2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 first UK road ride

Funny headlight is growing on us. Blue MotoGP rep paint is superb.
Funny headlight is growing on us. Blue MotoGP rep paint is superb. Picture: Alan Dowds

Regular viewers here will already have read all about the flash new 2017 Gixxer no doubt. And isn’t the spec pretty impressive? A new short-stroke motor, with a smart mechanical variable-valve-timing setup, bags of electronics, and fancy gas forks on the top-spec R version. Claimed power and weight figures are bang-on in terms of the opposition, so it seems that after a long time in the litre superbike wilderness, the Hamamatsu guys are back in the game – yay!

We’ve got the base bike for a couple of weeks, and the plan is to use it just like a normal day-to-day ride. Find out what life is like with the new beastie. And we’re starting off in a pretty mundane fashion, with the 90-minute, mostly-motorway blat home from Suzuki HQ in Milton Keynes.

Well, I say 90 minutes – it took about that on the Burgman 650 coming up, but it looks like it’ll be taking a lot less on the way back. Because this new Gixxer motor is pretty stonking. Of course, a litre bike on the road is always going to blow your mind – but the low-down and midrange grunt is mighty impressive. Especially when you add in the buzzing top end too. Even the giant M1 slip road at MK feels a bit short and narrow as we engage warp five to get onto the motorway and up to ramming speed…

There are loads of speed cameras here though, and the variable limits are in force. So I need to cool it a bit (though not quite enough, as a brown envelope in the post a fortnight later revealed…), and settle into the big Suzuki. I say big – it’s actually quite a small bike when you’re on it. The area round the seat is nice and narrow, and the fairing is svelte and cinched-in at the front. There’s probably just enough wind protection for a sportsbike from the small screen – and it’s certainly more accommodating than the microscopic top fairing on the new Honda Fireblade. I get home in one piece, and I’m already impressed with the new bike…

Next morning, and I’m up bright and early for a trip to the dyno shop. Big CC in Wokingham spends most of its dyno time tuning up 500bhp turbo drag bikes, so its Dynojet unit isn’t easily impressed. Neither is Sean Mills, the owner – but even his jaundiced eyes raise a brow when we check the figures – a very healthy 182.4 bhp at the rear tyre. That’s the best part of 200bhp at the crank, just as claimed, and a big leap from the last GSX-R1000. Torque-wise, the peak figure is also excellent at 82ft-lbs – and it’s a really flat torque curve too. Indeed, with the torque staying the right side of 70ft-lbs from around 5,750rpm to 13,500rpm, it’s got the grunt of a much bigger engine: exactly what you’d hope for from a variable valve timing system.

Considering the emission hoops a Euro 4 motor has to jump through, the Gixxer has done very well indeed on the dyno. We’ll be running the other 2017 bikes on the Big CC dyno over the next few weeks, so will have fully-comparable figures on all the competitors – but in the meantime, you’ll really can’t complain about the power and torque output from the new GSX-R…

Over the next week or so though, life’s a bit more mundane on the GSX-R. I just use it as wheels, transport, practical London transport. I put the kids on the back (one at a time, haha), and take them to scouts and school. I pop over to see my old mate at his garage. I get out for the odd blast down my favourite local ‘TT course’ roads. And the new Gixxer ticks all the boxes with ease. The suspension is a little less plush than the very fanciest Öhlins and electronic suspension setups I’ve ridden of late – but it’s good quality stuff, just a couple of years behind the curve. The brakes are strong and laden with feel – but there’s a bit more free travel at the lever than I’d like. Maybe my bike needed a wee bit of a brake bleeding to bring back a sharper initial bite.

The electronic riding aids are simple and easy to use, especially compared to some of the competition. The traction control is easy to click up and down, so you can flick it off for some wheelie practice, then back on again when you get into the twisties. The power modes are also simple to access, but I wasn’t a big fan of turning down the throttle response. The ‘B’ and ‘C’ settings just made the Gixxer feel a bit flat, and I didn’t spend much time in them. There’s more than enough finesse and feel at the twistgrip to make the full-beans power setting eminently controllable.

Criticisms? Well, the monochrome dash is clear and spot-on in terms of info and usability, but the lack of colour marks it down a little against the premium competitors. Similarly, there’s no up/down quickshifter on the base GSX-R1000 (it’s standard on the GSX-R1000R and might become an optional accessory on the base bike), and it’s the sort of thing that’s becoming accepted as the norm in the class now.

But there’s a big plus – which is the price levels of the new GSX-R. Suzuki has, quite deliberately, made the two versions of the Gixxer a little less flash than the likes of the new Fireblade, so it can charge less. The base bike I’m riding here is just £13,599, and the R version is £16,099. For the extra cash, the GSX-R1000R (which we’ll be testing in the next couple of weeks) adds Showa gas forks, launch control, an up/down quickshifter, leaning ABS and other cool bits – lithium battery, machined top yoke.

Big bucks, no doubt, but the Fireblade SP is £19,125 the base ‘Blade is still £15,225, and you’ll pay £16,249 for the Kawasaki ZX-10RR (£14,149 for the base Ninja). A Yamaha R1 is £15,799 and the exotic R1M is £19,399, while a BMW S1000RR will set you back £13,950 in its most basic form – the Sport version at £14,930 comes with quickshifter, and DDC electronic suspension .

Meanwhile, the ‘basic’ Ducati Panigale 1299 is £17,995, rising to £21,995 for an ‘S’ and £28,995 for an ‘R’…

And that all makes the litre bike market more interesting than ever, with a massive range of options. Do you pick up the older BMW, which still gives an amazing price/performance ratio? Or go for the fancy new GSX-R thou’ in base form – which is still a few hundred quid cheaper than anything else? Got a bit more to spend from your pension pot cash-in? Then the GSX-R1000R will offer much of what you pay more for on the fancier models, leaving more cash for a load of trackdays, a couple of pairs of slicks, or even a few speeding fines…

So – the new GSX-R1000 has a storming engine, a capable chassis, plenty of gizmos – and it also offers a strong package in terms of value. Enough to match the massively capable competition in this sector? I’m holding fire until next month when I ride the opposition head-to-head, but at the moment, it looks very much like the new GSX-R has been well worth the wait…

MORE INFO: bikes.suzuki.co.uk

THANKS! Sean at BIg CC Racing

The Gixxer done good on the Big CC dyno...
The Gixxer done good on the Big CC dyno... Picture: Alan Dowds
If you can't quite read the numbers there - it's 182.4bhp and 81.96 ft-lbs of torque. Nice.
If you can't quite read the numbers there - it's 182.4bhp and 81.96 ft-lbs of torque. Nice. Picture: Big CC Racing
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