Naturally, I reached for my Aerostich. The sport-tourer’s uniform of choice, it seemed like the right thing to wear when the invite to test Suzuki’s newest sport-tourer – the 2022 GSX-S1000GT+ – popped up in my inbox. It offers full-body protection from both the ground and the elements, is easy to take on and off, has loads of pockets, and has room underneath for layers (including an airbag, in my case). I felt like I made the right decision when I hopped on the bike. 

In hindsight, maybe I should have grabbed my leathers. 

Instead of a relaxing ride through some of central California’s best roads, we were hauling arse, channeling the inner GSX-R inside. Strafing corners like we were going for Superpole and letting the big Gixxer-based engine eat when the road opened up, for 300-plus miles we were living in our own little Isle of Man TT. And this was just day one. When we finally stopped to smell the roses, it dawned on us that we had a handlebar instead of clip-ons and saddlebags behind us with a change of clothes and a toothbrush. Maybe we should have taken the Suzuki reps seriously when they told us the GSX-S1000GT+ was a sport-touring bike with the heart of a GSX-R.

We can all agree the previous GSX-S1000GT won’t win any beauty awards, but this latest GSX-S1000GT (GT+ shown here) is much more attractive.

Suzuki has gone all-in on the sport-touring segment, and with the GSX-S1000GT and GT+, the company has leaned heavily on sport while sacrificing little on touring. Yeah, Suzuki is leveraging its Gixxer heritage hard when it comes to this bike, but is that really a bad thing? The important bit is Suzuki has done so without sacrificing the essence of a sport-tourer. It’s really quite astonishing. How the Hamamatsu brand has done this is an interesting read, and as you can imagine, there’s a lot to unpack with the new GT and GT+. So, let’s dig in. 

The Elephant In The Room

Yes, the GSX-S1000GT and GT+ are powered by what is essentially the K5 GSX-R1000 long-stroke 999cc four-cylinder engine. The same as the newly updated GSX-S1000 naked bike, and several models before. Suzuki’s been on the receiving end of some flack in recent years for continually recycling the same base engine for nearly two decades, but there’s something to be said about Suzuki’s commitment to evolving what is still considered one of the best engines ever made. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Suzuki’s taking this to heart. In case you didn’t know, I’m also an owner of an SV650. And as we all know, Suzuki has milked that engine for all it’s worth, too. 

The K5 GSX-R1000 engine might be retired from superbike duty, but it’s still more than capable for sport-touring purposes.

In the GT’s case, the K5 Gixxer Thousand engine sees a ton of changes to shift its powerband and make it more suitable for sport-touring duty. Among those changes are intake and exhaust camshafts, valve springs, cam chain, cam chain tensioner, crankcase/crankshaft mounting hardware, clutch assembly, clutch pushrod, Shift Cam, Shift Cam retainer, Shift Cam plate, shift shaft, stator cover, clutch cover, drive sprocket covers, and more. 

Beyond the changes inside the engine, the GT and GT+ no longer use throttle cables. This Ride-by-Wire system now has the throttle directly linked to a position sensor that activates a servo which then moves the throttle plates. Having such a system makes it easy to incorporate cruise control, the Suzuki Drive Mode System, and even the updated quickshifter (which is glorious, but more on that later). 

It may not look like much, but all those new pieces in yellow really transform this engine and give it usable power for the real world.

The long, tapered intake tract has a smaller inner diameter than the previous GSX-S, improving the intake charge velocity resulting in better throttle response and torque production. All of the spent gasses exit the bike through a revised 4-2-1 exhaust system with a secondary catalyzer in the mid-chamber. This allows the actual silencer at the end to be small, light, compact, and importantly, able to be replaced with an aftermarket slip-on without bypassing any of the emissions systems.

The result is not only a two-horsepower increase compared to last generation’s GSX-S1000 (150 hp vs. 148 hp), but more importantly, a much smoother power and torque curve compared to the previous bike with virtually no dips or valleys. Incidentally, peak torque is actually down on the GT+ (by about one lb-ft or so), but again the overall shape of the graph looks significantly better. All this while complying with global emissions requirements. 

