By: Dave Abrahams
Cape Town - Growing old, they say, is mandatory; growing up is optional.
Which leaves us with a whole generation of sports-bike riders who are unwilling to give up the adrenalin rush of a high-revving litre-class engine but for whom a long ride tucked into the ergonomics of a modern superbike would be about as much fun as flying long-haul in economy class.
Enter the Suzuki GSX-S1000F, a fully-faired sports machine with a stonking engine, top-drawer cycle parts, current-generation electronics, and the seating position of a naked bike.
The engine is the justly revered GSX-R1000 K5 long-stroke superbike powerplant of a decade ago, reborn with milder cams, lighter pistons and stainless-steel valves in place of the Gixer’s pricey titanium poppets. It’s fed by the same 44mm dual-valve throttle bodies, but with only one long-nose injector per cylinder rather than the previous two.
Peak power is 107kW at a readily accessible 10 000 revs and top torque, 106Nm at 9500rpm – but that doesn’t tell the whole story. A fat torque curve gives you big punch at anything above 5000rpm and short gearing gives this bike lots of street cred in the Stoplight Grand Prix.
The other side of the coin, however, is that the GSX-S1000F hits its rev-limiter at 10 500 rpm in top, less than a third of the way down our Six-Kay Straight, at an indicated 255km/h – and, unlike some Kawasakis we’ve ridden, it was the same with the traction control system on any of its three settings or, indeed, switched off.
True top speed turned out to be 241km/h, according to Mr Garmin and his friends in the sky, for a speedometer error of 5.8 percent, marginally outside the acceptable level of five percent, while fuel consumption over a week of mixed commuting and breakfast-run hooning, worked out to 6.59 litres per 100km.
But when I mentioned the short gearing to a racing friend, he pointed out that it was better for track days than ultra-long ‘cruise missile’ gearing, since the straights at race circuits are seldom more than 600 metres long. Score one for the GSX-S.
The simplified induction system, however, makes it less than ideal in heavy traffic, because throttle response is sharper and more sudden than the dual-injector superbike set-up. I commuted on Big Blue for a week and, although I learned to deal with its snatchy throttle, it was never fun.
BRILLIANT SEATING POSITION
The brakes were also a little disappointing; the bike comes with radial-mount Brembo monobloc callipers, from which you’d expect initial bite akin to running into wet cement In reality, however, you need a decent squeeze before anything happens, and then the lack of feel inherent in antilock braking systems makes brake-force a little difficult to modulate near the limit.
Admittedly this is only likely to become an issue under racetrack conditions but frankly, we have come to expect better of the world leader in braking. If the bike were ours, She Who Must Be Obeyed would demand an instant change to softer brake pads to get more Brick Wall Effect.
The seating position, in contrast, was brilliant - old school in the very best way, with the low-rise handlebars at elbow height for perfect control, footpegs exactly below the lowest point of the saddle, and the points of the shoulders just slightly ahead of the hip-joints.
The GSX-S is not only comfortable enough to contemplate doing some light touring on it, the perfectly balanced distribution of the rider’s weight between bars, saddle and pegs makes it one of the most chuckable litre-class bikes of its generation and huge fun in the twisties.
The switchgear is logical in layout, firm and precise in operation, the compact all-LED instrument panel, in general, lucid and legible (the less said, however, about bar-graph rev counters in general and this one in particular, the better), while the mirrors actually mirror what is behind you rather than your own elbows, as is almost always the case with race-replica superbikes.
All of which underlines the GSX-S1000F’s credentials as a real-world sports-bike, rather than a track-focused superbike. At R148 500 it’s R24 500 cheaper than the state-of-the-art GSX-R1000 L5, way more comfortable and a lot easier to throw around. It’ll take you to work all week, once you’ve learned to finesse its snatchy twistgrip, and out for a long day’s hooning On Any Sunday. Resistance is futile, as the man said, you will ride it until you run out of daylight.
Engine: 999cc liquid-cooled four.
Bore x stroke: 73.4 x 59mm.
Compression ratio: 12.2:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 107kW at 10 000rpm.
Torque: 106Nm at 9500rpm.
Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with four 44mm dual-valve throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 43mm KYB cartridge forks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear Suspension: KYB monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Dual 310mm floating discs with Brembo four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers and ABS.
Rear brake: 220mm disc with single-piston Nissin floating calliper and ABS.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 190/50 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 810mm.
Kerb weight: 214kg.
Fuel tank: 17 litres.
Top speed (measured): 241km/h.
Fuel consumption (measured): 6.59 litres per 100km.
Price: R148 500.