2003 GSX-R1000: Dis be de one, Huck

story by John Burns, Created Mar. 21, 2003
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DATELINE PHILLIP ISLAND, VICTORIA, OZ: Is it February, mate? Next time I start going off on how nobody needs anything bigger than a 600 sportybike, will somebody please just smack me and tell me to shut up. I've come to  my senses again. You need at least 1000cc at Phillip Island's fabricatedly fast GP circuit; otherwise you've got no real chance to emulate the Suzuki and Ducati GP teams that just finished testing before the GSX-R1000 press launch came to town, leaving all sorts of nice black stripes out of the corners.

After the little downhill right called Lukey's Heights, there are two lefts that lead onto the main Gardner Straight; the first one's a little slower, and you have to short-shift just before it into third or you'll run out of revs halfway through. Dude. Maybe it's all the TT-R125-ing I've been doing or maybe it's the GSX-R's new 32-bit CPU or the tires or the track or a combination of all of them--but it gives great pleasure in that corner to be able to spin the GSX-R's tire up, controllably, with the throttle, all cranked over. An nth of a degree of throttle rotation (after you have your personal tuner remove all the slack from the throttle cables) perfectly controls the bike's slithering angle of attack. The fastest way, of course, is just a hint of wheelspin--and  remember to keep that outside peg weighted. Then, zot, into the short chute, bang it into fourth, try not to turn in too soon for the even faster left onto the front straight... Now you are moving fast, okay, faster, trying to pull the slightly reluctant beast down to the apex without upsetting it whilst attempting to get the throttle to the stop at the same time. And while you're doing that, the black stripes left by the GP crowd are piling into your faceshield like grainy tracers from some old WWII film as the G's push the bike to the red and white stripes at the exit. And only when a faster guy slithers by do you understand that thesestreetbikes are leaving their mark on the track, too--accelerating hard enough at the top of fourth gear to pick up the front tire and leave the clip-ons slack in your paws. Dang. The stock steering damper feels like a good thing to have.

A 600 might work on a tighter track. At Phillip Island I just can't see it... In fact Yamaha brought us here for the first R6 intro, way back in the last century, and it was good but it's not the same. I suppose the liter-bike better suits my "style;" lacking grace or finesse, it's nice  to be able to just whack the throttle open and send yourself smoldering downrange, with little regard to decorum or the tachometer.

As a matter of fact, as engine man Norihiru "No Relation" Suzuki points out, this year's GSX R1000 has even more urge than last year's bike--the one that soundly thrashed the Yamaha R1 and Honda 954RR at Fontana and on the dyno, the bike we mentioned would rip your tits off on its way to winning last year's comparo. More efficient combustion sounds innocent enough. What we've got are pressurized intake ducts which have each moved 20mm closer to the bike's centerline, thanks to the new stacked headlights, which increases ram-air effect. Then all that air gets stuffed through new throttle bodies, with new four-hole injectors controlled by a much more powerful 32 bit ECU and 256 kilobytes of ROM, the better to read the eight injection and eight ignition maps.

Expelling all that is  now more efficiently handled by a muffler expanded all the way from 4900 to 6900cc, which greatly relieves the GSX-R's "small-muffler" anxiety from last year. The whole urethral system is now titanium and lighter--except for the aluminum muffler shell, which Suzuki claims is actually lighter than its ti equivalent. We've also got four new 35mm vent holes between cylinders to reduce pumping losses, which Suzuki says increases torque by two percent at high rpm. Our camshafts are now rifle-drilled by a one millimeter larger bit, resulting in a weight reduction of 45g for the intake and 35g for the exhaust -- and reaming out the counterbalancer with a 2mm-bigger bit removed 30g from it. Otherwise, Norihiru says, things are same-same in the engine. To me, it feels like somebody threw in titanium rods and added about a point of compression.

The real changes, as you can tell by looking, have taken place in the chassis. The steering head and swingarm pivot sections are still castings, but joined now by extruded chunks of alloy with internal ribs, which "allowed the engineering team to precisely adjust overall frame rigidity, using data from the development of the new GSV-R MotoGP racebike." Sorry, I was having such a fine time riding I forgot to ask if that's stiffer or flexier? My cheeks and years of reading Kev Cameron articles tell me stiffer vertically, maybe slightly less so horizontally--ie, frame flex  acts as suspension when the bike's on its side.

An speakin' ub de suspension as we jus wuz, I doan know why lately I hab de urge alla time to speak like Jim in de book Huck Finn? It mus be all de stress I bin undah. People gib me de funny looks. Nebba mine... The cool 43mm cartridge fork wears a black coating on its sliders, which Suzuki likes to call Diamond Like Carbon, and they don't think it's funny if you ask if it comes in a can labelled Krylon. In actual fact, the stuff reduces fork stiction about three times more efficiently than the gold titanium nitride you're used to, according to Suzuki's pie chart, and as a result of that decrease in friction the '03 bike has ten-percent stiffer fork springs, a bit more compression damping, and a bucketload more rebound damping.

