Suzuki GSX-R

While the rest of the world received the Suzuki GSX-R750 in 1985, America didn’t receive the ground-breaking sportbike until 1986. But although the Suzuki GSX-R750 is honored as the prototype of modern sportbikes, there was another Suzuki GSX-R that preceded it. Launched only in the Suzuki’s domestic market of Japan, the 1984 liquid-cooled GSX-R400 is officially the original Gixxer.

Nonetheless, the Suzuki GSX-R750 symbolizes the beginning of the modern sportbike. Based on Suzuki’s works endurance racer, the no-nonsense, purpose-built GSX-R was the first production race-replica from a Japanese OEM. The Suzuki GSX-R’s combination of light weight (387 lbs. dry) and power (100 hp at 10,500 rpm) was a performance package unmatched by other sportbikes, while its aluminum frame, clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs and full-fairing with twin headlights completed the GSX-R’s distinctive, made-for-racing architecture.

Unlike its 400cc counterpart and other contemporary sportbikes of the era, the Suzuki GSX-R750 was powered by an air- and oil-cooled engine, the same engine format powering the 750’s big brother, the Suzuki GSX-R1100, also launched in 1986. Cast from essentially the same mold, the Suzuki GSX-R1100 upped the 750’s horsepower (125 hp) and top speed (155 mph) figures. Both models became the bike of choice for privateer motorcycle road racers competing in respective displacement classes.

2011 Suzuki GSX-R750

For the next five years Suzuki GSX-Rs would receive performance tweaks to keep the bike competitive against new models from Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki. A lot of these tweaks, however, increased the bike’s weight, thus defeating the original design mantra of light makes right.

In 1992 (’93 for the U.S.) the first major change to the Suzuki GSX-R was the adaptation of a liquid-cooled engine. The new engine produced nearly the same power as the previous oil-cooled motor, but exhibited a much broader power curve. A sleeved-down version of the 750 was on showroom floors in 1992, but the overweight Suzuki GSX-R600 failed on the racetrack and to lure customers. The 600 was discontinued after 1993.

The last remaining component from the original Suzuki GSX-R, it’s double-cradle frame, was replaced in 1996 with a new twin-spar frame. The Suzuki GSX-R1100 continued for one more year using the old frame and received the new twin-spar frame in 1997, the same year Suzuki reintroduced the GSX-R600. The new twin-spar-framed Suzuki GSX-Rs returned to the original formula of low weight and high horsepower.

For a decade, with the exception of Nicky Hayden riding a Honda RC51 in 2002, Mat Mladin and Ben Spies won every AMA Superbike championship riding Suzuki GSX-Rs. The 750cc class was replaced by 1000cc superbikes in both AMA and World Superbike racing series, and most manufacturers have abandoned producing 750cc sportbikes. Currently, the Suzuki GSX-R750 is the last remaining three-quarter-liter sportbike in production.

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After a short hiatus, the Suzuki Gladius returns for 2013 with a new name – the SFV650. The unfaired, mid-displacement standard is mechanically identical to its predecessor, though it comes in a more color scheme and a higher price tag.

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