Some bikes are worth waiting for, and the GSXR1000 is one of them. A beautifully balanced machine, it feels as agile and compact as a 600cc sportbike, yet delivers the same warp factor thrust of a Hayabusa. It’s also remarkably comfortable too.
Alastair Walker spent a week learning to be moderately fast on board the most accessible sportsbike that Suzuki have ever made.
I mean, what were Suzuki thinking of when they painted something this good, bright yellow? Obviously, the top choice should be blue and white, traditional Suzy colours, but apart from that one niggle about the colour scheme, there’s almost nothing you can criticise on this motorcycle, which has moved the ultimate sportsbike goalposts another five yards down the pitch.
To put it bluntly, this bike piddles all over the opposition from Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki in every way that matters on both road and track. It accelerates so hard, in any gear, that you struggle to draw breath sometimes. It is demonic, seductive, immediate.
Of course producing sheer power is one thing, but creating a chassis that compliments that power delivery is another bag of arcane tricks. Yet here, Suzuki have excelled, building a frame and suspension package that flatters the most lazy riders and yet rewards those who know what they’re doing in the twisty stuff with sublime ability, an uncanny precision.
The Gixer’s final ace in the pack is its comfort level. Unlike the Yamaha R1, it doesn’t demand that its rider be a hunched up, skinny road racer, neither does it place the rider in a semi-touring position, as aboard the CBR1000RR. The Suzuki has space on its saddle for the rider to move back and forwards, plus the seat has been made narrower, and lower, so paddling the bike around petrol forecourts, or stop-starting in town, is incredibly easy to do. Both tall and short riders alike appear to fit the Suzuki very well indeed, which is a clever design accomplishment.
Feel confident, not lucky
On some sportsbikes, I arrive home after some mad blast along country roads, feeling lucky to be alive. The reasons are twofold; either I have just survived a near miss with someone who has no business holding a driving licence – or more likely hasn’t even got one in the first place – or else the bike I’m riding feels twitchy, unsettling at high speed, in some way, even if only for a few seconds.
You see, there aren’t any bad motorcycles anymore. Not horrendously bad like bendy-framed GT750 Suzuki’s, or badly built BSA 650s. Bikes that simply started wobbling mid corner, or failed to brake during a shower of rain, and finished up colliding with the scenery ten seconds later. Modern motorcycles above 600cc are generally brilliant, but some have odd reactions to a certain set of road conditions, or riding input, that causes them to shimmy suddenly, for no apparent reason, at some ballistic speed, or whilst crossing a white line, or grid in the road. It’s doubly strange, because they don’t do it all the time, just occasionally, and because it happens so rarely, it can catch you out, prompting minor heart attacks as the bike decides it’s going run wide on this corner and go straight over the centre line in the road.
But the week I spent on the Suzuki was especially enjoyable because it DIDN’T surprise me at any point, it simply got easier to ride fast, the more I rode it. I built up so much trust in the steering of the Gixer that I found myself braking deep into roundabouts, finally easing off the anchors as I leaned fully over, not even worried that the usual patchy road surface might catch me out. By contrast, on the way home from Suzuki’s HQ I gassed up my VFR800 out of a roundabout on the A41 and almost high-sided the bloody thing – and usually, my VFR is the most rock solid, predictable bike in the known universe.
It astonishes me that the same basic ingredients of twin beam frame, multi-adjustable suspension and short wheelbase can produce such a stable, effortless motorcycle as the Gixer 1000. It does what exactly what you want to, every time, on all types of roads. This is a very simple, effective machine.
Suzuki have produced an all new frame on the K5 model, which has a beefier headstock area, plus revised anchorage for the swingarm pivot at the back. Also, the swingarm itself is new and looks huge `in the metal, ’ like a section from an RSJ, then sculpted into a banana shape. The wheelbase is down to 1405mm, which is I believe (call me a sad anorak) the same measurement as on the first GSXR750 from 1985.
The front forks are unchanged from the K4 model, but the brakes have been uprated and the handlebars have been moved 40mm nearer the saddle. Might not sound much, but you aren’t leaning so far forward to reach the handlebars Elsewhere, the fuel tank is narrower, plus the footpegs are set slightly closer together. Little details like this all add up to a much more comfortable bike than the K3/4 series Suzuki 1000 could be.
