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2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000: MD First Ride

We have already reported on the dramatic changes made by Suzuki to its flagship superbike, the GSX-R1000 for the 2017 model year. You can have a look at the details in our report here. The last major redesign of the model occurred nearly a decade ago in 2009.

In the meantime, the competition has made a dramatic move towards integration of electronic rider aids. Production superbikes now commonly include not only traction control and ABS, but selectable ignition maps and IMUs (Inertial Measurement Units) that, together with powerful ECUs can provide launch control, wheelie control and other functions derived from the multi-axis IMU.  The 2017 GSX-R1000 (in its various iterations, including the “R” version) has joined the party, and incorporates the now-standard electronic aids, including an IMU.

The entirely new engine displaces 999.8 cc with an inline four-cylinder configuration and incorporates lightened internals and variable valve timing (Suzuki calls it SR-VVT) to sing all the way to a stratospheric (for a 1000cc engine) redline at 14,500 rpm. Despite a larger bore, the new engine is narrower, and angled differently to shift weight over the front wheel.  As you might expect, fully adjustable suspension (from Showa) graces each model, and our standard model included Brembo radial mount brake calipers together with a Nissin master cylinder. In addition to our earlier description of the bike’s features, you can take a look at Suzuki’s web site for all of the details.

MD’s first ride on the 2017 GSX-R1000 was at The Circuit of the Americas near Austin, TX the day after the MotoGP race. As you can imagine, a 3.4 mile MotoGP level racetrack is an excellent place to evaluate the finer characteristics of a 1000cc 200hp replica racer. The mix of corner types, multiple threshold braking spots, elevation changes, and blind corner entries make for an excellent proving ground. Suzuki specifically wanted the North American press to sample the standard machine sans ABS for this test. The intent was to highlight the less expensive, non-ABS model as a platform for track use.

Despite its massive power and light weight, this is an easy bike to ride (claimed wet weight, with the 4.2 gallon tank full, is 441 pounds). The clutch action is light, the brakes aren’t overly intimidating, and the power is smooth building and linear. The bike masks its weight quite well, both during slow speed maneuvering and while pivoting on track. Learning a complex track like COTA was made easy with the help of such a versatile sportbike, as our test rider had never been there before.

The riding position is neutral, and the weight is well proportioned between the wheels. Before we headed out on track, we moved the hand control levers down to optimize positioning. After the first session we flipped the shift mechanism to GP shift, which took all of 1 minute for the superb Suzuki technicians to accomplish. This is personal preference, and it is of note that it is easy to accomplish with the way the shift mechanism is engineered. Other than that, the only things we changed during the day were the ignition modes and the Traction Control settings, which are done independently of each other.

The bike’s ergonomics are good, with the cockpit and rider triangle well-formed for an average rider. We loved the thinner and lower tank shape. At 5’11” and 175lbs, the only issue I had was feeling like I could have used more room between the seat and the footpegs to stretch my legs.

The riding day started off at about 65°F and ended at about 82°F. We were using Bridgestone R10’s, which are their DOT race tire. This ensured consistent grip over a large temperature and wear range that exists in the small window of racetrack use. It is not that the fitted-as-stock Bridgestone RS10’s aren’t suitable for a track day, they just aren’t made for an all-day flogging on a high speed circuit like COTA. We never had to adjust pressures … grip and feel were consistent throughout the day.

We started off in ignition Mode A, the most aggressive, and with TC set at 5 (of 10 available settings), as suggested by Suzuki. The track was open, and there were no sessions – we could enter and leave the track of our own accord. The laps are long, and the first impression was so enjoyable that it was easy to stay out longer than a typical, timed track day session. Not wanting to make lots of hasty changes and get lost in the multitude of available settings, our test rider began by focusing on learning a complex and fast track.

Our impression of the proper gear selection on corner exists evolved as our pace picked up during the day. It didn’t hurt that we could have Kenny Roberts, Jr. help with sorting out what gears to use where. Kenny and Kevin Schwantz were there to turn laps with us, which was phenomenal. We were also on track with Mr. Sahara, the lead engineer for the GSX-R!

Our first impression was that power came on somewhat softly in the lower rev range, but with such an incredible hit on top you forget about it quickly. The thrust you feel at the seat of the pants over 10,000rpm is unreal. Suzuki’s new Variable Valve Timing system is superb engineering, and certainly works to provide a balance of top end power and low rpm grunt. It is still tough to spread the power of any 14,500 rpm piston engine over the entire rev range, and the bulk of that power was up high.

