Friday, July 21, 2006

Flexi-flyer: Suzuki GSX-R750 (1985-87)

The very first GSX-R. The repli-racer-for-the-road saga begins...

This, the first GSX-R, was definitely was a head-banging, hell-raising, outlaw. The bike was very light for its time, what with Suzuki using an aluminium alloy chassis and magnesium bits in the engine. The bike featured oil cooling (called SACS – Suzuki Advanced Cooling System) for more efficient heat dissipation, stout, 41mm front forks, twin 300mm dia brake discs at front and those twin round headlamps which later became such a Gixxer styling trademark.

The bike’s 749cc, DOHC, 16-valve inline-four was peaky and made most of its power only in the higher reaches of its rev range, which made it a bit of pain to use around town. But then the GSX-R was never made for drop-the-kids-to-school or fetch-the-groceries duties. It was meant for the dedicated, hard-core sportsbike rider who was more interested in getting his knee down than cruising down some Euro-boulevard desperately trying to look cool. Back then, the metrosexual male hadn’t been invented yet and women only rode Vespa scooters. Twist the throttle hard and the GSX-R delivered, waking up at 7000rpm and then screaming all the way up to its 10,500rpm redline, by which time you’d be doing more than 200km/h.

As you would expect, the first GSX-R wasn’t anywhere near perfect. In trying to reduce weight, Suzuki had, perhaps, gone too far – the ‘perimeter’ alloy frame couldn’t cope with the power and was prone to flex, as were the rather skinny wheels of that era. There wasn’t a great deal of feedback from the chassis, the rear shock was too soft and had inadequate damping, and at times, the brakes could be a bit temperamental! But while all this made it tough to pretend you were a Barry Sheene for the road, there’s no getting away from the fact that this first GSX-R was a landmark machine. Future generations of motorcyclists would thank the Gixxer, and Suzuki, for the current, 180bhp, open-class two-wheeled rocketships we see today.

GSX-R 750 (models F, G and H)
Years: 1985 - 87
Power: 80bhp@10,500rpm
Weight: 176kg
Top Speed: 205km/h
0 – 400m: 12.65 seconds

Other GSX-R stories:
Twenty years of the Suzuki GSX-R
Late 1980s/early 1990s GSX-Rs
GSX-R1000 vs Westfield XTR4 video!
Late 1990s GSX-R
Limited edition GSX-R Phantom


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gunslinger: Suzuki GSX-R750 (1988-91 models)


The 1988 Suzuki GSX-R750 'Slingshot'

In addition to SACS and Hyper Sports, this Suzuki GSX-R also had ‘Slingshot’ emblazoned on its flanks. This came from the bike’s redesigned Mikuni carburetors, which had straighter intakes for better combustion efficiency. This GSX-R, with its then radical, all-new styling, looked menacing. Mess with it and it would kill you.

Power was up to a real world 92 horsepower and the bike was capable of doing more than 230km/h in a straight line. The new, shorter stroke 749cc inline-four got a new bottom end (adapted from Suzuki’s own GSX-R1100), revved quicker and higher than the old model’s engine and was less peaky. While the older GSX-R didn’t wake up at all before 7,000 revs, the new one started making its grunt from 5,000rpm onwards – a big improvement for low speed, city riding. In a surprise move though, the M model went back to a longer stroke engine (perhaps to improve rideability and further reduce peakiness…?), which also made a genuine 100bhp for the first time.

The bike’s chassis was a strengthened, beefed-up version of the first GSX-R’s perimeter alloy frame, and steering geometry was made more radical in order to quicken the steering. The M version was the first production motorcycle to get upside-down (USD) front forks, which are now almost ubiquitous on all sports machinery. The ‘Slingshot’ GSX-R also got wider wheels, stickier rubber and higher-spec, multi-adjustable suspension – all of which helped in making it a better tool for the racetrack, where a lot of these bikes ended up being used. With its near unburstable engine and its proclivity for wheelies, stoppies and other acts of assorted two-wheeled hooliganism, this was a ‘proper’ Gixxer and a worthy successor to the first bike.

GSX-R 750 (models J, K, L and M)
Years:
1988 - 91
Power: 92bhp
Weight: 208kg
Top Speed: 235km/h
0 – 400m: 12.22 seconds

Right click and download a motorcycle-usa.com roadtest video of the 2006 Suzuki GSX-R1000 here


An old sketch of the Slingshot GSX-R, which I made in 1992
This video shows 20 years of evolution of the GSX-R...