60 years of Suzuki: RGV500 vs GSX-R1000

By MCN -

First rides & tests

 12 April 2012 14:24

These two blue and white machines represent the best of the Suzuki best. Right now, the 166bhp, 203kg 2012 GSX-R1000 is the ultimate incarnation of the Japanese firm’s road-going superbike and this 1998 ex-Nobuatsu Aoki RGV500, making 180bhp and weighing just 130kg was one of the last of the fearsome 500cc GP bikes. 

One’s a two-stroke V4, one’s a four stroke inline four. The RGV500 is a prototype Grand Prix bike ridden by one the world’s elite racers and the other is fully road legal, available for anyone to buy from their local Suzuki dealer (and it’s the cheapest of all the 1000s) and one of the most iconic superbikes of modern times.

Despite their differences, the passage of time has made them very similar in performance so your new GSX-R1000 really is as fast as a 500 Grand Prix bike, which is pretty cool. 

Although from different worlds, the RGV500 was a huge inspiration for Suzuki’s road-going superbike (as well as the mouth-watering RG250 and RGV250 two-strokes of the late 80s and early 90s)

 You can see from the pictures that Aoki’s bike has the same colour scheme and bulbous tail unit as the 1998 ‘SRAD’ GSX-R750.

It also inspired the road bike’s upside down forks, 17” three-spoke wheels and  aluminium beam frames with built-in ‘flex’ for better feel for the riders in the corners, cementing the GSX-R’s reputation of being the raciest of all its rivals.

2001 was the last year of the RGV500 and 500cc two-stroke rules in GPs, before the 990cc four-stroke MotoGP machines came to town the following year. That year may have waved goodbye to the RGV500, but it also gave birth to the mighty GSX-R1000.

Even by today’s standards and despite all the new technology around now, money can’t buy a machine that handles like this 500cc GP bike. Compared to this 14-year old RGV500 XR88, Panigales, S1000RRs, RSV4s and Suzuki’s own GSX-R1000 still don’t come close.

On the scales, fuelled and ready to go, the 180bhp RGV500 weighs just 130kg, which is over 11 stone lighter than the 169bhp GSX-R100. It’s so light that at a standstill you can straddle the bike and lift the front wheel clean off the ground by pulling up on the bars, like a pushbike.

This is why 500s have a deservedly fearsome reputation: the Grand prix bike’s power-to-weight ratio is 1.38bhp.kg, the road bike’s is just 0.83bhp/litre.

Without the burden of weight the RGV500 can be guided into any of the turns here at Silverstone with unbelievable speed – and still hit the apex. Try doing the same speed on the heavier GSX-R1000 and it would completely miss the corner, fly to the edge of the track and off into the barriers.

Read the full six page test in the April 11 issue of MCN.