Roland Brown describes how it was, riding a Suzuki GSX-R1100 for the first time, in 1986. And how the bike feels to ride now, in 2012...
For the December 2012 issue of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure, eminent bike journalist Roland Brown reminisces about one of our favourite sportsbikes of all time – the Suzuki GSX-R1100. He remembers how it felt when he rode a GSX-R1100 for the first time, in 1986, and compares that to how the old Gixxer feels to ride now, 26 years later. Here are some excerpts from what Brown has to say about the old warrior:
On riding the Suzuki GSX-R1100 back in 1986
“I don’t recall the first time I rode a GSX-R1000 in 2001, but I’ll never forget my first blast on its famous forebear back in 1986, because the GSX-R1100 wasn’t just the world’s fastest and best sportsbike, it was quite simply in a different class to everything else on the road. I’d barely ridden two miles from Suzuki’s base in Sussex when the opportunity came to confirm that this bike was something special. The GSX-R1100 accelerated so hard on a long, uphill straight that it almost left my stomach behind on the road. And when I tipped it into a curve at well over 100mph, the Suzuki was so rock steady, it felt as though it could have gone much faster still, with no problem at all.”
“Along with just about everyone else fortunate enough to ride the GSX-R1100 in the spring of 1986, I spent my first few days recalibrating my brain to understand just how fast a roadgoing motorcycle could be. The powerful [125bhp at 8500rpm], light and streamlined Suzuki was searingly fast in a straight line. And its combination of agility, high-speed stability and braking power surpassed that of the lookalike GSX-R750 that had stunned the superbike world on its launch a year ealier.”
“On that first ride, my main impression had been how amazingly light [197kg dry] and agile the GSX-R1100 had felt for a big bike, and how taut and racer-like it was in comparison with competitors such as Honda’s VF1000R and Kawasaki’s GPZ900R. With its low bars, stretched out riding position, high footrests and firm suspension, Suzuki’s race-replica was a more aggressive and uncompromising machine than those bikes, which suddenly seemed a bit heavy and outdated.”
On riding the Suzuki GSX-R1100 in 2012
“When I find myself back behind the distinctive twin-headlamp fairing of the GSX-R1100, there is, inevitably, not the same sense of all-conquering performance as on that memorable first ride back in 1986. But the big Suzuki still takes very little time to make its presence felt. The GSX-R1100 still ripped forward like crazy when I tweaked its throttle, accelerating with brutal force even when the tacho needle was barely off its 3000rpm stop. By 5000rpm it was ripping forward violently enough to lift its front wheel in first gear or, more usefully, to surge past a line of traffic in top. At 7000rpm it was breathing even deeper as it headed for the 10500rpm redline and a top speed of over 240km/h.”
“By the time I was in top gear [on a well maintained, standard 1100], it’s clear the old warrior still has the performance to put a big smile on its rider’s face. In typical GSX-R fashion, there was a slight buzziness to the engine, but vibration never really became annoying and the rasping note from the four-into-one exhaust was as addictive as it had been all those years ago.”
“Inevitably, that 125bhp peak output didn’t generate the same thrill – not surprisingly, given that middleweight sportsbikes have been making similar power for years. Advances in chassis technology also made the tall GSX-R1100, with its 18-inch wheels and old-fashioned geometry, feel slow steering rather than a cutting-edge race-replica. The Suzuki was stable at high speed but not as firm and racer-like as I had expected.”
So there you are – that’s what age does to you. Suspension on the GSX-R1100 that Brown rode was a bit soggy and that, combined with the bike’s tall screen prompted the rider to say that the bike felt like a sports-tourer rather than the hyper-sports missile it had been when new. Still, Brown concludes by saying that old GSX-R brakes still felt adequately powerful, it had sufficient ground clearance even for racetrack use and that a suspension overhaul would probably allow the GSX-R1100 to keep up with plenty of much more modern sportsbikes. Not too bad, eh?
We know there’s no logic to it and in the real world it’ll never happen, but sometimes we wish Suzuki would produce a GSX-R1100 again, fitted with the six-cylinder engine seen on the Suzuki Stratosphere concept bike. A super-lightweight monocoque chassis, an inline-six that produces 200bhp, fully adjustable ergonomics, ABS, traction control and active suspension. That, and a retro-style GSX-R paintjob, from circa 1986. Suzuki won’t build it, of course. We only wish we could build that GSX-R11 ourselves…
Source: Motorcycle Sport & Leisure