Cover Story First Ride: 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R

2017 SUZUKI GSX-R1000R Suzuki brings the GSX-R1000R up to speed with im­prove­ments all around

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Suzuki brings the GSX-R1000R up to speed with im­prove­ments all around

There’s some­thing to be said for be­ing well rounded, in life and sport. The best of the best don’t win races, cham­pi­onships, or pro­mo­tions by ex­celling in any one area and fall­ing short in oth­ers. Be­ing plain ol’ good is, well, good. Suzuki’s GSX- R1000 has al­ways been a per­fect ex­am­ple of this, of­ten win­ning Sport Rider ’s liter­bike com­par­i­son tests de­spite lack­ing horse­power or adding weight. But the ven­er­a­ble GSX- R hasn’t un­der­gone a ma­jor up­date since 2009, and a near decade of hi­ber­na­tion has left the Suzuki lan­guish­ing when com­pared to its Motogp- in­spired com­pe­ti­tion.

The 2017 GSX- R1000 is Suzuki hit­ting the re­set but­ton. Well, not just hit­ting it. It’s the boys from Ha­ma­matsu slam­ming the thing over and over again with a bat and build­ing on a plat­form that’s quite lit­er­ally made Suzuki what it is to­day. We cov­ered all of the tech­ni­cal changes in our First Look (“2017 Suzuki GSX- R1000 and GSX- R1000R,” Dec./jan. ’17), but as a re­cap, the bike has been com­pletely re­designed from the ground up with a more pow­er­ful en­gine, re­designed chas­sis, and all- new elec­tron­ics pack­age. We flew to beau­ti­ful Phillip Is­land Cir­cuit near Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, to find out just what this re­set means for the GSX- R.

The en­gine changes started with a spe­cific goal of main­tain­ing the lin­ear low- end and midrange power as be­fore while im­prov­ing peak horse­power high in the revs. De­tails of the re­design start with a more over­square bore and stroke of 76 x 55.1mm, an in­creased max­i­mum rpm of 14,500 (from 13,500), and a higher com­pres­sion ra­tio (13.2:1 ver­sus 12.9:1). En­gi­neers gave the pow­er­plant a new valve train fea­tur­ing thin­ner- wall hol­low camshafts op­er­at­ing For­mula 1 style piv­ot­ing fin­ger fol­low­ers along with re­vised ti­ta­nium in­take and ex­haust valves to help with the in­creased max­i­mum rpm. Maybe the most in­ter­est­ing de­tail of the en­gine is the ad­di­tion of the new Suzuki Rac­ing Vari­able Valve Tim­ing (SR-VVT) de­vel­oped by the com­pany’s Motogp Project. The VVT en­gages at 10,000 rpm as the cen­trifu­gal force be­gins ro­tat­ing the cam sprocket on the camshaft and re­tard­ing in­take cam tim­ing, which is sup­posed to give the bike an ex­tra kick high in the revs and help in­crease power to a claimed 199 hp at 13,200 rpm (from 182 at 11,500). The Suzuki Dual- Stage In­take Sys­tem (S- DSI) on cylin­ders 1 and 4 helps bal­ance power de­liv­ery by op­ti­miz­ing air­flow to the en­gine through stacked in­take fun­nels.

The funny part about rid­ing the new GSX- R is that all those de­tail up­dates haven’t changed the en­gine’s ami­able but strong char­ac­ter. It just feels much faster— which is ex­actly what I was hop­ing for. Ini­tial throt­tle re­sponse is ex­cep­tion­ally smooth, and the en­gine pulls stronger off the cor­ner than be­fore as it makes its way through the midrange. It spins through its revs quicker too, which helps you get above the 10,000- rpm thresh­old where the VVT en­gages and gives an ex­tra punch in power all the way un­til red­line. The best part is Suzuki was able to pack all this ex­tra per­for­mance in the same man­age­able way that has made Suzuki’s en­gines fa­mous for so long. It’s also im­por­tant to note how use­ful this en­gine will be when it comes to street rid­ing and how it goes away from a peaky power­band that other man­u­fac­tur­ers have stepped to­ward.

