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Suzuki’s GSXR750 is one of the great motorcycles. A tough, rough handling, rev happy beast, which goes violently fast and has the looks to match its aggressive character.

The whole cult of the Streetfighter owes a great debt of inspiration to the legion of crashed, bent and customised Gixers.

From its launch back in 1985, the bike attracted road racers and performance road riders in equal measure, with its skinny, lightweight chassis, oil/air cooled motor and fully faired boy racer bodywork.

The Japanese had just discovered fully faired bikes as marketing tools in those days, but the GSXR750 was their best looking effort to date.

It progressed into a revvier, short stroke engine guise in 1989, then gained a water cooled motor for the 1992 UK range.

It also evolved into a much smoother handling bike from 1996 onwards, with the introduction of a brand new, twin spar alloy frame. Alastair Walker looks back at a modern classic.

Skinny skinhead

The GSXR750 arrived in 1985 and was an immediate hit. It´s not hard to imagine the impact a 100bhp engine squeezed inside a 388lb chassis had on the mid 80s big bike market, where allegedly sane people bought 550lb lorries like the Honda VF1000R and pretended to be Joey Dunlop.

Available in either red/black or the more popular blue/white colour combination, the first GSXR750 F/G/ H models had a slightly nervous, lightweight alloy framed chassis, with the oil cooled motor developed from the early 1980s Suzuki GSX range. Incidentally, the GSX motor was fettled by Al Melling from MCD in Rochdale, who designed the ill fated Norton V8 Nemesis.

Featuring rather anorexic 18 inch wheels front and back, the first GSXR is still a decent, bargain basement 130mph bike, though restricted by tyre choice now. The G model had a 25mm longer swingarm to improve stability, brighter headlights, a steering damper and new clutch fitted. It also got slightly bigger front disc brakes, but is otherwise much the same as the `85 original.

For the 1997 H model, Suzuki fitted much needed fatter forks, up to 41mm diameter now, with further tweaks to the fork internals to improve the damping action. The front brake also activated an electronic anti-dive mechanism, but most GSXRs this old will have such chronic wear and tear, you should look for recent fork seal receipts in the service history and keep your fingers crossed going into roundabouts.

At almost 15 years old, you´ll be very lucky to find an early GSXR that hasn´t been modified, crashed or simply caned halfway to oblivion.

The finish wasn´t good on early bikes either, of which around 1300 were sold in the UK, so a mint original is a genuine classic and £2,000-£3,000, depending how much of a collector you are. As a modern day rider´s machine, they sadly don´t cut it as sportbikes anymore, but the first GSXR is the true source of the cult - that alone makes it a future classic.

Dog Gixers start from around 900 notes in your local Loot, but are best avoided unless you´re looking for a streetfighter project.

Fat boy slingshot

The Slingshot GSXR750 models form 1988-91 were lardbuckets compared to the first GSXRs, but the extra 40 odd pounds of dry weight was more than offset by a defter handling chassis and a beautifully revvy engine. The frame got thicker, as did the front forks, (43mm), with new damping rods inside.

A new `Full Floater ‘monoshock linkage at the back improved things too, although it wasn´t firm enough for the road racing boys. New 4 piston calipers on the front disc brakes did prove popular however, as did new 17 inch diameter three spoke wheels, which allowed wider tyre choices.

But the meat and two veg of the `88 model was the re-worked motor. A shorter stroke, bigger valves, 36mm carbs pumping in the go juice and a stronger crank, running in 50% more oil too. Power was up to a claimed 112bhp at 11,000rpm, aided by two air intake ducts set next to the headlights which were one of the first `ram air ‘type performance mods seen on bikes. The Slingshot engine soon became a favourite with nutters everywhere and a young lad on a Durex Suzuki 750 Superbike started to attract some attention in national road racing; his name was Jamie Whitham.

