2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Comparison Track

Steve Atlas | May 18, 2009
2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
Suzuki GSX-R1000
Curb Weight: 460 lbs.
Horsepower: 155.16 @ 11,700 rpm
Torque: 74.74 lb-ft @ 10,100 rpm
Quarter Mile: 10.01 @ 141.9 mph
Outright Top Speed: 186 mph (limited)
Racetrack Top Speed: 158.04 mph
Superpole Best Time: 1:56.20
Overall Ranking: 2nd Place

“All-new” is a term thrown around pretty loosely in the motorcycle PR world. Some new blinkers, a lighter exhaust and ‘Bold New Graphics’ is typically enough for the PR spin doctors to call a motorcycle “all-new.” This is exactly why when we first learned the Suzuki GSX-R1000 was going to be totally updated last winter we were a bit skeptical – just as we always are. But when we first rode the 2009 GSX-R1000 K9 a few weeks back (it was a late release like Suzukis always are) we realized a funny thing – it really is all-new. In fact, it’s the first time the bike has been totally redesigned since its inception in 2001. (Funny, I swear I’ve ridden several ‘all-new’ or ‘totally-redesigned’ GSX-R1000s in the last eight years. Guess I must not have read the fine print on the press kit or something?)

For a complete breakdown of everything that’s changed be sure to check out the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 First Ride. But to sum things up, the ’09 upgrades include redesigned bodywork, a totally updated, more powerful engine, twin titanium exhausts, updated chassis geometry and Showa’s new Big Piston Fork. And that’s just touching on the big stuff…

As for what one first notices when riding the new Suzuki … well, unless you are scared to explore the limits of the right grip, it’s without question the power. Keeping the front wheel on the pavement in any of the lower gears is a serious exercise in restraint, sometimes borderline impossible. The sheer rush of acceleration through your body is exhilarating as the low-end pull hammers you back in the seat right up through the rev-range, grabbing a shift at redline and continuing with just as much vigor in the next cog up. No lies, the GSX-R wouldn’t have a shade of trouble pulling redline in top gear if the speed wasn’t limited to 186 mph. We wouldn’t be surprised if it tapped out well into the mid to high 190s. Stock.

2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
All-new from the ground up.

And while all this power is a good thing, without control the rider isn’t able to do anything with it. This is where the beauty of the Suzuki really lies, as when it comes to putting large amounts of bhp to the pavement there isn’t a single bike in this group nearly as effective. Instant throttle response and direct rider connection with the rear wheel allow riders to dial the throttle on sooner and faster than you would expect considering its place atop the horsepower and torque rankings.

“The new Suzuki should get top honors for outright most power, at least when it comes to seat-of-the pants feeling,” Sorensen remarks. “When this thing hits its stride it goes into warp drive like no other bike out here. While the power is smooth and tractable, it is the top end rush that feels so fast and really puts you back in the seat like you wouldn’t expect.”

Exclaims Earnest: “The Suzuki has a great motor, revs high and has really good over-rev. No doubt a class-leader when it comes to that engine. Man, I really like that Suzuki!”

Though the power itself received praise from across the board, a couple of our riders noted some vibration.

“I would have ranked the GSX-R motor higher but it seems to vibrate more compared to the other bikes so it had to be noted at some point,” adds Hutchison. “Taken into account just the

2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
Everyone commented on how planted and stable the Suzuki was when leaned over.

overall rip-snorting power of this beast, though, it’s hard to beat. It makes great power.”

A quick glance at the dyno chart and it’s easy to see why. Though it got nipped for the outright most bhp by the Kawasaki, it’s still right there, laying down a healthy 155.16 hp, only a hair behind. But a closer look also reveals that the mid-range is slightly better than that of the Kawasaki, as is the low-end. It isn’t until well into the high rpms that the green machine catches back up. As for torque, the Suzuki is also much better than the Kawasaki all throughout the rev-range, peaking at 74.74 ft-lbs; the only Inline-Four that makes more torque is the Honda.

What does all this translate into at the racetrack? The highest Max Acceleration of the bunch coming out of both Turn 6 and 14 as well as a lightning-fast top speed of 158.04 mph at the end of the front straight, nearly 1.5-mph more than the second-place Kawasaki. This goes to show that peak power isn’t everything. It’s the low-end and mid-range advantage of the Suzuki which gets it off the corner harder, allowing the speed to build earlier, translating the entire way down the straight. Goes to show how important corner-exit drive really is. And a lot of this corner-exit drive is the result of a good transmission mated to an easy-to-use and positive clutch.

See and hear the all-new Gixxer Thou in action in the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Video.

