Suzuki GSX-R750 Road Test
Wonder how many people scootling nonchalantly about
on Suzuki's GSX-R realise that they are riding the
most successful production racer ever? Before all
you Britbike fans write in about Triumphs, Mortons
etc, I would humbly submit that the pace of development
and the resources available to competitive manufacturers
these days make the Suzuki's achievement in staying
ahead of the pack in almost every branch of 750cc
road racing somewhat more of a noteworthy achievement.
That's my view anyway, and I'm sticking to it. Even
now, getting on for three years after the GSX-R first
came out, only the five-valve FZ Yamaha can really
give it any trouble on the world's racetracks. By
the middle of this year, Heron Suzuki had sold their
entire allocation for the UK, with no prospect of
any more coming in for some months. And that's not
just a case of pessimistic ordering either. The bike
is a genuine sales success, no question about it.
Still, some folks are never satisfied. Excellent
machine though it is (albeit with a few funny foibles
which I'll describe shortly), many owners have a yen
to make it go still faster and handle still better.
So in this article I thought I'd pick a few brains
for ways to make these things happen.
First though a few words on my own experiences with
the '87 test bike.
I should say straightaway that I hadn't ridden a
GSX-R750 for a good while when I climbed aboard the
'87 model, so I went through the same kind of culture
shock as yer average first time punter experiences
on one after a lifetime of "ordinary" bikes.
The overriding impression, and it is one which lasts
throughout one's time with the bike, is how incredibly
light it is.
This lightness manifests itself in many ways, some
good, some bad. On the plus side, it invests the bike
with an agility it shouldn't really have with 18-inch
wheels. The relative slowness of steering will be
obvious to anyone used to one of the more recent 17-inch
models, such as Honda's CBR600, but in practice the
Suzuki is so chuckable that this is only a minor gripe.
Another benefit of light weight is the positive effect
it has on the bike's power to weight ratio. With less
than 4lbs (excluding the rider) to be shifted by every
one bhp, the GSX-R in standard trim is plenty fast
enough for most riders. And the chassis is capable
of keeping the whole plot safe at speed, too. Braking
is phenomenally good, and all 750s now have a longer
swingarm which makes them less twitchy at speed than
the somewhat notorious early models.
On the '87 bike, rear shock travel has been reduced
by 5mm by the simple process of extending the bumpstop
by that amount. By the R's otherwise high standards,
the rear end is less than brilliant. The shock is
not sophisticated enough to keep the back wheel under
anything like proper control on typical British roads.
Nailing the bike's power to the ground in the intermediate
gears on anything other than a billiard table-smooth
surface can be alarmingly difficult; the rear tyre
skips all over the place, and the engine note rises
and falls in potentially damaging sympathy. Towards
the end of my two weeks with the bike, I was beginning
to understand that the best way of riding it was as
near flat out as possible. Underthose circumstances,
everything seems to come together in a screaming,
rushing blur of speed and violence. It's the nearest
thing to flying you're likely to sample outside of
an actual aeroplane. Common sense tells you that the
1100 is consummately superior to its little brother,
in every way really. But that doesn't douse the special
kind of burn you get from the 750. It's a hooligan
machine of the first order.
All this makes the GSX-R sound like a pretty wonderful
road bike. And that's exactly what it is. But the
odd conquerable inadequacy does mean that it isn't
perfect. This imperfection would be most obvious to
anyone choosing to race one, but it could conceivably
spoil the enjoyment of a hard road rider as well.
What follows is just a small nugget of the accumulated
knowledge and experience of four of Britain's foremost
engine and chassis tuners. Some of it will be of more
immediate interest to those who want to race their
GSX-Rs than to those who just want a simple go-faster
package for the street. Other bits might seem a touch
obvious, not to say wimpish, to those who are already
well down the tuning road. Bearthis in mind, along
with the unalterable fact that this is a road bike
we're dealing with, and you won't go far wrong.
The main shortcoming of the GSX-R750, certainly as
far as extended use on public roads is concerned,
is the very same feature which has made it such a
roaring success on the world's racetracks —
namely, the frame. Constructed from aluminium alloy,
it is extremely light; on the downside, this type
of material tends to "work-harden" and become
relatively brittle over a period of time. Although
it's reasonable to assume that Suzuki have used an
appropriate "mix" so that the effects of
this process are not too pronounced, it will be interesting
to see just how many early model GSX-Rs are around
in five years time.