Bikes are brilliant. Of course they are. Anyone who thinks otherwise, can get out now. Go on, off you fuck. Right, so we’re all agreed that bikes are fab. And they’re a lot better than they used to be, right? Well yesss. I suppose. A 2017 bike will offer more than the equivalent 1990s bike. Much more than a 1980s bike. And (should be) a world apart from a 1970s bike
But when you compare them to other, more modern technologies, the difference is less impressive. Gordon Moore of Intel coined his eponymous ‘law’ in the 1970s, about how computing power improves over time. Moore’s Law says (roughly) that the power of a computer chip will double every two years. And it has. A modern Intel i7 6950X CPU is, very roughly, three and a half million times faster than an Intel 4004 processor from 1971. Wowsers.
What about bikes then? Well, they’re not quite at the silicon-chip level of constant improvements sadly. If Japanese engines had followed Moore’s Law the way computer chips have, then the 1971 Suzuki GT750’s 67bhp would have become over 230 million bhp by 2015. 230 million bhp is about 170 gigawatts, and the UK uses roughly 57 gigawatts of ‘leccy at peak consumption. So we’d be able to run the whole of the UK’s electricity supply from one Suzuki GSX-R750, running on half-throttle. Imagine the size of the petrol tank.
Enough of this Sunday-morning navel-gazing though – let’s get back to the point. And the point is, Suzuki has a new 750 roadster – the GSX-S750. Now, as it happens, I’ve got a fair bit of recent experience with the GSX-S750’s antecedents. I ran a long-term test GSR750 for a year back in 2013, and then for 2015 I had the pleasure of a GSX-S1000 F for the season.
So when Suzuki announced a new, updated version of the GSR750, called a GSX-S750 (which has actually always been its name in the US), I had a bit of an inkling what to expect. Because while the GSR had been fun and I had fond memories of it, the truth is it was very much a budget offering. And not in the sense of ‘very good value’ but in the sense of ‘built down to a low price’. Sure, it had a sweet GSX-R750-based engine and decent enough styling, but it dates back to a time when the Japanese firms were still reeling from the 2008 financial crash. All the firms, but Suzuki in particular, had cut back on R&D, and there didn’t seem to be much in the way of new, exciting stuff about.
This 750 roadster was Suzuki’s first step back into the game, and while the GSR was solid enough, it didn’t really stand out from the competition. Sliding caliper brakes, basic suspension, a plain Soviet-looking box-section rear swingarm and industrial steel frame; they all pointed to severe cost restraints.
Fast forward a few years, and the GSX-S1000 hit the scene. This was the work of a firm that was back on track – okay it was an old GSX-R engine still, but the K5 1000 lump is one of the all-time greats, and we were happy to see it for the nostalgia kick alone. The powerplant was the highlight in fact, even more so when you tweaked the fuelling with a Power Commander or remap to improve the poor running that came from the stock emissions-compliant mapping. My long termer ran like a dream after slipping on an end can and throwing a PC5 in there. The rest of the GSX-S was capable enough too: adjustable suspension, Brembo four-pot calipers, and a basic-yet-capable ABS/Traction Control install.
So. Suzuki didn’t need to reincarnate Steve Jobs to work out its next stunning business move… The GSX-S formula was applied to the 750, the slightly stigmatised GSR branding got dropped faster than Ducati will drop Lorenzo in a few months, and we get a smart new budget middleweight. Win/win!
And here we are, picking one up from Suzuki HQ in Milton Keynes. Living the dream or what? Well it didn’t quite feel that way at first, since I was swapping a GSX-R1000 for the GSX-S, but no matter. And in fact, this wasn’t my first spin on the 750: I’d taken one out on road and track at Portimao in Portugal last month on the Avon Spirit ST tyre launch. It had only been a short run in Portugal but enough to get the general idea.
Like the GSX-S1000, the engine is probably the best part of the 750. It makes just over 100bhp at the tyre (as I’d find out later on the Big CC dyno), which is about 6bhp (and 3ft/lbs of torque) more than my GSR750 did on the same dyno four years ago. And it’s that torque curve that gives it the character needed for the road: it hits 45-ish ft/lbs from about 3,500rpm, and stays there until nearly 11k. A sweet spread of grunt, which is just what you want from a naked roadster. And it makes it a solid performer in the wheelie stakes too. Clean fuelling and that torque spread makes it a breeze to hoik a moderate minger and keep ‘er hoiked.
A hundred bhp may not sound like much, and it’s not these days. But it’s still enough to get a faired bike up to 150mph, and while the 750’s naked aerodynamics preclude that, you’ll still trounce most things on the road until well into ban and jail territory.
The engine’s got a decent extra chunk of performance over the GSR then. And the chassis is a welcome upgrade too. There’s nothing too surprising: the Nissin four-piston brake calipers are a division higher than the sliding two-potters on the old bike, and almost a match for the Brembos found on the GSX-S1000. The swingarm looks much meatier – but you’ll not notice any real differences on the road from that. The suspension does feel plusher than I remember though, both at the front and rear, and the overall chassis package does a good job of disguising the (rather chunky) 213kg wet weight.
The new traction control setup is about par for the course at this level: a simple button on the switchgear lets you choose from three levels, and off. And I kept it off for most of the time: to be honest, you can probably just about see the need for it if you’re a novice and it’s chucking it down or there’s a chance of ice. But for a more experienced rider, pottering about the roads on a warm summer’s day, there’s very little chance of you highsiding the bugger (and a very big chance of the odd wheelie here and there…)
Away from the engine and chassis, there’s Suzuki’s new easy-start system, which just needs a single push of the start button to get the motor running, and no need for the lame clutch-pulling shenanigans of old. Mirrors, seat and levers all fit me very well, and the monochrome LCD dash uses Suzuki’s new corporate layout, that’s pretty intuitive and clear. It’s good on fuel, which cancels out the smaller 16 litre tank, and for day-to-day living, you’ll be more than happy I bet.
I said the best bit is the engine earlier – but the other good bit is the price. Just £7,699 is an attractive outlay these days for a brand new bike. The base version of Triumph’s Street Triple is only a few hundred quid more, which might tempt you – but the basic Street has twin-piston brakes, a monochrome LCD dash, and similar engine performance. When you get to the fancier ‘R’ version of the Street Triple of course, that clearly offers more than the Suzuki – but it also costs an extra £1,200 …
So. Suzuki’s not quite managed a Moore’s Law level of improvement on the old GSR750. But the new bike is definitely a solid improvement, for no real increase in price. Brilliant, eh?
Engine: 16v inline-four, DOHC, liquid cooled, 749cc
Bore x stroke: 72x46mm
Compression ratio: 12.3:1
Max power (claimed) 101.66bhp@10,500rpm
Max Torque (claimed) 55ft lb@9,000rpm
Transmission: six speed, chain
Frame: steel tube diamond-type
Front suspension: preload adjustable 43mm USD forks
Rear suspension: preload adjustable monoshock
Brakes: Nissin four-piston calipers, 320mm discs (front), single disc rear
Wheels/tyres: ten-spoke cast alloy/Bridgestone S21, 120/70 17 front, 180/55 17 rear
Rake/trail: na°/na mm
Kerb weight: 213kg
Fuel capacity: 16 litres
Colours: red/black, blue