Mastering the gearbox to keep the engine on boil was key. When on boil though, this engine is buzzy, particularly in 1st gear. We don’t mind it, it wasn’t intrusive, but it is there. From the lens of the street rider, the first gear is wonderful. It makes around town street riding easy, not requiring much clutch to get moving. From a track day/racers perspective its ratio isn’t close enough to 2nd, which created an uncomfortable zone in a couple of the first gear corners at COTA. Not that this couldn’t be adjusted by changing final drive gearing, but we noted it as an issue.

Once we started doing some nasty threshold braking from the middle of 5th gear to 1st into the intense uphill Turn 1 and from 6th to 1st braking into Turn 12 from the super long back straight, the front lever started to feel a bit spongy. The lever position on the Nissin master cylinder adjusts easily and we ended up in the furthest out position in order to get the feel needed to actuate the meaty Brembo calipers. We have seen this combination of Nissin master cylinder and Brembo calipers before, and frankly, even though the awesome power is still available, it never works as well as a Brembo/Brembo setup in terms of brake fade.

Keep in mind that COTA presents extraordinarily high demands on a street bike brake set-up.  Street bike engineers have to find quite a compromise for brake pad material that will work for street riders and mild track duty, and I don’t envy them. This recipe is not easy to find.

The rotors on our bikes got pretty dark pretty quick, which is normal in a high speed scenario like this. In a very intermittent way, the brakes would produce a super high frequency vibration that was only mildly disconcerting. This feeling would happen on one braking zone, but then be gone at the next one. The inconsistency made us think it was just a characteristic of these hybrid rotors.

Nevertheless, every time on track from beginning to end we felt full confidence in the brakes to get the bike on the nose all the way to the apex of the corner if needed. Once the lever was adjusted out, we were happy. The rear brake actuation was fantastic, great feel and power, as well. The bottom line is that these brakes do an impressive job for a stock street bike, but racers, particularly on a high-speed track like COTA, with intense braking zones, would benefit from experimentation with different braking pad materials.

The suspension actuation was superb. The forks worked so well with the front tire, the spring rates were incredibly well balanced and we never had to sweat one adjustment. From near full compression during braking, to turn in, to mid corner, to exit the front end felt like it could be put anywhere you needed it and it would soak up imperfections. The rear never once wallowed, and combined with the exceptional Traction Control system it allowed all of the massive torque to be applied to the ground without a bit of instability or grip loss.

Low speed direction changes were no issue, and high speed direction changes were, in particular, fantastic. The high speed left-right-left-right Turn 3-5 complex is a tough one to nail without a chassis that likes to flick, and this one did it with aplomb. The lower inertial mass of the short-stroke crankshaft, together with the light wheels/rotors, certainly contributed to the nimble handling. There were a couple of situations where we would get a mild headshake, no more than 3 or 4 oscillations, though. In the middle of the back straight, there are some bumps at the 4-5th gear shift transition that would be unsettling, and also some bumps going onto the front straight. The GSX-R corrected itself quickly.

If we were racing, we would consider trying to put a bit more trail into the bike by getting offset triple clamps, but from a street or track day standpoint the flickability of the bike very much outweighs the need for this type of stability.

Now that selectable riding modes are the norm, the assumption is always that the most aggressive setting is the best for extreme track use. While we started with riding Mode A and TC set at level 5, as we picked up the pace there were points where we felt that the power was a bit too abrupt, i.e., too snatchy at lower rpm.  After a quick conversation with one of the engineers about the B mode, we decided to give it a try. We immediately went faster with more control and more feel, and then started to adjust TC … eventually settling on level 2. We found this combination phenominal, allowing such a good feel from the throttle pick-up point pre-apex on a point-and-shoot corner or for maintenance throttle through one of the long sweepers. It was so good, so confidence inspiring! We felt that this was one of the better aspects of this machine, and should be applauded.

Suzuki as a corporation is smaller than you might think it is, and they are very much a tight family filled with 10/10ths motorcycle enthusiasts. We got to meet both Suzuki America President Tak Hayasaki and Project Leader for the GSX-R1000 Shinichi Sahara at this event, and their reverence for the brand and for motorcycling in general was obvious. Shinichi even shared the track with us and was pushing really hard! We were pretty stoked to see such exuberance from personnel that you would expect to be reserved.

Suzuki poured a lot of heart and soul into this machine and it shows. Any rider, whether focused on street or track, or a racer, that has left Suzuki for another brand after getting tired of waiting for an update to the GSX-R1000 should definitely be having a hard look at this new bike.

We didn’t get a chance to sample the new GSX-R1000 on the street, but we are expecting a test unit from Suzuki so that we can provide feedback from that environment to our readers. Nevertheless, from a track day perspective, we heartily recommend a close look at the new, big Suzuki. Only when pressing the limits on a track such as COTA do any deficiencies show up. As a track day enthusiast who is used to putting a bit of money into a show-room stock bike, again this would be an excellent platform. For me, this bike is an exhaust system and a quick-shifter away from being a track day rider’s/instructor’s weapon.

