Suzuki Suzuki GSX-R750 and 1100 - the originals

A pair of original GSX-R750s...

Riding one original GSX-R is a treat these days. But two at once? You are spoiling us Meester Middlehurst!!

Classic Sportsbikes
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Tony Middlehurst and GSX-R1100


THREE AND a bit decades on, what are these GSX-Rs like to ride? We’ve managed to find an owner who has not one mint condition F, not even two, but three, including an uber-rare 1984 machine. Its frame number is composed mainly of zeros with ‘55’ on the end. Better yet, he also owns an equally mint first-year GSX-R1100. 

The owner has the extra good fortune to live in the biker’s paradise of the Peak District. He describes himself as ‘not really a biker’, but you could have fooled me as I strive to keep up on a dry(ish) but leafy autumnal day.

I start off on the 750 and almost immediately get cramp in my right hip. That’s probably down to my advanced years as much as it is the Frankie Dettori riding position, but I’m not bothered. This GSX-R750F is worth the pain. It’s something else, and actually even better than I remember it being in period. If it were mine I'd be looking to swap the Bridgestone Battlax tyres for something grippier, but that aside, my main emotion is jealousy. What a machine. 

The biggest surprise is how comfy it is (cramping apart) and how smooth the engine is right through the range. Obviously you need 7,000rpm on the dial for serious progress but it’s perfectly rideable and urgent from 3,000rpm. This particular bike has been set up by an ex-Rolls-Royce engineer, a man who clearly knows his stuff. The historically jerky response of the flatslide carbs has been magically evened out with no apparent reduction in responsiveness. 

At one point, after a brief stop and restart, the engine begins to feel fluffy. What’s happening? Ah. I’ve forgotten to turn on the manual fuel petcock. I blame not having enough spare brain capacity to think about such menial matters. Fabulous.

Time to hop on the GSX-R1100J. This first-year 1986 model (with a fascinating history) is a big, friendly pussycat of a bike. Although it’s more than 20kg heavier than the 750, the 1100 is still only 197kg (434lb). That reminds you how ridiculously light the 750 is. 

In hindsight, the 1100s have been on the end of a fair bit of criticism for their handling. Certainly, the later 1100s lost the plot somewhat on front-end response, exhibiting excessive drop-in on slow corners. My recollections of the first 1100 R in period, however, are all positive. It had CV rather than flatslide carbs, and only five gears rather than the 750’s six, but I promise you it didn’t need any more. The thing pulled like a train in any gear and really came alive at higher speeds. Giving it its head for the first time out of the Whitton roundabout near Twickenham thirty-odd years ago is something I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. 

As a six-footer I’m grateful for the added roominess of the 1100’s riding position. You sit ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ an R, and the extra reach to the bars on the bigger bike suits my creaky old frame very nicely.  

Today, the autumnal roads and conditions – plus a braking system that probably needs a bleed – don’t show the 1100 in its best light. But the more negative aspects I’m detecting, like the amount of mechanical noise bouncing up from inside by the thin fairing at low speeds, are quickly overwhelmed by my undimmed 1986 memories of the smooth rush of air and warp-drive thrust as the 1100 got into its stride. 

A lovely old beast, and a sweet roadgoing compromise between the edgy 750 and the traditional big-inch Suzukis of the time. 

It tells you something about employee loyalty at Japanese mega-companies that many of the engineers who worked on the GSX-R750 are still working for Suzuki today. One of them, Hidetoshi Arakawa, still rides his ’86 GSX-R. They’re a twinkly-eyed bunch of old boys, and they laugh a lot. After riding their creations, both at the time and now again three decades later, I can easily understand why. 


1985 Suzuki GSX-R750F

Engine: 747cc oil/air-cooled 16-valve four

Power: 100bhp at 10,500rpm

Torque: 73Nm (54ft lb) at 8,000rpm

Top speed: 145mph

Standing quarter mile: 11.2sec

Length: 83.1in (2,111mm)

Wheelbase: 56.1in (1,425mm)

Seat height: 29.7in (755mm)

Wheels: 18in front and rear

Dry weight (US/JDM versions): 176kg/179kg (388lb/394lb) 

1986 Suzuki GSX-R1100

Engine: 1,052cc oil/aircooled 16-valve four

Power: 125bhp @ 9,500rpm

Torque: 101Nm (75ft lb) @ 8,000rpm

Top speed: 155-163mph

Standing quarter mile: 10.7sec

Length: 83.2in (2,113mm)

Wheelbase: 57.5in (1,460mm)

Seat height: 31.3in (795mm)

Wheels: 18in front and rear

Dry weight: 197kg


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