Longest Test: Suzuki GSX-R1000

The dark horse of this year’s litre class, the GSX-R1000 just keeps on impressing Visordown’s Deputy Editor and keen club racer, Rob Hoyles.

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 forty 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…

What I love

  • Handling. The harder you work the front end, the better it 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 – heaven on the boring motorway stints
  • Versatility. Ride it hard or short-shift and cruise, the motor is super-smooth and flexible

What I'd change

  • Hardly fitting, but 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. Firm enough for feel, but a softer option would have been more than welcome on the Autoroute.
  • The ability to show the time and trip simultaneously – working out time over distance would have been far easier without having to flick between functions.

Rating : 4/5

For: Strong, flexible motor, next-generation handling and surprisingly good at long-distance
Against: Lack of storage space, lack of bungee points and common as muck

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2009 SUZUKI GSX-R1000 K9 Specifications

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