PH2 RIDDEN: SUZUKI GSX-R750
A star in its own right, the 750cc GSX-R hints at great things for the forthcoming 1,000cc version
Overnight the 750 class was obsolete, meaning no more ultra-trick homologation specials like the Honda RC30, RC45 and SP1/2, stunning Yamaha YZF-R7 or even RR versions of the Kawasaki ZX-7R. But the GSX-R750 lives on.
It's a bike held in enormously high esteem by Suzuki. It redefined the class when it was first unveiled in 1985 with its aluminium frame and outrageously light weight. From that moment on it became Suzuki's most prized possession, its cult status proven by the frighteningly large number of people over the world with 'GSX-R' tattooed somewhere on their body.
So strong is the passion for the GSX-R750 that even now, nine years after the effective death of the 750 class, Suzuki still has the GSX-R750 in its model line-up and still updates the bike at the same intervals as the GSX-R600.
Let's not kid ourselves though. The GSX-R750 is essentially the GSX-R600 with extra capacity and slightly tricker forks. While it is still a mainstay of the range, Suzuki piggybacks the 600's development to make the bigger bike and the 750 has the same frame, swingarm, wheels and instruments as the 600.
Which is no bad thing. As well as updating the GSX-R's chassis for 2011 with a 1.3kg diet, longer swingarm and new Showa Big Piston forks, Suzuki has got to work on the engine's internal parts. New lighter pistons with shorter skirts (fnarr), re-profiled cams, increased compression and a neat system to reduce pumping losses seem fairly innocuous, but make a massive difference to the engine's performance and feel. While Suzuki only claims a small increase in mid-range power and torque, this translates to a huge difference in the ride.
In an age of mind-bending power figures, the GSX-R750's 147hp and 63lb ft of torque may seem a little tame, but it wasn't that long ago 1000s were making similar stats. And anyway, do you really need more than 190hp on the road? Ride the GSX-R750 and you may well decide not.
People always say the Lotus Elise is a driver's car and, in the same way, the GSX-R750 is a 'rider's bike.' It doesn't come lumbered with any electronic assists such as traction control or ABS, other than a choice of fuel maps (best ignored, just leave it in full power). It's a refreshing change and one that leads to a fantastically enjoyable ride.
Once you get going on the GSX-R the first thing that strikes you is the sound emerging from the airbox. Suzukis have always been throaty but the 2011 GSX-R takes it to a whole new level. Up the revs and the din increases in both volume and ferocity, something that genuinely brings a huge smile to your face.
Bikes rely a lot on feeling to get the most out of them. With 'only' 147hp the GSX-R has a lovely balance of power and usability that is often lacking in 1000s. Riding the 750 you can open the throttle fully, thrash the engine and feel like you are getting the most out of the bike. Try this on a 1000 and it can all get very scary, very fast. On the 750 it's still bloody fast, but it is fast in a controlled and fun fashion.
On some fairly cold winter roads, pushing the chassis or new Brembo brakes to any real degree wasn't really an option, but it certainly feels a bit more sprightly than the previous model while retaining the 'big bike' feel that you get with GSX-Rs. It is most noticeable on the 600, but in general GSX-Rs tend to be roomier for the rider than other Japanese bikes.
So what does the GSX-R750 tell us about the yet-to-be-launched 2012 GSX-R1000? Unlike most of the other 1000s the GSX-R1000, like the 750, won't have any electronic assists. And the updates to the 750 have created a bike that is a joy to ride thanks to a superb natural balance between performance and handling - could Suzuki be about to pull the same trick with the 1000?
Experience of the 2012 BMW S1000RR and Yamaha YZF-R1 and the evidence of riding the 750 suggests people may have been a bit hasty writing off the GSX-R1000. It's not likely to win any track tests but on the road the 750 suggests it could be a different story. Without the electronic gimmicks, the GSX-R1000 stands a chance of being the purist's bike of 2012.
Where the Kawasaki ZX-10R and BMW S1000RR will feel a bit too aggressive on the road the Fireblade, R1 and GSX-R1000 will be the ones enthusiasts turn to. The sports 1000 class is fragmenting between bikes aimed directly at the track and others looking towards the road and usability. The advances in technology inspired by the former are fabulous, but there's a danger the manufacturers are losing sight of the fact most riders spend most of their time on the road. Honda, Yamaha and - as evidenced here - Suzuki seem to have noticed this. Could they have nailed the major trend of 2012 before it happens?
Engine: 750cc 4-cyl
Torque: 63lb ft@11,200rpm
Top speed: 170mph (est.)
MPG: 40 (est.)