Party in the park! Suzuki's GSX-8S takes on a weekend of fun at Cadwell Park

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When it was announced that the Suzuki Live event would return for 2023 as a weekend-long trackday celebration at Cadwell Park, I knew I had to be a part of it.

With the gathering open to both modern and classic Suzuki machinery, and me living just a stone’s throw from the circuit, it was the perfect chance to let the Suzuki GSX-8S off the leash and discover whether it’s capable of cutting loose and cracking a smile on the challenging 2.2-mile course.

Perfect preparation

With the 8S now having covered more than 2500 miles, the standard fitment Dunlop Roadsmart 2 tyres had begun to square noticeably. They’re also very hard and lack feel in the cold and wet – not what you want for a two-day on-track extravaganza.

A pair of Suzuki GSX-8S' on track

To combat this, I decided to make an upgrade – opting for a set of Continental’s latest ContiSportAttack 4 tyres, which are designed for sporty road riding and the occasional trackday. With just shy of 82bhp being fed to the back wheel, I felt they’d be more than up to the task of providing confidence-inspiring grip around Cadwell.

Alongside changing the tyres, I also fitted a £42.79 black plastic brake lever guard from R&G (guards are mandatory on track these days). The bulky hero blobs were also removed for a touch more ground clearance and the seven-stage rear shock preload was wound round to the firmest setting.

All of this was a piece of cake, but I did have to unscrew the rear brake fluid reservoir to allow more purchase on the rear shock, which is hard to access for adjustment with a C-spanner.  

The big day

Cornering left at Cadwell Park on a Suzuki GSX-8S

Breezing the noise test with its Euro5 friendly standard exhaust system, the GSX-8S felt at home on the undulating twists of Cadwell Park. It’s not the fastest, firmest, or most focused bike I’ve ever ridden there, but the easy ergonomics and circa 125mph top speed made it refreshingly fun to ride – with the bike never feeling out of shape or intimidating across the weekend.

It also continued to be impressively frugal, drinking less than one full tank of fuel on the Saturday. Annoyingly, the fuel gauge was a little bit eager – claiming that it had zero miles range remaining and forcing me to leave a session early, only to find plenty of E10 still sloshing when I opened the tank in the paddock.

Stopping power

I must’ve covered around 200 miles across the weekend without a hint cramp, aches, or arm pump. Across that time, the stand-out element was definitely the front brakes.

Riding the Suzuki GSX-8S at Cadwell Park

Unlike so many Japanese bikes, the four-piston radial Nissin calipers provided a consistently strong, progressive feel – giving me the confidence to brake later before corner entry, with next to no fade at all. Occasionally the ABS got involved when I didn’t want it to and it would’ve been nice to be able to turn it off, but it would be unfair to criticise a bike of this kind for that.

Grinding away

Despite me having whipped away the hero blobs, the pegs would still occasionally touch down – reminding me I needed to hang off further on the next lap around.

However, for a circa £8000 parallel twin naked, the 8S delivered a performance far more enjoyable than you’d expect. The tyres wore well, and I will try my best to return to the track soon.

Island adventure: Suzuki’s GSX-8S takes a trip to the Isle of Man TT races

Published 19.07.23

Suzuki GSX-8S parked in the Isle of Man TT pitlane

Having taken delivery of the Suzuki GSX-8S just under two weeks before my crossing to the Isle of Man for TT 2023, and with just 870 miles under my belt, I wasn’t sure how it would cope with the 190-mile motorway run to Heysham ferry port.

There’s no wind protection, a modest 14-litre fuel tank, and minimal space at the rear to mount any luggage – leaving me concerned that it would fail to live up to the benchmark set by my KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo, which I lived with last year.

But as has been the case with everything on the GSX-8S so far, however, I needn’t have worried. It was good as gold.

The peppy 81.7bhp parallel twin has more than enough oomph to stay ahead of motorway traffic and, despite being naked, there’s minimal buffeting at road legal speeds – with the streamlined front end and exposed TFT dash going some way to keeping the wind off. It’s been frugal too, delivering 66.4mpg during the most spirited of rides.

Vibration station

Waiting for the ferry home from the Isle of Man TT races

Unfortunately, there were a few niggles – chief among which was the vibration through the footpegs at motorway speeds. During the bike’s reveal, Suzuki spoke at length about the new ‘Cross Balancer’ technology in the engine, said to contribute to a smoother ride.

