With a lightened GSX-R chassis, the wicked 2005 GSX-R1000 motor and an aggressive upright riding position, why were we so surprised that this all-new GSX-S1000 was so much fun to ride?
Suzuki Motor Corporation is releasing a bike this year specifically designed for the US sport enthusiast market. Derived from the legendary GS1000S of the 1970’s, the GSX family born in the 1980’s and the racing technology of the current GSX-R line, the 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 is the product of best practices and attributes learned over the last four decades. Suzuki’s legacy is based on the inline 4-cylinder naked sportbike, and the GSX-S1000 is an excellent representation of this heritage.
Targeted at riders in the US on the more experienced end of the spectrum looking for a weekend bike to ride aggressively through the canyons, the all-new GSX-S1000 had to hit some key criteria. First of all, the bike needed to be light-weight with nimble handling characteristics. A strong motor must produce solid and smooth acceleration, but maximum power and top speed numbers were less of a concern. Styling and craftsmanship needed to be top notch to warrant this extracurricular purchase. Finally, the price tag must be very competitive in this market of extremely price-sensitive consumers.
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We rode the 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 through the forests, up the hills and along the beaches of San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties in central California through perfect 75 degree F weather. The roads were slightly damp in the morning from the marine fog off of the Pacific, but burned off quickly as the sun poked through around 10AM for the rest of the day. Additionally, the back roads we explored were peppered with gravel and sand to further increase the excitement level. Despite these conditions, the GSX-S handled the situations with ease and enthusiasm.
The upright yet sport-oriented riding position of the GSX-S1000 was designed for this exact sort of environment. Thirty inches from the steering stem to the seat puts the rider in a more aggressive position than other naked sportbikes such as the Yamaha FZ-09 which puts the rider in a much more upright stance but hampers performance. The wide dirtbike-style Renthal Fat Bars give the rider plenty of leverage to negotiate the tight corners and loose traction conditions. Finally, the seat material is very plush like on the GSX-R models, but the relatively-extreme riding position did put some strain on the lower back during extended freeway rides.
The engine commissioned for the 2016 GSX-S1000 was pulled from the renowned 2005 GSX-R1000 K5 bike mated to the stout 6-speed transmission from the current-model GSX-R1000. Of course, some of the components have been retuned for this naked sport application. For example, the titanium intake and exhaust valves have been swapped out for steel valves of the same dimensions for better operation at lower RPMs during street use. The slipper clutch system on the GSX-R model has been removed and replaced with a traditional multi-plate, wet clutch system operated by a standard cable with a relatively heavy pull. However, improvements in manufacturing processes give the GSX-S1000 lighter-weight pistons than those packed into the GSX-R model.
Such refinements result in 145 HP max power at 10,000 RPM and 78 FT/LBS of torque at 9,500 RPM. This is roughly a 10 HP reduction in power compared to the K5 GSX-R, but more peak torque that is delivered earlier than the current GSX-R1000 model. While not the fastest literbike Suzuki has ever produced, power is delivered incredibly smooth and linear without a dramatic power curve spike for which the K5 motor of 2005 was notorious. Power modulation of the traditional cable-operated throttle is a bit on the twitchy side, but ECU-controlled secondary butterflies definitely help smooth things out once the wrist is trained at higher RPMs. The low-mounted exhaust system finishes this powerplant off with a surprisingly aggressive exhaust note.
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES
The backbone of the GSX-S1000 closely resembles the chassis of its GSX-R cousin. In fact, since the GSX-S frame does not need to withstand the extreme forces exerted by the GSX-R nor provide the same level of feedback, the twin-spar aluminum GSX-S chassis is actually lighter than that of the current GSX-R1000. However, the swingarm is a carryover part for both models.
Suspending the swingarm is a KYB shock with adjustable preload and rebound allowing the 190/50ZR17 rear tire 5.1 inches of travel. Up front are fully-adjustable 43mm KYB forks with 4.7 inches of travel straddling a 120/70ZR17 front tire.
During our ride, the suspension was not adjusted from its stock settings, but performed exceptionally well for a naked sportbike not intended for racing. Turn-in was quick, linear and accurate. The front end did not provide a whole lot of feedback and the rear shock was a bit stiff for this 160 LB rider, but the bike still handled extremely well mid-corner and did not want to run wide on exit.
Bringing the bike to a stop was very reminiscent of riding the GSX-R models with the dual 310mm front discs and four-piston monoblock Brembo calipers. The models we rode were also equipped with an optional Bosch ABS system that worked extremely well. Intervention is smooth and manageable while powerful enough to save the rider in slick situations. However, the ABS system does add 4 LBS of additional weight bringing the total package up from 456 LBS to 460 LBS.
The most notable component of the technology package on the GSX-S1000 has to be the traction control system (TCS). The system has three modes or can be turned off completely through toggle buttons on the left-hand bar control and clearly displayed on the instrument panel.
