Just like you, it has grown up

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THE brutal lines of the GS12000SS hark back to the days when bikes were all about wobbling around corners and laying down horsepower on the straights.

We’ve already had 1970s retros such as the Zephyr 1100, and 1960s retros like the new Triumph Bonnie. Now there’s this a machine designed to look just like a GSX-R1100 from the mid-1980s.

But don’t dig out your ripped paddock jacket, battered ankle boots and torn jeans just yet the guys at Suzuki haven’t decided whether they will bring the bike to the UK.

If they do, you’ll find it’s not just the looks that are reminiscent of the 1980s. The seat is much lower than a modern sports bike’s and also feels wide and flat, splaying your legs apart John Wayne-style.

The handlebars hark back to the GSX-R1100, too. The reach is low and wide, tucking your body behind a tall screen and a steep tank. The forward-tilted riding position is good for attacking fast A-roads or twisty Tarmac, but it’s also roomy and comfy enough to allow you to travel long distances and still look good in your Frank Thomas paddock boots.

The GS1200 is based on the naked 1200 Inazuma, a Japan-only machine with an engine was derived from the 1200 Bandit which in turn was built around the oil-cooled GSX-R1100 motor. So the GS1200 isn’t just a copy of the older Suzuki it actually has a little bit of the original bike under its fairing, too.

Unfortunately, the motor is restricted to 98bhp to comply with Japanese laws, but it’s far from being a slow old lump. Accelerate hard in first gear out of a hairpin and the front wheel easily lifts when you get to 6500rpm. Even if you put all your weight over the front you’ll have a job keeping the bike horizontal.

It charges hard out of corners in any gear and it’s fun keeping the motor spinning up to the red line at 9500rpm, even if you would get spanked by a modern sports bike.

But performance is not really what this bike is for. The GS1200 is like a Harley in the sense that it’s designed to evoke a certain kind of rebellious lifestyle except in this case it’s not about dropping out and hitting the highway, but hooning around the local ring road on a summer’s evening, putting one over on XR3i drivers.

The GS1200 isn’t all image, though. On an open road it’s fast enough for most people if you keep it in the middle of the torque and get on with lapping up corners. Rev it too much and it gets a bit buzzy, but then this is an old motor.

It’s stable, too, with a front end that is a bit on the soft side, but totally solid. There’s none of the headshake that modern bikes with their sharp steering head angles are prone to. That feels a bit weird at first as it seems like you’re riding a sports bike, but then you are it’s just an old-style one.

One problem is that it’s a little harsh at the rear when you’re under power over bumps. But this is a prototype and the rear suspension settings could be changed for production.

One significant way in which the GS1200 differs from its predecessor is that it actually goes around corners without trying to tip you into the nearest hedge. GSX-R1100s were renowned for their evil handling, but you get no sphincter-clenching moments here. The Inazuma frame is braced, so there’s none of that old GSX-R1100 flex. The front end turns in accurately and holds its line while braking and the rear shock behaves itself under power.

On this latter-day version you can play 1980s racers, moving your bum off the seat and sticking your knee out a little. Even though sliding knees on the road is a 1990s phenomenon, the GS1200 responds better when you move around. It could probably do with thinner tyres to help it turn, though.

If you loved the bad boy image of the GSX-R1100, but couldn’t help wishing the bike itself had better manners, the GS1200SS could be the ideal compromise.

There’s just one thing lacking. It begs to be painted in the colours of a 1980s race team like Skoal Bandit, or even the Suzuki blue and white. Let’s hope that’s changed if or when it comes here.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff