The 100 bikes to ride before you die, brought to you by the guys at MCN's sister title, Performance Bikes.
More power, more torque, less weight, more useable. What’s not to like?
In the ever-increasing search for big horsepower, low-down usability is often the expendable casualty. Take the 2008 ZX-10R for instance – a frantic top end rush, perfect for the track; on the road, out-accelerated by a double decker bus to Charing Cross.
Which is partly why Suzuki’s first GSX-R1000, launched in 2001, was such a runaway success. In a backdrop of revvy sports bikes, the biggest GSX-R felt like a litre bike should.
Although the thunder deservedly went to the original class-leading K1, the 03 revision is where the smart money goes. With more power, even more torque and less weight to haul around, the K3 was a magnificent, flickable beast with a roar to match.
With a measured rear wheel 143bhp and 74lb.ft of torque from the fuel-injected 988cc motor, not only did it impress in the trouser department but the way it made use of it was sublime.
Unfortunately for Suzuki, Yamaha’s best-looking R1s were seducing the buying public and occupying centre stage. Which is what makes the K3 and K4 such great machines now. Often overlooked in favour of ‘sexier’ machinery, riding one today is an uplifting experience.
Sling a leg over the surprisingly soft perch and the familiar white face of a Suzuki tacho greets you like an old friend. Snick into first gear with a slickness only a Suzuki gearbox allows, open the 42mm throttle bodies and, at anything over 4000rpm, you’ll surge forward on a wave of teenage giggles as the front wheel sticks two fingers to gravity.
It loves to rev, all the way to the 12,000rpm redline. Find second and listen closely to the air being forced through the intakes, resonating beautifully as it does so. That’s aural sex.
Approach a corner, brake, brake, brake but still leave plenty in reserve from the stupendous Tokicos. The supple suspension barely breaks sweat as the black DLC (Diamond Like Coating) upside-down Kayaba forks work their magic. The rear stays composed, fat 190-section skimming the road.
The comfortable riding position makes steering simplicity itself as it responds to each and every input. A five year-old 1000cc bike shouldn’t be quite this agile, but it is. Despite a full tank of fuel, it drops into turns like it was near empty.
It all adds up to a bike that makes you feel great. It begs to be ridden to the shops, the track, the petrol station, to the Alps. Soul is a word often associated with Aprilias, Ducatis and other big European bikes that demand AA membership, not Japanese inline fours. But it doesn’t feel out of place to whisper it here.