It seems hard to believe but 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the Suzuki GSX-R750, a motorcycle that revolutionized the sportsbike market and brought to the public what was probably the first true race replica. It was fast, it was gorgeous and even today it stands out among the crowd as a unique bike.
The GSX-R750 was the brainchild of Etsuo Yokouchi who wanted to break out of the conservative mold that was dominating the Japanese sportsbike industry at the time. The market was dominated by the likes of Yamaha’s FZ750 and the Kawasaki GPz900r – machines better known for straight line speed rather than being a complete package and which were heavy and lacked real innovation.
At the same time, Yokouchi was hamstrung by a gentleman’s agreement between the big Japanese motorcycle brands at the time to not manufacture bikes with more than 100 hp. But as is so often the case, such restrictions create opportunities and to Yokouchi the solution was simple – design a motorcycle that produced 100 hp yet be as light as possible. His desire was that the GSX-R750 weigh at least 20 per cent less than the Yamaha FZ750 and the Honda VF750. That would mean a dry weight of no more than 176 kg – a massive ask at the time.
But they achieved it. With 100 hp and a weight of 176 kg, the Suzuki GSX-R750’s power to weight ratio destroyed the competition. To achieve that, Suzuki employed a number of novel (for the time) innovations that shed weight. Oil-cooling was used to reduce cylinder temperatures without the added weight of a water jacket. The cam cover was made from lightweight magnesium instead of aluminium. The aluminium frame (instead of steel) weighed just 18 pounds (8kg).
Despite being a streetbike, Yokouchi didn’t want to comprise on the bikes performance characteristics and he insisted the GSX-R750 match the ergonomics and dimensions of a track bike as closely as possible. “What works on the track will work on the street,” he said. “The motorcycle does not know where it is being ridden.”
Upon release in 1985, the bike was regarded as being nearly perfect. The only major changes in those initial years were a slightly extended swingarm in 1986 and the inclusion of a steering damper in ’87.
Today, the current Suzuki GSX-R750 sits by itself in the market – no other manufacturer produces a 750 cc inline four anymore. Amazingly, the bore and stroke of the current bike (70 mm x 48.7 mm) matches that of the original of 30 years ago. And thankfully, despite so many new bikes putting on the pounds, the modern Suzuki GSX-R750 maintains the same spirit as its predecessors – power is 150 hp (110 kW) at 13,200 rpm with a dry weight of only 167 kg.
It’s a standout model in Suzuki’s lineup and shows that the smallest of the Japanese manufacturers still has plenty to offer.