Per­haps the big­gest talk about the 2017 GSX- R is the new elec­tron­ics pack­age— well, the ad­di­tion of an elec­tron­ics pack­age. The Suzuki fi­nally steps into the elec­tron­ics big leagues with

a six- di­rec­tion, three- axis IMU mea­sur­ing roll, pitch, and yaw for the bike’s trac­tion, brak­ing, and cor­ner­ing as­sists. The most no­table of these sys­tems is the 10- level Mo­tion Track TCS (Suzuki’s way of say­ing trac­tion con­trol), which is de­signed to help the rider ex­tract as much per­for­mance out of the mo­tor­cy­cle as pos­si­ble. The sys­tem works by man­ag­ing ig­ni­tion tim­ing and throt­tle plate po­si­tion based on in­put re­ceived from wheel speed sen­sors, IMU data, throt­tle po­si­tion, and a va­ri­ety of other in­puts gath­ered from sen­sors lo­cated through­out the mo­tor­cy­cle to in­ter­vene and op­ti­mize trac­tion in all con­di­tions.

The TC wastes no time to im­press. It has an in­cred­i­ble abil­ity to man­age trac­tion while still al­low­ing the rider to use throt­tle to drive for­ward off the exit of a cor­ner; what it doesn’t do is cut power and kill the bike’s mo­men­tum. I set the sys­tem to Level 4 dur­ing my time on the stock Bridge­stone Bat­t­lax RS10 tires and later pulled off the track with the big­gest grin you could ever imag­ine. The sys­tem finds the bal­ance be­tween in­ter­ven­ing to find trac­tion and ac­cel­er­a­tion just as well as any other sys­tem on the mar­ket— maybe even bet­ter. The only thing it lacks is any sort of slide con­trol (a func­tion that uses yaw data to dic­tate how far the rear end of the mo­tor­cy­cle can slide to), mean­ing if you get re­ally greedy with the throt­tle, it can snap side­ways very quickly. But if that’s go­ing to be a bother, you might be miss­ing the big pic­ture— the sys­tem is re­ally good.

The GSX- R1000R’S Bi- Di­rec­tional Quick Shift Sys­tem (op­tional on the stan­dard model) also adds to the per­for­mance of the mo­tor­cy­cle by al­low­ing for clutch­less shifts in both di­rec­tions. Up­shifts feel crisp and are al­most seam­less as the bike just slightly cuts power (for be­tween 50 and 75 mil­lisec­onds) as it clicks into the next higher gear and con­tin­ues to ac­cel­er­ate. Sim­i­larly, the sys­tem very pre­cisely opens the throt­tle plates dur­ing down­shifts to match the revs and keep the wheels in line un­der hard brak­ing. The ben­e­fit of a sys­tem like this is that it al­lows you to take the fo­cus you for­merly used on down­shift­ing and ap­ply it to mak­ing your cor­ner en­try or other ar­eas of your rid­ing. This isn’t just faster and safer, but it helps rid­ing a lot of laps less stren­u­ous.

It was a lit­tle un­nerv­ing to find that Suzuki

made such rad­i­cal changes to the GSX- R’s chas­sis. The Suzuki was al­ready one of the most com­fort­able su­per­sport bikes on the mar­ket, and I re­ally didn’t want to see that go away. Plus the pre­vi­ous chas­sis has al­ways been so well bal­anced that it didn’t seem to need a re­design. But in a ge­nius step of evo­lu­tion, Suzuki en­gi­neers took what they al­ready had, built on it, and made it even more well rounded than be­fore.

The new GSX- R has the same homey rid­ing po­si­tion we’ve grown to love over the years thanks to Suzuki keep­ing the bike er­gonom­i­cally iden­ti­cal to its pre­de­ces­sor. The fuel tank, how­ever, has been shrunk ver­ti­cally by 21mm to im­prove your aero­dy­namic tuck and re­shaped to al­low you to bet­ter lock your knees in un­der hard brak­ing and cor­ner­ing. Chas­sis feel and agility on track has also im­proved, prov­ing the time Suzuki spent de­sign­ing the nar­rower twin- spar alu­minum frame was well worth it. It now takes sig­nif­i­cantly less ef­fort to flick the bike through side- to- side tran­si­tions and tip it into cor­ners, though both ar­eas still feel just slightly slug­gish in com­par­i­son to some of the GSX- R’s com­peti­tors. The same goes for mid­corner steer­ing, where the chas­sis seems to push wide just a lit­tle, forc­ing you to be pa­tient be­fore rolling on the throt­tle. It’s ar­guable that for what the GSX- R strug­gles with, it makes up for with tons of chas­sis feel be­ing fed to the rider. Chas­sis feel boosts con­fi­dence, and, re­mem­ber, con­fi­dence is fast.

