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Head to head | 2021 Honda CB1000R vs 2021 Suzuki GSX-S1000

We look at the Honda CB1000R against one of its closest competitors, the newly updated Suzuki GSX-S1000

H2H Honda CB1000R vs Suzuki GSX-S1000

IN the world of naked motorcycles there two distinct groups of bikes. At the top end, we have stripped down sports bikes, pushing out otherworldly power and torque figures and track-focused riding dynamics.

New SUZUKI GSX-S1000 2021 Review

New SUZUKI GSX-S1000 2021 Review | GSX-S1000 Road and Track Test | Visordown.com

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the more traditional naked machines. These bikes tend to feature lower power outputs, less exotic suspension and brakes and a more real-world, real roads approach.

Two bikes that are firm favourites in this class are the Honda CB1000R and the newly updated Suzuki GSX-S1000.

We’ve been lucky enough to ride both of these updated models already in 2021, so here's our verdict on which is the bike you should buy.

Engine

While both bikes look widely different, they actually have quite a lot in common – they both feature engines that have previously been found in top-flight sports bikes. The Honda’s engine comes from the earlier generation CBR1000RR, while the GSX-S1000 is fitted with an engine that once graced the frame of the all-conquering K5 GSX-R1000.

Both are detuned slightly, with the Honda producing 143bhp and the GSX-S 149bhp. In truth and back on real roads, you really can’t spot the missing ponies thanks to closely placed gears and engines tuned to deliver thumping mid-range.

In truth, the engines of these two bikes are like chalk and cheese, with the CB1000R still retaining some of the screaming characteristics of the Fireblade while the GSX is more of a user-friendly machine. You’re never going to really feel the differences in power between these two bikes on the road, so choosing between the two will come down to preference. If you want a machine that will be forgiving with gear changes and allow you to ride the torque out of the corners the Suzuki is the bike for you. If you want a more engaging machine, with more than a dollop of sports bike dynamics, the Honda is hard to beat.

Chassis and handling

The chassis of the Suzuki features fully adjustable KYB forks and Brembo calipers which do a great job of keeping the GSX-S feeling calm and composed on UK roads. It does lack some of that plush feel you get from the CB1000R though, which is blessed with incredible front end feel and control.

Of the two bikes, the CB1000R is the best handling of the two by some margin. Credit where it’s due, the GSX-S is greater than the sum of its price tag. It punches well above its weight for a bike that costs a shade over £10,000. But if you were back-to-back testing it against the more sophisticated Honda, you’d appreciate the feel, feedback and grips that the Honda brings.

Styling

I always say that styling is subjective, although I can’t talk about the CB1000R without mentioning how bloody good it looks in the flesh. We had the Black Edition of the naked on test earlier this year and it really is a stunning thing to behold. It’s the kind of bike that you actually can’t walk away from without taking one last glance over your shoulder at it – and just at a distance. If you opt for the Black Edition as we did, the level of detailing on the engine, rearset hangers, and the headstock is just stunning.

And then there is the GSX-S. Less classy in its styling but certainly no less eye-catching. The redesign for 2021 has really divided opinion. After the launch of the bike, I came away with the impression that it definitely looks better in the flesh than it does on screen. The front end isn’t as extreme as I thought it was going to be, and the more angular styling is so much better than the previous generation. It just doesn’t quite fire you up in the same way that the classy looking Honda.

To sum it up, you could roll off the circuit after a trackday on the Honda, jump into your black-tie attire and cruise up to a fancy dinner, and nobody would bat an eyelid – the same can’t be said for the Suzuki!

Verdict

Given that the GSX-S1000 is one of the best value 1,000cc nakeds on the market, its cut-price £10k price tag will likely be the big draw lots of owners. The thing is, the Honda in base trim is only around £1,600 more, and the uber-cool Black Edition 1400 quid more at just under 13k. I have a feeling that if you were to choose the Honda over the Suzuki, you’d quickly appreciate the extra ability and style of the machine.

New Honda CB1000R 2021 first impressions 

New 2021 Honda CB1000R Black Edition First Ride | Visordown.com