First Ride

Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9 - Mackenzie track test

No traction control, no fancy cranks and no need - the boss is back. Niall Mackenzie falls for Suzuki's new big GSX-R

Click to read: Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9 owners reviews, Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9 specs and to see the Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9 image gallery.

You could be forgiven for thinking very little has changed with Suzuki’s latest GSX-R 1000. After a passing glance at the NEC show, and with the R1 stealing all the media hype, I for one spent the winter assuming nothing much had changed bar some new graphics and the re-styled exhausts. But I couldn’t have been more wrong – with the exception of maybe the front mudguard, this bike is all-new from the ground up. Welcome then to the 2009 GSX-R1000, the darkest of dark horses.

I’m not sure if it was intentional but Suzuki has somehow managed to build a completely new motorcycle whilst keeping the changes so subtle you could easily mistake the new bike for the K7 K8 model. I’ve attended launches when manufacturers have claimed "45 changes", only to reveal that forty of them were the different engine studs. Not this time – the new 1000cc GSX-R has been revised everywhere. The tank, seat, fairing, wheels, engine, exhausts, suspension, electronics and dash are all new, making it quite the revelation of 2009.

With 1000cc sportsbikes now making more power than most riders can use, manufacturers are less interested in top speed and are nowadays concentrating much more on making their bikes user-friendly and safe to ride. Yamaha claim to have achieved this with their MotoGP-inspired cross-plane crank, where as Suzuki have gone done a more conventional route by chopping 5kg off the previous model’s overall weight, while also making major improvements to handling and grip.

The weight loss comes mainly from a lighter engine, chassis, suspension and wheels which, together with the 10mm shorter wheelbase to give the bike a more agile feel. The improved grip comes from a much more compact engine, which allows a longer swingarm to be fitted, in turn improving traction and boosting rider feel. Up front the new 43mm Showa big-piston forks do a good job keeping things stable at high speed, coping with bumps well and remaining planted in tighter corners. This type of fork is very lightweight but some suspension experts are already saying its method of construction may make it more susceptible to damage in the event of a crash.

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