The overall graphs of the new engine versus old show how much smoother the revisions have made the GT’s power curve. And it’s not like the old engine was that bad, either.

Sport-Touring, The Suzuki Way

On a macro level, sport-touring is about traveling long distances, often via the twistiest roads, as quickly as possible. We’ve already established the GSX-R-based heart of the GT and GT+ will get you where you’re going in a flash, but comfort comes first. This is where the decision to repurpose the K5 engine makes sense. Because instead of pouring resources towards a new engine, those resources instead went towards making a focused sport-tourer – one Suzuki is immensely proud of. 

Right off the bat, if you’re thinking this is a gussied-up version of the recently released GSX-S1000 naked bike, you’re kinda right. But not really. The obvious difference is the sharply styled bodywork. You’ve also got two windscreens (standard and the optional touring screen), both of which were developed in the wind tunnel. From an ergonomics standpoint, you’ve got the same 31.9-inch seat height as the outgoing GSX-S1000F, but the new tapered handlebar is 0.9-inch wider and rotated slightly upwards, resulting in the bars being 0.6-inch closer to the rider. 

A wind-tunnel-developed windscreen, combined with bars that are closer to the rider than before, result in a comfortable ride.

The passenger seat is said to be a little more accommodating than before and perched about an inch and a half higher than the rider, so whoever’s back there can see over your shoulder better. To keep vibes to a minimum, all the touchpoints for both rider and passenger are laced with rubber – the bars are rubber mounted, the passenger grab handle is as well, and all four pegs have rubber inserts. 

Opt for the GT+ (not the standard GT), and you get two saddlebags, each of which are able to hold 37L, and most full-face helmets, including the Arai Defiant-X I’m wearing in these photos (minus the communicator sticking off the side). The locking bags use the same key as the ignition, have huge latches to lock and unlock, and are super simple to remove entirely. Also, if you’re thinking about getting the standard GT and opting for the accessories to add the saddlebags later, don’t. It’s $13,149 for the GT and $13,799 for the GT+. The saddlebags and the various hardware needed to retrofit a GT into a GT+ will cost you over $1000. Unless you’re positive you don’t want bags, just spend a little more and get the Plus right off the bat. 

What’s a sport-touring bike without saddlebags? Actually, it’s called the GT. Saddlebags are the sole distinction between the GT and GT+. They’re big enough to hold a full-face helmet, super easy to operate, and a bargain compared to trying to add bags to a GT later. Also note the passenger grab handle, which is rubber-mounted to minimize vibrations.

Compared to the previous GSX-S1000F, last seen in 2020, the GT models get a 5.0-gallon fuel tank versus the previous 4.5-gallon tank. Combined with the estimated 35 mpg (which ended up being fairly accurate during our 500-plus-mile ride over the course of two days), and you can expect to get something like 175-ish miles per tank. Under normal riding, of course. 

Tech

Yeah, it’s got some, and it’s all the tech bits you’d expect to find: 6.5-inch TFT display, five-level traction control (plus off), ABS, Suzuki Drive Mode Selector, autoblipper, cruise control, easy start, low-RPM assist, and connectivity to Suzuki’s mySPIN Bluetooth app. The best part is the minimal amount of buttons on the switchgears: nearly every function can be accessed via a thumb wheel with arrows. The more surprising feature (or lack of) is the absence of an IMU. 

The 6.5-inch TFT display on the GSX-S1000GT gets high marks for being clear, easy to read, and having the important information like engine speed, road speed, and gear position in clear view of the rider. The screen can switch from white to black depending on ambient light, and if you pair the motorcycle to the Suzuki mySPIN app, the screen can mirror your phone functions, and even display a map with your location. Note the USB port to the left of the display to charge a device.

Behind the scenes, a new 32-bit ECM uses CAN-style wiring to reduce the amount of wires needed for all of the bike’s various systems while also allowing those systems to communicate with each other much faster. A new, compact ABS control unit is supplied by Hitachi Astemo, which we all know better by its former name: Nissin. Finally, a new gear position sensor is the heart of the new bidirectional quickshifter system and eliminates the slop sometimes associated with autoblippers from competitors.

