First Ride

First ride: Suzuki GSX-S1000F review

Don't call it a sports tourer

WE'LL need to redefine a few bike classes after this year, or make some new ones. For example, the sports tourer class now includes some new adventurey-looking models, like MV Agusta's Turismo Veloce and Yamaha's MT-09 Tracer.

Kawasak's Ninja H2 seems to have created its own class, one that doesn't yet have a name.

And so, possibly, has Suzuki's GSX-S1000F.

From the moment it was unveiled at the Intermot Cologne show last September, it's been assigned by consensus to the sports tourer class. Where else would you put an upright, straight-barred, tall-screened litre bike?

But it's not a sports tourer, Suzuki insists. It's a sports bike - just one that happens to be comfortable. Sitting alone in the new comfortable-sports-bike-and-nothing-else-besides category.

So there are to be no official hard luggage options for it, only a tank bag and tail pack.

Previously I might have seen that as disappointing for a machine that looks so much like it belongs in a back-to-back test with a Kawasaki Z1000SX, which does have optional panniers.

But after riding the GSX-S1000F at the press launch on the Isle of Man's Mountain Course, I think I forgive it.

It definitely has the engine of a sports bike, literally. It's an old GSX-R1000 engine, a 143.5hp, 999cc in-line-four, in a new aluminium chassis with the swing-arm from the current Gixer Thou. At the unveiling last year, Suzuki GB said it was a 2008 GSX-R1000 engine. The official line has since become that it's from a K5 (2005) GSX-R1000. The difference is marketing; the 2005 engine was retained until 2008.

Whatever year it's from was a good one. A lot of modern bikes have linear power delivery. Even where enormous power is available, the climb to it is often a constant gradient, with no unexpected steps.

The GSX-S1000F engine has tonnes of low-down and mid-range torque. It pulls sharply from 3,000rpm in fifth and gathers strength in proportion to the climbing revs – until around 9,000rpm, where there is an old-fashioned top-end surge, a rush, a step-up that makes you think: that's what I've been missing. It starts just below peak torque, which is 78.2lbft at 9,500rpm. Peak power is 143.5hp at 10,000.

Mid-range is nice, and makes the GSX-S1000F very easy to ride quite fast, knowing a high gear will give lots of drive out of a corner.

But it's an extra bit of unexpected top-end punch that gives you the incentive to ride it as fast as it will go when the road straightens, especially roads with no speed limit like the Isle of Man's Mountain Mile. It's something to go looking for, a reason not to change up yet, to wait for the hyperdrive to come on at 9,000 and take you at warp speed to the 11,500rpm red line. And it sounds good too, like a proper, howling litre sports bike.

The GSX-S1000F is the fully-faired version of the naked GSX-S1000 which was also unveiled at Intermot last year. With an identical engine, that also has that top-end surge at around 9,000. But the naked bike feels more flighty when it hits it, the front wheel more ready to leave the road.

The fairing has added 7kg to the front end of the GSX-S1000F but its stabilising effect probably goes beyond that. Suzuki says its aerodynamics produce a down-force equivalent to 20kg at 120mph. The front wheel feels more pinned to the ground. When it does begin to skip, a good sense of stability is retained.

Well into triple-figure speeds, taking a pounding from ripples and bumps, the GSX-S1000F felt completely sure-footed, the sporty, adjustable suspension keeping excellent order.

It's got a fully-adjustable upside-down fork and a shock that's adjustable for pre-load and rebound damping, both from KYB. The hardware is exactly the same as the naked version's but the settings have been adjusted to increase damping at both ends. The oil level in the fork is different. Suzuki says it's to allow for the extra weight at the front and make the bike slightly sportier, better adjusted to fast riding. The suspension's firm – my backside parted with the seat at least once – but was never flustered, always putting the rider's demands above those of the road surface.

The fairing gives the GSX-S1000F a much bulkier overall aspect than the naked version but it's still a compact machine. It feels lightweight, tipping in and out of corners like a sports bike, while the leverage of the wide, straight Renthal Fatbar lends more ease and leisure to the process than pair of clip-ons would. The Dunlop Sportmax D214 tyres give the grip and confidence to chase lean angles.

At low speeds, the lightweight feel, straight bar and a good steering angle make the GSX-S1000F easy to manoeuvre with confidence. The seat is low enough for most riders to easily get both feet flat on the ground, at 810mm.