The `89 GSXR gained 5mm on its wheelbase to aid high speed stability, a stainless steel cover on its exhaust end can and revised gear ratios to optimize high speed performance. 1990 saw more noticeable changes, with the revised body graphics and the all new 4-into-2 stainless steel exhaust system being obvious improvements. A larger, curved oil cooler, upside down front forks (a world first) and new disc brakes were all added.

Interestingly, Suzuki opted to learn a few lessons from their many racetrack successes and go back to the ‘long stroke´ engine design, with new, lighter pistons, stronger con-rods and a re-worked cylinder head, plus bigger (38mm) carbs to boost performance. Tyres got slightly wider, a different monoshock mounting arrangement increased the overall ride height, and in turn improved ground clearance for hard riding GSXR owners. Taken all round, the 1990 GSXR750 was the first truly modern 750cc class sportsbike, but quickly overtaken by the 1991 Yamaha EXUP 1000, then Honda´s Fireblade appeared in 1992.

The late 80s J/K models both look a little dated now, with their flabby styled fairing panels reminiscent of the early CBR600. But they do ride OK, so long as you don´t expect too much on the corners, but if you want useful 140mph plus speed with respectable handling, search out an 1990 L, or 1991 M model - both are the last of the air cooled GSXR 750 original gangsters.


The Waterboys

Remember them? The Hole In My Moon was their big hit I think... Sorry, lost the plot there, unlike Suzuki who not only water-cooled the GSXR750 in 1992, kicking off the W series with the WN model, but also transformed the bike´s all round performance.

The engine got slimmer, with a cast magnesium cylinder head, lighter valve train, stronger rods and pistons and yet more power. A claimed 116bhp at 11,500 revs motivated the bike now, making a genuine 150mph top speed a real possibility.

The engine was much narrower because the starter motor and electrical generator were located, ‘piggy back’ style, above the gearbox, with reduced cylinder spacing adopted with the benefit of water cooling. The engine was also set further forward and lower, in the frame, which was a major improvement in the old ’top heavy’ steering of previous GSXR750s.

The frame retained the unique shape from 1985, but was now much stronger, with computer aided design to add rigidity in all the right places. Suspension was helped greatly by a new swingarm at the back and revamped monoshock, plus linkage. The forks have all new internal adjustment mechanisms for pre-load, rebound and compression. Good stuff.

Ditto the brakes and the wacky paint schemes on the water cooled GSXRs. Six pot Tokico calipers were fitted from 1994 onwards and are quite superb by the way. But the water cooled revolution didn´t alter the fundamental feel of the GSXR - it was still a hooligan at heart and as such offers the best value secondhand, as £3,000- £3,500 gets you a fast, OK handling sportbike with everyday reliability.

It´s only rivals at this money are the early Fireblade and EXUP RU models, which are slightly faster and roomier for the rider. You can feel a little cramped in the steeply dipped saddle of a 1992-95 GSXR750, with that incredibly wide gas tank spread before your arms.

Humpy-pumpy

The most recent overhaul for the GSXR750 saw the Suzuki design team go back to first principles in 1996 and ask a simple question; how can we beat that bloody Fireblade?

Their solution was to make the GSXR the lightest bike in the class - just like 1985 again - with one of the slimmest, lowest, most aerodynamic profiles. In the process, the old alloy cradle frame was finally dumped in favour of an EXUP style twin spar job, which was the key element in the bike´s new package. Almost as tiny as the RGV250, the 1400mm wheelbase chassis housed an all new engine which sucked fuel through 39mm Mikunis, helping the motor realise a claimed 128bhp at 12,000rpm.

Equally important was the weight shaving, which bordered on the obsessive, to achieve the new dry weight of 393lbs, or just slightly more than the original 1985 GSXR750. The engine lost 9 kilograms alone, with each cylinder set closer together thanks to a lack of cylinder liners. Instead, SCEM, or Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material was used. Dunno what it is, but it works.

The old blue/white paint scheme was tastefully revived for this model and very handsome it looks too, although personally, I still reckon they spoiled it with the seat hump, which can surely have dubious aerodynamic benefits with the typical 45 year old lardbucket Billy Biker on board?

