It’s clear now Suzuki could have saved a lot of weight on the 2005 GSX-R 1000. At 203kp/h the bike is gently and repeatedly kissing the rev limiter; the intake howl and engine sound wondrous, like a chorus of Angels doing very rude things to one another, and we’re only in second gear. That means there are four more to go and a top speed that could shock God. What are the last two or three cogs for, ballast? They could have been chucked, giving room for, I don’t know, a sandwich. The result would have still been an unparalleled road going bike. That would be “sensible”, which the Gixxer is not.
An instant later I’m a shaking mass of goose pimples, making near 280kph in third and then briefly sampling beyond that personal barrier. Every limit in North America was broken way back in first, and our test has become an adrenaline-fueled sprint that sees the GSX-R 1000 summarily skipping massive lines of traffic in a front wheel raised blur. I never meant to be a hooligan, it just happened.
Suzuki’s litre offering liquidates the steady deposits of belief you’ve made in what a bike can or should do, hurtling you into a realm of compressed time where velocity loses meaning. Look over your shoulder and you realize your riding buddies are lost history, victims of a 280kph onslaught of gentle uphill curve that velocity transforms into a high-speed sweeper. “Good” fails to describe this bike, it is “Epic”.
That power inspires you to shun the vagaries of self-control and instead fully embrace monumental hedonistic throttle twisting debauchery, complete with senseless acts of acceleration, random acts of passing, and irrational acts of wheelie-ing. That’s just its effects on a calm and experienced rider. The GSX-R could simply coast on the cravings of a gibbering, horsepower greedy fan base, but instead Suzuki has forged a bike that delivers much more than raw muscle.
I glance at the speedo in shock, this “loose” set of 50kp/h marked curves sees my entry speed triple the suggested, and that is where the fun begins. The GSX-R is equal parts brilliance and insanity. If you’ve not guessed it, the power is the insane bit -165hp wrapped in a 166kg(366lbs) package (claimed dry weight). Strip off the mirrors, vestigial passenger pegs, and “plush” wafer of padding masquerading as a seat and you’d have a one to one power ratio. The brilliant bit is how the bike handles under that power. It lays out the power to the road in a civilized manner, if a bacchanalian orgy is civilized that is. While megaton bikes like the K1200R are like sitting at home having a dinner party, the Gixxer is a debouched Ibiza all nighter – one they’d make movies about if they could afford the legal department.
Part of that party is that the ill chosen BT-014s are frequently losing out to the GSX-R 1000 power. The rear tire gets the worst of the deal, desperately clinging to the road, until too much throttle attacks it in a corner and the whole business becomes unglued. The rear steps out and you realize that this is a business of delicate control.
The braking is as ample as the thrust, but with little forgiveness to the front BT-014. The binders feel initially abrupt, to the uninitiated, and then strong and linear. Hot into a corner, the leading camera bike engine brakes without warning. It’s a MotoGP moment inspired by a two fingered grab of the lever; the front tire pushes out with a dreaded chirp. Easing off the front tire recovers, I’ve gotten on the Gixxer’s nerves, rebuked I revert to one finger braking and am left with the unsettling suspicion that two could see me becoming part of some very unforgiving scenery. This is not a place for the ham-fisted.
There’s a flaw in positioning here. The combination between the free revving engine and the slipper clutch minimizes the available engine braking on the downshift. Carelessly drop two gears through a gearbox so slick, smooth and quick it’s near psychic, and the slipper matches up it all up with little or no rear tire chatter. The combination of these factors sees the phrase “little or no” also applying to the amount of engine braking. When riding with other lesser bikes (read all) you’ll be on the binders, while they use compression braking, or you over run them. The GSX-R 1000 then does not play well with others, preferring to be in the lead.
Not a problem, because the Gixxer takes corners with a giddy dexterity. It allows you inventive new lines at lower speeds or blazingly accurate ones at high. It still requires pilot skill though, and Gixxers feed on a constant diet of attention, it’s demanding and there is no relaxing or gazing about. To do that, go find your self a pipe and slippers… or a CBR1000RR by comparison.