Some of that feel is owed to Suzuki’s choice of us­ing the Showa Bal­ance Free Fork (BFF) and Bal­ance Free Rear Cush­ion lite (BFRC) shock out­fit­ted to the R model I tested. It’s a com­bi­na­tion that once you try, you’ll wish all su­per­sport bikes had. Both front and rear do an amaz­ing job at not only pro­vid­ing feel but also ab­sorb­ing bumps of all sizes and pro­vid­ing sta­bil­ity un­der hard brak­ing. Af­ter the first ses­sion, Suzuki tech­ni­cians made slight changes to the bike (a tad more com­pres­sion damp­ing in the front and a lit­tle more re­bound and com­pres­sion damp­ing in the rear) re­sult­ing in even more sta­bil­ity and a small Band- Aid for the slight mid­corner un­der­steer— which I believe is an is­sue that is to­tally solv­able with noth­ing more than a lit­tle ex­tra tun­ing. The GSX- R re­lies on the same set of four- pis­ton Brembo monoblock brake calipers as be­fore but

with new, larger 320mm

Brembo brake discs to help bring the bike to a halt. The fast Phillip Is­land course had no prob­lem test­ing the brak­ing com­po­nents and helps prove the pack­age has plenty of us­able power when you need it. Feel through the lever is great too, al­low­ing you un­der­stand just how hard you are brak­ing and how much to mod­u­late the pres­sure if needed. Ad­mit­tedly, I never felt the ABS sys­tem kick in, which is un­usual on the race­track and raises con­cern to whether it would be there if an emer­gency called for it. I can’t say it never ac­ti­vated; I just never felt it. Brake fade oc­curred too, though I think it is in­evitable for the GSX- R at a hard- brak­ing track, due to the ex­treme heat gen­er­ated in hard- brak­ing sec­tions and the use of rub­ber brake lines in­stead of steel.

There are more bits on the bike that im­press as well, like the full LCD dash­board. The new lay­out pro­vides all the ap­pro­pri­ate in­for­ma­tion to the rider in­clud­ing the first- ever fuel gauge on a GSX- R, and flip­ping through its set­tings is user-friendly via the switches on the left han­dle­bar. Aero­dy­nam­ics have also im­proved, and the body­work has been re­shaped with an added pur­pose of im­prov­ing cool­ing to the en­gine and brak­ing com­po­nents. Fi­nally, Suzuki’s ad­di­tion of the Low RPM As­sist fea­ture, which mon­i­tors and au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs en­gine rpm dur­ing slow rid­ing or tak­ing off from a stop, will prove use­ful on the street.

The most beau­ti­ful part about the new GSX- R isn’t the all- new chas­sis, the more- pow­er­ful en­gine, or the “Motogp in­spired” elec­tron­ics pack­age; it’s the fact that even through all those changes the bike still feels and rides the same way it al­ways has— only bet­ter. It doesn’t just do one thing well— it does ev­ery­thing well.

Rest as­sured, the 2017 Suzuki GSX- R1000R was worth the wait and worth re­serv­ing a park­ing spot in your own garage for. SR


The bi- di­rec­tional Be­tween its im­pres­sive TC sys­tem and ul­tra- lin­ear power­band, the GSX- R drives

Off cor­ners eas­ier and faster than be­fore.

Quick­shifter per­mits clutch­less up­shifts and down­shifts, al­low­ing the rider to use his fo­cus else­where.

Suzuki kept er­gonomics ex­actly the same on the GSX- R but re­vised the shape of the fuel tank to im­prove grip at the knees and help with ride­abil­ity.

Suzuki hit the bulls- eye by equip­ping the Showa Bal­ance Free Fork to the front end of the bike. The BFF tech­nol­ogy does an in­cred­i­ble job of soak­ing up bumps be­fore they up­set the bal­ance of the chas­sis.

The GSX- R’s full LCD dash­board dis­plays an abun­dance of in­for­ma­tion to the rider, but it isn’t clut­tered and is eas­ily dis­cernible on the track.

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