CycleOnline.com.au test rides the 2015 Suzuki GSX-S1000.
If ever there was a nakedbike so eagerly anticipated, it’d have to be Suzuki’s 2015 model GSX-S1000. Ever since the release of the groundbreaking K1 GSX-R of 2001 we have waited for one of the rawest, yet composed and exciting, production superbikes to get a set of flat bars and have the fairings whipped off. It’s only taken 15 years, but that time has finally come!
Suzuki built big-bore nakedbikes before. After manufacturing their first four-stroke in 20 years in 1976 with the GS400 and 750, Suzuki went bigger again two years later in 1978 with the GS750. This four-cylinder engine design was to be the basis of all four-cylinder Suzuki’s until the release of the GSX-R750 in 1984.
By the early 80s, the GS family was updated to the four-valve per-cylinder GSX family. By the mid-80s, the GSX and GSX-R stood side by side in Suzuki’s range, with the GSX taking the roll of a softer, full-faired sports-tourer: a shadow of the imposing, exciting, big-bore nakedbike of old.
In a nod to the past, the new GSX-S1000 revives the powerful, exciting, and modern nature of the 80s nakedbikes. The GSX-S squeezes in between the GSX-R sportbikes and the GSX streetbikes as the GSX-S ‘street sports machines’ as Suzuki calls it.
With the GSX-R1000 production superbike on one side and the gentler, all-round Suzuki Bandit 1200 on the other, there is a big gap to fill in the range by the GSX-S1000 for a broad spectrum of riders – the sports-rider that wants big-bike excitement, but the practicality a nakedbike delivers; the rider that wants to get away for the weekend, but not feel like they are riding a touring bike every other day of the year; and, on a smaller scale, riders that want something they can commute or take to the track if they want to.
Fittingly for Suzuki, this segment of the motorcycle market is one of the fastest growing: experienced riders, getting older, moving on from sportsbikes, that ride mostly on weekends and occasionally get away for a weekend. Suzuki isn’t the only one that knows this: there is a new, modern, exciting nakedbike in every manufacturer’s range these days.
Rather than go back to the drawing board with the GSX-S engine design, Suzuki has taken the previous generation, long-stroke GSX-R1000 engine to build the GSX-S. The internal engine updates include a new piston design, camshafts and cylinder lining. The intention of these changes was to get better low to midrange power characteristics that road riding demands, whilst not compromising the top-end potential of the powerplant.
The new radiator design also cools the oil cooler keeping the design of the radiator more compact as well as the flow of the cooling lines looking tidier without a fairing to hide them.
The changes internally have dropped the compression ratio and dropped and spread the torque lower in the rev range. Whilst outright power is 30kW shy of the GSX-R1000, at 107kW it’s still not short on mumbo. Peak torque is only 10Nm shy of the GSX-R, but the GSX-S delivers over a wider range starting much lower in the rev range.
Outside of the engine, fuelling is by cable-actuated Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) system and an airbox ducted from big frontal intakes through the frame feeds the airbox directly.
At the other end, a new underslung exhaust design uses equaliser pipes and a butterfly valve to regulate back pressure. All in all, the aim of the redesigned intake and exhaust tracts has been for greater volumetric efficiency in combustion to meet the Euro 3 emissions controls – something the K7/8 GSX-R1000 engine didn’t do quite as well as the same K5/K6 Euro 2 engine.
In a day and age where electronic aides have nearly become a consumer requirement, the GSX-S marks a point in history by being the first Suzuki production sportsbike with traction control. Beaten to market by the V-Strom 1000 last year, the GSX-S uses the same Bosch 9M system that redefined motorcycle electronics on its release.
There are three different modes of intervention that use five sensors – throttle position, both wheel speed, crank position and gear position to control the delivery of power to the rear wheel – and you can turn the system off through the left side switchblock. The system also controls the ABS.
The dash is compact, very compact. It contains all the necessary functions for everything from touring to track riding: fuel consumption constant and averages, fuel level, traction mode, clock, gear position, speed and warning lights. There’s plenty to see in a small area at a glance as it sits low and under your nose. But who looks at this stuff when you are having fun anyway?
The styling of the GSX-S is in tune with the styling cues of the likes of the GSX-Rs, GSRs, and V-Stroms with lines and curves you can follow along the family tree back to the Hayabusa and B-King. It looks better in the metal than it does in pictures, so if you aren’t yet convinced about it go check one out.
Ergonomically, the ride triangle is spread out and a little upright. It still feels like a sportsbike in essence, but the Renthal fat bar and comfortable seat disperse any allusions of this being a race replica.
Designers have sculpted a lot of knee room around the tank and there’s a bit of movement available sliding up and down the seat. The footpegs are slung lower and more forward than the GSX-R’s but not at the sort of height that’ll have them touching the ground.
Seat height is 815mm which places the GSX-S as one of the lowest of the big-bore nakedbikes. The standover is helped by a slim centerline. Pillion comfort was not a priority on the GSX-S and looking at the sharp, small, tidy rear-end you can see that.
While having a GSX-R engine lends itself simply to using a GSX-R frame, the GSX-S chassis is a new design. Using Finite Element Method (FEM) computer simulation analysis, designers could see how the chassis would react in a variety of conditions. In construction it has allowed for optimal weight and rigidity distribution creating a frame lighter than, and a swingarm similar to, the current GSX-R1000.