However, at 70mph in top gear, the tingle through the pegs can become annoying and after 100 miles in the saddle you want to get off and give your feet a rest.

What’s more, I used the excellent £144.99 Oxford T30R Tail Pack (review coming soon) on the rear seat to carry my clothes, and when used with a rucksack it forces you forwards onto the thin part of the seat – giving you a numb bum after 20 miles or so. That’s not a fault of the bike of course, just something to consider if you’re thinking of touring on one.

Island bound

Once on the Isle of Man, the Suzuki was fabulous – with the upright bars, torquey motor, and frugal nature making it ideal for navigating the bike-clogged streets and offering more than enough grunt to have fun on coast roads.

It also turned heads wherever it went. I didn’t see another in the week that I was there and was inundated by riders asking questions about what exactly it was.

I remain very impressed with the bike, with work now underway to make it a tad sportier – ready for a hot date with Cadwell Park later on in July. More on that next time.

Usable power and solid road holding has Dan hooked on the Suzuki GSX-8S

Published 26.06.23

Cornering left on a Suzuki GSX-8S

I first clapped eyes on the Suzuki GSX-8S just over six months ago just ahead of its public reveal at the 2022 Eicma trade show and I’ve been hooked on the idea of living with one ever since.

Back in 2018 I spent 12 months and 15,000 magical miles aboard the firm’s V-twin SV650X and wanted another slice of mid-sized, manageable naked fun that I could use on the road without having to worry about dash cams, and jail time.

Flash forward to the back end of May 2023 and I’m picking up the keys for a GSX-8S, ready to spend the next year putting it through its paces on my favourite Lincolnshire roads, along my dull as dishwater A16 commute, on a couple of cheeky track sessions, and a few days on tour. I’m a lucky so-and-so and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Suzuki GSX-8S parked up

So far so good

As I write this after 872 miles and just shy of two weeks in the saddle my thoughts so far are overwhelmingly positive. I rode the latest Honda CB750 Hornet just weeks prior to picking this bike up and I was quite worried that the 8S would struggle to live up to it. I needn’t have worried.

Compared to Yamaha’s MT-07 and the aforementioned Hornet, the Suzuki feels surer footed – with firmer springs and a fatter 180-section rear tyre helping it to hold an impressive line at speed when you’re banked into a corner.

It also comes with the best dash of the trio – a full colour TFT affair that I would say is Suzuki’s best attempt yet, with all of the information you need sitting right where you want it to be. That is, of course, everything but an ambient temperature gauge, which is conspicuous by its absence and an odd decision – given many of these will be snapped up as affordable year round commuters.

Cornering right on the Suzuki GSX-8S

Away from the tech, the new motor is a peach. The first properly fresh big bike engine from the brand since the 2017 GSX-R1000 superbike, it had a lot riding on it, and I’m really pleased to say Suzuki have done a top job.

Complete with a 270-degree crank, it makes all the right rumbles as you ride along, with an impressible dollop of midrange that allows you to skate round traffic without stamping down on the shifter like a drummer’s bass pedal. It’s not bad on fuel either, returning a measured 66.08mpg across a day of riding.

When you do need to change gear though, the standard fitment up and down quickshifter is a gem – snicking up and down the box without fault and really adding to the rider engagement on a technical backroad.

Suzuki GSX-8S rear light unit

Going numb

It can’t all be 10/10 though and after 100 miles in the saddle you’ll want to get off and give your bum a rest from the seat, which isn’t the most padded cushion I’ve ever sampled. At a constant motorway speed, the engine also generates a mildly irritating vibration through the foot pegs.

Finally – and I know it’s subjective – I just can’t warm to the design of the rear light. I like the front end and the side profile, but I cannot fathom why the designers opted for the rear lighting in the number plate bracket.

Not only will this make fitting a tail tidy nigh on impossible, but it also leaves the rear plastics beneath the pillion seat looking decidedly unfinished. Who knows, perhaps I’ll warm to it over time.

About the tester

I spent 2018 covering 15,000 miles on Suzuki’s SV650X and loved every second. The Suzuki GSX-8S lines up to replace the SV in my affections. I plan to tackle a tour and modify it lightly to enjoy the bends without getting into trouble. 


Video: Suzuki GSX-8S vs Honda CB750 Hornet