THE R FACTOR
Suzuki GSX-R1000R vs. Yamaha YZF-R1 in a road and track matchup pitting Suzuki’s flagship sportbike against the winner of our 2017 Superbike Comparison.
CAN THE R-SPEC GIXXER TOPPLE THE R1?
When conducting our 2017 superbike comparison (“The Waiting Game,” August) a great deal of consideration went into the selection of bikes to be included. Foremost, only the most recently updated superbikes were pitted against the previous year’s winner. This set the stage for a potential three-peat by the Cycle World Ten Best Superbikewinning Yamaha YZF-R1.
While the R1 is available in three performance tiers, we view the middle child as the “standard” member of the R1 family and in turn went with an Aprilia RSV4 RR and Honda CBR1000RR, each of which also have a higher-spec sibling aligned in price and spirit with Yamaha’s $22,499 YZF-R1M.
Things were not quite as straight forward when choosing among the allnew 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 models. On one hand the flagship GSX-R1000R has an MSRP of $17,199 that’s only $500 more than our R1. But as pointed out by a Suzuki representative, the basemodel GSX-R1000 has been a platform of choice for several roadrace competitors at the national level. This is due largely to the existing knowledge base for setting up its Showa Big Piston Fork in preparation for racing and to forgo a learning curve working with the R-model’s Showa Balance Free Fork. Considering the base-model GSX-R has legs in the racing world gave it a foot in our door.
As delivered, both GSX-R models share identical engine and chassis spec-
ification with the differences beyond the fork being the R’s lightened upper triple clamp, Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion lite (Bfrc-lite) shock, added implementation of IMU yaw and roll sensitivity (pitch only for base model), launch control, lighter battery, a couple of styling touches, and a bidirectional quickshifter.
While the R1 went on to top the field yet again, the question remains how might the GSX-R1000R have fared in a shootout?
Joining me in answering this R ques-
tion was Chris Siebenhaar, a former AMA professional roadracer and Jason Pridmore STAR motorcycle school instructor we have previously enlisted as a co-tester in our “Sibling Rivalry” test (July 2016) that pitted the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 against its lower-priced YZF-R1S brother. Our plan entailed fitting both bikes with Bridgestone Battlax R10 radials for a track test at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, followed with a road ride on their stock fitment RS10 tires.
We spent the better part of an early August Sunday at a sold-out Trackdaz event (thanks for squeezing us in, fellaz) seat hopping between the two bikes throughout several 20-minute A- and B-group sessions. The difference in engine and handling character between this pair of liter-class inlinefours becomes evident at the crack of the throttle. “Whether taking off from a stop, rolling out of pit lane, or exiting a corner, the smooth transition from off throttle to neutral to accelerating is flawless bottom to top,” Siebenhaar noted of the Suzuki’s superb fueling and intuitive throttle response. Abrupt initial response remains the numberone gripe that has dogged the currentgen R1 since its 2015 introduction. Even riding in the less edgy Power 2 mode, the R1 can’t match the GSX-R’S degree of connected throttle control.
Buttonwillow’s turn two has a tight keyhole-shape entry and an increasingradius exit. This section of track showcased another Suzuki strength as each bike’s tall stock gearing saw second-gear revs dip below 5,000 rpm at the corner apex. The R1 tended to lurch and momentarily unsettle its chassis if added care wasn’t exercised during initial throttle application, and delivery felt soft during the initial phase of the exit drive.
While the Suzuki enjoys a sizable midrange torque advantage of roughly 10 pound-feet over the Yamaha, once beyond 8,000 rpm it’s advantage R1 all the way to each bike’s 14,500-rpm rev limit. Sadly, it’s game over for the
Gixxer as revs surpass its 11,000-rpm power peak, electronically hobbled with ECU programming that results in a 15-hp linear decline across the remaining 3,500 revs. Short of an aftermarket ECU flash, we suggest dialing the adjustable sequential shift light array to cue timely short shifts.
Siebenhaar and I each found the Suzuki’s Showa BFF front end incredibly compliant over minor pavement ripples and bumps. This left the R1 feeling harsh by contrast on track but less so during our road ride once suspension damping had been dialed to each bike’s baseline street settings.
“The upgraded Showa suspension is extremely capable and can run a very quick clip on track,” Siebenhaar said of the GSX-R. When running a slower pace on outlaps or trailing a B-group gaggle, the Gixxer chassis instilled an unmatched level of confidence and ease of use. The R1 felt more like a stallion born to gallop than trot, a trait that became evident late in the day as tripledigit mid-afternoon heat thinned the herd allowing clean “hot” laps to gather comparative times recorded with a Vbox datalogger.
The outcome saw the R1 flex its top-end might. This along with its more comprehensive and configurable electronic aids, unflappable chassis composure, and rear grip allowed the R1 to shine when pushing the pace. Data
analysis revealed the R1 at nearly a second per lap quicker along with achieving an extra mph or two of peak speed on the straights. It also didn’t appear to lose measurable ground on corner entry despite Suzuki’s fantastic auto-blip downshift feature, something the R1 still lacks.
Quarter-mile runs using each bike’s launch control had the R1 in front with a quicker ET and trap speed.
While we found the Suzuki saddle and ride quality slightly more comfortable on the road, the R1’s crossplane engine configuration offers a buttersmooth contrast to the relatively buzzy nature of the traditional 180-degreefiring Gixxer.
All said and done, the new GSXR1000R is well worth every cent of the $2,100 premium over its base counterpart. Its suspension epitomizes plush yet controlled handling, the quickshifter is the best I’ve yet tested, and the addition of cornering ABS thanks to the IMU’S added functionality is a safety bonus. One can argue that it might be a flash shy of class supremacy, but the same aftermarket solution exists for curing the R1’s throttle response woes.
Once again the Yamaha YZF-R1 has met the challenge.
2017 SUZUKI GSX-R1000R
…THE NEW GSX-R1000R IS WELL WORTH EVERY CENT OF THE
$2,100 PREMIUM OVER ITS BASE COUNTERPART.