As a racer, you can’t refute the double-win by Tony Elias at the Austin round of Moto America with this machine last weekend. Yes, those are super-trick machines expertly prepared by some of the best technicians in the world, but they have to have a good base to start with in order to beat the Yamahas so quickly with a new machine!

The base, non-ABS 2017 GSX-R1000 starts at a suggested U.S. MSRP of $14,599.  For additional details on this model, as well as the ABS and “R” models, take a look at Suzuki’s web site.


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57 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    If they made the first gear lower, I totally applaud it. From my point of view as a street rider there is nothing more ridiculous and annoying than first gear taking you well over the speed limit. If all gears are nearly identical, why bother with a gearbox at all?

    Yeah, tell me about racers. I don’t care, I never go on the track and neither do 90% of bike riders, and that includes riders of sport bikes.

    So well done Suzuki, for catering to reality not to somebody’s fantasies.

  2. silver says:

    Well done Suzuki.

    Now can we please have a new Busa, like a world beating Busa? You know it would sell, it would have to.

  3. Norm G. says:

    (wife stares in the mirror outside of dressing room and ask husband’s opinion)

    Q: does this angle make my can look big…?

    A: yes.

  4. Jeremy in TX says:

    Looks like a great overall package.

  5. Grover says:

    441 pounds with a full tank of gas and 303 pounds with the muffler removed!

  6. North of Missoula says:

    I foresee a lot of cheap 2017 GSXR1000 exhaust cans on Ebay later in the year. They will make nice umbrella stands.

  7. joe b says:

    Where’s all the wanna-bees claiming they don’t want no stinking rider aides? Would like to see the turn signals in the mirrors.

  8. austin zzr 1200 says:

    Two points: The can is at least honest, it screams ‘remove me’ which, as many have pointed out, will be done on 99% of these bikes.

    Second, I really like the looks of this gixxer. Remove/ make flush the turn signals, replace the can and it looks almost Italian..

    Maybe a squid will dump one in a few years and I can scoop it on craigslist..

  9. Don says:

    Would you guys call the stock exhaust of a 1969 Triumph 650 twin loud? I’m starting to think some people today might. I would make a distinction between the above bike and one with an aftermarket racing can on it. Why do bikes need to be quieter today than in 1969?
    Is it just a case of sheer numbers of bikes today causing us to lose some freedom of choice?

    • carl says:

      You have no freedoms, just the illusion in the American police state.

    • Selecter says:

      On the other side of the coin – why should modern bikes be any louder today (or even the same volume) than in 1969?

      Decades of “I’ll do whatever I want, screw everyone else” that American motorcyclists by and large have adhered to is clearly paying dividends in the worst possible manner today, from street bike noise regulations to the same even on tracks, as a Laguna Seca racer further below mentioned. If you abuse others (and their ears) for long enough, I don’t think it’s surprising to experience some backlash.

      I’m a “quiet bike” guy. I’ve had loud bikes (Piped T509 and TT600). They do not help make traffic aware of you. They don’t really make your bike any faster in any meaningful way. They certainly don’t endear one to others around the rider. Both of those bikes went back to stock, because they were annoying, and I’d rather fly below the radar whenever possible.

      • SF848 says:

        Honestly it goes both ways. I happen to LOVE the ethereal scream of my RSV4 with an Arrow pipe at full tilt. I won’t begrudge you your quiet bike, but I expect the same courtesy and respect. Of course, I would never go WOT in neighborhoods, but out on the countryside, I should have the freedom to have a stock exhaust or a race can.

        • mickey says:

          I think there are multiple govt agencies that would probably disagree with you on your right to have a choice on the amount of noise you should be free to make, and if too loud may come back to bite all of us in the butt with further crackdowns, but they would probably have to come down on 90% of the v twin cruisers first.

          • SF848 says:

            There you go! Another argument for less government! And you’re right, the cruiser (ahem, Harley segment) would be the first to get shot at. I’m not going to criticize the sound of those things, but they are insanely loud, even just cruising on the freeway.

          • raivkka says:

            The pipes on my Harley are loud as fak! I begrudge nobody anything. I do not rev the piss out of it to make noise thought.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I’d rather fly below the radar whenever possible.”

        radar shmaydar i absorb and deflect all radar. going for missile lock…? not gonna happen cap’n, i’m “gen-5” out on the highways and byways of ‘Murica.

  10. Gutterslob says:

    I’m sure it’s awesome, but just looking at it, you’d think you were paying for the exhaust and the rest of the bike came included for free.

