Suzuki’s GSX1100F is a rare sight on UK roads, but well worth tracking down if you want a versatile, comfortable and reliable mile-muncher for very little money.
Alastair Walker looks back at the history of this flagship Suzuki sports-touring machine which was in production from 1987 to 1994.
Suzuki introduced the GSX1100F back in Autumn 1987 in the UK, with the bike featuring a four cylinder, 1127cc engine derived from the GSXR1100 sportsbike of the time. A rebore, some softer cams, plus smaller Mikuni carbs, all combined to produce a meaty 136bhp@9500rpm (claimed) which was slightly less than the old GSX1100EFE machine it replaced in Suzuki’s range.
However, with a large fairing, steel frame, 21 litre fuel tank, clock and an electrically adjustable faring screen, the new GSX1100F model was obviously aimed at riders who wanted power, but high speed comfort too – this is more tourer than sportsbike for sure.
Having ridden a GSX1100F some years ago, I found the small 16 inch diameter wheels, 545lb dry weight, (585lbs on later models) plus slightly soggy suspension, made it a bike for steady riding. In fact, when pushed hard into corners, the GSX starts to get a bit `bouncy castle’ here and there and despite the GSX brakes being more than adequate, it takes a brave rider to chuck the top heavy GSX into roundabouts as keenly as you might on a ZZR1100 Kawasaki, or say a CBR1000F Honda from the same era.
Those first 1988 GSX1100Fs were rapidly superceded in 1989 by a tweaked GSX1100FK model, which had a braced frame, longer, thicker swingarm section, plus a stiffer spring on the `Full Floater’ rear end and a new gas reservoir.
There was more work, aimed at sharpening up the steering and handling of the bike; New fork internals, plus a new steering head angle were applied at the front end, as road testers had criticised the `mushy’ front end. All useful stuff, but the GSX’s dry weight now rose to a decidedly lardy 585lbs dry. This revised model was also launched in the USA, badged as the Katana 1100, in the same year. You might find one in a UK grey import specialist dealership/warehouse.
The GSX then carried on in production for five years, largely ignored by riders in the UK, with a succession of cosmetic updates every year, until Suzuki officially pulled the plug in 1994. However, many UK dealers found themselves unable to sell their last remaining GSX1100F models until as late as 1998.
It’s debatable whether it will ever be a true classic, but the GSX1100F is a competent all-rounder, a decent bike for very little money.
There are relatively few GSX1100Fs available second-hand in the UK, but two grand should buy you a near mint example, as there’s plenty of ZZR1100S/CBR1000F/FJ1200s etc offering much the same blend of performance and comfort for similar cash.
For the Arkwright-ish tightwads amongst you, prices range from as little as £1000 for something scruffy, with say 30K miles or more on the clock, but the engine can easily take 50k-60K miles with no major problems, according to Martin Crooks at Crooks Suzuki in Barrow, Cumbria;
“The motor is excellent, very reliable.” Martin noted, “But it is worth noting that the electric screen can pack up on the bike. Parts-wise, most bits are available for it, but getting the correct colour matched body panels, or mirrors could be hard. Mirrors were changed three or four times during the model’s lifetime I think. The original exhaust is expensive to replace, but you’ll be OK with an aftermarket system on a bike like that.”
It’s worth noting that the Suzuki GSX1100F suspension should be carefully checked, especially the rear monoshock and its linkage. If someone has replaced the entire unit with a Hagon or something similar, that’s a good thing and you would expect to see bills showing the fork seals, steering head bearings and brake pads have been replaced on a 7-15 year old motorbike too, even if the mileage showing is relatively low.
If only for comedy value, you should check if the electric screen goes up and down, although you’ll hardly ever want it in the low position, unless global warming causes the Sahara to reach Surbiton in the next 5 years.
Duncan Fraser of Coventry clocked up 2500 miles in 2005 on a used GSX1100F, which he bought as a second bike – he was impressed;
“It has a funny side-stand on it, leans over too much, so you have to watch where you park it.” Explained Duncan, “I nearly dropped the bike turning around, as it’s a very top heavy bike. Dead comfortable saddle though, handles two-up biking no problems and I’m 6 foot 5ins tall.
The bike can be slightly hard to get into neutral if you arrive at a junction in first, it’s easier to flick it into neutral before it stops rolling. The electric screen also packed up – luckily in the upright position – about two weeks after I bought the bike, typical eh? Otherwise, I’ve really enjoyed riding it and I was surprised at how good an all rounder the GSX1100F was for very little money.”
Top Buying Tip
Try scouring Loot or Buy-Sell type mags for a used GSX1100F. The Suzuki Owners website in the UK is also excellent for finding particular used models which have been owned by genuine enthusiasts.
Best model of the range
Try hunting down a 1994 FR model, but registered in 97/98 with under 20K miles on the clock and owned by someone retiring from biking. Rare as golden Wonka bars, but you never know…
Get Suzuki motorbike insurance for the suzuki gsx1100f.
Engine 1127cc liquid-cooled across the frame four with dohc and four valves per cylinder
Carbs X4 34mm Mikuni
Gears Six-speed, chain final drive
Frame Steel twin spar, steel swinging arm
Suspension Front 41mm telescopic fork; rear Full Floater monoshock, adjustable preload and damping
Brakes front 2 x 296mm discs, 4-pot calipers, rear 252mm disc, 2-pot calipe
Tyres Front 120/70-16; Rear 160/60-16
Dry weight 545lbs dry/ 585lbs 1989 onwards
Fuel capacity 21 litres
Dry weight 545lbs dry/ 585lbs 1989 onwards
Wheelbase 1535mm (1989 onwards)
Seat height 795mm
Top speed 150mph
Fuel capacity Optional hard panniers
Price new £5300 1988
Value Now £800-£2000 July 2005