For 1997, the GSXR got a steering damper, a slightly shorter swingarm and some new paintwork. The biggest change was in the 1998 GSXR750 WW model, which gained a lovely new fuel injection system to smooth out power delivery. Bottom and mid range response was vastly superior to the 1996/7 models, with a digital engine management chip keeping an eye on air intake, throttle position, engine speed and possibly the ambient temperature in Ulan Bator, every nano second.

Now the GSXR750 felt like a bigger version of the Honda CBR600; ultra smooth all through the rev range and with much better response lowdown than you´d believe. It got still lighter in weight, a revised set of gear ratios and stronger monoshock mounting at the rear too. The 1998 Suzy 750 is a gem, go out and buy it.

Tall Geezer? Try a Kawasaki mate...

The only criticism you can level at the latest generation GSXRs is that they feel bit on the small side for tall riders. The relationship between handlebars, seat hump and footrests is fine if you´re under 5 foot 10 inches, but over six footers are best advised to try a Kawasaki ZX7/9 Ninja from the late 1990s if they´re after a used bike - it´ll just fit you better, which means you will ride it longer and enjoy it more.

But considering how the parallel business has hammered GSXR750 prices down to the £4,000-£5,000 level for immaculate, low miles, used models between 1996-99, the pocket rocket Suzuki has to be an option if you like speed on a budget. Deep down, underneath the smooth new clothes and the sober colour schemes, the GSXR750 is still a merciless thug on wheels. A regular menace to society.

Sometimes that anti-social aggression is the thing you love best about a motorcycle.

Get Suzuki motorbike insurance for the suzuki gsxr750 history.



Vital Statistics


1991
Engine .DOHC, air/oil cooled, four cylinder, four stroke
cc 749cc
Claimed power (bhp) 116 bhp @ 11,000rpm
Compression ratio 
Transmission 6-speed

Cycle parts 
Suspension; Inverted 43mm front forks, multi adjustable, single monoshock rear, also adjustable
Brakes; Twin 310mm discs, with 4 piston calipers, single 240mm, 2 piston caliper
Brakes; Twin 310mm discs, with 4 piston calipers, single 240mm, 2 piston caliper
Tyres; 120/70 front, 170/60 rear, both 17 inch diameter
Wheelbase; 1415mm
Dry weight; 208kgs

Performance 
Fuel capacity 21 litres

Buying Info 
Current price Around £2,000-£3,000



Vital Statistics


1995
Engine DOHC, water cooled, four cylinder, four stroke
cc 749cc
Claimed power (bhp) 118 bhp @ 11,500rpm
Compression ratio 
Transmission 6-speed

Cycle parts 
Suspension; Inverted 43mm front forks, multi adjustable, single monoshock rear, also adjustable
Brakes; Twin 310mm discs, with 4 piston calipers, single 240mm, 2 piston caliper
Tyres; 120/70 front, 180/55 rear, both 17 inch diameter
Wheelbase; 1435mm
Dry weight; 199kgs
Valves; 4 per cylinder

Performance 
Fuel capacity 21 litres

Buying Info 
Current price Around £2,000-£3,000



Vital Statistics


1996
Engine DOHC, water cooled, four cylinder, four stroke
cc 749cc
Claimed power (bhp) 128 bhp @ 12,000rpm
Compression ratio 
Transmission 6-speed

Cycle parts 
Suspension; Inverted 43mm front forks, multi adjustable, single gas assisted monoshock rear, also adjustable
Brakes; Twin 320mm discs, with 6 piston calipers, single 220mm, 2 piston caliper
Tyres; 120/70 front, 180/55 rear, both 17 inch diameter
Wheelbase; 1400mm
Dry weight; 179kgs
Valves; 4 per cylinder

Performance 
Fuel capacity 21 litres

Buying Info 
Current price Around £2,000-£3,000

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