It must be hard for a company like Suzuki to improve what many consider to be the finest liter-class sportbike on the market. True to its mantra, the 2006 GSX-R1000 “owned the racetrack” as it took race wins and championships the world over.
Clearly the Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday attitude still works, as the bike performed very well on the showroom floor, too. So the 2007 version of Suzuki’s flagship model definitely had some big shoes to fill at the U.S. launch at California Speedway in Fontana, California, last April. Four track sessions (three and a half actually, as a fellow moto-scribbler took a tumble early on) meant that the bike had to be ridden quickly and purposefully, as impressions needed to be made about the stronger engine, revised suspension, better brakes and the much talked-about mode-selector button. Though seat time was brief, I did walk away thinking one thing: The 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000 just may be the best thing to happen to sport-touring motorcycles since the saddlebag.
Hold the uproar; I’ll explain why in a second, but first let’s take a moment to evaluate the bike as a whole. Make no mistake, the newest Gixxer has racing written all over it, and it was evaluated with that in mind. The good news is that Suzuki claims the new engine creates more power than the model it replaces, thanks to revised engine mapping and intake and exhaust ports that are 10 and 20 percent larger, respectively. Peak power is also reached at 12,000 revolutions instead of 11,000 as on the previous model, by way of new 12-hole fuel injectors replacing the four-hole units on the K6, giving a broader spread of usable power with which to play. Unfortunately, our dyno was a bit under the weather and we couldn’t get real-world numbers before our print deadline, and Suzuki (perhaps to its credit) doesn’t publish claimed horsepower output for the GSX-R1000. If its competitors are any indication, expect this bike to make somewhere in the realm of 160 rear-wheel ponies.
The bad news is that in order to make all that power, the new 1000 gained a few pounds over its predecessor-about 14 of them actually. Suzuki claims that in order to meet Euro3 standards (and to keep Mother Nature happy) a larger catalyzer, along with other pollution-burning accessories, had to be added. Hence the dual exhausts to house all that witchcraft. Our dyno may have been down but the trusty Rider scale was fully operational and gave us a reading of 466 pounds for the latest Gixxer. From the looks of it, those 14 pounds are probably hiding in the exhaust system.
The new bike retains the 43mm male-slider fork with adjustable preload, compression and rebound, and the single rear shock from last year, only now they both sport high- and low-speed compression damping circuits. Stopping duties are handled by dual 310mm discs mounted to 10 points on the carrier as opposed to eight on the previous model to improve heat dissipation. They’re clamped by four-piston, radial-mounted calipers on each side. Out back is the usual single disc with a single-piston caliper.
Out on the track the more powerful engine shines. Acceleration was with typical liter-bike gusto and shifting through the six cogs only required a slight flick of the lever. The increase in weight definitely makes itself felt as turn in was rather gish, though tire profile may also be contributing here. Once leaned over the confidence from the front end never stops as it provides plenty of feedback and lets the rider know exactly what’s going on. Braking is also impressive as the power is strong and linear. Thanks to the slipper clutch, hard braking and banging down through the gears never produced so much as a hiccup from the rear end. For their parts, even at full throttle, the twin mufflers make the bike whisper quiet.
So what makes the GSX-R1000 so special, you ask? Simple. The two buttons placed vertically beside the throttle. Suzuki calls it the Drive Mode Selector-I call it the Next Big Thing. The SDMS lets the rider choose between three power settings to suit varying riding conditions. C-mode reduces engine power all around and softens throttle response by changing the fuel mapping and closing the secondary butter- flies. B-mode bumps up the power marginally until nearly full throttle, where it then switches to maximum power. A-mode is unrestricted, full-bore 1,000cc madness. Suzuki claims that this system was designed for optimum performance on the track, and while there’s some truth to that statement-say, in a wet race-what racer wouldn’t want all the power all the time? Where this system shines is out in the real world, where sport and sport-touring riders encounter riding conditions as varying as their skill sets.
So that’s where we went-off the track and onto the street. The beauty of the system is that with the push of a button you essentially get three different bikes. Even in the A-mode, power delivery is very civil. Fuel injection is spot-on and it showed both on the track and on the street. Careful throttle application is rewarded with linear acceleration, not eye-popping power like on other liter-class motorcycles. That’s not to say that it isn’t still a handful. Get a little sloppy or ham-fisted in A-mode and you can spin the rear tire out of corners. Riding in the C-mode, on the other hand, is like riding with an anchor tied to the back-everything is just slower. Suzuki is on the right track with this setting as it can definitely be utilized on wet roads, but in the dry the lack of power was downright annoying at times. On the street the B-mode proved to be the right combination of power and sensibility. Throttle response is only slightly weaker than in A-mode, which means you can get on the gas sooner without fear of upsetting the bike.
Our test bike seemed to turn in much easier on the street than it did on the track, and the B setting worked almost like traction control in that early throttle application gives great drive out of corners and the full power hit comes on by the time the bike is almost upright. The potential for this system goes way beyond sportbikes. Under a different state of tune, it can be used on plenty of big-bore motorcycles in all categories for riders in the real world. Imagine the many different riding conditions you’re bound to face on a cross-country trip. Being able to adjust the power output of your motorcycle for those conditions can be an excellent safety feature as well as a convenience item. Slick roads? Change to rain mode and activate the traction control. Need the occasional speed fix? Go to full power. Tooling along and not a gas station in sight? Flick the button and run on half the cylinders. The possibilities are endless.
In many cases the technology we see in motorcycles such as this eventually makes its way down to bikes that appeal to the masses. On its own, the latest literbike from Suzuki is a fine motorcycle. Despite the slight weight increase, it’s an easy bike to ride fast. The engine provides plenty of motivation, the suspension soaks up everything in its path and the brakes are only limited by your courage.
Throughout the history of motorcycles, there have been some significant models and features that have withstood the test of time. BMW popularized the shaft drive, the Honda Gold Wing is in a class of its own when it comes to touring and Ducati’s 916 cemented the fact that motorcycles can be beautiful and functional at the same time. While every bike is significant in one way or another, what will stake the 2007 GSX-R1000’s claim in the history books is a simple switch. It does more than just adjust the power output-if other manufacturers catch on, it has the potential to make all motorcycles that much more convenient and enjoyable. Sure, it may not help take the groceries home as well as a saddlebag, but I think I can live with that.
If you’re interested in the 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000, you may also be interested in the 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA Road Test.