2001 GSX-R1000 Street Ride
An Atomic Bomb in the Openbike Wars
Torrance, California, January 19, 2001 -- A racetrack does amazing things. Namely, it hides a bike's power just like a woman hides her libido once you're married. Conversely, guard rails, bots-dots and local law enforcement have a way of illustrating just how much power is underfoot.
Sure, we were impressed with the GSX-R1000 at the press introduction at Road Atlanta; that's a given. But what we wondered as soon as we were airborne and heading back to lovely Torrance, California was what this bike would be like on the road. With lanes. With cars. With cell-phone-yapping, SUV-driving, barely-passed-driver's-education-but- got-a-big-ol'-car-so-just-get-outta-my-way people everywhere. Oh, and there's dirt and oil, too. And cops (in unison, now: ooooohhh).
Our first impression of the bike on the road? Yamaha's R1 is powerful. It'll back-hand you across your cheek and not lose any sleep about it at night.
The GSX-R Grande? It'll pick up a folding metal chair and WWF-style knock you over the head with it. Smack. You're down for the count.Let's back up a moment, though. Suzuki's own Hayabusa makes similar power numbers, so why are we so gaa-gaa over this particular bike? Because it handles, too. Because it's got all the trick stuff on it like titanium-nitride-coated forks and titanium in the muffler. And because it only weighs about 15 pounds more than Honda's CBR600F4i.
Every time somebody rode this bike, they learned two things: how to wheelie and how to smile. Usually simultaneously.
On the track, the bike felt remarkably solid. On the street our opinion didn't change all that much. Sure, the steering damper aids with settling down what may otherwise be a nervous front end, but the means to the end aren't as important as the result. Parking lots and low-speed maneuvers are not this bike's forte' so it's no surprise that things felt a bit awkward here. The stiff steering damper makes things a bit tedious, but it's only a minor annoyance. We'd rather have a heavy-feeling bike at five miles per hour than a violently head-shaking one at over a buck-fifty.
On some of the twistiest bits of our local highways, on out to the far reaches of the state lines, the newest and biggest boy on the block made a lasting impression on us. And it was a genuinely positive one.The ergos are similar, if not an exact duplicate of the GSX-R750's accommodations. With butt and feet up, elbows out and head down, it's a race bike. But, strangely enough, this bike feels larger than its little brother. Maybe it's the few added pounds or the tank? Maybe it's just that big lump of a motor down there churning out power numbers that even Kevin Schwantz admitted scared him a little.
No, it's not a sport tourer but, oddly enough, we find ourselves grabbing the keys to the 1000 when it's time to go from point A to point B and the origin and the destination are separated by many miles. Short trips to the licka sto' have been the duty of our project Deuce, lately. We've yet to find a plastic bag that's able to retain a few bottles of our favorite beverage when subjected to 150 horsepower. All this technology around us and we can't even manage to make a decent bag? Come on, people...
The brakes that worked so well at the track are equally superb on the street. Stop lights equal stoppies and the feel and feedback are about the best of any production bike yet. And the suspension that kept things so well-planted at Road Atlanta? It's awesome on the street as well.While most people first exclaimed their love for the Gixxer's motor upon returning from their first ride on the bike, in retrospect, they couldn't get over how well the suspension worked. That coating on the forks? It actually works. Our first impression was that the forks were too soft. There was none of the usual harshness over irregularities and the front end felt as if it was, dare we say, floating over most bumps. Well, that's what eliminating stiction will do for you. This suspension is just as good on the street as it is at the track at the limit. Which is to say that this newest Suzuki has suspension that will be extremely tough to beat when it comes down to our Open Bike Shootout this year.
Now, we're not really sure whether to say if this bike is easy to ride or hard to ride. With so much power on tap and with handling that feels just a bit heavier than the Yamaha R1, it's a really easy bike to ride along at a decent clip. But to really ride this bike like its capable of, you need to be a god. Or perhaps affiliations with multiple deities are in order. Or you could just be in possession of a huge pair in your jeans and very little grey matter in your cabeza, for instance.
The thing is this, where power is concerned: It's everywhere. Bottom to top and side to side, there's enough to amuse or abuse. As HackFu said it, "the power is so smooth that if you were to put a 7,000 rpm rev-limiter on this bike, it'd be just fine for even a relatively inexperienced rider." The power is that smooth and seamless.
There are only a handful of bikes that we are so impressed with that we talk about how much torque it has. This is especially true when high-strung sport bikes are concerned. But this Suzuki just kicks you in the ass any time you twist that right grip. Immediately you are pushed forward harder than you ever thought possible. Just be sure you get that front tire back on the ground before long, okay?
So the inevitable question remains: Is this the new it bike? Well, don't look to us to say that it's not. It one-ups every other open class contender in most areas, so we'd say that it's definitely a benchmark bike -- just as Yamaha's YZF-R1 was when it debuted only a few years ago.
This appears to be the bike to beat in the Y2K-plus-one. It's wicked fast and it handles. It takes over-the-counter potency to a new level. But is brute force what the people want? Could this bike be too much? It just may be Pandora's box. But, whether or not that's a good thing is up to you.