2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 First Ride Review

Jeff Ware
by Jeff Ware

Hooligan with maturity: The thinking man's sportbike

Would I glance at this bike every single time I walk through my garage and smile?

For me, very few naked bikes pass this test but plenty of sportbikes do. I like fairings. However, I’ve busted my back twice. I’m 40. I think it’s time for a nakedbike – without losing the fun of a sportbike.

Somehow the curves of the GSX-S tank and the radiator shrouds, from a certain front three-quarter angle, remind me of my old GSX-Rs and Hayabusas. I was thinking about the bike after I saw it and then later sat on it, and I could not help but think about it a lot more. I’m almost the perfect target market for Suzuki, according to their press kit – 40-years-old, sportbike rider, experienced, don’t like gimmicks or too many gizmos to play with, seek quality and style in a motorcycle and appreciate easy to ride, great handling and smooth power delivery these days on the street instead of outright performance.

A wild, bold and aggressive look was the brief for designer Shinji Tamura – with the look of a crouching beast, not a Transformer or Manga styling … With a target rider above the age of 40, a touch of class and style also had to go into the design process.

This is a big year for Suzuki – the 30th Anniversary of the GSX-R750, the 10th Anniversary of the GSX-R1000 K5 (that powers the GSX-S) and the 35th Anniversary of the GSX range. I had a K5 GSX-R1000, and now 10 years later, I’m able to buy a bike with a chassis that suits my old bones but still has that K5 engine I loved.

While the GS750 was Suzuki’s first four-stroke inline-Four, it was the GSX range that kicked off Suzuki’s 16-valve lineage. The original concept of the GSX series from the 750E to the 1100S Katana was high performance yet with a broad powerband, nimble handling and great durability. Suzuki has continued this tradition with the new GSX-S1000. The GSX family starts with the new GSXRR MotoGP bike (Prototype), then the GSX-R comes next (Racing) followed by the GSX-S (Street Sport) and GSX-F (Sport Standard).

The GSX-S concept combines the spirit of the GSX-R with street sensibilities, which I recently put to the test. After spending a full day testing the GSX-S in the Spanish sunshine, I’m convinced Suzuki has pretty much nailed that brief.

The Ride

I really did not know what to expect of the GSX-S – but I was hoping it wouldn’t be too boring, yet not too crazy. For me, it had to be just a nice, fast, easy ride. As soon as I sat on the bike, I knew I would like it. The riding position made me feel familiar and at home. You sit “in” the bike not “on” the bike, and the Renthal Pro Taper bars are at a perfect level in relation to the seat.

The fuel tank is nice and tall, and the footpegs roomy. It’s a very neutral and relaxed riding position. The controls fall to hand nicely.

Firing up the bike requires a single push of the button rather than holding it down, and no clutch-in is required as it is with most Suzukis. The GSX-S idles with that lovable GSX-R raspy growl. It sounds smooth but angry. I blip the throttle as I hop on, and a short, sharp note fires out of the stubby exhaust tip. Nice. Exciting. Fun.

It takes just a few miles to be completely comfortable on the GSX-S. Initially short-shifting through the smooth, positive gearbox as we make our way out of Alicante to the hills, the bike’s midrange power is impressive. It pulls from 2500 rpm like a freight train and accelerates hard through 5000-6000 rpm, with a very meaty mid-range area. The intake noise is howling and addictive and the exhaust is one of the best-sounding standard pipes I can remember hearing. I would only change it for style, not for sound.

The road opens up briefly and I glance at the dash – we’re averaging 100 mph in top gear en route to the photo shoot. So, with some room ahead, I drop down to fourth gear and take it to the rev limiter. The acceleration makes me laugh inside my helmet – along with the fact that I’d be arrested in Australia for this hooning! Its top-end power doesn’t match the K5 GSX-R1000, but it seems on par with a GSX-R1000 K1 – more than enough for a bike with no fairing.

Acceleration is really impressive – this bike is a V-8 with handlebars – it just keeps on pulling harder until the limiter cuts the fun. The only issue I am dealing with is an abrupt initial throttle snatch from a closed throttle. It happens at any rpm and can only be dampened using some rear brake preloading prior to opening the throttle. I’m hoping this is a pre-production issue with the ECU/tune of the bike. Once that initial “snap” is dealt with, the throttle is fantastic – a real one-to-one feeling with the back tire.

