2017 GSX-R1000R FIRST RIDE

SUZUKI CLIMBS OUT OF THE DARK­NESS WITH THE MOST TECH­NO­LOG­I­CALLY AD­VANCED AND CA­PA­BLE GSX-R TO DATE

Cycle World - - Front Page - By Bradley Adams

Clouds part for a full day aboard the new GSX-R1000R at Phillip Is­land, where we learn if the plat­form has what it takes to bring the liter­bike crown back to Suzuki.

Clouds ar­rive quickly then set­tle in above Phillip Is­land. Omi­nous and un­sym­pa­thetic, they have the power to bring this day to an end, to dampen ev­ery inch of tar­mac and force us back into the garage—test over. All I can do at this point is cross my fin­gers and pray that the worst of the storm is be­hind us.

Suzuki’s new GSX-R1000R—THE bike I’ve flown to Aus­tralia to ride—is the light at the end of an equally omi­nous, near-decade-long tun­nel. It’s a bike that, if suc­cess­ful, could push the GSX-R plat­form back to­ward the pointy end of the sport­ing liter­bike cat­e­gory. Or, if not, of­fi­cially end what has been an in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful three-decade-plus run for the le­gendary four-cylin­der se­ries.

Just as our day hinges on those clouds play­ing nice, so too does Suzuki’s fu­ture on the per­ceived per­for­mance of its new crown jewel. En­gi­neers stand nearby as the bikes are warmed, and there’s a gen­eral sense of not know­ing how ev­ery­thing will go. All Suzuki can do is keep its fin­gers crossed and pray that the worst of the storm is be­hind it, with bet­ter days ahead.

Cue plea for clear skies—lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively—and a dry race­track, at least for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

I’D AR­GUE THAT YOU COULD RACE ON THIS SUS­PEN­SION AND BE TICK­LED AS EVER. I CAN ONLY IMAG­INE WHAT THAT WILL MEAN FOR SPIR­ITED STREET RIDES.

THE BIKE

No mo­tor­cy­cle has more po­ten­tial to al­ter Suzuki’s fate than this new $14,599 GSX-R1000 and $16,999 GSX-R1000R, the lat­ter adding higher-spec Showa sus­pen­sion, more ad­vanced elec­tron­ics, and a long list of smaller de­tails— in­clud­ing a lighter bat­tery—to a pack­age that al­ready claims a new en­gine, chas­sis, and elec­tron­ics.

De­signed to be more com­pact, lighter, and user-friendly, the en­gine pow­er­ing both bikes has a smaller 74.5mm bore and longer 57.2mm stroke (76.0 x 55.1mm on the pre­vi­ous model). Pis­tons

with shorter skirts shave weight, while re­shaped domes de­liver higher com­pres­sion (13.2:1 ver­sus 12.9:1). Evo­lu­tion con­tin­ues with new fin­ger fol­low­ers (ver­sus bucket tap­pets) that ac­com­mo­date big­ger cam lobes and 24mm ti­ta­nium ex­haust valves (ver­sus 25mm steel), the lat­ter of which en­abled en­gi­neers to raise the rev ceil­ing by 1,000 rpm to 14,500. Ti in­take valves are 1.5mm larger than in the past and fur­ther con­trib­ute to claims of stronger top-end.

Suzuki Rac­ing Vari­able Valve Tim­ing (SR-VVT) is the big news. Like that on Suzuki’s race-win­ning Mo­togp ma­chine and Gsx-r1000-based Su­per­bikes, the sys­tem uses cen­trifu­gal force at high rpm to move 12 steel balls to­ward the outer edge of the in­take cam sprocket. This ro­tates the sprocket on the cam and re­tards tim­ing. Re­sult? Smooth bot­tom-end and good midrange power through re­duced over­lap at low rpm and more top-end via greater over­lap at higher rpm.

Dual-stage fun­nels at cylin­ders one and four have a sim­i­lar ef­fect at low/high rpm, es­sen­tially act­ing like vari­able-length in­takes with­out added parts and com­plex­ity (a longer fun­nel sits atop a shorter one and air flows at dif­fer­ent heights depend­ing on rpm). The 46mm throt­tle bod­ies have a 2mm larger bore and are 19mm shorter, which helped Suzuki lower the fuel tank by a claimed 21mm.

Other changes—smaller sta­tor, rerouted crank­case oil pas­sage­ways, and six fewer de­grees of cylin­der an­gle— re­sult in a 6.6mm nar­rower and 22.2mm shorter en­gine. This gave Suzuki more free­dom to re­work chas­sis di­men­sions for bet­ter front-end feel and in­creased sta­bil­ity. To this end, dis­tance be­tween the front axle and swingarm pivot

is 20mm shorter, while the dis­tance be­tween the swingarm pivot and rear axle is 40mm longer. Wheel­base grew 15mm, to 1,420mm, or 55.9 inches.

The twin-spar frame is 20mm nar­rower at its widest point, 60mm wider at the rear en­gine mount, and weighs 10 per­cent less. For in­creased rigid­ity, the swingarm is now braced on both sides in­stead of one as in the past.