While the wet weight of the ABS-shod GSX-R1000 is 4kg less than the 209kg GSX-S, the similarities in the chassis stop there. The wheelbase is 1460mm from the sportsbike’s 1405mm, and rake and trail a much more relaxed 25 degrees and 100mm from a sharper 23.5 degrees rake and 98mm of trail.
The front-end is a fully adjustable 43mm KYB fork with full adjustment in each leg, not the Showa Big-Piston Fork (BPF) of the GSX-R. At the rear is a KYB shock adjustable for preload and rebound.
The wheels are a design unique to the GSX-S – a six-spoke design with the rim size allowing for a superbike-like 120/70 front and a 190/50-rear tyre. Tyre choice is Dunlop’s D214s – original equipment rubber with a road focus in handling and warm-up characteristics. Brakes are Brembo Monoblocs on 310mm discs up front – straight off the 2014 GSX-R1000. The rear brake is a Nissin single-piston caliper.
Suzuki chose the southern Spanish coastal town of Alicante to show off the GSX-S1000. And it’s no wonder. There is a mazework of roads in the hills of the Sierra de Mariola to the west of coast. The roads vary from fast and flowing, to tight, twisty and always unpredictable. Sporadically covered in everything from gravel, light dustings of sand and diesel, the roads were an ideal proving ground to show off the best attributes off the GSX-S.
Without pulling the clutch in for the starter to engage – something Suzukis have required for a while now – one tap of the starter button is all that’s required to fire the in-line four to life as the system now self-disengages.
From the get go, the instantaneous throttle response of the GSX-S caught me out. Off a closed throttle, the Suzuki punches away. Not a velvety smooth drive off – it really jumps off the line. I thought all the Japanese nakedbikes were civil! It got me unaware at first, but I quickly got used to it.
This characteristic is something that’ll bug you around town until you get used to it, but once you are out on the road with a few revs onboard you don’t ride in the rev range where it will come into affect. Instead you get a strong and smooth delivery right the way through the rev range that keeps on keeping on until speeds start to get scary and illegal.
In the softest of the traction control settings and a dusty Spanish mountain road the traction-control light flickered away like an indicator. If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t have known the system was working.
Without the gyros and g-force meter measurements from the current generation of traction control, being a generation behind in terms of what this system can measure could be seen as a disadvantage, but it’s not. When you need this system to work it works very well.
The fluttering away of the traction control light on the dash is often the only indication you have of the system working as it is so smooth in controlling the power to the rear wheel. Suzuki has built a bike for the excitement factor and this system ensures you don’t loose the soul of the ride at the same time you have the added safety of traction control.
The focus on low to mid-range performance hasn’t robbed the GSX-S of any useable top-end. It’s as fast as you’d ever want for the road, though not as revvy in the top-end as the GSX-R. And as if you’d want it to be: first gear is good for 100km/h without hitting the rev limiter!
On the freeway top gear isn’t challenged and the 17 litre tank will get you a lot further than the 220km we got out of the tank on the launch riding at an average 7.5L/100km. As comfortable as the GSX-S is, 200km is a good stint of hard riding before it’s time for a break. But if you want to go further, more conservative riding will easily get you a 260km plus range.
The changes to the inlet and exhaust tracts to shift the engine’s power have done nothing to silence the induction noise which is something that Suzuki makes a point of. Again, it’s that rawness underlying the GSX-S civility that makes this bike so good at what it does in so many ways.
The efforts gone to get the handling-balance tailored for the road has worked. Both front and rear ends remain compliant over varied surfaces yet when you want to flick it around it moves quickly.
Sure, it’s not as flickable and flighty as it could be, but it’s always predictable and always controlled. Again, the GSX-S shows signs of a wildside that is fun and exciting but it’s measured in how much it delivers and always controllable.
With a front-end similar to the previous GSX-R, yet running ABS as the GSX-R will some day soon, the GSX-S has a sharp and strong set of Brembo Monoblocs up front. Gone are the days of Nissin or Tokico being something to brag about, Brembo is finding its way on just about every base model sportsbike the world over.
The brakes haven’t got the initial bite of the up-spec Monoblocs, but they give a lot more progressive feel and are much better suited to less predictable braking environs like road riding. ABS intervention is there if you need it, which I can’t say I ever did.
As far as being a nakedbike, the GSX-S ticks most of the boxes. As a sportsbike for the road, it ticks all the boxes. Many aspects of its performance are raw, uncompromising and exciting – the induction roar, sharp handling, stonking bottom-end and midrange engine performance. Other aspects are controlling factors and predictable characteristics – handling, suspension control, ABS-equipped Brembos, traction control and linear power delivery.
There is a great balance of traits in the GSX-S that make it both raw and refined at the same time. It’s got the credentials to do the job and the only thing standing in its way of being one of the most popular machines on the road could be price when it is announced before the bike’s mid-year release.
And going off the success Suzuki is having with the likes of the ideally priced V-Stroms, as well as the fact there’s a faired version coming too, there’s a good chance nothing will stop the GSX-S on the road to success.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line four
Bore x stroke: 73.4mm x 59mm
Compression ratio: 12.2:1
Claimed power: 107kW @ 10,000rpm
Claimed torque: 106Nm @ 9500rpm
Wet weight: 209kg
Seat height: 815mm
Fuel tank capacity: 17L
Colours: Metallic Triton Blue; Glass Sparkle Black; Candy Daring Red
Detailed specs: www.suzukimotorcycles.com.au