There are three traction control settings to choose from as well as “Off.” It’s a very easy system that is operated by a left bar toggle switch, with the level displayed on the dash.

The TC system monitors front and rear wheel speeds, throttle position, crank position and gear position 250 times per second and quickly reduces power output when spin at the rear wheel is detected. Mode 1 allowing a certain level of wheelspin, suitable for fast sport riding in dry conditions. Mode 2 activates earlier – it is for normal riding conditions and is the mode I used most during the test. Mode 3 is for wet or cold conditions.

Gixxer K5 v2.0

The GSX-S1000 powerplant has been refined and re-worked from the mighty K5 GSX-R engine to complement the new nakedbike. Basically, it is the same 999cc lump as the 2005-2008 powerplant that got such a cult following, designed to give more acceleration and throttle response. The K5 engine was chosen as it has a long stroke for better midrange than the current GSX-R engine. Bore and stroke remains 73.4 x 59mm, allowing for a compact combustion chamber and flat-top pistons. Cylinder angle is 23 degrees. There are some new parts – such as FEM (Finite Element Method) pistons that are 3% lighter, and new camshafts are designed to optimize valve timing for the street. Iridium spark plugs heighten spark strength and therefore combustion efficiency, contributing to higher power, more linear throttle response, easier start-up and a more stable idle.

The cylinders are SCEM plated (Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material) to improve heat transfer and durability. The compression ratio is 12.2:1 versus the GSX-R K5 ratio of 12.5:1 over the previous model’s (K4) 12.0:1. Valve size and port shape is unchanged.

The gearbox remains as per the GSX-R1000, and the back-torque-limiting clutch is also retained.

GSX-R1000 K7 44mm throttle-bodies are used, utilizing the SDTV (Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve) system, where the secondary valves are servo controlled. The injectors are 10-hole long-nose units. The airbox is all-new, as is the exhaust system, which features equaliser pipes between cylinders one and four, and two and three. The catalytic converter is at the header collector box, which then joins the large volume exhaust chamber. The stubby muffler features a flapper valve, or SET (Suzuki Exhaust Tuning) system. Throttle position, gear position and engine rpm determine the opening of the servomotor driven valve, controlling pressure waves for optimum performance.

The gearbox ratios and overall gearing suit the K5 power plant well, and I would not change the final gearing at all. There is also plenty of engine braking but no rear wheel hop on downshifts, thanks to the back-torque limiting clutch. The ride position is comfortable, but, like any naked bike without wind protection, sustained high speeds can be a pain in the neck.

The first corners I arrive at turn out to be the photo location – so despite being unfamiliar with the bike and it being quite early in the morning, I have to style it up for the shoot on a range of awkward, narrow, low-speed double-apex corners! The GSX-S chassis is so nicely balanced with a natural, confidence-inspiring feel that I am able to get straight into the knee-down action shots, despite cool tires. Cornering the GSX-S is effortless.

In fact, it out-handles the GSX-R in these conditions. Where I look, the bike follows. It makes riding a fun experience – not a tiring or draining one. Ground clearance is fantastic, and even at knee down angles the footpegs only touch if there are bumps mid corner. No matter which riding position I chose (various combinations from upright to hanging off), the GSX-S just got on with the job of tracking nicely through the turns, again proving the good chassis geometry.

The bike is really stable, and there is no sign of wiggle or headshake even when accelerating hard out of turns or over crests. Changing direction is not a problem, either, as I discover a few times. The first situation is a large boulder that has fallen on the road – and I am flat-out in second gear when I see it, quickly changing line while already committed to the turn – with no problem. I do not run wide, I simply steer around the boulder. I might have gone straight into that rock on a lesser bike. The GSX-S helped me save myself from a big crash by dodging a car that had crossed over to my side of the road – this is a great-steering motorcycle.

The GSX-S borrows the 4-piston Brembo monoblock calipers from the current GSX-R1000 and uses dual 310mm rotors. The loop I’m riding is one of the hardest tests of front brakes I’ve ever come across on the road, almost 100 miles of non-stop hard braking, hairpin after hairpin, a lot of it downhill – and the brakes do not fade at all, despite me squeezing them so hard I’m using the excellent Bosch ABS almost every corner entry. The brakes do lack some initial bite, and they need a good, hard squeeze at the lever, but this is a good setup for a naked bike with road-based fork settings. Any sharper on the brakes would mean a change in those springs and settings. The rear brake is great for cornering assistance, and I’m using it like a throttle for the tight parts as I carry some trailing throttle – due to the harsh on/off fueling I mentioned earlier.

