet­ics. We posted shots on so­cial me­dia and vis­ited Rocky Jo’s bike night at Welling­bor­ough for a wide range of opin­ions.

A pat­tern soon emerged; with the ma­jor­ity pre­fer­ring the Honda by 75% to 25% – and ev­ery­one ex­pressed a dis­like of the Suzuki’s ex­haust. But you could fit a dif­fer­ent can, and even with a new ex­haust and re-map­ping the Suzuki would still be cheaper than the Honda.

It wasn’t just the ex­haust that put peo­ple off. Next to the Honda, the GSX-R’S clocks are dull, aren’t full colour and don’t have the same level of info. The pat­tern con­tin­ued through­out each per­son’s ap­praisal of the Suzuki – with some even say­ing that it re­minded them of the bud­get GSX650F.

For me it just doesn’t have that wow fac­tor. The black pegs and messy area around the bot­tom of the sub-frame let the Suzuki down, the fair­ing de­cals look poor qual­ity, and the rear-end is bland. Some of the body pan­els were just a frac­tion out on line-up, too, whereas on the Honda they were pretty much per­fect.

Go­ing the dis­tance

I’m blast­ing up the A1 in vented race leathers as the sun starts to set and the tem­per­a­ture plum­mets – and I’m hav­ing prob­lems get­ting out of the wind blast. I’m only 5ft 6in and the only way to hide be­hind the Honda’s small screen is to slide my arse against

the pil­lion seat and tuck in 125-style with my el­bows on my knees. But I’m not a con­tor­tion­ist and I can’t hold this po­si­tion for an­other hour. I’ve got 75 miles left of empty A1, and cruis­ing at mo­tor­way speeds isn’t go­ing to be fun.

The Suzuki’s screen is much larger, and the body­work wider, mean­ing fast tour­ing isn’t a prob­lem. Both bikes have 16-litre fuel tanks, but the Honda is a lit­tle more fuel ef­fi­cient, giv­ing you around 10 miles ex­tra per tank­ful.

The ac­tual rid­ing po­si­tion of the Honda isn’t bad, the tri­an­gle be­tween bars, seat and foot­pegs prov­ing fine even for 6ft 1in Dave – it’s sim­ply the fact the body­work and screen are too small to of­fer any pro­tec­tion. I’m sure some­one will be mak­ing a killing on TT screens for the new Blade.

In our pre­vi­ous test the Honda’s semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion give it a sub- stan­tial edge on the road, let­ting you trans­form it from sports­bike to al­most tourer lev­els of com­pli­ance at the touch of a but­ton. But the stan­dard model has con­ven­tional sus­pen­sion, mean­ing the Honda has lost its ver­sa­til­ity. The ride qual­ity be­tween the two bikes here is very sim­i­lar on the road, but if I were to em­bark on some se­ri­ous road miles I’d prob­a­bly choose the Suzuki for solo work, and the Honda if I were tak­ing a pil­lion be­cause the seat is less of a perch, a lit­tle wider, and closer to the rider.

Power play

Each bike is ca­pa­ble of ex­ceed­ing 150mph in just over 10 sec­onds from a stand­ing start, but you can’t use all that power on the road. And this meant the Suzuki al­ways had a slight edge. The GSX-R’S vari­able valve tim­ing (VVT) en­gine and Broad Power Sys­tem de­sign means it has that bit more grunt in the mid-range, and that’s no­tice­able when over­tak­ing in 5th and 6th. Above 50mph you only ever need 5th or 6th for a fast over­takes, with the power de­liv­ery ar­riv­ing with in­sis­tent ur­gency.

The Honda isn’t slow though, and is only a frac­tion be­hind the GSX-R. Again, you only need the top two gears for fast over­takes, but it just feels a lit­tle lazier than the Suzuki. Once both bikes get to­wards the top end of their power curves the dif­fer­ences are less no­tice­able, but on the road you re­ally can feel the Suzuki’s ex­tra grunt.

To­tal pre­ci­sion

This is where the Fire­blade sud­denly comes into its own. It’s lighter, turns more eas­ily and is much more for­giv­ing and eas­ier to man­age than the Suzuki. The Honda feels more ac­cu­rate, and you can al­ways put it where you want it with ease. We ne­go­ti­ated count­less

‘The Suzuki’s VVT means it has more grunt in the mid-range’

fast cor­ners and end­less round­abouts, and the Honda al­ways edged ahead.

It’s the same story down bumpy back roads, the Honda al­ways be­ing eas­ier to man­age, slightly more sta­ble, less likely to wheelie, and more com­posed.

No mat­ter which rider mode we se­lected the fu­elling was al­ways a lit­tle snatchy on the GSX-R, and cer­tainly not as smooth as the Honda’s. Let’s be clear though, we are split­ting hairs over mar­ginal dif­fer­ences.

Fun fac­tor

Suzuki have man­aged to im­bue the GSX-R with their typ­i­cal ag­gres­sive hooli­gan edgi­ness. In many ways, it feels like just its pre­de­ces­sor, but with more power. You can change the trac­tion con­trol on the move, even de­ac­ti­vat­ing it ( just like the Honda), but the TC is slightly more in­tru­sive than the Blade’s. When both bikes are run­ning max­i­mum TC the Suzuki splut­ters and mis­fires while the Honda is get­ting on with mak­ing rapid progress.

The long game

Af­ter a day on the Suzuki I felt like I ex­hausted all its toys. In con­trast, the Honda was still keep­ing me en­ter­tained. The Honda has a ‘grip read­out’ which shows how much you’ve opened the throt­tle, us­ing a real-time per­cent­age read­out on the bot­tom right cor­ner of the dash. At night and in strong sun­light the clocks are also eas­ier to read on the Honda. Other prac­ti­cal­i­ties for liv­ing with the duo re­vealed that the mir­rors on the Suzuki are wider, while there are also lit­tle hooks on the pil­lion pegs to strap week­end lug­gage.

Fast yet for­giv­ing, you can put the Honda ex­actly where you want it Side-by-side it’s the GSX-R (left) that wins on wind pro­tec­tion The GSX-R doesn’t look quite as fresh as its Honda ri­val

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