Sometimes the unexpected becomes a lucky circumstance. The GSX-S1000 came about as a surprise. Initially another Suzuki was scheduled for us but that bike had been delayed in transit and the GSX-S1000 was offered so we grabbed it. Bertrand Gahel was at the launch of the GSX-S1000 in Europe for our July 2015 issue (Read, “One for the Road”) so we weren’t exactly sure what to do with the bike, as another straight-up road test wasn’t necessary. We were pleased to discover that the GSX-S1000 was the “F” version—the “F” bike being faired as opposed to the standard naked bike of Bertrand’s previous ride.
Pure sportbikes with a few exceptions may have experienced their volume peak in North America. It was a good run that began in the mid-1980s and culminated in the mid-2000s. Using US numbers (because that’s the engine that drives the North American market and one Canada is often obliged to follow), the timing of the peak makes sense. In 1970, 1,250,000 motorcycles were sold in the US; in 1975, 940,000; in 1980, 1,070,000.
By 1985 the market had cooled and for almost the entire decade of the 1990s the numbers struggled to get over 300,000 until resurgence in 1998 that would roll to its height in 2007. By 1985 there was a huge pool of riders who had been brought up on Honda CB750s, Kawasaki Z1s, Yamaha RDs: inexpensive, sporty motorcycles that emphasized performance as much as comfort.
The market was primed for something fast, flashy and on the cutting edge of motorcycle technology and the race replica bike was born. The sportbike spent the next 30-odd years getting lighter, faster and better performing. ABS, traction control, riding modes, new frame technology, much better suspensions and ever widening tires pushed the boundaries. What also happened over that 30 years was that the swell of younger riders who fueled the sportbike boom got older.
The progression in technology and performance was such that today the rider assistance technology available on the most powerful of sportbikes is virtually essential in keeping the 200-hp supersport machines delivering power when, where and how you need it. The downside to the advance in sportbike technology and performance was in becoming so performance focused, such capable track machines, the real world usability was compromised—if it even ever existed.
While the ergonomics, seating position, peg placement and sculpted tanks made sense on the track, firm suspensions, hard seats, low clip-on bars and huge power made the bikes challenging to live with on the street. Unless of course you are young enough that discomfort doesn’t bother you. But there’s the very rub. There aren’t many young riders and certainly not a surplus of them who grew up on fast, fun sportbikes.
In the US motorcycle sales between 2007 and 2010 went from 1,124,000 to 439,678—and many of those buyers weren’t exactly young. They may want to spend an hour or two on a pure sport machine but they also want something that can be ridden for days or weeks, and works as well on the street as on the track.
That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate performance, don’t hanker for a twist of throttle that will bring about a surge of power, and the throaty growl of a little too-loud exhaust. While the motorcycle industry looks around for the wispy mustaches of youth that may herald the future of an industry and the product that we all so love, sometimes you just have to dance with the one who brought you—the “Old Guys” who, as the T-shirt says, “rule.”
The GSX-S1000F is exactly that bike. Even the engine is an Old Guy albeit with the benefit of performance enhancing adjustments. The Suzuki has an engine based on the 2005 GSX-R1000, which was, and still is, potent. The edges of the razor are not quite so keen though the blade remains plenty sharp with 145 hp at the ready. Come on, do you need more and if so where you are going to use it?
By some odd alignment of the stars and mechanical gods British Columbia has a new race track at the town of Oliver that might be able to contain your 200-hp supersport bike. But you have to go a long way across the country to find any other motorcycle friendly track recently built in Canada. New tracks don’t pop up like mushrooms after a rainstorm meaning that a bike that’s more street- than track-biased is a welcome addition.
The choice of the 2005 GSX-R1000 derived 999cc motor is due to its long stroke layout which, with the addition of a revised camshaft, produces a great deal of torque lower in the powerband. From 3,500 rpm the bike pulls hard and it is possible to leave it in fourth or fifth gear for 90 per cent of your ride as the power is so readily accessible and a taller sixth gear would extend the bike’s touring range without any effect on performance. When you crack the throttle at 3,500, the bike sounds great from the 4-2-1 mass centralized exhaust sitting just aft of the footpegs evoking the aura of the track.
Throttle response can be abrupt especially over rough pavement. Despite its detune, the Suzuki is still a litre-class 145-hp sportbike weighing only 214 kg and with suspension set for the purpose.
Some electronic rider aids do show up on the GSX-S: there’s ABS of course and a three-mode traction control system that can be turned off entirely—enabling another old guy favourite, the burnout.
The brakes feature dual 310mm discs up front, while suspension includes a rear Showa monoshock and an inverted KYB front fork with 4.7 inches of travel. From the cockpit the Suzuki feels like a sportbike where brutal clip-ons have been replaced with a tall Renthal Fatbar that makes a world of difference in terms of comfort. The look is odd at first but the benefits are obvious.
A glaring oversight considering the bike’s more comfortable ergonomics, 17-litre fuel tank and potential for longer riders, is the lack of saddlebags or even anywhere to tie down your own. The smooth tail section has no existing mount points. Its working range exceeds 250 km if ridden with moderation, so the bike is a great option for sport touring adventure. The GSX-S1000’s closest competition, the Kawasaki Ninja 1000, comes with a set of colour-matched hardbags. Suzuki has to consider correcting the luggage omission.
But for someone with the desire to extend his sportbike ride, the GSX-S1000 is a forgiving partner that still provides thrills with a more sporting look than its naked stablemate. Yes, all the current naked streetfighters do target much the same market, but the faired GSX-S1000F still looks like a classic sportbike with that little extra rider protection. At $12,999 the GSX-S1000 is $2,000 less than the 2005 GSX-1000R we tested in 2005 making the bike with its pedigree a bargain. Things do get better with age, young fella.