This year was going to be different with my Christmas present coming in the form of a Suzuki GSX-R 750. Time to call mom and tell her to put away the ice fishing poles and maple syrup, I'll be going riding this Christmas!
Although the GSX-R750 is unchanged for 2007 it was still on my list of most anticipated bikes to ride this year. The last 750 I'd ridden was the 2003 version which I raced for a half a season. I bought the bike to go Superstock racing in the AMA but when the rules were changed I promptly ended up selling the bike and buying a 1000 to compete in the newly formed 1000cc Superstock class. I can honestly say I was pretty upset about the rule change because I was starting to fall in love with the 750.
'I was able to take the kink wide open and fully tucked in with the confidence that the Suzuki would never get out of shape.'
Fast forward 4 years and here I was back at the track which I competed in my first AMA race...California Speedway. I always feel a little uneasy at this track. Although the instructors at Fastrack always remind us how safe this track is and the ample run off it provides, it doesn't change the fact that in the last few years racing there I've had a few too many chances to check out the excellent infield emergency center the track provides.
Five fractures in the last four years at this place and I'm starting to think the track was built on Elm Street because it's been a bit of a nightmare for me!
Sunny California turned out to be just that, and the weather was perfect for a day of testing at the Fastrack track day in Fontana . I felt very comfortable on the bike right from the opening laps. Suzuki GSX-R's just seem to fit me with nothing feeling out of place. The ergonomics of the bike are very good and it's an extremely easy bike to tuck in on. After taking a few laps to get re-accustomed to the track I started to push the pace pretty good and the GSX-R responded like a champ.
Coming off the banking at Fontana there is a quick series of right-lefts which force you to muscle the bike with some pretty good body-English. The Suzuki handled it easily and was dead stable through the transitions with all the nimbleness of a smaller 600.
Turns ten and eleven at Fontana are more of a kink than a turn, leading on to the back straightaway. This is one of the most important parts of the track for a fast lap time. It's also a place that can be very intimidating on a poorly handling motorcycle, due to some pretty good bumps and a transition in the pavement. In fact whenever the nationals roll around I always tell friends who are viewing a race for the first time to pull up some grass in the area exiting the kink. They are bound to see some of the most frightful tank slappers known to man.
The whole idea is for my companions to watch these savage headshakes lap after lap, leaving them with the impression we racers are some type of fearless warriors. Just need to make sure I wear an extra dark visor so these same friends don't see the look of panic coming over my face as I get rag dolled down the back straight with my arms being wrenched out of their sockets.
This might have me looking a little more lily-livered than like a modern day gladiator. This was not the case, however, on the GSX-R 750. I was able to take the kink wide open and fully tucked in with the confidence that the Suzuki would never get out of shape. In fact the section of the track that normally had me a little weak-kneed had now become my favorite part of the track.
'The motor on the GSX-R 750 has a very smooth, seamless delivery with an electric feel to it.'
The chicanes at Fontana are a great test of the chassis and require a lot of trust in the handling and suspension of the bike. The GSX-R's inverted 41mm Showa front forks and Showa rear shock met the challenge and was turning California Speedway into a track I was actually starting to enjoy. What a difference a good handling motorcycle can make. A few clicks to stiffen up the front end were all that was needed to have the bike behaving the way I like.
Fontana has two hard braking areas where the brakes and ramp-type slipper clutch can truly be tested. This is another place where the GSX-R really started to shine. The GSX-R 750 features 310mm brake discs work with radial mount calipers and radial front brake master cylinder. The brakes were exceptional and I found myself out-braking many racers in the group who were surely not running stock lines and pads. Right out of the box the GSX-R brakes, coupled with a flawless slipper clutch, felt race ready.
The motor on the GSX-R 750 has a very smooth, seamless delivery with an electric feel to it. There are no big hits in the powerband, just a steady heightening of power. The motor is a little lacking in the mid-range, forcing you to keep the revs up on corner exit. You have to ride it more like a 600 than a 1000 to get the true potential out of the GSX-R. Keep the motor close to its rev ceiling at 15,000 rpm and you'll have the GSX-R singing nicely. The 750 has a compact combustion chamber design, 12.5:1 compression ratio, large intake and exhaust ports for optimum intake and exhaust efficiency and high power output. The Suzuki puts out around 126 HP to the rear wheel, but I'd love to see what Matsushima Performance (the successful AMA Formula Extreme roadrace team) could do with this motor. Sounds like a recipe for the ultimate club racer!
Bridgestone's new BT-002 Pro tires were fitted for my day at Fontana . I have quite a bit of experience on Bridgestone's and have always been impressed by their handling characteristics. Their newest sport tire is first-rate and they are still the most stable tire I've ridden on. Grip level and feel were excellent the whole day with no excessive wear.
Oh ya, did I mention I also rode the bike on the street? Sorry, I tend to get a little race track biased at times. The street portion of the test took place on Ortega Hwy. 74. The GSX-R is also a great overall ride on the street. It's plenty nimble when the road gets twisty or when changing lanes on the freeway and the suspension offered a good ride.
While the electric smooth motor of the Suzuki might not tweak your nipples when you drop the hammer, it will make it a good choice for riders who are looking for a great bike to ride every day.
There is some buzziness at the bars that can be noticed on the longer freeway rides.
While riding the GSX-R on the street for a few weeks I was surprised by how many people took note of the good looks of the Suzuki. There were more than a few comments on the nicely done short under engine exhaust.
Personally I think it's the classiest looking stock exhaust on any bike in any class. The 750 also looks physically small which is to be expected for a bike that only weighs in at 4 pounds more than the GSX-R 600. Put the two side by side and it's tough to tell them apart, aside from the weeny 600 logo on the 750's little sibling.
I have long been saying that the GSX-R 750 would make an awesome club racer and even convinced a few racing comrades to buy one before I'd actually ridden the bike. So going into this test I got the chance to see if I actually knew what I was talking about.
After riding the Suzuki I can confidently say it was advice well given. The GSX-R 750 does everything you ask of it and more. Superb handling and useable power are the reasons this is still one of the most important sportbikes on the market.
So am I disappointed I missed a week of arctic weather and Tim Horton donuts?
Unless Suzuki builds a GSX-R snowmobile to ride up in the great white north, I'll be happy staying right here riding motorcycles in sunny California!