While generally regarded as the homeliest in this pert group, the GSX-R still cuts some dashing lines. Radial-mount brakes were first seen on a mass production bike on the 2003 GSX-R. Now everyone’s got ’em.
The GSX-R motor’s architecture looks like a tractor in comparison. Its 73mm slug has to travel 59mm before finishing its stroke, resulting in the need for a redline 1500 rpm lower than the R1 to keep pistons speeds down. However, the extra leverage from the longer connecting rods pays dividends in torque production (as Harley riders have always known about their undersquare engines), and the Gixxer’s mill comes off looking pretty good against the others.
After being astounded by the outrageous performance abilities of the ZX and R1, we felt sorry for the aged GSX-R. That changed within the first dozen miles. The Gixxer earned its reputation as the class of the class, and it turns out the others may have even fallen a bit short.
For the most part, the bodacious motor in the Suzuki is making more or equal power than the others all the way to 10,000 rpm, (after which the ZX takes over with a horsepower and torque advantage to rule the roost). Its horsepower and torque peaks arrive earlier than the rest, aided partially by the higher intake velocities offered by its smallish 42mm throttle bodies that are the narrowest in this group, with the ZX, CBR and R1 each going up 1mm over the previous bike, respectively. Suzuki’s AMA Superbike star Mat Mladin might not like the fact that his throttle bodies are 3mm smaller than the R1’s, but street riders love ’em.
Unlike the R1 and ZX, the Suzuki is not saddled with an autobahn-ready first gear, and this pays off handsomely during the 95% of riding 95% of us do: street riding, a world that exists somewhere near reality in which vehicles must occasionally stop before accelerating again to continue on their way. The more streetable first gear in the Gixxer can make its positive presence known hundreds of times a day. The Gixxer is the machine of choice when strafing urban areas.
- Super-accessible power
- Street-appropriate gearing
- Race-proven package
- Long in tooth
- Least pretty (but a good personality)
- Finish quality
The GSX-R’s cable clutch (with a handy thumbwheel adjuster, as on the R1 and its narrow engagement clutch) is amazingly controllable. With its strong and consistent feedback, a skilled pilot can loft the front tire mere inches off the ground immediately upon leaving a stop light, then can carry it all the way across the intersection and beyond.
Its cushiest-in-class seat and the most encompassing protection from the elements vault the GSX-R near the head of the group during freeway drones, helped by a smooth engine at most rpm thanks to a counterbalancer and the best view from the mirrors (you’ll want to pay attention to those when aboard these bikes). It’s merely the Suzuki’s longest stretch to the bars, rivaled only by the R1, that hold it back from being crowned king of the open road.