2009 GSX-R1000 review

Just when I thought I was getting close to reaching cerebral maturity, the 2009 GSX-R1000 showed me that I still had a long way to go.

Strong, flexible motor | Next-generation handling | Surprisingly good at long-distance
Lack of storage space | Lack of bungee points | Common as muck

In June 2009, I was introduced to Suzuki's 2009 GSX-R1000, and it quickly became apparent that this bike was something special. Just when I thought I was getting close to reaching cerebral maturity, this beast showed me that I still had a long way to go.

After a recent experience with a BMW K1200S that left me feeling like I might not be ready for anything other than a pure sports bike, I decided to go back to my roots and get my hands on the Suzuki GSX-R1000. This machine has a reputation for being a proper sports bike, and it didn’t disappoint.

In June 2009, I picked up the GSX-R1000 and immediately made some modifications, swapping out the standard tires for Michelin's impressive new Power One hoops. 

Related: 2009 GSX-R1000 K9 review

In the following months, I made several further modifications to enhance its performance and appearance. From changing the tyres to installing a new exhaust system, I spared no expense in making this bike truly my own. 

Despite some challenges in sourcing aftermarket parts, I was determined to make it the best it could be. With each modification, I was able to experience firsthand the impressive capabilities of this machine, from its clean revving and smooth handling to its exhilarating acceleration and top speed.

With its impressive performance, sleek design, and customization potential, the GSX-R1000 promised to be an exciting ride for the coming months of my test duration…

June 2009

Just when I start thinking that I’m all grown up, a bike like this comes along and proves that I’m still a fair way off.

Last year’s experience with BMW’s fast but unwieldy K1200S truly made me realise that I’m not yet ready for anything other than a pukka sports bike. And they don’t get much more pukka than the brilliant GSX-R1000.

So, I’m going to kid myself no longer and go back to the roots I laid down in the '90s. The Suzuki doesn’t need a great deal to make it a better bike, but within a fortnight of picking the bike up I’ve changed the standard tyres in favour of Michelin’s quite frankly amazing new Power One hoops.

Over the next few months I’ll be letting it breathe more easily, giving it as much fuel as it wants (rather than what Euro III emissions rules dictate), helping it to handle and steer even more naturally and, above all else, I’m going to make it look the absolute dog’s danglies.

Those hideous exhausts simply have to go so I’m currently on the lookout for some black carbon fibre loveliness – so far it’s looking like Devil or Yoshimura might just fit the bill.

Then of course, there’s the back end to tidy up with a new numberplate hanger and old-school dinky plate. Then there’s the big piston forks to pull apart, try to understand, attempt to get back together and then try to improve.

It’s going to be an interesting year packed with all the things I love about biking – growing up will have to wait just a little bit longer. 

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009
TOTAL MILEAGE: 758 miles

July 2009

Well, I’ve not really had much chance to ride the GSX-R1000 this month. With so much to organise for our trip to Assen and the rest of the month spent fetching bikes in the van, the GSX-R has been sat in the garage while I’ve been tearing the arse out of a bunch of 600s all over northern Europe.

The 200 miles I have managed this month have been between Peterborough and Islington, so other than what the GSX-R1000 (200( is like up and down the A1 (very comfortable by the way, if a little tricky to keep at licence-friendly speeds) there’s not a great deal I can say with much in the way of conviction about the finer points of the handling or engine.

There’s one thing that’s getting a little frustrating though. With the Suzuki being a new model for 2009, getting hold of any go-faster bits hasn’t been easy.

I’d eyed up a sexy little French number to replace the rocket launcher exhausts, but then trying to communicate with Devil exhausts in France was harder than trying to communicate with the dead, so eventually I gave up and decided to look elsewhere.

Yoshimura would have been a little obvious for a Suzuki so, after a fait bit of internet browsing, I decided on a Leo Vince. Everything is beautifully engineered, right down to the last bracket. Well almost, as the last bracket wasn’t actually in the box.