This is an area where the more it goes unnoticed the better it is. The only time one comments on a bike’s transmission is if it’s doing something wrong, which the Suzuki did none of. Full-throttle up-shifts were positive and easy, with smooth engagement and a reassuring click to the rider’s left foot. Not a single person commented about a single missed shift, while the slipper clutch had no trouble keeping the back-end in line while downshifting and braking, keeping back torque to a minimum and limiting the stress on the chassis.

2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
Thanks in part to the new Showa BPF front end, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 featured greatly improved handling.

Highlighting the chassis is without question the Showa Big Piston Fork. We first saw a fairly smaller version on the Kawasaki ZX-6R this year and now here on the Suzuki. And when we say it’s that good, it’s really that good. This is the first modern production fork I have ever ridden on where I can honestly say it’s ‘ready to race’ straight from the factory. The big piston design eliminates excessive front end dive, allowing the bike to be much more stable while braking, yet still provides the finite bump absorption needed to give the rider ample feedback mid-corner.

“The chassis on the Suzuki is so stable on corner entry,” Earnest says. “The bike is planted and solid and the big initial dive that you get from the rest isn’t there, just a nice progressive dive. It allows you to brake later because the bike is far more composed. Not to mention, once leaned over you get good feel from that front.”

“The Suzuki was very-planted once put into the corner, I think it has good front-to-rear balance,” Sorensen adds. “This bike felt better as you pushed harder and was the easiest bike to ride to ride at a race pace without getting out of a comfort zone.”

Backing this up with hard data, one can see why I was most comfortable pushing the Suzuki the hardest. It has by far the highest degree of lean angle in both Turns 2 and 14. Interestingly, though, is that you can see it has some of the lowest lateral grip at the apex of Turn 2. Why is this? Because with the Suzuki I had enough confidence to lean the bike past its limits of adhesion to the point where it was sliding both tires to a degree when at max lean in Turn 2. This was because I was able to get enough feel and feedback from the suspension that pushing it to this point while still being comfortable was possible on the Suzuki.

2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
She may not be the prettiest bike of the bunch, but when it came to pushing hard at Thunderhill, the Suzuki performed nearly flawlessly.

The data also shows the maximum braking forces to be right in the same range as the rest of the group. As for our feelings on them, outright power is there, as is feel and feedback – once you get past the typical ‘Suzuki Growing Brake Syndrome.’ I have no idea why and neither does anyone at American Suzuki, but getting lever adjustment correct of the GSX-R is a pain, as when the brakes get heat in them something in the system expands and pushes the lever a full position further out. Thus, you have to always set it a position further in than you want when it’s cold because it will grow. Despite this nuisance, they worked right on par with the rest.

“The lever grows, it’s just weird,” interjects Waheed. “Suzukis have kind of always done that, but for some reason it seems worse this year. Just makes it hard to get the lever in the right position, which is something I am kind of particular about.”

“The brakes on the Suzuki have always been good, and this year is more of the same,” continues Sorensen. “Very powerful, not too much initial bite and very progressive as you get into them harder – I had no complaints with the Suzuki brakes at all once I got the lever adjusted right.”

All of this equates into one heck of a strong package. While the looks are take-it or leave-it, for this race-track based comparison we left styling out of the equation and focused totally on performance. And when you do that it’s hard to fault the Suzuki for much of anything. When it came down to it there were two bikes that stood above the rest, with the GSX-R and Honda CBR1000RR clearly out front.

“If I was choosing a bike to go racing on, it be would hard not to pick the Suzuki,” sums up Sorensen. “This seems like the easiest bike to go fast on right out of the box. When you push this bike to your limits it doesn’t get frantic or out of shape, it feels better with more feedback and makes you want to go push harder.”

2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Smackdown Track Test
Captain Ken and Waheed putting in some hot laps in our mini Journalist GP. So who won? The ground. Just ask Ken. He’s still loopy from the concussion…

There is no question that every time I jumped on the Suzuki my lap times dropped and it felt like I wasn’t even trying. The time would shed away with every lap I turned on the GSX-R, which right out of the box was one of the best set up of the bunch. It’s for this very reason that when the subjective votes were tallied, the Suzuki GSX-R was our overall favorite, though only by a hair. But when we added in all the performance numbers, which the Honda ever so slightly topped … well, the Suzuki was dropped back to second position. But in all fairness we must point out that it’s the smallest gap from first to second we’ve ever had – a mere three points out of a possible 200. Take it as you will, but having to pick between the Suzuki and Honda is nearly impossible…

Suzuki GSX-R Final Suspension Settings

Pre – 4 Clicks from fully turned out (std)
Rebound – 4 Turns from fully seated (std)
Comp. – 5 Turns from fully seated (std)
Ride Height – Std.

Preload – +1 Turn
HS Comp. – +1/2 Turns
LS Comp. – 2 ¼ Turns from fully seated (std.)
Rebound– 2 ¾ Turns from fully seated (std.)
Ride Height – Std.


Steve Atlas

Contributing Editor |Articles | Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

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