Visit any motorcycle road race and you’ll notice Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 sportbike is the most prevalent machine on the grid. The Suzuki literbike has carved a niche based on its immediate out-of-the-crate performance, not to mention how straightforward it is to convert into a full-on racer. The 2012 model gets a mild update to make it more proficient.
The basic architecture of the liquid-cooled Inline Four, including bore/stroke measurements and capacity remain unchanged. What has changed is the operating efficiency and overall responsiveness through a combination of mechanical and electronic revisions.
Inside, four new pistons were fitted that are both lighter and more durable. Each one features a reshaped crown and skirt said to boost low-to-mid power as well as being quicker to rev. In turn, the compression ratio has also increased slightly. New camshafts were also installed and each of the 16 valve tappets (metal actuator between camshaft and valve spring) are lighter too. The engine case also receives larger ventilation holes (like the 2011-plus GSX-R600/750) said to reduce mechanical pumping losses.
Thankfully, Suzuki finally ditches its twin muffler exhaust system that it began implementing in ’07 for a more traditional single muffler terminating on the righthand side of the bike. The pipe continues to use a 4-2-1 configuration with the headers fabricated from stainless-steel and the muffler from titanium. The heavy belly-mounted pre-chamber was also eliminated and the mid-pipe lengthened to complement the powerband. Lastly, new ECU settings help give the engine a smoother, more linear spread of power throughout its 13,300 rpm range.
(Top) The GSX-R1000 now benefits from the use of Brembo monobloc front brake calipers. (Center) Suzuki engineers dropped four pounds of weight off the 2012 GSX-R1000. (Bottom) The GSX-R steers into corners with minimal effort and is generally a very easy literbike to ride.
Historically braking performance has been one of the weakest links in the Gixxer 1000’s pedigree. So the big news is the replacement of the inconsistent-feeling Tokico front calipers for monoblocs sourced from Brembo. The new binders continue to be actuated through rubber lines and a radial-mount hydraulic master cylinder with no anti-lock option. Another change is the fitment of 0.5mm narrower thermal-resistant rotors.
The front suspension was also modified with the tip-to-tip length of the fork decreasing by 7mm and travel by 5mm. Valving was also changed to give the fork softer action through the initial stroke. The fork continues to offer three-way adjustability for spring preload, compression and return damping. Another small change is the front axle that is marginally lighter and is secured via a nut as opposed to the previous inner-thread design. The four-way adjustable shock has been untouched. Lastly, new tackier seat covers were fitted on the rider and passenger seats to enhance grip. As usual the GSX-R continues to feature adjustable rider footpegs.
The new Suzuki rolls on the latest Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S-20 Front Tire (120/70-17) and Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S-20 Rear Tire (190/50-17). The tires were engineered to Suzuki’s specification and utilize a uniform compound up front and a dual-compound rear. All said and done the ’12 spec GSX-R1000 weighs in at 448 pounds with a 4.6-gallon tank of fuel (four pounds less than before).
Visually the GSX-R appears much sharper in part to the less cluttered look of the single exhaust, as well as the new graphics including red accents on the wheels and side panels.
RIDING IMPRESSION FROM HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
Pin the throttle and it’s quite obvious how much more ‘free revving’ the engine feels. It’s not any faster than the previous model in terms of outright power but indeed it has a greater appetite for piling on revs. And you’re going to need ‘em as the motor doesn’t offer the same degree of low-end bark as the previous generation engine (2007-2008). It does however make smooth, useable power at all rpm, but it lacks any power hit or crazy warp drive acceleration surge like other bikes in its class.
This can be a good or bad thing depending on rider preference and/or tire selection, but for a high-level rider harder hitting top-end power is always a good thing on track – especially when your accelerating on the fat part of the tire. For those that feel that the powerband is too intimidating Suzuki continues to employ three engine power modes (A/B/C) that allow for reduced engine power based on track conditions or rider skill/comfortability.
Just when we thought that throttle response and engine fueling settings couldn’t get any better the new 1000 proves otherwise. Simply put, this is one of the best running GSX-Rs we’ve ever ridden. While it doesn’t make use of adjustable throttle sensitivity modes like other literbikes you’ll never miss it.
(Top) The ergonomics and control layout are well proportioned and work especially well for riders of above average height. (Bottom) The GSX-R steers into corners with minimal effort and is generally a very easy literbike to ride.
Suzuki GSX-Rs have always offered a high-level of character for a Japanese-built Inline Four and the latest iteration continues this trait. The engine has a ridiculous amount of charisma releasing a racy air induction howl and exhaust roar whenever the twist grip is pulled. Sure, it doesn’t make the bike any faster, but it feels like it.
In terms of handling the biggest improvement is the new front brake set-up. Lean on the lever and you’ll notice that there isn’t much initial bite – a big plus for riders without lots of riding experience. However stopping power ramps up progressively the harder you pull back on it. Plus the anchors are very consistent feeling and fade-free. Though it is important to note that it takes a lap or two to build enough heat in them to receive that pleasing lever feel.
The attitude of the bike felt more favorable than past years and we love the way the cockpit and controls are laid out. It feels compact but not overly so – a boon for taller than average riders. Steering effort is minimal and we were impressed by how well the front suspension performed offering great compliance over bumps and feel at lean. Some of this may be attributed to the fitment of Bridgestone’s latest R10 road race tire that worked well at the front. Stability is great too with the bike resisting the urge to head shake too much. We were less enthused with the way the shock reacted under acceleration but that may be attributed to the lackluster performance of the rear R10. The back end still works okay – offering a high-level of feel – it just wasn’t as well set-up as the front of the motorcycle. As usual the rest of the drivetrain including the six-speed transmission and slipper clutch performed flawlessly.
Traction and wheelie control are still missing from the GSX-Rs arsenal but based on the current level of engine and chassis performance some riders, myself included, will never miss it. The balance of motorcycle and the harmonious relationship between engine and chassis allow the rider to manipulate the bike easily and make up for the lack of electronic wizardry.
Engineers have improved upon the already good throttle response and engine fuel settings. The ’12 GSX-R1000 is the best running GSX-R we’ve ever tested.
Make no mistake about it: the ’12 spec GSX-R1000 is an improved machine and worth the $200 price increase ($13,799). It certainly isn’t the fastest thing on the road nor the lightest in stock form. However it does continue to offer racers and track enthusiasts a competent platform to go race especially now that it has competent racing-grade braking components.
- Strong, consistent and easy-to-use brakes
- Smooth, manageable powerband
- Excellent engine sound and character
- Needs more power–everywhere
- Rear suspension takes time to set-up
- Could be lighter and less expensive