Handling was never a GSX-R1000 weak point, but Suzuki has gifted their new machine a compact new aluminium beam frame and longer swingarm to sharpen things up.
New Showa ‘Balance Free’ forks and ‘Balance Free Cushion lite’ rear shock (similar to the ZX-10R’s) give a plush ride and lots of feeling for grip. But the standard set-up is road-soft and needs tweaking for the circuit.
Low speed agility is superb, but it takes effort to make quick direction changes at speed and hold a line in faster corners. It’s here where the stiffer-set, pointier superbikes, like the Ducati 1299 Panigale, Aprilia RSV4 RF and Yamaha R1 are crisper on track.
With revised Brembo caliper settings and bigger discs (up 10mm to 320mm) the stopping power is strong, but there’s a little bit of feel missing and some fade after a handful of hard laps, which seems to be the hallmark of the latest Japanese braking systems. But the GSX-R’s brakes have more bite than those on the R1 and ZX-10R.
Furthermore, we’ve also ridden the Suzuki GSX-R1000 on Bridgestone S22 tyres.
Watch: lap of Brands Hatch on Suzuki GSX-R1000
Stab the one-touch starter (and no need to pull the clutch in now) and the over-square 999cc inline four-cylinder motor barks into life. It’s as gloriously raw and angry as ever, snorting and growling through airbox and titanium pipe (let’s not mention the end can).
The Suzuki is fast. It’s not just a bit quicker than the trusty old bike, it’s ZX-10R-R1-1299 Panigale quick, as it would be with a claimed 199bhp oozing from its shrunken new engine cases.
But more impressively there’s a torrent of power right through the rev range, thanks to Suzuki’s ‘Broad Power System’ which includes new exhaust valves, secondary injectors, dual stage inlet trumpets and of course the eagerly anticipated new Variable Valve Timing.
The new motor combines old-school GSX-R1000 grunt, with a modern superbike top end rush, a flawless power curve and an accurate throttle. Think svelte ZX-10R with added midrange punch.
There’s so much grunt you can go a gear higher through corners and still be rapid, which is good news on the road where you surf grunt, away from the upper reaches of the rev range.
A new six-speed, close ratio cassette gearbox slices through cogs with blade-like precision and is ably assisted by a super-slick electronic quickshifter and autoblipper system.
How does the VVT system work?
Suzuki engineers have developed a variable valve timing set-up that skirts around the rules banning the systems in MotoGP, and the very same design will feature on the new GSX-R1000.
During the GSX-R’s unveiling at the Milan motorcycle show late last year, Suzuki announced that it ‘takes in technologies developed in MotoGP such as intake VVT’ – which raised some eyebrows since MotoGP rules specify that: ‘Variable valve timing and variable valve lift systems, driven by hydraulic and/or electric/electronic systems, are not permitted.’
The implication is that the GSX-RR MotoGP racer features a VVT system that circumvents that rule by using neither electronics nor hydraulics, and that the same design is used in the GSX-R1000. Now patent drawings have revealed how the Suzuki system works and how it’s legal in MotoGP.
Most simple variable valve timing set-ups including the only two variable valve systems currently offered on large production bikes – Ducati’s DVT system and Kawasaki’s GTR1400 – are based on hydraulic cam phasers. These allow the camshaft to rotate a few degrees in relation to its drive sprocket, either advancing or retarding the valve timing in the process.
Oil is forced into chambers inside the phaser to move and lock the camshaft into its advanced or retarded position. An electronic valve and control system directs the oil, making such set-ups fall foul of MotoGP regulations on both the ‘electronic’ and ‘hydraulic’ fronts.
Like most cam phasers, the Suzuki design splits the cam sprocket into two halves. One half carries the sprocket itself, the other attaches to the camshaft, and there’s scope for a few degrees of rotation between the two.
On Suzuki’s design, there are no hydraulics or electronics. Instead, radial grooves are machined onto the inner faces of the phaser’s halves, into which steel balls fit. Those balls move outwards under centrifugal force as revs increase.
The phasing happens because the grooves on the two surfaces don’t exactly line up; those on the sprocket side of the phaser are slightly curved while the camshaft-side ones are straight. As the balls move towards the outer edge, the fact that the grooves on one half are curved means it must rotate in relation to the other, retarding the valve timing.
But how does the engine control it without electronics? The trick is that the radial grooves get shallower towards the outer edge, so as the balls move outward they also need to force the two halves of the phaser apart. The camshaft half of the phaser is attached via a spline, so it can slide in and out while keeping the shaft turning, while a spring pushes the halves together.
At low revs the spring overcomes the centrifugal force acting on the steel balls, pushing them back towards the centre of the phaser so the timing is shifted to its ‘advanced’ position, boosting low-end torque and improving throttle response.
As engine speeds increase, the centrifugal force pushes the balls outwards, retarding the timing and boosting peak power. While there’s no easily-tweakable electronics system to govern it, changing the tension on the spring will alter the revs that the timing changes at, allowing the system to be tuned, if required.
Suzukis never go bang so you’ll have no problem with reliability. Built quality is decent, but not quite at the level of its rivals.
This R model is cheaper than a top spec S1000RR, R1M, Blade SP, RSV4 RF and ZX-10RR, but slightly more than the R1, base Blade, S1000RR and ZX-10R. The base model GSX-R1000 is the best value and costs less than all its superbike rivals.
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As well as fully-adjustable suspension, a multi-function LCD dash, quickshifter and autoblipper, this is the first GSX-R1000 to come with a full suit of electronic ride aids including ride-by-wire, a choice of three riding modes and anti-stall (rpm is monitored and adjusted when you pull away or ride slowly).
Wheelie, launch and a 10-stage traction control are all controlled by a six axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which is right up there with the best systems found on the R1, ZX-10R, RSV4 RF and 1299 Panigale.
Traction control holds you safely into a spin or slide when you crack the gas. Open the throttle more and you drive forward smoothly with no electronic cuts or splutters. It’s a piece of cake to get used to and lean on within a few laps.
It’s the same story with the wheelie control. It softly retards power as the front lifts under hard acceleration, saving you the effort of having to climb over the front wheel trying to control all that power. And if you don’t believe in electronics you can turn the traction and wheelie control off.
Lean-sensitive cornering ABS is a no-brainer for the road, but it intrudes slightly on the track under very heavy braking and can’t be switched off.