way you look at it, it's big. 1402cc. 105bhp. 228kg. 145mph. Big
numbers, big presence. Big.
First impressions are everything
when you're dealing with a bike that trades as strongly on image
as it does on ability. And although it would have to be a particularly
dark and misty night before you'd mistake the GSX1400 for a genuine
classic like it's great grandad the GS1000, there's no denying that
those first impressions are pretty good. It's a fine looking bike,
especially in the classic blue and white colour scheme, and the
air/oil cooled engine looks traditional enough despite the almost
radiator sized oil cooler to keep the illusion going. Big (of course)
heavily chromed twin pipes and the big (you expected something else?)
chrome rimmed headlight make their contribution as well. But then
things start to go a bit pear shaped. The front discs, for example,
are.big. Actually, enormous might be a better description. And they've
got 6 piston calipers as well. That's a bit out of keeping, surely?
And that rear suspension. Sure, twin shocks are nicely historical,
but what's all this adjustable damping malarky? I don't remember
having that on my old Katana.
And that's the real strength of
this bike. Unlike certain other retros I could mention, just because
it looks like something from the 80's, at least at first, it doesn't
force you to put up with the things we all secretly hated about
big bikes back then. You know, appalling brakes, rubbish suspension
and flexible frames. That sort of thing. At least, that's how it
appears at first. To get the true story you have to ride the beast.
So why don't we do just that?
prizes for guessing what the first thing that comes to mind is once
you've climbed aboard. Big. Although well padded and, um, big, the
seat isn't especially high, it is wide, though, and as a result
it's more of a stretch to the ground than you might expect. It's
quite a long way to the bars as well, but by no means uncomfortable.
Firing up the extremely untraditional fuel injected motor is a little
surprising, if not disappointing. The noise, of course, is the sort
of noise you'd expect from a motor this big. Just slightly quieter.
Like an extremely powerful industrial tool that has been silenced
by the Health and Safety Executive. Not a bad simile, that...
This is not a sportsbike, so you
can't expect it to go like one. Ah. That'll be the next surprise,
then. Open the taps in any gear at just about any revs and you will
be rewarded by what I can only describe as a relentless surge of
acceleration as your arms get stretched and everything around starts
going very slowly. This is a seriously quick bike, although obviously
sitting bolt upright with no streamlining is bound to impact on
your top speed a bit. Plus, of course, the fact that sitting with
your head in a 140mph wind tends to make your neck a little stiff.
Happily, although not a sportsbike, the GSX-1400 isn't really a
retro either. Suzuki call it "Naked Sports" which, I must
admit, brings altogether different images to mind, but which probably
isn't too far off the mark for this bike. You see, although it doesn't
really look as though it should, it goes round corners really well,
to the extent that a particular favourite B-road was dispatched
in pretty much the same time as I would have done it on my own sportsbike.
It stops as well, with the two big (of course) discs being gripped
by equally impressive 6 pot calipers.
Over a distance you soon find
yourself getting really into this bike. It doesn't respond well
to ham fisted riding, making you subtly aware that there is a better
way of riding without doing anything crass like shaking its head
or getting out of shape at all. So you naturally adopt a slightly
more relaxed position and attitude and as a result the rate at which
you cover ground is always a pleasant surprise. It's also quite
comfortable, despite the lack of weather protection (ours was fitted
with an optional flyscreen that I would heartily recommend) and
it looks great. And so, of course, do you...
This is a bike it is very easy
to feel good about. It goes like the proverbial train, handles far
better than it has any right to, stops on a sixpence and is comfortable.
It looks by far the best of the current crop of naked musclebikes,
it has huge presence and could only really be improved by the addition
of a matt black four into one and painting the rear shocks red to
give it that proper period feel. However, it can also deceive you
into going quicker than you intend, or should.
GSX 1400 does an excellent job of being everything that we would
like to remember our favourite 70s musclebikes being like while
at the same time being far better, in every respect, than they ever
were. It's fast, it goes round corners and it's beautifully screwed
together. Almost exactly unlike its spiritual ancestors, then...
At a glance:
Suzuki GSX 1400
Capacity: 1402cc 16v four
Power: Oh yes.
Tank capacity/ave range: 22l/180 miles
Seat height: 790mm
Weight: 228 kg
Rating: 4 Stars
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