That longer arm will likely help me­chan­i­cal grip, but in the won­der­ful world of mod­ern liter­bikes, there's no re­place­ment for good elec­tron­ics. For­tu­nately, Suzuki has stepped up with an Imu-based elec­tron­ics pack­age that in­cludes 10-level (plus “Off”) trac­tion con­trol dubbed Mo­tion Track TCS. Ad­di­tional elec­tronic sys­tems in­clude LOW-RPM As­sist, an Easy Start Sys­tem, launch con­trol (R only), bi-di­rec­tional quick­shifter (R only), and ABS, which, on the R model, uses roll data from the IMU to add a cor­ner­ing ABS func­tion.

Mod­ern-day superbike tech. On a GSX-R. Fi­nally.

NEW BIKE, SAME GREAT FEEL

One of the beau­ti­ful things about the 2017 GSX-R is that, while Suzuki has worked tire­lessly to usher the bike into the mod­ern era, it hasn’t over­looked the things that long made the plat­form so great. Er­gonomics are the same, and the same over­ar­ch­ing theme of user­friend­li­ness re­mains. Pulling out on to the cloud-cov­ered Phillip Is­land Cir­cuit, I felt right at home. Th­ese are GSX-R bones. Just re­fined.

Suzuki claims 199 hp at 13,200 rpm, com­pared to 182 hp at 11,500 rpm, but around the same torque (87 pound-feet at 10,800 rpm ver­sus 86 pound-feet at 10,000 rpm). That feels about right on the track: stronger up top but still a very user-friendly power de­liv­ery down low. I sus­pect the en­gine won’t dom­i­nate dyno tests, but it will prove flex­i­ble on track or street, with the VVT sys­tem ac­tu­at­ing at 10,000 rpm and free­ing up the en­gine. I saw speeds an in­di­cated 184 mph on the front straight—no small feat.

Down­side? There’s no bal­ancer shaft, and, as a re­sult, the en­gine pro­duces more vi­bra­tion, es­pe­cially at higher rpm. Out on the track, I felt most of those vibes through the han­dle­bars.

I was wor­ried that the dra­mat­i­cally smaller frame spars would neg­a­tively im­pact the chas­sis feel that I’ve come to ex­pect (and love) from a Suzuki, but such is not the case. Cranked over, the bike still feels sta­ble and planted, with near-per­fect feed­back from the con­tact patch. Han­dling is a bit heavy com­pared to the com­pe­ti­tion, with side-to-side tran­si­tions re­quir­ing de­cent ef­fort; small ride-height changes would prob­a­bly clear that up quickly. It’s im­por­tant to note that this is still an eas­ier han­dling, more “flick­able” bike than Suzuki pro­duced in re­cent years.

The R model’s Showa Bal­ance Free Front Fork and Bal­ance Free Rear Cush­ion Lite shock add to the ex­pe­ri­ence, of­fer­ing up good sup­port but also plush feel through the travel. I’d ar­gue that you could race on this sus­pen­sion and be tick­led as ever. I can only imag­ine what that will mean for spir­ited street rides.

Elec­tron­ics are equally good. I never missed a sin­gle shift while us­ing the R’s bi-di­rec­tional quick­shifter, and elec­tronic throt­tle blips were smooth enough that they didn’t up­set the chas­sis at cor­ner en­try. Trac­tion con­trol, mean­while, could be set as high as Level 4 and still not af­fect drive off cor­ner

TH­ESE ARE GSX-R BONES. JUST RE­FINED.

ex­its. Any­thing less and I felt like it al­lowed more drive slip than I wanted on this day at this track. Any­thing higher and I could start to feel big­ger cuts that weren’t nec­es­sary based on tire life, track con­di­tions, and lap times.

Big­gest thing I no­ticed was that, re­gard­less of the set­ting, the TC sys­tem was al­most al­ways try­ing to feed me all the power I re­quested. By that, I mean the sys­tem didn’t just bring things to a halt for the sake of safety over ev­ery­thing else but rather worked with me to get power to the ground. And that’s what good elec­tronic sys­tems do—they work with you, not against you. Suzuki re­ally has built a great trac­tion con­trol sys­tem. Within its range, you’ll no doubt find a set­ting that works for you.

As for wheelie con­trol, a Suzuki en­gi­neer told me, “This sys­tem is not manag­ing wheel­ies.” Trac­tion con­trol cuts will nat­u­rally bring the front wheel down, “but if we de­vel­oped a sys­tem for wheelie con­trol, that would be much dif­fer­ent.” ABS went mostly un­no­ticed in the ses­sions where we used it (Suzuki pulled the ABS fuse in the af­ter­noon on racier Bridge­stone R10 tires), with only one surge felt in the morn­ing when I was brak­ing ag­gres­sively for turn one as I tried to find my way around Phillip Is­land.

Th­ese sys­tems re­ward smooth­ness.

EVO­LU­TION CON­TIN­UES

Go­ing back to Suzuki’s com­ment about wheelie con­trol, I take that to mean its en­gi­neers aren’t done yet—that the GSX-R1000 will con­tinue to evolve and that Suzuki will con­tinue to find ways of keep­ing this bike at the pointy end of the cat­e­gory with­out sac­ri­fic­ing what’s long made the plat­form so spe­cial. At the end of the day, this is not just an im­por­tant mo­tor­cy­cle for Suzuki but for the in­dus­try as a whole. Suzuki knows it. We know it. For­tu­nately, it de­liv­ers on its prom­ise.

Oh, and in case you were won­der­ing, it never rained dur­ing our day at Phillip Is­land. An omen, per­haps.

A full LCD in­stru­ment clus­ter is new, now with fuel-level gauge—the first used on a GSX-R.

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