It's worth noting that this toggle switch on the left control relocates the headlight high/low beam and pass flash button to a trigger mechanism operated by the left index finger. Regardless, what makes this system especially convenient is how easily the TCS can be adjusted while riding (as long as the throttle is closed) and how these settings are stored in the bike’s memory even after the ignition is shut off (a feature absent from many other high-end bikes).
We rode the bike in “Mode 1” (sport mode) for the majority of the day and felt the system kick in seamlessly during corner exits when hard on the throttle. However, in order to hang some front wheel in the air (something nearly irresistible on this bike format), the TCS had to be switched to “Off”.
Photography from Suzuki Motor of America, Enrico Pavia
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Another pretty cool feature is the easy-start system similar to most luxury cars today. Simply turn the key ignition to “On,” make sure the bike is in neutral and tap the start button. The system automatically applies the proper amount of throttle, cranks the starter motor until the engine fires and brings the motor up to the optimal idle speed. Starting a Suzuki without having to touch the clutch lever and with one tap of the starter button was a strange sensation at first, but it’s going to be a small convenience that will be tough to go without in the future.
The LCD instrument display itself was also very useful and intuitive. Though full of gimmicky adjustments such as RPM gauge reverse (left to right or right to left), it's very easy to read at quick glance. A digital display of engine RPM, speed, gear position, fuel level (other manufacturers, please take note!), engine temperature, and TCS mode can easily be referenced all on one main screen. Additionally, Suzuki claims this instrument display is the lightest-weight of any other sportbike unit.
Yoshimura R&D has already developed and offers a whole line of aftermarket accessories for the GSX-S1000. The Alpha Signature series slip-on silencer (offered in stainless steel or carbon fiber) bolts right up to the OEM pre-muffler canister and does not affect emissions while adding an even-throatier exhaust note.
A Yoshimura R&D rep came along for the ride with us on a GSX-S decked out with all of the Yoshimura R&D aftermarket add-ons, including the Alpha slip-on and it sounded great. Yoshimura R&D also offers items such as engine case protectors, swing arm sliders, rear axle adjusters, bar ends, fender eliminator kit, oil fill cap and engine inspection bolts with pre-drilled safety wire holes.
Suzuki Genuine Accessories also offers a full line of Suzuki accessories. These items include a sports windscreen, passenger seat cowling, tank bags and even painted Brembo front brake calipers in blue, red, or yellow.
The price tag on the 2016 GSX-S1000 is another pleasant surprise. With price sensitivity of consumers in the US at an all-time high, it’s important for manufacturers to address this concern. Suzuki nailed this metric by pricing the base model GSX-S1000 at $9,999. Add ABS and you’re at $10,499, or a full-fairinged version with ABS for $10,999. These prices are far below the competition in this segment with the Honda CB1000R priced at $11,760, the Kawasaki Ninja Z1000 at $11,999 or the Triumph Speed Triple at $12,799 (we’re not sure the $10,790 Yamaha FZ1 could even compete on this field…).
The only problem with this price point is consumers could get the wrong impression of the bike’s quality. However, one quick surface-level inspection of the bike’s fit and finish on a showroom floor or even a test ride should clear up any misconceptions of craftsmanship.
Overall, the 2016 GSX-S1000 is an excellent bike that blew our expectations away. Assuming this bike is just another manufacturer repurposing pre-developed parts, rearranging assembly lines on the factory floor, and slapping a new model badge on the bike to find another way to skin a cat would be quite misguided. This is also much more than just a GSX-S750 with a larger engine .
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The craftsmanship and component quality of the GSX-S1000 were much higher than expected. The well-balanced chassis and suspension, strong and manageable powertrain, simple yet effective traction control, and unique features like the easy-start system made the whole package a ton of fun to ride on the back-roads of central California.
A slight improvement to the suspension components/set-up, a less-twitchy throttle and a bit more power out of the high-potential engine would give the current bike a serious edge on the competition. Add a quick shifter and it would be tough to imagine a bike that would be more fun for this type of riding.
At the end of the day, this is an excellent package with a ton of bang for your buck. This bike has all of the ingredients to be a blast to ride so we’re not sure where our skepticism came from (perhaps the crowded market segment and/or GSX-S750?). Regardless, all of the above for roughly $10,000 puts the 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 on this journalist’s long list of potential next bike purchases…
Weight: 160 LBS
Height: 5' 10"
Build: Compact, athletic
Experience: 20 years; 13 years street/sport, 20 years motocross, 12 years roadracing
Specialty: Sportbikes, road-testing, racing, technical
Helmet: Arai Signet-Q
Jacket: Dainese Airfast Pelle Estivo (Review coming soon)
Gloves: Alpinestars GP Tech
Pants: Icon Hooligan Denim Pant
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R