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Technical Stuff

The GSX-R 1000 K4 is one of the simplest designed bikes in its class. Simple because it has shied away from the latest fashion for trick underseat exhausts, for example. Yes, there may be gains to be had by raising the can but there are losses as well, especially for road bikes. So the flagship Suzuki makes do with a single aluminium can with titanium insides and a cataytic converter to keep the greens happy. Allied to the variable exhasut valve it makes the bike very quiet until you really give it some beans when intake noise takes over...

Type: Liquid cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke, four
Displacement: 988 cc
Comp ratio: 12:1

Power:164ps @10800rpm

Front tyre: 120/70 ZR17
Front brakes: Dual discs, Ø 300mm. Radial calipers.

Rear Tyre: 190/50 ZR17
Rear brakes: Single disc, Ø 220 mm

Seat height: 830mm
Wheelbase: 1,410mm
Dry weight: 168kg

Colours: Blue/white, yellow, black

PRICE: £8549


much too fast enough

A few months ago we had the pleasure of a couple of days with a new Suzuki GSX-R 1000. Now while that was great for giving us, and you, an idea of what the bike was like to ride, it didn’t really do much when it came to seeing what it was like to live with. In fact, all we were able to do last time was say that it handles well, it’s comfortable enough and it’s fast.

Fast. A great word, and one used rather regularly when talking about bikes like this. Frequently, it’s preceded by another word to emphasise just how fast it is, but we’ll not be using that here. In fact, this is a great time to blow some of the nonsense that is being peddled by some alleged experts about this bike. The GSX-R 1000 is not past it. It isn’t over the hill, baggy, overweight or gutless. It is about as far from those things as you can imagine while remaining a usable road bike. It isn’t new for 2004, it’s true. And it’s no longer the lightest and most powerful in the class. But it’s more powerful than some and lighter than some. And at the end of the day, any litre class sports bike is far faster and more capable than you or I will ever be. If you’re a professional superbike or GP racer then please ignore that last comment – it’s aimed at the mere mortals reading…

We’ve had this bike on test for the best part of three weeks now, and it’s opened my eyes to the reality of litre bike ownership. I’m going to do something a little different here. I’m going to lead with the conclusions of the test and then justify them. Why? Because it feels the right thing to do. And because that’s the over-riding impression that remains after an enthusiastic ride on a GSX-R1000. The sensation of arriving at the end of your journey just a little before you actually left.

The GSX-R 1000 is an incredibly capable road bike. It is comfortable and usable with decent mirrors, excellent lights and plenty of points to strap your luggage on. It handles wonderfully, managing to be stable while not being too much hard work to get turning. And it goes quite well too. Acceleration is positively brutal. Overtakes take no more than a brief thought and a slight twist and they are clear and done. When we had the chance to test top speed it turned out to be simply ridiculous. And yet the whole thing is as happy bimbling along at the national speed limit as it is at warp factor 21. In a nutshell, I really liked this bike and didn’t want to give it back.

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. And though it is difficult to find any real criticism to level at the GSX-R 1000, the test period wasn’t entirely without trauma. First of all, there’s something about having a bike that is king of the production racing scene that will be familiar to anyone who ever owned a Yamaha LC. Racers are, on the whole, pretty decent people. But some of the folk around racing aren’t. If you have a GSX-R 1000 then get a decent alarm, a decent lock and a decent garage to keep it in. Because even parking ours in front of a CCTV camera and illuminated by spotlights didn’t stop it from going walkies. We only got it back because the opportunist toe-rags who nicked it didn’t have the brains to figure out how to get it rolling and didn’t have a van with them to take it away. They left it hidden in some bushes a few hundred yards from the hotel. I found it, took it back in and left it in the corridor outside my room for the rest of the night. But you might not be so lucky, so take lots of precautions.

The other thing you will need to be careful of is yourself. This bike is very fast. I think I may have mentioned that before. And overtakes are very easy. I probably mentioned that as well. Add the two together and you soon find yourself doing devastatingly effective overtakes on cars that are already exceeding the national speed limit by some way. And that makes you very vulnerable when it comes to losing your licence and, possibly, your liberty as well.