    • SF848 says:

      Hahaha, that stock exhaust is enormous and ruins the lines of the bike. Whether it sounds good or not, it simply has to be replaced.

      • Gutterslob says:

        On the bright side, at least it seems like all the nasty CAT bits are built into that fugly pipe, meaning there’s no giant breadbox underneath the engine. Should make fitting a slip-on a much simpler affair, and we wont have a weird hole showing up underneath the bodywork like on so many other modern sportsbikes.

  11. Daddiey says:

    So, this is a bike for racers-only, and Suzuki has just admitted it?

  12. Scott the Aussie says:

    I bet that Mr Sahara has a dry sense of humour!!!

  13. Auphliam says:

    I don’t know if that’s gray or black, but it looks awesome with the red highlights.

  14. todd says:

    Amazing bike. Too bad it’s capabilities would be wasted on my abilities and my daily commute.

    • Selecter says:

      Ditto that. To me, it looks stellar in red. Tricks like mechanical VVT is extremely appealing to a nerd like me. It even looks a lot less torture-rack-ish than most of the other liter sportbikes do these days!

      But I am a mere mortal. I’m proud enough to scrape the floorboards on my V-Star, which is not much of a feat! Doing this bike any justice whatsoever is simply outside of my realm of experience and capability.

      I’m really liking that red colorway. Excellent.

  15. Tom R says:

    From now on instead of using the old cliché “The elephant in the room”, I am going to say “The exhaust can on the motorcycle”.

    • Matt G says:

      It is indeed just a few inches shy of being a 55 gallon drum.

      • Tom R says:

        It is the equivalent to nuclear weapons in North Korea: they don’t yet have a knack for making them small enough to fit in the appropriate space, but given time it might happen.

    • TF says:

      The two owners who leave that exhaust on the bike are going to find an inexhaustible supply (love the pun?) of cheap brand new mufflers available on ebay should they ever scratch their original piece.

  16. Scott says:

    “…As a racer, you can’t refute the double-win by Tony Elias at the Austin round of Moto America with this machine last weekend. Yes, those are super-trick machines expertly prepared by some of the best technicians in the world, but they have to have a good base to start with in order to beat the Yamahas so quickly with a new machine!…”

    Well… Okay, but Elias won both races last year at Austin, beating the same Yamahas on a prehistoric version of the Suzuki, so…

    Just sayin’…

    • Ricky Crue says:

      Yeah, kind of what I was thinking too.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        The old one was very well understood. This one brand new. Being so quick so quickly, does indicate there is lots of potential.

        • Ricky Crue says:

          Cam B. dropped his qualifying time by over 1.3 seconds versus last year. So the Yamaha boys haven’t sat on their laurels. Also, not discounting the fact that the Suzuki looks to be an excellent platform, but Yoshimura’s involvement with that bike from square one means they had tons on data on it, and plenty of rider feedback, and tons of track time way before the COTA event.

  17. PABLO says:

    Did Suzuki buy all of Hyosungs old stock GT650R headlights? I have no doubt the new GSXR will be an amazing bike to ride, but that headlight is just plain fugly.

  18. VFRMarc says:

    A great report – well written and insightful. Thanks, MD.

  19. Turnergande says:

    I guess Suzuki considers that rather sizable muffler a styling statement. Larger than the one on my 4 liter Ford van.

    • Tim C says:

      Don’t Worry About the Government

      – Talking Heads

      • Randy D. says:

        Yeah, thank the EPA. I really appreciate the bikes the last few years that have hidden most of the muffler under the bike instead of outside of it like this new Suzuki. Don’t recall seeing that muffler on the COTA MA racing Suzukis this last weekend.

        • sbashir says:

          It is not the EPA, it is Euro 4. All Euro 4 compliant bikes have big mufflers but they can be easily replaced.

        • Pacer says:

          The bonus is if the cat is in the muffler. Then a slip-on is all that is needed to get big weight savings, and most of the available power.

        • Bryan says:

          Personally I wish street bikes would stay with stock quiet exhaust. Never made my bikes noisy just for the hell of it to waste money. Got six of them in my garage and two more in my racing trailer. Only the race bikes have modified exhaust. I worked with Laroy (RIP) at M4 to make my race pipe as quiet as possible as well. Don’t like noisy bikes at all.

          • Bob says:

            You deserve a cookie. Loud bikes for the point of being loud is nothing more than infantile attention seeking.

          • Bart says:

            I got the meatball flag at a Laguna Seca track day for noise. Fortunately, I had brought along the stock can.

            After swapping that back into place, I could stay in the throttle full blast up the hill, dropped 3 sec a lap! The liter bike guys in my group were wondering what/who lit a fire under my a$$!! That was fun!