Why? Why did I forsake the litre-bike? Why did I wait so long to begrudgingly throw a leg over the 2009 GSX-R 1000? True, I thought I’d grown up making litre-bike immaturity a thing of my past, and that I’d moved on to more upright and relaxed rides. I was utterly and completely wrong. I’ve missed the explosive rapture of 1000ccs of acceleration kicking Newton in the boys. I’ve missed corners cut through with a psychopathic surgeon’s slashing bliss. The GSX-R 1000 is not a devil, it isn’t evil, no it’s an angel that has delivered me from the folds of responsibility and born me again into sportbike ecstasy.
You could blame the 2007 GSX-R 1000. It’s not that there was anything massively wrong with the 2007 model, it was just a bit soft and lackluster, especially in comparison to the Japanese firm’s seminal barnstormer from 2005, known as the K5. Suzuki, though, is a law breaker, and for 2009 they’ve set out to put things right.
For 2009 they’ve violated the unspoken rules of superbike engagement, which dictate that two years into a bike’s lifecycle it receives a minor upgrade and delivered us a completely new GSX-R 1000… the K9.
So there’s an entirely new engine featuring a shorter stroke (now 74.5 x 57.3mm bore and stroke, was 73.4 x 59.0mm), new design as well as diameter pistons, longer conrods, a higher compression ratio, new crank and crankcases, cylinder head, camshafts, bigger valves… Frankly, there’s a whitepaper on engine development in every major component, which is a nice cure for insomnia.
Yet, despite a myriad of changes, the result is largely the same. The GSX-R’s maximum power and torque are exactly the same as before, 182bhp @ 12,000rpm and 86lb.ft of torque @ 10,000rpm – though with an astroglide silky torque curve smoothing the delivery.
Do not for a second think that those numbers don’t result in a blistering crotch-rocket launch towards the horizon. There is enough power here to hurtle you to your next court date in excessive style, but the delivery is so smooth and elegant you don’t get a sense of the massive power at your command, even in the A-mode of the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector.
Throttle hard out of a turn and the Gixxer’s rear end squirms loosely in a subtle as a brick message that there’s still a mean streak in this bikes DNA.
And that’s supposed to be the most manic of the power control systems settings. Now with conveniently located left thumb toggle, you can one handedly choke the power response up to 50% of throttle opening with B mode, or throttle it down throughout the entire rev range with the C setting. So default A mode it is for us, and what is still missing is the K5’s pychic-wedgy of off the line torque that left brave men wide-eyed. A throttle twist of the K9 hits like an entirely different buttery smooth combustible narcotic.
Grab a handful at 3,000rpm and, for a litre-bike, the K9’s response is muted, a relaxed and languid outrunning of everything four-wheeled on the road. That’s fine, but on a K5 you’d be in Emergency for whiplash, which means some of the excitement and fear is missing.
By 7000RPM the party has started and throttle hard out of a turn and the Gixxer’s rear end squirms loosely in a subtle as a brick message that there’s still a mean streak in this bike’s DNA. Or a willingness to have some good tire melting fun.
The GSX-R makes 182hp warm, fuzzy and comfy enough it’s easy to forget it has serious bite – sort of like bunny slippers with a handful of glass shards in them. Likely that’s down to the rest of the bike being so damn good.
The chassis hasn’t stagnated. The new frame and swingarm, in conjunction with the compacted engine, result in a 10mm shorter wheelbase at 1,405mm. The swingarm though grows some 32mm in length to 577mm for increased grip. Then there are new lighter three-spoke wheels, and braking from the mandatory monoblock calipers. But, it’s the suspension that’s a complete watershed.
Suzuki has a fit Showa ‘Big Piston’ forks up front and a Showa shock in rear. The big-piston forks have rebound and compression damping adjustment screws conveniently set into the top. Supple and unexpectedly soft at first the BPFs don’t need to be as firm as a conventional fork set-up, resisting sudden dive even when you grab the binders.