A quick call to the ever helpful Bob Pearson at Moto GB Distribution (0845 094 1934) and the heatshield brackets should be with me by the time I get back from getting wet and trying not to crash at Pembrey.

There are still a few more bits I’m keen to try on the Suzuki, but it’s a case of being patient and waiting for things to be made. In the meantime our esteemed editor has been experiencing the joys of Suzuki’s latest flagship machine for himself.

It’s funny how a thing as simple as a motorbike can help somebody revert back to type. One minute he was singing the praises of the Met police traffic division afer spending a few days with them, the next (following a ride home on this here GSX-R) he was banging on about wheelies and racing tuned Porsches at lots of miles an hour down the A3.

You definitely don’t get that kind of fun out of a BMW GS Adventure.

John’s initial concerns about the pipes ruining the fuelling have proved unfounded. Modern bikes use air/fuel sensors that instantly recognise that the bike is breathing easier and optimise themselves. Sure, some time on the dyno would ensure everything is bang on, but it revs really cleanly, pulls well from 3000rpm and at 8000rpm the thing goes mental, the front end screaming for the clouds like a homesick angel.

We made a couple of videos to show the difference in sound between the standard pipes and their Leo Vince replacements. Not only are the aftermarket items prettier, I’m sure you’ll agree they sound an awful lot better too; road-legal but sweet.

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009

August 2009

It’s been an up and down month for me this month. Highsiding the Fireblade at Oulton Park, dislocating my collarbone and generally bashing myself about being this month’s fairly obvious low. But on the Suzuki side of the garage, things are going pretty well, if a little slowly for my liking.

Frank Wrathall at Dynojet UK came up trumps with a Power Commander V to get the mapping sorted out to suit the gorgeous road legal titanium Leo Vince end cans and the catalyst eliminator.

As expected, with the catalytic converter removed, the bike was running a little on the lean side so, rather than wreck the valves and pistons, I got Rob Simpson at RJS Superbike (01455 845611) to set up the fuelling to see what kind of power the big GSX-R would poke out, freed from the shackles of environmental responsibility.

Not quite as expected, the gains in terms of sheer horsepower were fairly minimal, to be honest, with a steady 3-4bhp gain across the rev range all the way to a peak figure of 163.01bhp compared to the 160.7bhp we got as stock.

Eagle-eyed readers or, as I’m often known, ‘anoraks’ may have spotted that on the very same dyno just a month or two ago, we had 164.99bhp from our bog standard press fleet test bike. And this bike, now with £1500 worth of goodies bolted on, is making less.

The only reason we can come up with for those absent four-and-a-bit ponies is that the weather was much colder when we tested the press bike – surely it couldn’t be that Suzuki’s press bikes are a bit ‘special’? Now that Roger Simmonds has left, those days are long gone.

Regardless, our GSX-R1000 is now a much smoother ride. The midrange delivery feels fatter and getting back on the throttle mid-corner is a far less edgy affair.

All in all, the improvements made might not have resulted in earth shattering headline horsepower figures, but I’m more than happy with the way the bike performs and would bet a week’s wages that the extra confidence on the throttle at big lean angles will translate into faster lap times.

Speaking of big lean angles, I’m also happy to report that the Michelin Power One tyres are still working brilliantly and are doing very well to resist the motorway’s best efforts to square them off. All being well, I’ll be back on a bike in less than a fortnight and back on the spanners even sooner than that.

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009
TOTAL MILEAGE: 1987miles

October 2009

My first few runs into the heart of London had me thinking I’d made a poor choice of longterm test bike, if I’m being honest.

Masses of horsepower allied to a sublime chassis seemed to lead me into far too much temptation on my often-convoluted route to avoid the straight-line boredom of the A1, a route that not only had me risking my licence but also kept making me late for work, despite the somewhat enthusiastic speeds.

The grin-inducing performance seemed to be rather wasted on the last 10, traffic-heavy miles of my commute, too. But I’ve since worked out that it’s me that’s got problems, not the bike.

I can’t blame Suzuki for my lack of self-restraint, just as I can’t fault Showa for producing forks that make me want to hammer the front end in to each and every curve of my daily route into the city.