The scariest part of this GSX-R 1000 is how you get used to the speed. After a week of riding, you start getting used to the immense power, being at 200+ in the blink of an eye, sweepers at 280kph… and the boredom. There is no feel of having to work to keep up, fast is so natural – 120, 180, 260kph it all starts feeling irrelevant.
Suzuki’s marketing department has kindly pointed out the biggest flaw with the GSX-R 1000. The advertising raves about “owning the track”, and frankly you’d need to. There truly is no place on the West Coast of Canada that you can use this bike to it’s potential. Not that people haven’t tried, I’ve spoken to a few, in hushed tones… so as not to upset the nurses.
There are a couple of other issues also. The rear cowl begs abuse, accumulating scuffs and scrapes from the slightest touch, but it gives you a proper under seat storage room (for a sport bike). The paint quality is only fair, and after two weeks of journalistic use the GSX-R clearly showed knees-on-tank scuffs and the need for a tank protector. The biggest real world pain is the bar lock. At a full right, your hand cannot maintain the throttle, your hand intercepting the tank and wrist angles so as to close the throttle. At low speeds this is the recipe for a dropped bike, even amongst the most experienced of riders and ensures that right hand U-turns are a concentrated affair.
Counter-pointing those niggles are some exceptionally effective road compromises. The stacked headlight array, for instance, is literally and figuratively brilliant. Its lighthouse glare makes night riding easy, putting you at risk of outrunning the photons projected. The position is comfortable, even. This GSX-R pushes you closer to the bars thanks to the shorter tank. There is ample room to the seat’s rear, and a tuck requires being stretched out and well back. This bike is designed to be monkey-ed around on, and hanging off seems the easiest thing in the world. Versus the 2004, the pegs are lower, but they don’t drag due to being 17mm closer together and that’s thanks to the 05’s Kate Moss waistline. That philosophy applies to the pipe also, narrow at the bottom its triangular shape maximizes clearance in comparison to the recently out of vogue round grapefruit launchers. Indeed, if one shape defines the Gixxer it is the triangle.
The dream of a delirious designer who’s come down with a bad case of triangle worship – they run rampant throughout the GSX-R, and for good reason. Triangles have less surface area than squares of the same proportion by half, that saves weight… and they look cool. The coolest thing of it all is not the slick tail end, the aerodynamically aggressive front, or the mirror integrated turn signals. It is the sci-fi looking key fob mimicking the bike’s tail end, and looking more suited to firing up a Cylon Base-Star than a motorcycle. Truly though, everything is light, thin and stripped. Kevlar brake lines are chosen over heavier steel braided options, there’s no inner dash, and even the pegs are hollow. The form follows function, and the function is fast.
So how good is the 2005 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 at it’s function really?
Prepare to lose friends.
In unbearable traffic through the twisties we have a game, it’s called playing the gap. You choose a particularly slow moving vehicle, with a group of faster moving traffic in front of it, and let those fast movers create a gap of a kilometer or three. Then you pull out ahead of slow mover, in this case a Winnebago, and catch up to the speeders. Hence playing in the “gap”. In the GSX-R 1000’s case the lead group is a pack of experienced riders and we periodically catch up with ease, and I’m no Rossi… I’m more like Captain Slow.
The Suzuki GSX-R 1000 is inspired and inspiring all at once, what it is not is a laugh however. All the comments about the power being un-intimidating are pure testostrionics, and if the statements were true then half the point of the bike would be gone. It accelerates out of the corners with face destroying g-force, it brakes sharp enough to slingshot your eyeballs through your visor, and it’s even more impressive in the bends than in a straight line when given its leave of the real world. The GSX-R 1000 executes its tasks with psychotic calm. Everything about it feels planted, planned and clinical, and like any engaging villain it will turn on you in an instant when you torque it off. That’s a heady mix of danger and ability. The only thing that would make the GSX-R better at its “function of fast” would be one thing… It needs to come with a track, a really big one – Nevada would do.