But enough waffle. During the time we had this bike it was used in town, in the countryside and on motorways, A roads and back roads. It was used in the rain, in the dry, at night and… well, you get the picture I’m sure. We did everything with this bike that we possibly could. And what did we find? We found that it was far better than we are at everything we asked it to do, of course.

Let’s start with practicality. Not normally the strong suit of a supersports 1000, and perhaps a pointer that the GSX-R has gone a bit soft. Except, of course, that it was always practical. Luggage hooks on the rear pegs and moulded in either side of the number plate mean that you can actually strap a bag on the back and be reasonably sure that it will stay put. Especially if you use the pillion seat instead of the cover – not an option we had but it would have made a good thing even better. Add to that a seat that actually offers some real comfort, a screen and fairing that are reasonably protective and an engine that finds sensible cruising speeds so easy that fuel consumption becomes laughable and suddenly you consider going a whole lot further that you normally would on a sports bike and wondering why the hell anyone would buy one of the lardy sports tourers when this does such a good job.

Then you need to do a decisive overtake. Maybe you need to get past before some white lines or a bend, maybe you’ve misjudged the closing speed of that truck coming the other way or maybe the subject of your overtake just needs to be shown what you and your bike can do. None of these are good reasons but they all happen. Or maybe you’re just being cautious and spending the least possible time on the wrong side of the road, officer. Either way, you close on your target and take a decent fistful of throttle. And Jeez – you know why people go for lardy tourers. If someone had been on the back the wheelie you just pulled would have been a little more exciting than you needed. And if you’d had luggage on elastics then it would be catching you up and smacking you in the back just about…now.

OK, so forget the lardy touring image. But remember that this is a sports bike that you can actually ride somewhere rather than trailering it.

Motorways, while dispatched easily enough, are pretty boring places to be on a bike. And once off the motorways and onto the less heavily trafficked A roads running nearby, the GSX-R 1000 really shines. We already know that it’s plenty fast enough, and then some, and that it accelerates like a very quick thing. A quick look on the fairing shows the letters GSX-R writ large, so the handling shouldn’t be a surprise. But it is, nonetheless, very impressive. This is quite a big bike, which no doubt contributes to the comfort, but the ease with which it can be chucked around shows that Suzuki have done a very neat job with the geometry. Likewise the stability which is most evident on long sweeping bends, though it is equally welcome accelerating off roundabouts when the combination of quick direction changes and aggressive cambers that can make the front rather light at the best of times can sometimes offer more challenges than you might expect.

Taking a large and very powerful motorcycle on back roads and byways is often considered slightly eccentric. And although there are plenty of B roads on which bikes like this can shine, there are plenty that show up all the weaknesses inherent I this, and any other, supersports machine. The biggest problem is power delivery. Quite simply, the GSX-R 1000 is too damn fast for most back roads, and even gentle riding starts to degenerate into a ragged mess of hard braking followed by cautious cornering while trying to avoid the gravel and potholes so often encountered on less well used roads. Then a brief burst of gentle acceleration which is still enough to push your speed above what is ideal for the road and start the whole process again. Not pretty and not much fun either.

One of the criticisms aimed at the original GSX-R 1000 was the braking. or rather the lack of braking. Personally I never really found it to be the issue everyone made out. Sure, the brakes lacked a bit when compared to others but they were still pretty good. Anyway, any questions about braking efficiency have been well and truly laid to rest with this latest incarnation of the bike. Massive calipers are radially mounted to give maximum braking effect and they certainly work, bringing speeds down from silly numbers with reassuring ease. Lots of feel, too.

We have yet to spend any real quality time with the other litre class supersports bikes. When we do, I am sure that we will be impressed by their power and poise, just the same as we were with the GSX-R 1000. And that’s the rub. I fully admit that I like Suzukis. I like the noise and the feel and the attitude that goes with them. So to me, having only ridden the others on the track or briefly around the block, the GSX-R 1000 is the best in the class. But I know that Adrian has a soft spot for Yamahas in general and R1s in particular, so he may well feel differently.

The truth is this. Any and all of the litre class supersports bikes currently on the market are massively capable, fast, stylish and blessed with levels of handling only dreamed of just a few short years ago. And the best one for you is whichever you like best. They are all different, and long live those differences.

Thanks to Botley Hill Farmhouse in Tandridge, Surrey, for the use of their very pretty carpark. Oh, and for excellent food and friendly staff as well...

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