Monday, August 07, 2006

Payback Time: Suzuki GSX-R 750 (1996 – 1999)

The 1996 GSX-R 750WT got a brand-new beam frame (in place of the old perimeter frame), weighed less and packed more punch. Give Honda Fireblades something to think about, eh Suzuki? :-)

By the time this generation of GSX-R 750 came out, the Honda Fireblade 900RR was already thrashing everything on the road, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R wasn’t helping the cause of 750cc superbikes either and the Yamaha R1 was waiting in the wings. Everyone was ready to write off the 750 when, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Suzuki hit the motorcycling world with this – the GSX-R 750WT. The first big change was the chassis, with the old perimeter frame being dumped in favour of a proper, contemporary beam frame. Suzuki also put the bike on a strict weight loss program, with the Gixxer losing all of 25 kilos, which helped improve handling in a big way. Befitting the new package, Suzuki also lavished top-spec suspension components on this GSX-R, making it even more of a tool for the totally committed rider.

If the things were looking up in the chassis area, the engine guys weren’t about to be left behind either. The GSX-R 750 WT’s brand new engine was much lighter (around 10 kilos!) than the old 750’s, was fed by bigger carbs, revved higher, and made close to 115PS at the crank. For the first time, the bike got an electronic engine management system monitoring the carbs, which paved the way for full-on EFI systems on the WW and WX models. For a bike that everyone had already prepared to write off, not bad at all, eh? So good was this GSX-R that ridden hard enough, it would keep a Fireblade at bay – and don’t forget that the ’Blade had a 150cc engine capacity advantage over this Gixxer.

Those in the know say that the GSX-R 750 WV, the last of the carb-fed GSX-R 750s, is the one the best, most refined and most committed GSX-Rs ever made. Fit a set of modern, sticky tyres and new brake pads, and they say that the old GSX-R will still keep up with far more contemporary machinery on the racetrack. Maybe it really will. Maybe it won’t. But we’re sure it was one hell of a bike anyway.

Here's what PB mag had to say about the 1996 GSX-R750 SRAD!

GSX-R 750 (models WT, WV, WW and WX)
Power: 120bhp@12,000rpm
Weight: 174kg
Top Speed: 254km/h
0 – 400m: 11.9 seconds

Kevin Schwantz: "Today, at the level I currently ride, I can still get what I need out of a GSX-R 750 and I don't think I can do that on a 1000..."

Kevin Schwantz speaks about the Suzuki GSX-R:
The GSX-R750 was introduced in 1986 and as I was under contract by Suzuki, I was one of the first to ride the GSX-R at a professional level. I rode for Yoshimura Suzuki from 1986-1988 and during that time rode the current year model. The 1986 GSX-R750 handled great, but the problem was getting power and reliability at the same time. It was an awesome bike to ride, though I didn't win any races.

The 1987 GSX-R750 bike will always be my favorite. It was so reliable, I don't even remember breaking in a race. The bike was light and actually quite nervous, which I feel like got me ready for a GP bike because it was styled in that direction. Every time I got on it, I felt like I could win.

The 1988 GSX-R750 was a completely redesigned look – much smaller bodywork and therefore looked a sleeker-faster-smaller motorcycle that was again blue and white. Handling-wise, the bike was good, though we struggled with top speed development.

Today, at the level I currently ride, I can still get what I need out of a GSX-R 750 and I don't think I can do that on a 1000. I am able to ride at a pace that allows me to slide the thing around and have lots of fun! If I ride a GSX-R 1000, I've got to be on my game much better and nowadays I just ride for fun. However, there is no doubt a GSX-R 1000 is faster in the right hands!

Kevin Schwantz in action on his Suzuki RGV500 GP bike

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