Chassis

Making great engines is not the only thing Suzuki is known for. Its chassis department gets far less praise. It’s a shame, too, as the GSX-R family has a reputation for its neutral, inspiring handling. It all starts with the twin-spar aluminum frame and arch-style swingarm, both of which have very close ties to the GSX-R. In fact, the swingarm is borrowed directly from the GSX-R1000. Behind the frame, you have a trellis-style subframe with integrated mounting points for the luggage. The trellis construction allows it to be relatively light while still being strong enough to handle a passenger and full saddlebags.

The suspension and brake components you can see here are well up to the task. Fully adjustable suspension is a treat and Brembo brakes have plenty of power. The rubber lines and weak master cylinder would be among the first things I’d change if this were mine.

KYB handles suspension duties with a 43mm inverted fork up front with 4.7 inches of travel and link-type shock in the back. Both are fully adjustable for rebound, compression, and spring preload. Radial-mount Brembo four-pot calipers are paired with 310mm discs up front, but are fed fluid via rubber lines and an axial-mount master cylinder. ABS is standard and always on. A 240mm disc and single-piston caliper slows down the rear wheel. TRP six-spoke wheels are unique to the GSX-S1000 models, and they wear Dunlop’s new Roadsport 2 tires, specially designed for this application. Which, as we discovered, was going long distances. Fast.

Grand Touring, Gixxer Style

By now you already know the GT+ can haul the mail and isn’t so far removed from the GSX-R1000 it can trace its lineage back to. But Suzuki’s constant refinement of this engine makes it seemingly perfect for this application. All of the changes to the engine internals help shift the powerband away from the top, where you need it on a sportbike, and more towards the bottom and middle, where sport-touring riders spend their time. 

I’m happy to report, it worked. There’s plenty of power down low and in the mid, with the electronic throttle mapped perfectly to the amount of twist I was giving with my wrist. Of the three Suzuki Drive modes, I found myself toggling between A and B the first day. All three modes deliver full power, only the application of power is metered differently between them. On many bikes, no matter the manufacturer, A mode is usually too aggressive. Even the tiniest of wrist movements results in a jump. 

Not so with the GSX-S. In A mode power would come on quickly, but not abruptly, and it ended up being my default setting for the twisty roads. The slightly muted B mode worked well enough around town and on the freeway, but by the second day of riding, I’d become comfortable with A mode everywhere. Even on the freeway, slogging miles until we got back home. Despite moving the engine’s punch lower in the revs, there’s still a considerable amount of thrust available as the rev needle moves into the last third of its sweep. You can take the engine out of the gixxer, but you can’t take the gixxer out of the engine

It seems so simple, but that autoblipper works wonders and elevates the enjoyment level of riding the GT.

The biggest surprise, by far, is how sublime the autoblipper operates. Shifts in either direction, no matter the gear, even first, are amazingly smooth and slick. Flicking the lever with your foot requires just the right amount of pressure to know you’ve asked for a gear, it’s not too soft (like some BMWs) nor is it too hard. Shifts are positive, too, so you’re never second-guessing if you made the shift or not. It might sound silly to be so praising of something seemingly so innocuous as an autoblipper, but flicking through the gears, without ever using the clutch, while hustling the GT through a set of curves highlighted the importance of being in the right gear going in – and coming out – of a corner. The amazing autoblipper enhances the riding experience in a way I didn’t know was possible. It’s that good.

Without having to worry much about the engine or gear selection, it opened the brain space for hustling around the tight and curvaceous confines of Highways 33, 58, and 166. As you can probably imagine, with its GSX-R frame and swingarm, the GT makes quick work of canyon roads. Having a handlebar gives the leverage to flick the bike in either direction. Once leaned over it holds its line like you’d expect from a sportbike. 

Since the saddlebags on my bike were not carrying much, it’s hard to comment on a fully-loaded GT’s abilities through the corners. However, I can attest to the KYB suspension reacting well to changes, as the bike really came into its own once the rebound damping was slowed by only two clicks, front and rear. Doing such made the ride more compliant and more planted over both smooth and rough roads.

