When it comes to building sportbikes no one has more experience than Suzuki. Over the years its top-of-the-line GSX-R1000 has developed cult-like following based on the wicked performance of its Inline-Four engine, composed chassis which can all be easily modified for all out no holds bar performance on the racetrack. And the crown jewel in its arsenal is the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Besides the Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki’s liter-class Superbike is perhaps the easiest bike to just hop on and ride. The layout of the controls the GSX-R will immediately feel comfortable for many riders, with its low seat that brings the rider into the machine–ala the RC8R—well proportioned handlebars, footpegs (adjustable) and fuel tank. Only problem is it feels a little bigger than its rival Superbikes. And while it isn’t an issue for taller riders—it made our shorter guys a little less comfortable hence the lower score in the rider interface department.
“I couldn’t really get comfortable on the Suzuki this time around,” confirms the 5’ 8” tall Hutchison. “I felt too sprawled out compared to the fleet of compact motorcycles. It makes me feel like a little kid riding my Dad’s bike and that was part of what held me back a bit on the GSX-R.”
Where bikes like the BMW excel in certain areas, like engine performance, and the Honda in its perfectly calibrated suspension, the GSX-R’s strong point is its versatility as a capable all-around motorcycle. While nothing stands out as being the best, nothing is really wrong with it (aside from occasional brake fade and the mysterious growing brake lever… more on that later).
(Above) Most of our test riders immediately felt comfortable aboard the ’11 Suzuki GSX-R1000. (Below) The Suzuki GSX-R1000 performed much better on track compared to Ducati’s 1198 but the Gixxer is getting a little long of tooth. Our data reveals that is scored lowest in three areas: Corner Speed (In 2 Turns) plus Max Lean. It’s still a great bike and fills more grid spots in the US racing scene than any other brand.
“Nothing about the bike stands out,” remarks Rapp. “When things are good you generally don’t notice anything. But when they’re bad well that’s another story. Everything felt good from the seating position to the motor and handling. Obviously they’ve been working on these bikes for 20-plus years. It’s been fined tuned so much that there is not that much fine tuning left to do.”
Get on the throttle and the liquid-cooled 999cc engine gets with the program immediately. Although the Suzuki doesn’t have any adjustable throttle sensitivity maps like the BMW or Yamaha it doesn’t need any as the throttle calibration is spot-on perfect and power is always right there without being abrupt. Right off the bottom it delivers the most amount of torque of the Inlines until the Honda eclipses it slightly at around 5500 revs. From there the Suzuki engine trails all but the Honda (until the BMW takes off at 10,000 revs) building power in a dead flat manner that peaks with 76.02 lb-ft of torque and 156.44 horsepower coming at 10,000 and 11,800 revs respectively.
Top-end power feels on par with the Kawasaki but still not anywhere near as robust as the Beemer. Power tapers off more gently than the other bikes as the rev-limiter necessitates an upshift 1500 rpm later. Throughout the ride a banshee-like wail accompanies the experience and makes you feel like you’re at the helm of a racebike.
Coming out of Turn 10, the Suzuki recorded the second highest maximum acceleration force (0.81g) proving how adept its engine and rear suspension are at putting power to the pavement. Although it doesn’t offer any form of traction control the chassis delivers a reasonable amount of feedback and gives the rider more confidence when driving off turns. Surprisingly, its velocity into the next turn (132.6 mph) a little bit slower than the rest of the bikes with exception of the Ducati and KTM.
“The GSX-R has a rev-happy motor so it seems like it is too soft in the middle,” confirms Earnest. “So it had to hurt its drive on the back straight because it takes a while to build up before it really gets going. That’s a problem with it being corked up.”
With a fully fueled curb weight of 460 pounds the GSX-R is the second heaviest bike in this test and 21 pounds heavier than the class-leading ZX-10R. Even though it felt like it steered a little heavier than some of the other machines our testers were generally pleased with the way it maneuvered into a turn. Historically speaking, stability has always been a strong point of the GSX-R.
This time however some test riders weren’t as comfortable on it as evident by the low max lean angle through the fast and banked Turn 13. Corner speeds through Turns 13 and 16 were also at the back of the field. Through Turns 8/9/10, the GSX-R had the second highest side-to-side lean range signifying how much the rider had to maneuver the motorcycle to negotiate that section. Much to our surprise its side-to-side flick rate was second best at 58.8 (deg/sec.) although it certainly didn’t feel this way. This might be explained by the GSX-R’s low center of gravity which improves the speed at which the bike maneuvers.
In spite of this Neuer had praise for the Suzuki: “The Suzuki is a great bike. It just does everything really well plus in race trim it is a proven winner. The motor is strong and responsive; no doubt the bike is serious and commands respect. It handles very well and this biggest strong point for me is how stable it is at full lean. I was very impressed with the confidence it gave me allowing me to get into the throttle hard on corner exit.”
As usual we were really pleased with the performance of the drivetrain. The calibration of the slipper clutch is superb and on par with the rest of Japanese bikes, as well as the BMW. Although it doesn’t have a speed-shifter like the BMW or Ducati, transmission problems were minimal on the Suzuki. However, Neuer did comment that he had some problems shifting at high-rpm.
Next to the KTM and BMW, the Suzuki registered the third-highest maximum braking force (-0.96g) during braking for Turn 1 with its radial-mount Tokico caliper set-up. Although the data says that the GSX-R offers good stopping force most of our test riders didn’t think so. Part of the problem is that the brakes would routinely fade after a handful of laps, which made it difficult to assess the engagement point of the brakes as feel from the lever was never the same. Upon request the Suzuki techs bled the front brake system, which did help, but feel from the front brakes remained inconsistent.
“I found the GSX-R1000 to be mediocre in many categories,” sums up Siglin. “It has a decent chassis but the front end lacked feel for me which took away from the confidence I had at speed. The rear end felt great with good traction and feel but as soon as I got the Suzuki hard on the brakes and into a corner I just couldn’t mesh with it. The front brakes were another big disappointment with constant fade which made it a chore at times to slow down.”
“Without TC aids like the Kawi or the telepathic chassis of the Honda, not to mention the missile motor and TC in the Beemer, this bike just can’t quite run at the front in stock trim,” adds Atlas. “Even so, it is one of the easier bikes to ride and very user friendly, not to mention it has a serious hit of power – one which will put just about anyone on their butt – so the bike is still nothing to scoff at.”
In our timed Superpole sessions the GSX-R recorded the fourth-fastest average time just behind the BMW S1000RR proving that its performance is on par with the other bikes. Overall all of our testers enjoyed riding the Suzuki. Based on its proven capabilities in full-on race trim, this is a bike many will campaign at the track – and for good reason.
2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Track
2011 Ducati 1198 Track Comparison
2011 KTM RC8R Track Comparison
2011 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison
2011 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Comparison
2011 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison
2011 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison
2011 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison
2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Conclusion