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The Subtle Art of Suzuki’s 2000 GSX-R750 – Part One

Okay, so Suzuki’s 2000 GSX-R750 is old news — at least until a ride review is available (several months off). Nevertheless, I was reading through Suzuki’s impressive press packet for the 2000 GSX-R750 recently, and was struck by a number of things.

First of all, Suzuki’s flagship product really is the GSX-R750. It is intended to be the finest motorcycle Suzuki has ever designed or built for street use. Everything about the bike appears to be so carefully thought out. The fact that Suzuki pared nearly 30 pounds from an already-light motorcycle (now weighing in at 366 pounds dry – lighter than any current 600) is pretty amazing (at least, until you consider Honda’s forthcoming CBR929RR weighing in at 375 pounds). It is the attention to design details, however, that impresses most.

The following quote from Suzuki’s own promotional material sets the scene for my following discussion:

“Racing is not as easy as it looks, and building a winning racebike is not as simple as it seems. It is not a matter of simply making the most horsepower and torque, or building the most rigid chassis, or designing the most aerodynamic bodywork, or installing the biggest wheels and brakes that will fit. There isn’t a standard formula that always works, or a uniform set of winning design criteria found in a college textbook.

Racing is more complicated than that, a game of combinations and evolutions, millimeters and ounces. It is as much a game of intuition as it is science. It is a game where experience counts.”

When Suzuki says designing a winning bike is “a game of intuition” where “experience counts”, it is not just hype. Motorcycle chassis design is not an exact science by any means. It is a game of hit and miss — even for the giants of the motorcycle engineering world. Take Honda’s RC45, for example. It is generally acknowledged that Honda, despite throwing tremendous resources at the task of building a race-winning Superbike, missed the mark significantly in its design of the RC45. The bike was always difficult to ride, rarely handled well, and found success on the World Superbike stage only in the hands of John Kocinski. If Honda can get it wrong, anyone can.

Suzuki knows this, of course, because Suzuki is experienced in the racing game, and Suzuki is extremely experienced in the art of designing a cutting-edge four-cylinder 750cc sportbike. The GSX-R750, throughout its history, has frequently “pushed the envelope”.

Known for its light weight and quick handling, the GSX-R750 has been the supersport 750 for many years. Kawasaki virtually dropped out of the game — unable to compete with a bike that was 50 pounds or more lighter. This year, of course, Suzuki won the coveted AMA Superbike championship with Mat Mladin aboard its GSX-R750 based superbike. At the World level, Pierfrancesco Chili put the Suzuki at or near the front of more than one Superbike race this year.

Although Suzuki has had success from the beginning in the supersport class (particularly in the United States) due to the huge weight advantage, superbike success has been hard fought. The GSX-R750 based superbike was an ill handling maching for several seasons, and is still down on horsepower to many competitors. This year, however, the bike handled much better than in the past — enough for Mat Mladin to make up for its horsepower deficiency.

To say that Suzuki will make every effort to replace the current GSX-R750 with a carefully designed machine is a huge understatement. Suzuki cannot replace the current bike with a mediocre 750. It would be corporate suicide.

It is with this in mind that we look at the effort Suzuki has made to redesign its flagship. Virtually all new, the 2000 GSX-R750 warrants an extensive discussion of engine and chassis design, and we will begin that discussion in tomorrow’s article.