If the GT does have a weakness in the handling department, the brakes leave a little to be desired. Specifically, the axial-mount master cylinder is decent at best, and if it weren’t for the rubber lines, this would be a nice braking system. Feel at the lever has a hint of sponginess, but it never left me worried. I just wished it was more firm and direct. 

While I wouldn’t consider this a weakness, an oddity I noticed while hustling the bike from side to side was what I assume to be deflection of the rubber in the handlebar mount. When you’re going at a quick pace, you depend on the handlebars to give you the leverage you need to turn – especially with the square-ish 190/50 profile rear tire. A few times I could feel the bars moving slightly within the mounts, an attribute I can only assume is rubber deflection. Again, it wasn’t alarming, just something I noticed.

Despite the omission of an IMU, the traction control system works surprisingly well. Since road conditions on our ride proved to be near perfect, I never had a chance to really put the system to the test. Instead, I tried cranking the TC to the fifth, and highest, setting. On corner exits the TC light was flashing rapidly on the TFT display, but from where I was sitting all I could feel was gradual acceleration matching what I was twisting at the throttle. Many systems on other motorcycles can be overly intrusive in the highest setting and give the feeling as if you’re being pulled backward, not gently pushed forward. It was very impressive. In setting two I never noticed the intervention (assuming it came on at all). 

In my mind I thought I could spin up the tire and leave a black line on the ground. In reality I’m not that good. Besides, the Suzuki traction control does a surprising job of putting down the power without holding you back.

We’ve talked a lot so far about the sporting side of the GSX-S1000GT+, but the touring aspect is just as important. Ultimately, is the bike comfortable? The short answer is yes, but in the case of my 5-foot, 8-inch frame there were a few things I noticed. For starters, the standard windscreen just happened to direct the air right to my face and neck, instead of over my helmet. Every now and then some debris would swirl under my helmet and be distracting. The optional touring screen is not only taller but is angled upward, toward the sky, to move the air up and over the rider. If it were me, I think I’d opt for the touring screen. 

Otherwise, the seating position is ultra-comfortable and neutral. The hands drop right where you expect them to for an all-day ride and the pegs are just under the butt. Though the tank is bigger than before, the junction with the seat isn’t terribly wide. My 30-inch inseam could reach the ground easily, though not flatfooted.

That’s about as neutral a riding position as they come.

Speaking of all-day rides, I found the seat padding to be a touch too firm for my liking. After about 45 minutes in the saddle, it was time for a stretch to get some feeling back. Even the contours of the seat start to feel like they’re slightly digging into your thighs. I’m guessing the seat foam hardly compressed at all under my scrawny 155-pound frame. Heavier riders may find the padding to be perfect.  

Suzuki’s Done It

I’ll admit, for the past few years Suzuki’s product offerings have left me feeling a bit uninspired. I know others have felt the same, too. Speculation was even going around, worrying about where the company was going. The pandemic certainly didn’t help, but nonetheless, if the 2022 GSX-S1000GT and GT+ are a sign of things to come – and Suzuki reps tell us there’s a lot more to come – then we should all be excited. Here we have a sport-touring package that embodies everything about both genres. It’s fast as hell, topped with a layer of comfort, finished off with a consistent 35 mpg even riding like a goon. 

With the motorcycle world turning towards adventure-touring motorcycles lately, the sport-touring segment seems to be experiencing a bit of a lull. In fact, in the sub $15,000 price range the Suzuki sits in, only these bikes stand out:

As you can see, it’s pretty rarified air to find a sport-touring bike as capable as the Suzuki, let alone one that’s at all comparable on price. The BMW R 1250 RS is thrown in there as an example of how quickly the price gap jumps – and that’s just for a base model. Nevertheless, I still think the Suzuki could give it a run for its money.

Could a Suzuki win Best Sport-Touring bike of the year honors? Maybe. It’s definitely in the running.

Simply put, Suzuki nailed it. If your GSX-R days are coming to an end, move one letter down in the alphabet and give the GSX-S a go.


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