So I’ve had a word with myself and decided to consider the GSX-R as a dual-purpose machine, thinking more about the bike’s strengths than my mental weaknesses.

Having had a quick spin on Ben’s stupidly wide GTR1400, the Suzuki now feels like the ultimate town bike. It’s fairly narrow, the mirrors don’t clash with the traffic and, short-shifting through the gearbox using the recently fattened torque, I can pretty much ride it everywhere in third like a big twist-and-go scooter.

The GSX-R steers more than quickly enough to dart in and out of gaps and always has bags of acceleration on tap for those snap decisions. So actually, in town, it’s perfect.

Not that I love the Suzuki for its commuting ability of course. On those rare days off, the GSX-R has made me want to ride purely for the sake of riding again.

It’s a feeling I haven’t had for a long time, not since my mid-twenties when funds finally allowed me to enjoy the then-new Yamaha R6 for no better reason than to wear out tyres and burn petrol.

Speaking of tyres, I’d just like to thank Dunlop for sending me a set of their new Qualifier II tyres. So far they’ve worked well across my wide-ranging requirements.

Thanks also to Webbs of Peterborough for squeezing them onto the rims in double-quick time on a Saturday and at (typically) short notice.

DATE RECEIVED: 6th April 2009
TOTAL MILEAGE: 3670 miles

2009 GSX-R1000 - Longest Test

Bleary-eyed, I stagger out of the Travelodge towards the GSX-R1000. Right now the complication of bungee-strapping a tail-pack on and working out how long it’s going to take for my arse to go numb are weighing heavy on my mind.

I’ve never been a morning person really. Particularly after a night spent wedging foam into my ears to reduce the pitch and frequency of Tim’s incredible impression of a band saw while he sleeps, open-mouthed in blissful ignorance of his rasping, nocturnal output. I’m feeling suitably jaded.

Tim, on the other hand, has a look about him. I wouldn’t say it’s smug, but there’s a distinct look of joy on his face as the editor’s stand-in for the trip eyes the BMW’s sheer size, reveling at the sumptuous saddle and roomy riding position as yet another errant bungee strap threatens to remove the sleep from my eyes, the tail-pack and lack of bungee points mocking my feeble attempts at pre-dawn coordination. I’ve always liked Tim Cummings. But things can change…

Niall’s arrival at Dover cheers me up somewhat: “Aye, I’m a wee bit sleepy. My flight from Brno was delayed so by the time I got home it was nearly time to get up again. Never mind though, only 800 miles to go and I’ve had two hours sleep; I’ll be fine.” Now it’s me that’s feeling smug. The tiny R6 looks about as welcoming as a night on a futon made out of goat’s hair. In the same room as Tim.

The journey south is almost uneventful, the constant drone from the Leo Vince pipes and the resonation from my Arai interrupted only by fuel stops and a French copper that clearly doesn’t appreciate the finer points of ‘making good progress’. After a brief and fairly confusing explanation of French traffic laws, I’m quite literally frogmarched to the cashpoint to be relieved of 45 Euros.

But other than the irritation of fiddling around at the péages, our journey south is a smooth one. While Niall listens to the entire back catalogue of The Bay City Rollers on his iPod, I use the unusually long break from the stresses of daily life and total solitude to contemplate the meaning of life. The only conclusion I come to is that it’ll take longer than 11 hours to work it out.

After another night of snatched sleep between bursts of window-rattling snoring, all six of us are ready to explore. Perhaps selfishly, I know exactly where we’re headed first. The road from Mandelieu la Napoule through to Frejus is pure motorcycling nirvana for anyone with a pair of sticky tyres and a set of kneesliders. So not Barry, Ian, Ben or Tim then. “The ride down here is worth every last drop of unleaded when you get to roads like these.” Niall smiles. And he’s right.

The hours of mind and bum numbing Autoroute soon pale into insignificance as the Suzuki’s cranked from side to side, the smooth, sun-baked tarmac flashing past an ever-decreasing contact patch as the lean angles increase.

