Suzuki launches its flagship GSX-R1000 in India. Just another insane litre class machine or does it really make sense?
The next three corners, left-right-left, are clear and show no sign of traffic. Not a single soul. The speedometer is reading just above 120km/h in the third gear. The first left-hander arrives, downshift, throttle rolled, a bit of counter steer, weight transferred, on the gas again and within no time, the bike is exiting the left and getting ready for the right. By the end of the three-corner complex, something has changed in my life. Though its strictly not recommended, I am reading the speedo at the exit of the second left-hander. It still reads speeds above 120km/h. Images of the speed limit boards flash in my memory. I was not supposed to do what I had just done. It was a temptation very hard to suppress, but it had just created a new memory for me. My first knee scraping act on a litre bike, or rather a supersports/superbike, had been executed. And it meant a lot more than just that, because it had come on a bike that is not exactly regarded as rider friendly or a rather forgiving machine. I had just about put 60 to 70km on the Gixxer so far and I was already pretty comfortable on it. I had not expected the GSX-R to be so fantastic before I first got on to it. Litre bikes are no fun, especially in a country like India. But this one was pure joy for which there are quite a lot of reasons. The GSX-R1000 K10 is an all-new bike. This is the first real all-new upgrade to the bike since its launch in 2001. The all-new implies the engine, chassis, suspension, swingarm, electronics and absolutely everything that would matter in a bike of its class. The cosmetics of the bike have been more or less the same ever since the Gixxer 1000 made it to the market. The one that we had for test here comes from Europe. Clad in white and blue, the GSX-R is nothing less than a seduction. The blue from the body panels flows on to the chassis and swingarm as well, in matte, and looks more than stunning. Sharp edges at the front flow and gel seamlessly with the razor sharp tail. The only curvature that you find on the bike comes in the form of the slightly arched twin exhausts. Special efforts towards attaining superb aerodynamics are clearly visible. Suzuki’s trademark stacked headlamps add to the aggression of the already menacing front end while the LED tail lamps are the final signature of the Gixxer’s new age style statement. The real deal, however, starts with the engine of the GSX-R. The new over-square, short stroke engine ensures free and high revving. Titanium valves for intake and exhaust come with two springs that ensure all the extreme demands from the engine are comfortably taken care of. The 999cc motor powering the Gixxer is not exactly refined. It has a grunt, a growl, which notifies us of its no-nonsense performance. The point to be noted here is that the engine does feel a bit lethargic low down at around 3000 revs. However, don’t mistake this as a negative. The beauty of this behaviour is that it makes the bike pretty rideable in city traffic since the jerky on-off power delivery is absent (a lot of credit for this also goes to the improved fuel injection) and the engine doesn’t ask for continuous toggling between the cogs in slow moving traffic. Nonetheless, past 5000 revs, under heavy wrist wringing action, the front rubber starts repelling the tarmac (yeah, I love that) and the floating front is a complete delight.
