GSX-R1000 a well-mannered superbike
We really thought this was going to be the one - the first motorcycle to better 300km/h in full street trim since the first Suzuki Hayabusa of 1999.
The beautiful, pearl white and grey Suzuki GSX-R1000 test bike ran hard and strong, way past its power peak at 12 000rpm, topping out with the rev-counter a needle's width past 13 000 and the (electronically limited) digital speedometer firmly stuck on 299, 4200 metres into our six-kilometre test straight .
Mr Garmin and his friends in the sky, however, soon brought us back down to earth. Our best one-way run (into the wind - explain that if you can!) was 280km/h, 12 clicks slower than IOL Motoring's current champion, the Ducati 1098.
But that was the only disappointment the bike handed us during an adrenalin-charged week of radical commuting, high-speed open-road dashes (at night, on unlit roads!) and some unforgettable canyon carving. Its road manners were well-nigh impeccable, its engine willing and tractable down to ridiculously low revs and, on the hottest of its three engine mappings, totally manic at the top end.
If you'll forgive the seeming contradiction in terms, it's a remarkably civilised hooligan tool.
Its 999cc engine is fed by four 46mm throttle bodies, each with Suzuki's familiar dual-butterfly throttle valves to smooth out almost every vestige of the dreaded “spritzer snatch”. Even in A mode the bike's response around car parks and traffic jams is civilised and smoothly controllable - but at anything over 5500rpm it is literally instantaneous.
It'll pull from 2200rpm, accompanied by a shuddery vibration that is the Big Four version of power-thudding - but that sorts itself out by 3500. It gets into its stride from 5500 and goes absolutely ballistic from 8000 through to the red line at 13 750.
During performance testing I took the Gixer slowly and smoothly up to the rev-limiter in first, at a true 162km/h. In the old days a bike that would do “the ton” - 100 miles per hour or 161km/h - flat out was something special; this bike will do it in first!
The three power modes are operated by a convenient thumb-switch below the left switchgear. For the record, B mode will give you almost as much power as the full monty, but without the top-end rush, and C mode will take you gently up to about 90kW, about the same as a good 600cc Supersports machine.
The gentler modes are intended for heavy traffic and wet roads; it didn't rain while we had the GSX-R1000 so we didn't need them. And even in full-power mode the bike averages 6.6 litres/100km, not bad for a litre-class superbike. Gearshift action is notchy at low revs - clean shifts, in either direction, in traffic require some concentration - but smoothes out above 7000rpm.
It's always very positive, though, and neither of IOL Motoring's test riders missed a shift during the test period.
Those elegantly curved twin tailpipes may add a little weight but they make the bike look complete and they make very nice growly noises throughout the rev range.
The GSX-R1000 is compact but not small, the seating position very racy with reasonably high footpegs but not too much weight on the hands. I found it comfortable around town and, once out in the twisties, it translated to a perfectly poised rider and ground clearance limited only by the rider's nerve.
She Who is Always Right didn't like the raised ends of the foot-pegs and said the sole pattern of her Daytona boots tended to hook on their grooved surfaces but my less-aggressive Beier footware didn't have that problem.
The red-needled rev-counter is easy to read, and the digital speedometer clear even in direct sunlight, but the rest of the idiot lights (sorry Cyril, warning icons) and graphics were less so. There's a lot of information in a small space so, if something catches your eye, stop to check it out.
Rocker switches on the right switch-gear allow you to page through the odometer, two trip-meters and a lap timer/stopwatch without having to lift either hand from the ‘bars (but, once again, don't fiddle with it in traffic!)
Under the speedo/info display are a set of shift lights - three small and a large, very bright, blue-white one that comes on as you pass the red line to tell you that now it really is Time to Change Up.
The suspension is as stiff as you'd expect from a litre-class superbike on the factory's median settings but the wheels didn't patter even at a kidney-jarring 95km/h on our bumpy test track, which is better than some supposedly “softer” machines can manage.
The handling is a little slow even at more moderate speeds (there's a KYB steering damper hidden inside the fairing) but the bike turns in smoothly and predictably, holds its line with pinpoint accuracy and settles down nicely in mid-corner.
It seems to stiffen up even more at triple-digit velocities, becoming hard work on quick direction-changes; you'd definitely want to raise rear ride height for the track to quicken the steering.
The front brakes - Tokico four-pot radial-mount monoblocs on 320mm floating discs - are sharp and very powerful but without excessive bite. Braking can be finely modulated around town or you stand the bike on its nose in a straight line at high speed.
The test bike was very pretty in grey and glittery white, and the bronze rims gorgeous. Fit and finish were good if not outstanding, although the lower fairing was a little flimsy - but nowhere near as bad as that of the Yamaha R1.
It's a point in the bike's favour that it cleaned up easily for the pictures even though it has a lot of nooks and plastic crannies.
The Suzuki GSX-R1000 is a very civilised sports bike, great for the road as it comes out of the box, but would need a lot of development work for the track. It's the well-mannered superbike.
Price: R145 000.
Bike from: Suzuki South, Cape Town
Engine: 999cc liquid-cooled four.
Bore x stroke: 74.5 x 57.3mm.
Compression ratio: 12.8:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 142kW at 12 000rpm.
Torque: 117Nm at 10 000.
Induction: Electronic fuel-injection with four 46mm throttle bodies.
Ignition: Fully transistorised electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: Kayaba 43 mm inverted cartridge forks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear Suspension: Monoshock with piggyback reservoir adjustable for preload, low and high-speed compression, and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Dual 310mm disks with Tokico four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers.
Rear brake: 220mm disc with Nissin single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 190/50 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 810mm.
Kerb weight: 205kg.
Fuel tank: 17.5 litres.
Price: R145 000.
Bike from: Suzuki South, Cape Town.