2012 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 Review – Endangered Species

The GSX-R 1000 is howling like an endangered predator before stumbling and bumping against the rev limiter at 13,750RPM on the tach. In first gear the great 999cc beast is nuzzling exceptional speeds like fresh kill. Flick up a ratio through the slick and quick six-speed transmission into second and the howl eases for a moment, before you’re back to peak with182 hp at 11,500rpm and 86 lb-ft @ 10,000rpm gale-forcing through the Bridgestone S20 190/50R17 out back. Drive through to red and you’re watching the digital speedo indecisively flicker between 202 and 203. Third? Does it really matter? Without the salve of ABS, Traction Control, Electronically Adjustable Suspension or Anti-wheelie Control, it’s negotiation time with harsh Mistress Physics as you take the imperilled beast into the turns.

Why endangered? The time of pure superbikes, those with only the rider doing the thinking is coming to an end, and these great predators only have themselves to blame. The constant torque and horsepower one-upsmanship between superbikes has lead to an inevitable outcome; how do you lay it down? How do you control it? How do you keep your major market of dumb-ass bros with massive tatted up biceps buying the biggest and dick-swingingest bike they can find from turning themselves into so much multicolored hamburger shot through with strips of white tee-shirt and small bits of flip-flops? At some point controlling the power stops being about selections of rubber and refinements to the suspension and chassis; you need to make it more usable. For racers it means electronics that they can work with, leverage to eke more speed from the bike, milliseconds saved in braking, better drive out of the corner thanks to traction and wheelie management. For the public it means dumbing down the bike for on-road consumption, by making it smarter. Meet the end of the pure superbike and un-augmented the 2012 GSR-X 1000 is one of the last hurrahs.

Not totally un-augmented mind, there is the three power modes carried over from the previous model; A – the full howling beast, B – street friendly and softened to a point, and the leaden feeling C for playing in the rain. Beyond that improvements are evolutionary as Suzuki, caught in the global capitalism tsunami works hard to weather the storm, rather than sinking its money into a two-year research, development and production cycle revolution.

The changes? New 11% lighter pistons featuring a reshaped crown and skirt, enter the mix to boost low-to-mid power and make the engine quicker reving. There’s new camshafts and the 16 valve tappets (metal actuator between camshaft and valve spring) were lightened. The engine case has larger ventilation holes to reduce mechanical pumping losses. One right-hand titanium muffler instead of the previous model’s two. Elimination of the heavy belly-mounted pre-chamber. New ECU set-up giving the engine a smoother, more linear spread of power throughout its 13,300 rpm range. Lighter Bridgestone S20 tires especially made for the GSX-R.

Up front, the three-way adjustable (spring preload, compression and return damping) Showa Big Piston Forks’ length was decreased by 7mm and travel by 5mm; with the valving changed to soften initial stroke action. While, the GSX-R’s comparatively “weak” braking has gone upmarket with Brembo monoblocs which offer better braking power and feel, thanks to the fabrication and slightly larger caliper pistons.

Generally the GSX-R 1000 has buffed up, dropping the bike’s weight to 203 kg (448 lb) with a 17.5L tank of fuel… That’s a four pound weight loss over the previous Gixxer. Will you notice it dear street rider? Likely not, but you still might be faster.

Thank Brembo for letting you brake harder into the corners. The firm, yet compliant, front suspension for eating the road’s imperfections. Thank Bridgestone for the GSX-R specific S20 hypersport tires, with that front a little wider than last year’s adding to the bike’s exceptionally planted feel. Mostly thank Suzuki for the added mid-range power, and that should come with a comic book POW.

Coming out of the apex on your favorite corner the GSX-R 1000 launches you towards the horizon with a ferocity that beggars belief. Slow into the turn and fast out, the GSX-R 1000 leaves moments-ago in the reviews as distant history. Sweet and supple when simply riding, taut and tenaciously clingy at speed. The bike is capable of taking you to the very edge of your bravery, and then laughing at your human cowardice from the other side. Yet, being phenomenally good at its chosen task of speed is what will ultimately endanger this cruel looking, stealth black beast.

A few years ago, I would have said that the ergonomics are comfortable for a sportbike and ridden across the province. Today, having been spoiled by the opulence of adventure bikes, the ergos summed up as a list of re-activated injuries. My right wrist’s carpal tunnel flares near instantly. My left shoulder, how many times has that been dislocated? Oh, yah… five. So that’s a bit more pain. Across the neck, craned to view the road – screaming hell. My right ankle, where I tore the ligaments laterally and medially – aching. My left foot, just mysteriously numb. I’m sure the two position pegs help. Having just come from a 3500km ride with a group of sportbikers whining over discomfort, the question isn’t as much how they survived the ergos as why?

As fun as the GSX-R 1000 is at speed, the other 98% of your time riding it is inhuman and the world grinds by slowly. At legal speeds there is no glimmer of joy in this track bred monster. There is the nut of it in our brave new Nanny State province of British Columbia where 40kph over the limit lands your vehicle in impoundment on a cop’s good or bad word, there is simply no place or fun for a bike that is phenomenally good at speedism. Instead every pass, corner and straight away is filled with a constant gnawing, distracting you from the road stress as you look over your shoulder for reds and blues or the sky for the RCMP chopper. Explaining perhaps why we’re using stock Suzuki photography for our ride shots as a legal consideration.

Some species go extinct because they fail to adapt, others because their habitats are eroded and others are hunted to oblivion. Let’s have a moment of silence for one of the last pure sport bikes, the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R 1000. In today’s changing climate the Gixxer is too phenomenally good at what it does, making it an endangered species.


Bike: Suzuki GSX-R1000
MSRP: $14,999
Displacement: 999 cc
Engine type
Inline four, liquid cooled, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder
Power (crank)*: 182 HP @ 11,500 rpm
Torque*: 86.3 ft-lbs @ 10,000 rpm
Tank Capacity: 17.7 litres
Final drive: Six speed, chain drive
Tires, front: 120/70ZR – 17 radial front
Tires, rear: 190/50ZR-17 radial rear
Brakes, front: Dual 310 mm discs with four-piston radial calipers.
Brakes, rear: Single 210 mm disc with single-piston caliper.
Seat height: 810mm (31.9 in.)
Wheelbase: 1405 mm (55.3 in.)
Wet weight*: 203 kg (448 lb)
Colours: Blue/white, Black
Warranty: One year, unlimited mileage
* Claimed


One Comment Add yours

  1. Jeff Katzer says:

    Great article. You have such a way with words my friend.


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