With a rock-solid chassis and unflappable suspension, the GSX-R is as much about lean angle as it is horsepower.
Although its basic engine architecture remains the same, the motor has been cranked up to 11, as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnell used to say. Bigger-bore forged pistons now yield 999cc of displacement, but they are actually 8 grams lighter (x 4) thanks to their short-skirt design. The cylinder head gets larger intake ports to match the 1mm larger intake valves, and both the intake and exhaust valves are now made from light, strong and exotic titanium. Inlet poppets are 5g lighter, while the same-sized (24mm) exhaust valves are 6.4g lighter, for a total valvetrain weight loss of a significant 99.2 grams. This allows its redline to be 1000 revs higher than before, up to a claimed 13,500 rpm (though it registered a high of just 12,500 rpm on our dyno run before the rev limiter kicked in). Its throttle bodies have grown 2mm, and they now incorporate the dual injectors Mat Mladin was crying for during the 2004 AMA Superbike season.
The result is an amazingly rider-friendly powerplant for such a deadly literbike. The engine pulls decent from as low as 3000 rpm once past a slightly fluffy area down low, and this monster will loft its front wheel in first gear from just 5000 rpm. Below 5500 rpm, its torque figures can’t be touched even by the V-Twin Ducati and it posted the highest peak horsepower.
“The motor in the Gixxer was also nearly identical to last year’s favorite ZX,” BC comments. “Just like the ZX, the GSX-R pulls extremely hard from the get go and continues to build power in a very linear and predictable curve. Bottom line: scary fast, but very smooth and predictable.”
Combine its motor that makes power everywhere and its cooperative clutch, and the mega-motored Gixxer proves to be amazingly capable in traffic, despite taller gearing and closer ratios than last year. Still, just breathing on its throttle results in immediate acceleration that will have the unwary on their backside, and the Gixxer will wheelie all day long without even using a full rotation of its twistgrip.
“Its low-end grunt is a little frightening,” says scaredy-cat Becklin. “Hell, even I can wheelie this thing!” Indeed, even half throttle in first gear will have the front wheel in the air.
But before you go setting any one-wheel records with the Suzuki, you first have to sit on it. After kicking its wide platypus-like tailsection as a leg is thrown over, as we did repeatedly, you’ll settle into a surprisingly low cockpit. Its claimed seat height of 31.9 inches is lower than all but the Duc, and the narrow forward part of the seat makes it feel even lower â€“ those with 30-inch inseams can touch flat-footed. Its compact stature makes the Gixxer 6 seem like a literbike in comparison. The riding position that works so well for short guys makes it a bit tight for taller ones, although there’s plenty rearward seat room for larger riders or for getting down in a tuck.
The GSX-R’s front wheel will loft with as little as a half-turn of the throttle. Need we say this bike isn’t designed with newbs in mind?
Suzuki lowered the Gixxer’s footpegs for additional room between the seat, buying back cornering clearance by moving them inboard 17mm. Our testers also noticed the nicely drilled pegs are less rear-set than the others. Its clip-on handlebars are now 1.7 inch closer to the seat than previous, and the bike is the same distance shorter overall. Its windscreen is lower and narrower than before, and its exemplary new headlight casts a bright wide beam with a sharp cutoff.
Last year, the Gixxer’s crude cockpit was a relative eyesore in this group, but Suzuki has made the ’05 much better, prompting Hutchison to profess his love for its new compact instrument cluster. No more exposed bracketry, the GSX-R now has cleanly integrated plastic covers around the gauges and over its ram-air ducting. We appreciated its clock and new gear-position indicatorâ€”it doesn’t make the bike go any faster but it is convenient to have. Its mirrors that cleanly integrate its turnsignals are surprisingly useful, though their range of adjustment is somewhat limited.
Also new to the Suzuki for ’05 is its chassis. Its steering head and forward frame spars are now made from a single casting, and the frame is 6mm shorter. Extruded frame rails lead to the cast swingarm pivot area that is adjustable for racing, and the forward section of the new swingarm is also made from one casting. Rake and trail numbers have gone slightly more conservative although they’re still on the racy side in this group.
The result of this tweaking is the highest rating in our Handling/Chassis category. The GSX-R has nearly the nimbleness of the Kawi, yet its steering damper gives it stability that approaches the best in class. A slightly lighter front wheel and a rear hoop that is nearly l lb lighter contribute to its fine agility.
“The Gixxer really shines in the tight stuff,” says Chamberlain, a Yamaha TZ250 owner. “The bike is very nimble, turn-ins are extremely quick, just like the ZX, but also has better stability than the Kawi which inspired confidence when driving out of corners or encountering any rough terrain on the gas.”
Joining the Suzuki’s high marks for its motor and value is its transmission/clutch combination that was judged to be the best of this group. The gearbox has short, precise throws, and clutchless upshifts are accomplished with the compliance of a Thai prostitute. Descending through the tranny is just as easy, helped by its very effective slipper clutch.
Also receiving high marks are the Gixxer’s new brakes. The differential-bore front brake calipers now have larger pistons, going up 3mm in the leading pot and 2mm in the rear, and they’re actuated by a radial-pump master cylinder and clamp on discs that have grown 10mm to 310mm. They offer a firm lever and excellent strength and feel, though a little down on power compared to the stellar Brembos on the Ducati.
Suzuki found additional corner clearance by moving the footpegs in 17mm, which rewards the rider with even more lean angle.
When we first saw the new GSX-R in pictures, some of us wondered what Suzuki’s stylists were smoking. From its pointy new beak to its unusual titanium muffler, it just seemed to look a bit odd. One tester made us cackle with a term he conjured up to describe the Gixxer: “conglobulated.” But after living with the new Gixxer for several weeks, most of us are starting to warm to its appearance.
“It has the looks of a streetfighter ready to rumble,” says Becklin, who gave the Suzi its highest marks in the Appearance category. “I didn’t like the look of the exhaust system in pictures, but once I got a chance to see the bike in person it really works. The angular design sets it off from being a run-of-the-mill OEM stock system, plus the exhaust note is mean and nasty.”
Suzuki claims the funky exhaust positions its weight 45mm lower and 50mm closer to the bike’s centerline for a more optimum center of gravity, and its unique shape is more aerodynamic and has plenty of ground clearance even at racetrack lean angles. In addition, Suzuki claims its SET exhaust valve provides 6% more torque at 3000 rpm.
The scorecard from the new Gixxer 1K is full of high rankings, so there’s obviously not much to complain about. We found its sidestand tang is hard to reach with armored race boots (“Maybe for the flip-flop crowd,” Becklin quips). Also, even with its engine counterbalancer, vibration through the unyielding grips can numb hands on long freeway drones. And, hmmm, maybe its programmable shift light could be positioned a bit higher.
Bottom line: If you can learn to love the way the otherwise-stunning GSX-R looks, you’re gonna love this bike.