The GSX-R1000 is back with a vengeance after it dethroned the 2004 class champion, the Kawasaki ZX-10R. Can it defend its title against three of the baddest bikes on planet?
The Gixxer Thou is the decathlete of the group. No, make that the star decathlete. And valedictorian. It romped all over its class rivals in 2005, racking up big points in every category. But the Suzuki comes into this fight as the only contender that hasn’t been updated for ’06. Is the crew from Hammamatsu worried? Is Mat Mladin?
The short answer is no. The Gixxer is just as lovable as before, even in the face of updated challengers. The GSX-R was almost always ranked at the top of our scoresheet categories, and it’s this baked-in, all-round goodness that makes it special.
“Although I’ve never spent any time aboard a this generation of Gixxer,” admitted Roderick, “from the first clutch engagement I was enveloped with friendly familiarity, an unexplainable subconcious level of comfort usually reserved for bikes with which I have a more intimate understanding of.”
On the scales the Gixxer Thou weighs in the lightest of the bunch, due in large part to its distinction of being the only one of the four to not have a heavier undertail exhaust.
First off, its incredible motor out-pulls everything else from just past idle until about 11,000 rpm when the Kawasaki soars past. The least oversquare bore/stroke ratio of the group appears to offer benefits throughout the powerband, or at least until the final 10%. This broad spread of power makes the Gixxer very obliging, whether trolling down Main Street or getting a good drive out of a tricky racetrack corner.
Making the Suzuki feel even more cooperative is a size and feel that is akin to a 600cc bike. It’s the quickest steering bike of the group and, combined with its responsive engine, always feels eager to chomp at the bit. A cooperative clutch makes it easy to get past a dead zone prior to 3000 rpm, with excellent throttle response throughout the rest of the rev range. The Gixxer also has the best gearbox of this group, blessed with short throws, positive engagement, and a compliant slipper clutch.
Ergonomically, the Gixxer is a bit of an odd one, though it was only some of our taller testers who had anything negative to say about it. Short people fit best on the GSX-R thanks to the lowest seat height and a slim perch that allows legs a straight shot at the ground. Its narrow windscreen actually offers the best upper body/helmet protection, though it leaves arms and shoulders exposed. A rider sits close to the swept-back bars, which is good for comfort, but they can pinch hands against the tank at full lock. A couple of our testers wished for clip-ons that were a bit wider for more leverage.
Its pegs are less rear-set than the others, bending knees less and providing welcome relief for wonky ankles like mine. Ground clearance, despite the pegs’ forward location, is still abundant thanks to narrow positioning (although you’ll need to be on your toes at the track, literally, because Fast Guy Becklin ground through his toe sliders).
When it’s time to tackle some corners, the Gixxer responds with an assurance that belies the 153 horses trying to escape the corral. Turn-in is crisp and quick, yet the bike feels solidly planted when leaned over.
“Usually a bike that steers this quickly suffers with its stability,” BC asserts. “Not so with the Gixxer. The Suzuki shows flawless stability no matter what you throw at it.”
Aiding and abetting the Gixxer’s class-leading handling is a suspension that needed the fewest adjustments. The setup that performed well on the street hardly required much fettling to make it work fluidly on the track. It has the seemingly diverse qualities of compliance and control.
Also ranking at or near the top of everyone’s scorecard was the Suzuki’s brakes, proving to be both intuitive and powerful. “These brakes are strong and provide good feedback,” BC notes, “and I experienced no fading throughout the day even though the bike was ridden in almost every session.”
When it’s time to pour the coals to ‘er, whether in a straight line or when leaned over, power is meted out exactly how the rider intends, without abruptness.
“The motor feels as though it is again the strongest of the bunch,” says Chamberlain. “It begins pulling hard down low and continues to pull hard all the way through the rev range. Throttle delivery is smooth, allowing the rider to gradually modulate all that power when needed.”
Last year the Suzuki was the clear leader in the literbike class. Was the ’06 good enough to warrant becoming our first-ever back-to-back Smackdown winner.
Although the Gixxer’s instrumentation won’t win any style awards, information is easy to assimilate. Each bike in this test has a programmable shift light, but the Suzi also has a feature the others don’t: a gear-position indicator. While some might scoff at such a newbie-friendly device, it’s surprising how often even experienced riders refer to it. Modern ECUs already detect gear positions, so this is something that should be standard equipment on all bikes.
The well-engineered Gixxer posted consistently strong scores except for a few areas. Its weakest headlights and shortest valve-adjustment intervals hurt its User-friendliness rating, and its Fit & Finish was judged to be beneath the others. The other area it fell short in was a subjective category: Appearance. Roderick says this is the best styled GSX-R since the original and has “the nicest ass of the bunch,” but his comments were the most favorable among our discriminating testers.
With such few weaknesses and its abundance of impeccable scores, the defending champion hasn’t lost any of its luster in this crowd.
Testers’ Note Pad
– Seat cowl included in MSRP
– High mirrors work better than some, but not the CBR
“If any of the literbikes feel like a 600 on steroids, it’s this bike.” -DB
“Love it or hate it, the GSX-R1000 is the baddest literbike going” -KH
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” -BC