2009 Suzuki Gladius Comparison

Adam Waheed | June 8, 2009
2009 Suzuki Gladius Comparison
Don’t let its small engine size fool you. The Suzuki Gladius is the definition of fun.

Before riding the Gladius, we were pretty pessimistic of how fun this little Suzuki motorcycle could be. But after just one ride on it, we were blown away by how amusing it is to ride.

Jump into its cockpit and there’s no disputing the Gladius feels wider than the ultra-narrow ER. Reach out to its chrome handlebars, however, and you’ll be impressed with its wide traditional bend which lends itself well when you need to maneuver the motorcycle in the tight confines of a parking lot. Like the ER, the front brake lever has a good deal of adjustment for hand size and the clutch lever is light and offers gentle engagement. Although the Gladius’ 30.9-inch seat height is taller than the ER’s, it still allowed the 5’7” Atlas to plant both feet firmly on the ground. We also liked how the seat is shaped to perfectly fit your bottom.

Press the starter button and the Gladius engine chugs to life with an air gulping intake sound, as compared to the ER’s beefy exhaust blare. Accelerating hard from a stop and you’ll be taken back by how peppy the Gladius 645cc V-Twin feels. Although on paper it actually has slightly less peak torque, it feels more lively and responsive than the numbers lead you to believe. Keep on revving the engine past 7000 rpm and you really feel the Gladius accelerate. Here you’ll feel its horsepower advantage over the ER, yet its power delivery is completely seamless which won’t intimidate a novice rider.

Working through the Suzuki’s six-speed transmission was also pleasing and it felt more polished than the ER’s, changing gears with the precision and feel we’ve come to expect from Suzuki’s GSX-R line of sportbikes.

Without a doubt the Gladius is a very well balanced motorcycle and has plenty of power to get on one wheel, check out all the action in our Suzuki Gladius Video as it takes on the Kawasaki ER-6n.

“I love the sensation you get from the Gladius’ engine. It just feels quicker than the Kawi’s pretty much everywhere. It’s super smooth through the rev range and doesn’t have any power hit like the ER. Plus you don’t have to rev it to the moon to get it to accelerate fast,” mentions Atlas.

While the Suzuki’s chassis isn’t quite as agile as the ER’s, it’s still is a blast to ride when the road gets curvy. However its lack of ground clearance gets annoying. Add in a really soft suspension and it feels like the Suzuki is missing a something charging through the corners.

“Next to the Gladius’ paper thin seat, the thing I don’t like about it is its lack of ground clearance. I mean they put good sticky tires on it and you lean it over and it immediately starts scrapping. Then the bike stars wiggling around because the suspension is so soft. If they fixed those things this could be almost a perfect little motorcycle,” says Atlas.
Suzuki wisely chose to fit the Gladius with the ultra sticky Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier tire. And if we had to choose between it and the Roadsmart we’d always go with the Qualifer because we like the way it feels. However, that feel does come at a cost: Mileage service life.

2009 Suzuki Gladius Comparison
2009 Suzuki Gladius Comparison 2009 Suzuki Gladius Comparison

While the Gladius suspension wasn’t as taut as the ER, it definitely is much more forgiving on rough road. Where the ER’s rear-end feels downright harsh the Gladius set-up sorts out pavement imperfections effortlessly. However, its thin seat works against the more complaint rear suspension and compromises ride quality so much that the ER gets the nod for those planning on logging extended seat time.

Out on the highway the Gladius’ engine delivers more vibrations through its control surfaces. While it never gets annoying it’s not quite as smooth as the ER. We did appreciate its more open cockpit though especially within the leg region, which allowed for a sporty seating command without compromising overall comfort.

Equally as pleasing was the Gladius’ simple yet well thought out instrumentation. In fact, come to think, of all the streetbikes we’ve tested recently the Gladius might have the most functional, most legible instruments of any new motorcycle. A large analog tachometer is flanked by an orange backlit digital speedometer complete with a gear position indicator and dual trip meters and clock.

Braking performance is another department exceeding expectations. Up front 290mm brake discs and double-piston Tokico calipers require only one finger at the brake lever. A single 240mm rear disc and single-piston caliper keep you from looping out when you’re riding down the road on the rear wheel. Feel on both ends was plentiful, however, we could see how novice ham-fisted riders might think the Suzuki’s brakes are a bit touchy.

While the Gladius netted slightly better fuel economy than the ER (44 MPG versus the ER’s 42) it wasn’t enough to offset the ER’s 0.3 gallon-larger fuel tank. Which gives the ER slightly more range then the Gladius.

2009 Suzuki Gladius Comparison
One of the few kinks in the Gladius armor is its lack of ground clearance at speed.

Visually, the Gladius design is a mixed bag. Although we dig its Blue/White paint scheme and stylized exhaust system, its shape is, perhaps, too out there. It also didn’t draw near the amount of attention as the ER, which might be a boon for the rider who likes to fly under the attention radar.

Where the ER-6n feels utilitarian to ride, the Gladius is dynamic – offering a much more intimate riding experience than expected from its $6899 pricetag. It does everything a motorcycle is supposed to do: It’s easy-to-ride, performs admirably in all but the most extreme conditions and is just plain fun on the road, regardless of engine size. That’s why the Suzuki Gladius is the sporty new entry-level motorcycle you’ve been looking for.

For My Money

Adam Waheed, Road Test Editor, 6 foot, 180 lbs:

Honestly, both of these motorcycles would be perfect for a new rider as beyond anything else they are small and easy to ride. But the thing I really like about the Suzuki is that although it’s designed for a newbie, it’s still so well engineered that an experienced rider can hop on it, rip around and come back with as big as a smile on their face as if they just got a GSX-R sportbike. It’s truly amazing how much fun Suzuki infused in this motorcycle. If I was in the market for a new small displacement sporty motorcycle the Gladius would be it.

Steve Atlas, Executive Editor, 5 foot, 8 inches, 150 lbs:

The ER-6n is a funny motorcycle. It is definitely more oriented to someone who is new to the sport of motorcycling. Not to say that the Gladius isn’t, but the Kawi just feels a tad bit smaller, a little more agile, more docile power, etc. When I picked up the Gladius I told Suzuki’s press officer, Garrett Kai, that if I could leave the store and, right off the bat, having never ridden the machine, wheelie the Gladius for the several blocks to the stoplight at the end of the road without putting the front end down, I would give it a good review. And the Suzuki did just that and more. I’ll take a new Gladius please.

Adam Waheed

Road Test Editor | Articles | Adam's insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.