World first test: Suzuki GSX-R1000

Published: 23 November 2016

We join British champ Taylor Mackenzie for first UK test of 2017 bike.

Newly crowned National Superstock 1000 champ Taylor Mackenzie is a few metres ahead, carving through Gerrards. I’m on the current GSX-R1000 and he’s on the heavily revised new one, in all its nimble, lightweight, 199bhp glory.

We can’t ride the new Suzuki until its Phillip Island launch in February, but Hawk Racing have just taken delivery of the first one to arrive in the UK, so they can transform it into a BSB racer. 

This season the Buildbase team ran BMWs in MCE British Superbikes, but have now switched to Suzuki. Taylor won the 2016 Superstock 1000 title on an S1000RR and the team have given him a quick run-out to get his first impressions of the GSX-R1000 he’ll ride in next year’s stock series. 

‘It looks like a 600’

We can’t wait to hear what Mackenzie Junior thinks of the bike we’ve been looking forward to for too many years. 

Old and new are parked together in the paddock and the new GSX-R1000 looks more like a 600. It’s a lot slimmer, especially the frame rails and back end. The new bike’s going to look as sexy as hell once you get rid of the standard number plate hanger. 

The low November sunshine isn’t strong enough to dry the track immediately, but slowly a dry line appears and Taylor can put some heat in the standard Bridgestone
RS10 trackday tyres. 

‘From where I’m sitting the Suzuki looks slim, agile and easy to ride fast’

It’s hard to know what the GSX-R will sound like in stock trim because the standard titanium can has been replaced with a fruity-sounding Yoshi.  

The new Suzuki looks slim, agile and easy to ride fast, but the current bike isn’t exactly shabby. The old motor is packed full of easy grunt and can pull third gear power wheelies. It too is agile, has confidence-inspiring handling and strong brakes. In fact, its Bridgestone S21 tyres are better-suited to these cold damp conditions than Taylor’s RS10s. But he’s got traction control, rider modes, anti-wheelie and engine braking control. I’ve got an LCD clock.

The new bike promises more of everything: easy speed, safety, agility and electronic refinement. You never really notice the step up in superbike evolution when you ride the latest and greatest, but when you go back the differences are blinding.

Jump on the current GSX-R1000 from a top superbike like an R1 or S1000RR on track - bikes that have a good 30bhp more – and you’re stunned by its relative lack of power, but on the road the Suzuki is still a joy thanks to its raw, low-down grunt. The new Gixer’s VVT motor promises all the current bike’s meaty bottom end with a searing top end. It should be the best of both worlds with sharper handling and cutting-edge electronics. And with competitive pricing, the new GSX-R1000 looks appealing. 

Mackenzie says ‘Power-wise it feels similar to my race bike’

I've ridden the old bike a lot on James Whitham’s school days. It’s really nice, very smooth and great for trackdays. But to race, it was lacking that last bit. It wasn’t the fastest and was a little bit big and heavy.

“The new one is like jumping on a race bike. It feels like a tuned GSX-R1000, but still very smooth, especially the way the power comes in, which is handy in tricky conditions. It’s so docile you could ride it to the shops as well as thrash it around a track. It still has the same GSX-R character, but it now goes like the latest 1000s – it’s got that extra bit you need. 

“It’s small, the seat is low and it doesn’t feel like you’re getting on a big, aggressive beast of a bike. It’s more like a sharp and sporty 600 than a 1000. The suspension feels like you’re sat on a race bike, too, not a road bike and it handles really nicely. It’s a step forward in that sense. 

“I tried all the traction control modes. On the maximum setting it will save anything, so it’s quite nice and the way the traction cuts when the tyre slides is different to what I’ve ridden before and instils confidence. 

“The brakes are really good, but the ABS is a lot subtler and there’s no massive pumping through the lever when the grip goes.

“I’m really impressed with the overall package. It’s what Suzuki needed and something people can be really excited about. It will be the revival of the GSX-R and you’ll see a lot of them about once they hit the dealers next year. I can’t wait to race it.”

John Reynolds, Three-time BSB champ, says: ‘It’s the best road bike I’ve ridden’

“I’ve been gagging to tell people just how good it is, but I haven’t been able to talk about it... until now.

“As a test rider my role is about pushing the bike and trying to make it the best it can be. It’s not easy telling  people you’re working with there’s things to be done, the Japanese especially. 

“My role starts at the beginning of the bike’s development. I’ve tested it at Suzuki’s Ryuyo track in Japan and in Europe in all sorts of scenarios: autobahns, bumpy roads, country roads, circuits and altitude testing. 

“The aim was to make the GSX-R1000 faster than any other road bike in its class. We worked on the engine, the new traction control and riding modes. There’s 10 levels of traction control. On number 10 you can ride it in a muddy field and level one is for the racetrack. I wanted this bike to slide, so you can get it sideways slightly. It was good fun developing it.

“The only thing the new GSX-R1000 has in common with the old bike is the Suzuki badge. It’s a new chassis, engine and so many other different bits and pieces make it a different bike to ride. It’s so much sharper. It’s the best road bike I’ve ever ridden.” 

Old GSX-R - Price: £10,999

  • Engine: 999cc (76 x 55.1mm), 16v inline four-cylinder
  • Power: 182bhp@13,200rpm
  • Torque: 86ftlb@10,800rpm
  • Kerb weight: 203kg
  • Tank size: 17.5 litres
  • Seat height: 810mm

New GSX-R - Price: £13,500 (est)

  • Engine: 999cc (76 x 55.1mm), 16v inline four-cylinder
  • Power: 199bhp (claimed)
  • Torque: 87ftlb (claimed)
  • Kerb weight: 203kg
  • Tank size: 16 litres
  • Seat height: 825mm

To read how Mackenzie rates the GSX-R against his title-winning bike pick up this week's MCN November 23 issue, on sale now. 

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