The second surprise is that the soft set-up doesn’t see the GSX-R reluctant on the initial turn in or requiring more effort to change direction while braking. Through it all, the GSX-R just turns, easily soaking up the bumps and imperfections, and leading to surprising complaints.
On “photoshoot” corner, the grumble from our photographers was, “You’re going too fast, it’s causing problems with the focus.”
I’m seldom accused of being too fast. Moreover, despite its performance, it didn’t feel like I was pushing the GSX-R 1000 beyond my normal pace. So our spoilage rate for photos increased courtesy of Suzuki, but given the subject I’m not hugely put out.
The GSX-R 1000 really does call for soft-focus and speed blur, because if God is in the details then a tremendous amount of Him has gone into the GSX-R’s bodywork. It’s full of little folds, creases and other busy work, which is a sure sign of preening designers and fails to convey the bliss of motion inherent in the bike. So while at a distance the shape says GSX-R, up close it has the same visual resonance as something attacked by a bedazzler. And then there’s the tumescent twin exhausts, hanging flaccidly by the GSX-R 1000’s sides like spare un-painted Watchman props for a 30-ft Dr. Manhattan. The aftermarket must be rejoicing.
Since the new Gixxer isn’t for looking at, you’d best swing a leg over it. Still, thanks to the reduced dimensions old blue and white is a more cramped package than before, but the ergonomics are still reasonably spacious for a sportbike. Luckily the three-position adjustable footpegs have been retained – and there was much rejoicing in the over 5’10” set. The biggest change from the K7 is that you’re set more up and forwards over the bars, and once in motion the new GSX-R reveals that it’s not only more compact, but it’s lost some fat as well.
Overall mass is reduced by around 12lb (5kg) with a claimed curb weight of 452lb (205kg). There’s do doubt you feel the weight loss in the corners, but the symphony of fierce technologies beneath you outstrips it.
Six slaloms through a stretch of convoluted and unpatrolled road is pure GSX-R revelry. The loose-easy reciprocation of the engine. The hallmark growl, proclaiming the GSX-R DNA’s return. Tight cable actuation of the clutch. A slick gearbox. An unflappable slipper-clutch letting you downshift with abandon. A hint of turn-in resistance followed by effortless execution of the bend or twist. Unflinching stability. Perfect fueling, letting you drive hard out of the corners singing from 9,000rpm to just shy of the Gixxer’s 13,800rpm red line on the edge of squirming rubber.
Screaming through the corners, the K9 GSX-R 1000 is utterly natural and intuitive bliss, until the fuel light starts its untimely demonic alert.
On its broad and powerful shoulders the K9 carries a significant weight, it has to resurrect, redeem and rejuvenate the Suzuki litre-bike faith following the uninvolving sermon of the 2007 model. Yes, it is still more refined, but this bike regains some of the GSX-R’s soul, creating a better balance of raw, smite-thee, litre-bike anger, and refined, redemptive road tool usability. For me sport-bike deliverance came in the form of the 2009 GSX-R 1000, as it welcomed me back to the flock.
– Photos: Kevin Miklossy and Glenn Simmons
Bike 2009 GSX-R1000 MSRP $16,199 CND / $12,899 USD Displacement 999 cc Engine type Four-stroke dohc inline four, liquid-cooled Power (crank - claimed) NA Torque (claimed) NA Tank Capacity 17.5 L Carburetion EFI Final drive Six speed, chain drive Tires, front 120/70-17 Tires, rear 190/50-17 Brakes, front Dual 310 mm discs with four-piston calipers Brakes, rear Single 220 mm disc with single-piston caliper Seat height 810 mm (31.9 ") Wheelbase 1,405 mm (55.3 ") Wet weight (claimed) 203 kg (447 lb) Colours Blue/white, Burgundy/black, White/silver Warranty 12-month, unlimited mileage