Power is nothing without finesse
If you look at many unsuccessful racing projects, you will find that time and again, the engine of a racing motorcycle overwhelmed its chassis. When it comes to the GSXR1000 that natural balance of power between engine and chassis is almost perfect. I would say that 90% of road riders could not do better at trackdays, either in terms of lowering lap times, or simply racing against their mates, than on this bike. It is so damn easy to ride fast, very fast, on the Suzuki. The key element is the blend of speed and sure handling. It encourages progress by the rider, smoothes out the drama of pushing the bike to its limit.
The all new GSXR motor has 999cc and a claimed 175bhp at the crank on tap. A new cylinder head, lighter pistons, titanium valves, more compression and larger inlet ports are amongst the many changes which tweak more power from the Gixer four cylinder engine. Changes in the fuel injection system deliver more fuel/air, but in a smoother, more even flow. This isn’t a Kawasaki four, with a breathless rush of power above 7000 revs. There’s also a slipper type clutch on the Suzi, so you can bang down two or three gears into a hairpin without setting the tail end waggling.
But all this technical stuff doesn’t translate what the rider feels, `seat of the pants’ style, whilst on the move. The new K5 is taut, alive, responsive in every gear, eminently flickable too. There’s undoubtedly a bit more power, but not much and weight has been shaved off the bike via a titanium exhaust, lighter wheels etc. But at heart, the secret of the new Suzuki’s success, is the sheer finesse, the poise and fluency with which it shifts direction mid-corner, or accelerates hard in third gear on some endless slip-road sweeper. It is useful, compliant, forgiving even. These are all great qualities in a motorcycle and build a feeling of trust in the machine at speed. You might be able to keep up with a medium fast rider on a GSXR1000K5, assuming you were a bit of an ace yourself, on say a Ducati 999, an Apriliia Mille RSVR, or perhaps a Kawasaki ZX-10R, but if you swapped bikes, you would disappear into the distance on the Suzuki, convinced that the other rider had not yet discovered the gears above 4th. That’s how relaxed, how confident this bike makes you feel. All for nine grand brand new. Amazing.
Always a downside?
Maybe there is. The fit and finish of the K5 doesn’t bode well for anyone who wants to ride through British winters on a 1000cc sportsbike. The paint looks lightly applied here and there and the screws and fastenings on the bike seem rather basic. I ask the question to Suzuki; is it wise to have virtually zero front mudguard on this motorcycle – surely roadspray will corrode the hell out of the motor, the exhaust and some sections of the chassis?
The mirrors are also all but useless, since they shake about at anything over 70mph turning everything into a fuzzy blur. Fitting the indicators in the mirrors simply bumps up the cost of a minor accident too. Finally, forget about carrying a pillion passenger, unless it is a small child. The seat is far too high and too small. I think the day is approaching when someone will sue a manufacturer for failing to provide warning stickers advising that the pillion seat is for `emergency use only at low speeds.’
You know what, much as I hate to admit it, they’d be right to sue.
In the end, it is that kind of `compo’ culture which threatens the future of sportsbikes, as much as EU laws on licences or tests. But for now, you and I have the chance to go and buy a truly great motorcycle; a symphony of speed, handling and noise, that stirs the soul and unravels the knot of workaday stress, in a single moment of clarity and freedom.
So go ride your bike this weekend, knowing that we live in a golden age. A time where the cost of a porridge-dull, tin box on four wheels also buys you a ticket to pure escapism. Motorcycles like the GSXR1000K5 make you feel glad to be alive and put a smile on your face. In case anyone didn’t tell you; fun is why we ride. See you on the road.
Get Suzuki motorbike insurance for the suzuki gsxr1000 k5.
Engine Four cylinder, four stroke, 999cc
Gears 6 speed
Power 175bhp ( estimated )
Carbs None, digital fuel injection.
Chassis; Twin alloy beam frame, 45mm telescopic forks, adjustable. Single rear shock absorber, multi-adjustment.
Brakes; Disc, front and rear. Radial calipers on front.
Wheels/Tyres; 120/70 BT014 17 inch front, 190/50 BT014 17 inch rear.
Estimated top speed 185mph
Fuel capacity 18 litres
Dry weight 166kgs
Warranty 2 years
Price £8800 September 2005