The original GSX-R1100 models were powered by oil cooled engines but, by the mid-1990s, Suzuki had prodded and poked their GSX-R1100 to a point where, to make any future power gains, they would have to give in and adopt the more conventional water cooled engine. In 1993 the GSX-R1100WP arrived. It had more power and more bulk, but was never any threat to the Honda CBR900RR Fireblade that had rewritten the rule in the sports bike rule book a year earlier. Neither was it quite the cult classic of the original oil cooled bikes but that didn’t stop many finding homes with the ‘Gixxer boys’ and those looking for an old school brute.
The Suzuki GSX-R1100WP quickly found friends. As was the case in the early 1990s, most European markets, including the UK, had power restrictions for these big superbikes though, once derestricted, the engine was good for 150bhp even if the chassis wasn’t really up for it. Unlike the 1127cc of the old oil cooler 1100, the new water cooled engine was only using 1074ccs. The chassis retained the ingredients of earlier models. The up and over frame remained, despite Yamaha moving the game on with its Deltabox technology, and its beams now boasting heaps of reinforcements which added unwanted weight in return for a chassis that could tame the increase in power. The water cooled 1100 got only one makeover before being dropped from the range in 1996. The WS model had a smaller frontal area and lost around 10 kilos in weight. It was all too little, too late and the GSX-R1100 was no more.
The GSX-R1100 remains an icon of the period though, a big and brutal superbike. It was never a track bike and many found themselves transformed into streetfighters after the inevitable interaction with the tarmac, so finding one in showroom condition can be something of a rarity these days.
What’s it like to ride?
There’s no other riding position like that of an old school GSX-R1100. It’s very much a head down and bottom up stance you have to adopt. The bars feel like they’re too far away, too low, and adding to the displeasure are the high foot pegs. On the move you can shuffle about to find a comfy spot, but it won’t last long before you’re fidgeting again. The engine is a beauty and more civilised than the older oil cooled motor. There’s nothing overly fancy about the technology used in the chassis, big upside down forks add stability and even more weight. For a 1990s bike it does feel very old fashioned, which is exactly why some owners buy one!
What to check when buying one?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, a Suzuki dealership in Peterborough. He said: “It’s not a model we tend to see these days as they’re too old for the showroom now, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad buy. Many of the water cooled GSX-R1100s started their lives in Europe as the mid 1990s was a prime time for parallel imports. High prices in the UK meant lots of dealers sourced new bikes from across the channel. Other than a KMH speedo and a headlight that dipped the wrong way, there wasn’t much different in spec, but there was a huge difference in cost. It’s all levelled out now, a check of the logbook will reveal if it was an official UK bike or not. With lots of these GSX-R1100s ending up street fightered or customised, finding a good standard bike can be tricky. Prices are in the shadows of older oil cooled models, so there are bargains to be had.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260, they service and repair bikes at their Norfolk workshop.
He added: “A brilliant engine in an average package, but there’s just not the love for these water cooled models like there is for the earlier GSX-R1100s. This means owners often buy them on the cheap and don’t spend too much cash on keeping them tip top. There’s no shortage of scruffy bikes with good motors. They’re carb sensitive, especially if a full race exhaust is fitted. If it runs lumpy or refuses to ideal, there’s nothing for it other than to take the carbs off and investigate. Inlet rubbers are prone to cracking which won’t help it run well. The motor itself is a good’un. Most bikes will have been unrestricted by now and produce a genuine useable 150 horses. The fairings on the WP and WR are different to the WS and WT, the later bikes also use a smaller headlamp.”