A week with Suzuki’s GSX-S1000

A great super-naked, if only Suzuki would fix the throttle response

TAKE an accomplished superbike engine, de-tune it for even stupider mid-range and add some straight handlebars. Result: a devastating super-naked. Obviously it’s a bit more complicated than that but you get the idea.

It works for the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR, using an engine based on the RSV4’s. It works for the BMW S1000R, using a de-tuned S1000RR engine.

Now Suzuki is hoping it will work for the GSX-S1000, using the storming 999cc in-line-four from a 2008 GSX-R1000 in a new aluminium chassis. De-tuned to 143.5hp, but with better low-to-mid-range output, it’s the machine Suzuki hopes will take it straight to the cutting edge of the burgeoning super-naked class, which is also populated by Kawasaki’s Z1000, KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R and that old favourite the Triumph Speed Triple.

Just in case it doesn’t, Suzuki is having a pop at two markets by putting a fairing on it to make a sports tourer, the GSX-S1000F.

Visordown was on the launch of the GSX-S1000, so we know (and we’ve told you) it handles well and the engine punches like a heavyweight. We know the fully adjustable fork and pre-load/rebound damping adjustable shock are well set up. We know the Dunlop Sportmax tyres are grippy and the Brembo brakes powerful.

We know it’s good – on the twisty southern Spanish roads of the launch. But what’s it like to use as transport for a week? On the traffic-clogged roads of the UK?

‘Small’ was the first adjective I wanted to use when I saw it in our car park. It looks no bigger than a 600cc sports bike of a few years ago. It’s wide where the frame beams hug the engine but much narrower where your knees hug the tank. It feels compact.

Compact and muscular. The engine pulls from the very bottom of the range and takes off at about 4,000rpm.  And strong as the mid-range is, it’s only just getting started. Wait till you see 10,000rpm. That’s if you can find enough road space to get there.

It might be 16.5hp and 4lbft down on the S1000R but I defy 95% of riders to get off this Suzuki and honestly say: ‘That’s too slow. It’s holding me back.’ Whatever the revs, it wants to accelerate.

That’s the problem. It really does always want to accelerate.

Our road tester criticised the throttle response in his launch report and I think he could have gone further. The first time I rode the GSX-S1000, I was preoccupied by its potency. The second time, riding to work in the morning, I noticed how annoying it was at town speed. In third gear at 25mph, the revs are at just over 2,000rpm and keeping them there is a delicate balance between accelerating and shutting off. A tiny wrist movement and you’re accelerating; a tiny correction and you’re slowing down. When all you want is to go 25mph.

At 30mph the revs are at about 2,500rpm in third and it’s no better. Neither is it fixed by changing up to fourth. It’s the same annoying balancing act, just at slightly lower revs.

And it’s not just in town. At 50mph in sixth gear, the revs are at about 3,000 and it feels the same. At 4,000rpm it feels like it’s on the cusp of unleashing that mid-range. By 70mph, revs have climbed to 5,000 and it still feels like it either wants to shut off or go faster.

It’s as though Suzuki road testers never tried riding the GSX-S1000 at a constant speed.

Of course you get used to it. After riding about 100 miles, I already found it less annoying and easier to manage. But essentially that’s because I was learning to doing a precision task with an imprecise tool. Like pouring milk into a cup of tea from a bucket. A day’s practice and you’d probably get the hang of it but it would still be easier to use a bottle or a jug. As I found when I got back on my own bike and rediscovered what a motorcycle should feel like.

The second time I rode into work on the GSX-S1000, I found myself naturally selecting fifth gear at about 30mph because it reduced the throttle’s on/off tendency. It’s at least one gear higher than I’d normally go for, and obviously means more changes and clutch use. 

I think it’s a big shame, especially considering Suzuki says this bike’s low-to-mid-range torque makes it ‘more suitable for street riding’.

Apart from the annoying throttle response, it’s great. It’s easy to switch between the three traction control settings using buttons on the left bar, or to turn it off. The digital clocks are simple but useful, with current and average fuel consumption. According to the dash it was 41.3mpg while fuel receipts put it at 44.4mpg, on a mix of motorway, town and A-roads. The dash also tells you your range. After 132 miles between fuel stops, it said I had 27 miles to go before running out, putting the total range at about 160 miles.

It should make a good town bike. It’s barely wider at the mirrors than at the bars, which is useful when filtering, and it’s got a much wider steering angle than the S1000R, which feels more like a sports bike simply given straight bars.

It’s comfortable. There’s a bit of a reach to the bars, more so than on the Z1000, but it’s definitely upright and the seat is wide and soft-ish.

It sounds good, and loud for a Japanese bike. A blip of that throttle will clear the trees of birds.

I don’t think it’s badly priced, at £8,999. It can be forgiven if it's not quite as good as an S1000R because it’s a grand cheaper. Admittedly it gets a bit more complicated when you consider that ABS is standard on the BMW and £500 extra on the Suzuki.

But I think with the throttle response fixed, it would be possible to recommend the GSX-S1000. So get on with it, Suzuki.

Model tested: Suzuki GSX-S1000

Engine: 999cc in-line-four

Price: from £8,999 plus on-the-road charges (£9,499 with ABS, £9,999 for fully-faired GSX-S1000F)

Power: 143.5hp @ 10,000rpm

Torque: 78.2lbft @ 9,500rpm

Kerb weight: 209kg

Tank capacity: 17 litres

Seat height: 810mm

Colours: candy red/black, metallic blue, matt grey

Read our Suzuki GSX-S1000 launch report here and watch our video review here.

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