An dat goes double fo de Kayaba shock out back; piston and rod diameter remain the same, but de internal changes, Suzuki says, reduce friction by 60 percent. That reduction in friction is said to improve the rider's sense of what his contact patches are up to.

I think it's true. Hauling the flapping editorial fundament into Phillip

 Island's very fast turn one after zipping up to 160-something down the straight, it's disconcerting to learn as you drift off-line that there are a bunch of good-sized ripples about where a car's outside tires would be, in about the spot where I remember watching somebody make a rapid, unplanned horizontal exit on an R6. Mr. GSX-R seems to care not, and let me say while I'm thinking of it, that the Bridgestone 011/012 tires on this bike are right up there with the best street tires, given their design brief probably did not take Phillip Island much into account (these are different compound and construction than last year's). There was one hairball push-the-front moment in the also-very-fast right that leads up to Lukey's Heights, but the front tire regained grip before my wrist had time to snap the throttle shut--a reaction normally not measurable by human instruments.

Do it steer a little quicker? I think it do, but I also think Phillip Island is a hard place to make that call. According to Suzuki again, trail is down from 96 to 91mm, with 23.5 degrees rake instead of 24. Confusingly, they also say there's less weight on the front patch now--51.1 percent instead of 51.8? Could it be the 160 grams we lost by downsizing the front discs to 300mm, and the 100g-lighter calipers? Hmmmmm?

 The gas tank is subtly resculpted, a little skinnier where it meets the rider, which makes the whole bike feel more nimble. While the beast does sometimes feel a little reluctant to pull in to the inside edge of fast corners, I was afraid to try preloading the rear a little (for quicker steering) for fear it would affect the most excellent balance of the thing zotting off the exits... with real racey tires and a little more grip, of course, you would feel more confident about applying more force into the handlebars, making the bike do your bidding. Then would be the time to fool with suspension adjustments and maybe even swingarm pivot height, via the kit parts which will be available...

Anyhow, that's sort of the nature of the liter-bike beast. In exchange for super-quick handling, you get monstrous drive off corners and really-big-gyro steadiness mic-corner, which is nice and reassuring at  places with big, long, smooth corners--and I don't know if an R1 might be a little more nimble, but I do think this GSX-R will smoke it even worse in the roll-open-the-throttle places. In fact after I had a look at the video, I began circulating many parts of the track a gear higher and, I think, picked up a little speed; there's monstrous upper-midrange to go with the 150-or so horsepower top end--and the new "double-barrel" throttle bodies and four-hole injectors feed it in nice and smooth alla time.

The downsized brake discs and new four-pad calipers work fine, nothing revolutionary, really; the only really hard braking zone is into Honda corner, and when I encountered a little chatter in my first session, a couple clicks ob de compression damping in de fork seems to have made it go away.

Ya think?

What more can I say? Haven't you had enough? We at MO were not overwhelmed by the looks of last year's GSX-R when it was parked next to the R1 and 954 Honda, but the new bike really does look more the purposeful animal it is this year--in its ominous black frame, sleeker/pointier fairing, and John Holmsian exhaust can.

The ti mid-pipe turns a nice blue--much nicer than the flat-black sewer pipe of yore. Did I mention the thing runs like a bat out of hell? I will go so far as to use an exclamation point! A thing I shun! If cars have gotten this much better in the last 30 years, I may have to look into getting rid of the Jagrolet.

There's nothing wrong with Carruthers' right wrist!And so concludes the 2003 Motojournalist GP season--another midpack finish for me. I shall not approach the speed of D. Canet, Team Cycle World, in this lifetime, but it's enough for me to have repeatedly spanked P. Carruthers, the Cycle News entry and son of Kel--and I'm sure my kid can spank his kid on KX65s too if any of their four collective pods ever descend. It was good to blow the doors off of D. Coe, Team amasuperbike.com, upon his re-entry into the field after a ten-year hiatus: Alas, the Coe-ster is back in form and too swift once again to  hang with. At PI, interestingly, of the seven Americans present, three were former Cycle magazine co-workers--P. Schilling unfortunately not among them. (T. Carrithers appears to be struggling to get back into form after a bad advertising-industry get-off.)

Oztralia is a helluva nice place to visit--much like California must've been before we ran out of birth-control devices--and with fewer rats, the maze seems a much friendlier place. Or, maybe I just haven't been there long enough for everyone to learn to despise me? Business class is definitely the way to go, but now that we're in a position to fly that way (recumbent), what a shame that all we want to do is sleep, and that all the flight attendants are even older than we are. Tragic really. No more mile-high fantasizing. Food's good, though.

I know what you're thinking: When will the MO open-class shootout happen? I know not; right now we're still rounding up 600's. All I can tell you is that the liter-bike comparo has already taken place in the wide open spaces between my ears, and the clear winner is this here tire-spinnin,' front-wheel wagglin,' big-dicked!! Suzuki GSX-R1000! You can keep all your 600's and your exotic twins and suddenly I'm over my Buell XB-9S. This thing is for me. Stock for stock, it parts the cheeks of every other sportbike I have ridden to date. (But that's just my opinion...)


 

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