Middleweight Messiah: Riding the GSXR-750


Ten years ago the world gasped when Suzuki sprung their lightweight, super-powered GSXR-750 onto the scene. Ten years is plenty long enough to forget that impact. So everyone forgot. Guess what? Suzuki has done it again.

Try to pry the ignition keys from a Motorcycle Online staffer's grasp, after that first ride on a '96 GSXR 750. The smile spreads from ear to ear, the grip on the key fob is Godzilla-like.

The new 750 tops the scales (without oil, battery or gas) at under 400 pounds. It rattles the dyno room with 117 rear wheel horsepower on a Dynojet dyno. Powerband wheelies are a twist of the wrist away. But it handles just like a little 600.

The massively light frame narrows between the rider's knees like the old perimeter frame never could. Swing your leg over the huge, ugly tailpiece and the first thing you notice is size, or lack of it. This 750 is 600 sized, and 600 light. The cockpit is spartan; the ignition key plugs directly into the top triple clamp, and instruments nestle in the nose of the fairing, almost out of sight through the low windscreen. Partitioned inside the speedometer, an LCD panel tells total mileage or either of two trip miles. Inside the tachometer, a coolant temperature panel distracts attention from the astronomical 13,5000 rpm redline.

Secret of the Gisxer's new lightweight appeal is the twin-beam aluminum chassis, made of extruded, sheet, forged and cast pieces of aluminum, welded together and combined with a lightweight but strong swing arm to give the straightest, strongest possible path from 24 degree steering head to a six inch rear wheel rim.

The frame doubles as a conduit for twin ram-air tunnels that feed airstream-pressurized air direct from fairing scoops to the 39mm electronically controlled carburetors.

The Suzuki's brain (the ignition CPU) controls the lift of the carburetor's new beveled slides by regulating the pressure above the diaphragms. The combination of ram air and electronics allows bigger carburetors (more high end power) without bogging the engine at low speed.

Dynos aren't the real world, but on the highway, that power hits as a huge wheelie in first gear if you yank the throttle hard, and keeps right on going until it peaks around 11,000 rpm. Down in the engine department Suzuki's designers have lightened everything in sight, and then some.

The new engine is a full 20 pounds lighter than the older model, and 30mm thinner, contributing to the 600-class feel. Some weight shaving is due to new nickel-silicon coatings that replace heavy cylinder liners, and contribute most to the narrow engine. Most components lost weight.

"About the only thing Suzuki hasn't lightened is the rider's butt."

Throw a leg over this bike, and your butt thinks you're on a 600. It's much smaller, and more comfortable than any previous GSXR. The footpegs are still up high, but the fork-mounted clip-ons put less weight on the wrists than before. The twin beam frame narrows comfortably between the rider's legs. The bike is so small, the instruments so close, that it's only possible to see the speedometer by looking through the windshield from above. That's until you get up to serious speed, and start taking advantage of the chin cutout in the gas tank...

And speed is where the bike excels. The rock-solid chassis, superb brakes and seamless power supply make for absolute confidence at almost any speed. No steering damper is fitted: None is needed. Even with a monstrously steep steering head angle (the same as Kevin Schwantz's GP bike of only a few years ago, a bike Suzuki drew on extensively in the new design). Stability is impressive, at any speed.

"Suzuki's engineers must have spent aeons of time in the wind tunnel..."

The Showa suspension units are excellent at race speeds but soak up pavement irregularities at street speeds with comfortable compliance. Suzuki's engineers must have spent aeons of time in the wind tunnel, judging by the lengths to which they've gone with the new plastic bodywork.

The bellypan extends to within an inch of the rear wheel, while the front of the fairing almost extends to meet the front wheel. Decals on the gold and brown model ape Honda's much ballyhooed CBR900RR fairing holes.

Real holes exist in the lower fairing, allowing air circulation around the crankcase. Cooling is one of the Suzuki's weak points.

The rev-counter mounted temperature gauge climbs quickly to 213 degrees (Fahrenheit) in town traffic. As the coolant system is pressurized, it's safe to a few more degrees above the boiling point of water, but it's an unnerving feeling to watch the water come to the boil...a single fan, in the right side of the radiator, cuts in when the mercury soars, but this isn't the bike we'd choose for Phoenix in July.

Instead, this may be the bike many riders will choose in many other parts of the country. The power is simply seamless and linear, starting way down in the rpm basement and continuing up past the 12th floor. Get the rev-counter needle hovering around 10 and the power happens like a locomotive. By 13,000 rpm the engine is shrieking and it's way past time for a gear change, but the lightweight flier is still pushing hard enough to plant your backside against the seat hump, all the way to the 13,500 rpm limit.

The gearchange is quick and sure, with no chance of a false neutral, and you'll need to take advantage of it to keep the motor on the boil. We didn't get the chance to match the GSXR against Honda's CBR900RR, but that contest would be close. Though down on power compared to the RR, the 'zuki plainly has the edge on handling, and Honda's CBR design team must be sweating over their abacuses.

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