Once in those higher revs, the Suzuki turns into a wild beast that is ready to pounce at every goddamn thing that comes in its path. With 180 available horses at crank, it has immense outright power. That, from a bike weighing 205 kilos (kerb), is very close to 0.9:1 power-to-weight ratio. Terrific! The peak power is available at 12000 revs, which is 1800rpm shy of the redline. However, anything beyond 8000 revs is nothing less than violence. The ferociously fast Gixxer is a dream come true for a man who wants more power than what he can imagine of handling. The sheer aggression with which the Suzuki delivers power to the rear wheel is a different story altogether. Beat this: you can read 161km/h on the speedo if you have the balls of pulling the first gear of the Gixxer all the way to the redline. Orgasmic, isn’t it? A superb throttle response and most importantly, a very good feedback to the rider is something that differentiates the Suzuki from most other litre class motorcycles that I have managed to ride till date. Brutal acceleration in the first three gears assures wheelies. It might do so in the fourth as well, however, we didn’t really get the opportunity to try that. I won’t really be surprised if anyone comes up to me and tells me that he/she pulled a wheelie in fourth, cause its damn possible. Talking of gears, the transmission and clutch is worth more than just a mention here. The shifts through the gears are highly precise and I love the cable-operated clutch (hydraulics don’t really give the same feedback like good ol’ cables, do they?). What impresses me the most is the slipper clutch though. It is something that is not completely new, but it was the first time I got an opportunity to try it out thoroughly and without a doubt, it left me awestruck. The way the GSX-R’s rear would stay in line under quick downshifts without losing composure is phenomenal. Okay, so we have a lot of power that is being produced at the crank and we also know that most of it is being delivered to the rear wheel. However, what is the point in having all this power if it cannot be tamed, if it cannot by utilized and if it can be only experienced in straight line acceleration? The Suzuki GSX-R1000 continued to impress further as I tried to find the answers to these questions. Let’s go back to where we started. The knee dragging experience was still very fresh in my mind. This was possible because of two good reasons – impeccable handling and flawless rider-motorcycle connection. Most of the credit for the spot on handling has to be given to the Showa Big Piston Fork (BPF). This new suspension comprises of bigger, lighter forks that have a very simple internal construction. A single internal piston in each fork takes care of rebound and compression damping. The most important and crucial benefit of the Showa BPF front end suspension is that it gives a fantastic feedback to the rider. Under hard braking and turning into a corner, the sudden dive is absent. Instead, a smooth and gradual dive gives you utter confidence to push harder and most importantly, the immaculate handling. Overall, the chassis and suspension of the Gixxer has been completely updated that features a longer swingarm (helps in better traction during exiting corners) yet shorter wheelbase (for sharp and precise handling). Sounds like the perfect compromise? It ought to be. The kind of stability and planted feel of the GSX-R in corners is a complete confidence booster.
So there is immense power and also the ability to utilize it. That should be enough to impress a hardcore biker. But there is more to the Gixxer than just the power and handling. The electronic equipment level is not too high but sufficient for a road bike. The power delivery comes through three modes A, B and C, which can be toggled through with the help of a switch that hides under the switchgear on the left clip-on. Brilliantly tucked in and easily accessible, the modes give you an option of response form the throttle body. A is the default mode which is full blown power delivery. Madness. B reduces the throttle response a bit and the C mode turns the bike into an obedient machine. The foot pegs are three-way adjustable and they manage to give a very good handlebar-footpeg-seat geometry, mind you, for aggressive riding only. Another good thing about the GSX-R1000 is that it comes with a standard steering damper, which really takes care of the insane tankslappers under full throttle acceleration. The sitting posture is radical and can get on your nerves in the city. Talking of that, the stiff suspension (once again, its fantastic in the corners) also becomes a problem on bumpy surfaces, especially cement roads and manages to transfer the slightest of undulations on the road surface to your spine. After spending about 300km with the GSX-R1000, I was actually in a confused state of mind. I hadn’t expected things to be the way they turned out. One, because as I mentioned earlier, it is an established belief that litre bikes are no fun in a country like India and two, because racebred machines are the worst option considering hardly any Indian customer is actually going to ride hard on a racetrack. But I was in for a surprise. The GSX-R is not all that bad in the city (except for the radical sitting posture) and with its good handling and immense amount of power, it makes for a very good bike for the weekend twisties session as well. Moreover, the Gixxer has killer looks. Maximum attention guaranteed! What else can you want? Probably, a cheaper price tag. At Rs 14.03 lakh (on-road, Pune), the GSX-R is more expensive than its elder brother, the Hayabusa. And for those who can’t really take the massive aggression of the Gixxer, Suzuki has also brought in the Bandit 1250S. Jump to page 68 as Bunny takes one out on a rainy ride to Mahabaleshwar and beyond!
Photography: Sanjay Raikar