After a summer spoiled by rain, riding in 40 degrees of heat on the most perfect roads imaginable is an indescribable feeling. Even just cruising along in a T-shirt at steady speeds is nothing short of special.

Absorbing the sights and sounds of our eclectic group, snaking its way through the mountain roads; Tim, man-handling the GS, the Bonneville burbling and crackling through open pipes, the GTR leaving showers of sparks at every corner, the Harley’s trademark ‘potato-potato’ bellowing at every twist of the throttle, the intermittent combination of high-pitch scream and the unmistakable sound of kneeslider meeting tarmac – everything that could instil a shiver down the spine of any red-blooded biker – it’s all right here.

Riding in France can be many things to many people. Well-surfaced roads, a lack of traffic and the opportunity to go nuts is one that’s hard to resist, but there’s so much more to it than that. Up in the mountains, the sports bikes rule, the leather-clad men being able to make the best of an ideal situation.

Heading towards the shimmering Mediterranean coast however, I’d have to say that both Ian and Barry hold the upper hand as much as Ben and Tim did on the long run down the Autoroute. My concentration is absolutely spent from hammering around in the heat, leaving me happy to follow them down towards Villefranche-sur-mer, just one of the many beautiful towns sprinkled across the sun-drenched Cote d’Azur.

In this stunning setting, the sublime handling, swift direction changes and sheer power of the GSX-R mean nothing as both the Harley and Triumph draw admiring glances from some of the most beautiful bikini-clad women you’re ever likely to see while I feel a touch ridiculous, sweating into my Dainese like a leather bound Power Ranger, thankful of the anonymity granted by the dark visor.

Like a true foreigner, I stand out like a pork sausage in a Synagogue – it seems no one bothers with leathers in this part of the world, regardless of type of bike.

Maybe it’s the location, the light and the aqua blue reflections but even the GTR looks good parked on the quayside next to the BMW, a bike that seems to just fit in with its surroundings wherever it goes.

The days roll by, the evenings disappear in a haze of wine, tall stories, laughter and work seems a long, long way away. 930 miles away to be precise which is covered in one hit stopping only for fuel and snacks on the way back accompanied by my unlikely riding partners, Barry and Ian, both chinning the tank behind my 100mph jet stream.

I arrive home in Cambridgeshire after 12 hours traveling, hallucinating by the time I reach the A1, arms, eyes and back all sore from the effort, while the Suzuki feels as fresh as the day I collected it from Milton Keynes. I collapse into bed, my ears still humming, the sight of white lines and tarmac disappearing backwards etched on my mind. And so to sleep, to dream about the next time…

Should you buy the 2009 GSX-R1000?

The harder you work the front end, the better the handling feels, encouraging a full-on attack of mountain roads. The fact that it has enough power to hoist the front wheel off the deck at over 100mph is heaven on the boring motorway stints, and it's versatile.

Ride it hard or short-shift and cruise, the motor is super-smooth and flexible

However, instead of a three-way mapping switch I’d love cruise control to give my right arm a rest and save me propping my elbow up on my knee. The seat, while firm enough for feel, a softer seat option would have been more than welcome on the Autoroute. Finally, working out time over distance would have been far easier without having to flick between functions.

2009 GSX-R1000 specs

  • Price: £9800
  • Top speed: 180.46mph
  • Engine: 999cc, 16-valves, liquid-cooled in-line four
  • Bore & stroke: 74.5mm x 57.3mm
  • Compression ratio: 12.8:1
  • Power: 158.32bhp at 12,000rpm
  • Torque: 77.05ft/lb at 10,000rpm
  • Front suspension: Inverted forks
  • Adjustment: Preload, compression, rebound
  • Rear suspension: Monoshock
  • Adjustment: Preload, compression, rebound
  • Front brakes: Radial four-piston calipers, 310mm discs
  • Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
  • Wet weight: 203kg
  • Seat height: 810mm
  • Fuel capacity: 17.5 litres
  • Colour options: Blue/white, black, white