It’s early the end of 2015 and I’m terribly sad that I’m riding a Suzuki GSX-S1000. Not because this isn’t a great bike for a brilliant price, but because it’s something we all should have enjoyed riding 10 years ago. And while Suzuki is late to the party, the naked GSX-S1000 is an excellent machine that is in keeping with the GSX pedigree.
It’s not surprising that motorcycle manufacturers are increasingly ‘converting’ their superbikes into something more useable for every day riding, especially when the people who grew up with those superbikes in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are now getting on in years and probably not as flexible as before. What is surprising is that it’s taken Suzuki so long to bring this bike to market.
That’s mainly down to how hard Suzuki was hit by the GFC and especially in the US where the automotive division had to shut up shop there. It meant the bean counters took over and Suzuki was left to sell what they had rather than develop new machines. Thankfully, things are turning around now and we’re fortunate enough to have the S1000.
The GSX-S1000 receives a street tuned version of the donk that featured in the GSX-1000 from 2005 to 2008. That’s right, it doesn’t actually use the current engine from its superbike brother. The reason for that is Suzuki felt that previous generation motor was a better base to use for a street focussed bike.
Changes to the engine include new pistons, cam profiles and throttle bodies. The result is a bike with better low to mid range performance than the track focussed GSX-1000. And it shows. The bike pulls hard from very, very low down and keeps on giving. Most riders tend to short shift on the street and this bike seems perfectly adapted for it because by about 8,000 rpm it was accelerating hard. But if you do keep going until redline, it gets even better.
Looking at the specifications, the S1000 is definitely down on horsepower when compared to the competition from BMW, Aprilia and KTM – but you wouldn’t know it. Perhaps it’s the gearing or just the characteristics of this engine, but the GSX-S1000 feels every bit as quick as the Europeans. That shouldn’t be surprising however – Suzuki’s GSX-S1000 has always punched above its weight. Fans of the in-line four will feel right at home here. It’s an extremely tractable engine with what feels like oodles of power no matter what gear you’re in.
Sadly, the enjoyment of the beautiful engine is blunted somewhat by the throttle response of the bike. It’s very, very sensitive. The most minute movement of the throttle bar translates into either a surge of power or heavy engine braking. In lower gears it’s most noticeable but still a feature in in the fourth and fifth cogs.
For the most part it’s not a huge issue, but there were two scenarios where I did find it unpleasant. First was on slow corner exits – when you’re in first or second gear and begin to twist the throttle, you don’t particularly want a big surge in power – you want smooth power delivery and the GSX-S1000 isn’t really accommodating in that regard. Secondly, going over rough roads we found the that those undulations in the road translated to the engine so that as you go up and down in your seat, it feels like the bike is almost surging on and off.
Over the course of our time on the bike we did gradually notice it less and for me personally it wouldn’t be a reason not to buy this bike as there’s too many other great things going for it. Even exiting corners in higher gears went some way to alleviate the issue and given the power this engine has, that’s an entirely reasonable thing to do.
But in another sense that’s part of this bike’s character. If I could describe riding the GSX-S1000 in one word, it would be raw. I don’t use that phrase in a negative light, in fact it’s what will draw a lot of people to this bike. But the GSX-S1000 isn’t a plaything, it’s a bike that demands respect and focus. And if you’re up for it, it’s an incredibly rewarding ride.
To me this translates into a machine that’s perhaps better suited for more experienced riders. It’s definitely not point and shoot like the Tuono and S1000XR which at times seem almost too easy to ride quickly and are very forgiving – instead the GSX-S1000 requires a more thoughtful approach – your lines, braking and turn in points are more important on this machine which makes for an engaging ride.
That’s probably the target market of this machine anyway – as riders get older, they might still want plenty of horsepower on tap, but just in a package that’s a little more comfortable and practical and they still want to feel like they’re riding a superbike.
What isn’t raw is the brakes – they’re fantastic. On the front is a four piston 310mm floating-mount disc and it’s one of the better setups we’ve used lately. When under braking you still feel like the front end is communicating with you and the lever seems perfectly tuned for precise braking.
The bike we tested came with ABS which is standard in most markets, as is traction control. This is only the second time a bike from Suzuki has featured traction control and while it does a fine job, I probably could have done without it. This bike misses out on lots of the latest gadgets and gizmos like engine modes, launch control, multiple level ABS and so on – and it’s better for it. Don’t get me wrong, those are wonderful advancements in motorcycle technology, but at the same time I don’t want every bike to come with those things – sometimes you just want a simple – raw – motorcycle experience and that’s what the GSX-S1000 provides.
And the upside of this lack of advanced technology is the price – the Suzuki GSX-S1000 is extremely good value. Priced at $9,999 for the non-ABS version and $10,499 for the ABS model, there’s nothing out there cheaper. The closest is probably Yamaha’s ageing FZ1N but after that you’re looking at nearly $5,000 extra and up for the alternatives from BMW and so forth.
For a brand new bike with a warranty and oodles of performance, I don’t think there’s anything out there in the market that’s better value. Think of it as the gateway drug into the super naked market…
With thanks to Sunstate Motorcycles for the provision of their bike.