Despite the heavy braking and acceleration, riding the GSX-S is not tiring at all. The ride position allows me to really utilize my legs, and the tank gives me support on the brakes, not to mention the big, wide Renthals. The standard footpeg position suits me, and the seat is comfy – no aches after five or six hours in the saddle.

After a quick lunch stop somewhere on the side of a mountain, I head off with the group, this time hoping for some bumps to properly test the suspension. I’m soon screaming along flat-out on a bumpy, snotty goat track of a road. The GSX-S remains stable and composed, but the suspension does not give the control that higher-spec suspension would. However, I’m being fussy here. The shock is basic and there is some fade, but I wouldn’t feel the need to swap it for an aftermarket unit until it is worn out. If I were going to do some track days or sport-touring, I would go for a higher quality aftermarket unit though. The forks are good without being fantastic. There is good support there on hard braking and good damping control – they just got a bit overworked on the fast, bumpy sections. I went up just two clicks of front compression during the test, to slow down initial dive on the anchors. I didn’t feel the need to make other changes to the settings throughout the test loop. On the fast, smooth sections, as well as the slower stop/start smooth sections, the suspension settles quickly and gives good support to the bike, no complaints there at all – it’s a good set-up.

The switchgear is easy to use, and the traction control can be switched between the modes while riding. Once the mode is selected, it is confirmed the first time the throttle is closed fully. The LCD dash is in the line of sight, and its readouts for speed, TC setting, trip, time and gear position are easily visible. However, the tacho numbers are difficult to read while riding.

It’s the little things that make riding the GSX-S so easy, like the sidestand that naturally falls to foot when you want to flick it down to park. The seat is wide enough to give support but narrow enough to aid sport riding. The fuel tank is quite big and tall, so it’s nice to rest an elbow on for some one-handed freeway cruising or just to chill out for a while – and there is no heat from the engine or exhaust to cook you while you ride.

The GSX-S is not overly complicated – it’s got a throttle, brakes, handlebars and a strong engine. These things are the basics we all need to make us smile and I am still grinning thinking about the GSX-S1000.

+ Highs

  • Fabulous Gixxer K5 motor
  • Excellent balance of sport and comfort
  • Shredded kneepucks without a sore back

– Sighs

  • Price-point suspension
  • Tach difficult to read
  • Not yet in America

The GSX-S1000 isn’t due to arrive in North America until sometime in the summer, at which point we’ll get our chance to sample the big Gixxus for ourselves. Pricing has yet to be determined.

2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS

Engine TypeLiquid-cooled, four-stroke, forward-inclined inline four-cylinder, four-valve per cylinder, DOHC
Engine Capacity999 cc
Bore x Stroke73.4 mm x 59 mm
Horsepower146 hp at 10000 rpm (claimed)
Torque80 lb-ft. at 9500 rpm (claimed)
Compression12.2 : 1
Fuel System43mm throttle-bodies, 10-hole long-nose fuel injectors
ClutchBack-torque limiter wet multi-plate
Transmission6-speed constant-mesh
Final DriveChain
Front Suspension43mm KYB fully adjustable telescopic fork, 4.7 inches travel
Rear SuspensionKYB link type single shock with rebound and preload adjustment
Front BrakesDual 310mm semi-floating disc, Brembo radial-mount 32mm four-piston caliper
Rear BrakesSingle 220 mm disc, one-piston Nissin caliper
Front TireDunlop D214 120/70-17
Rear TireDunlop D214 190/50-17
Seat Height31.8”
Ground clearance5.5”
Curb Weight (Claimed)456 lbs. (458 lbs. for California model); +5 lbs. with ABS
Fuel Capacity4.5 gal.
ColorsMetallic Triton Blue
Jeff Ware
Jeff Ware

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2 of 38 comments
  • Varga Akos Varga Akos on Apr 03, 2015

    In the article you state 44mm throttle bodies, down at the specs it's 43mm, Typo?

  • Dustysquito . Dustysquito . on Apr 29, 2015

    Not the prettiest looking naked bike I've seen lately, but it's still nice to see more manfuacturers acknowledging that there's a market for a bike without $5000 worth of plastic parts to be destroyed every time it tips over.