Suzuki GSX-R1000

Feather Metal
(Suzuki GSX-R1000, August 2005)

How much more metal can be pared off an already featherweight bike? How many more horses can be extracted from an already red-hot powerplant? Rob Smith answers these questions and more after trying the latest version of Suzuki's finest...

20th Anniversary of the GSX-R! - you gotta be kidding right? How can the GSX-R range be 20 years old? That means I must be... Oh yeah - Okay perhaps it has been that long since the first 179kg 750 threw down the gauntlet and started a new era - and maybe I was only 26. But here we are at Eastern Creek Raceway looking at the 2005 K5 version of the GSX-R1000. Only unlike me the GSX-R is fitter looking, lighter, sexier and harder hitting.

There can be no doubt that Suzuki took the seriously good 2004 Yamaha R1 very seriously. So with a product concept as simple as - "The Top Performer" the engineers were given permission to ransack the biggest box of tricks Suzuki possessed. Their orders were of course predictable - make the new bike quicker by cutting weight and boosting power, make it stop quicker and smoother and make it go round corners faster.

The results are impressive.

It's a good piece of conjuring if you can pull it off. Making a big bike smaller and lighter without losing all the attributes of being a big bike in the first place. Personally I reckon Suzuki have always been pretty good at this particular bit of sleight of hand. Let's start with the weight of the thing. Get this - the GSX-R1000 K5 tips the scales at a claimed 166kg dry. That's eight kilos lighter than the 2004 R1, two kilos lighter than the K4 and 13 kilos lighter than the very first GSX-R750. To list all the parts that are now lighter than before would be lengthy and dull because it's the cumulative effect of shaving grams everywhere that you're going to appreciate after a eight hard charging laps or 200 bends up your favourite mountain.

Elsewhere the K5 has shed millimetres to give the bike a more compact and centralised feeling. The tank is narrower at the back while still containing a useful 18 litres, the bars are narrower as well as slightly higher and rearward than the previous models - and the seat and footrest height has changed with the seat now an astonishing 20mm lower at 810mm.

The result is that the seat to handlebar distance is now shorter by 40mm making the bike feel easier to manoeuvre. Paradoxically and further evidence of dark magic being used, the footrests that are now lower than before, still permit a bank angle of 56 degrees -achieved through being 17mm closer together. Working with the narrower waistline is the "love it or hate it" aerodynamic muffler. I love it and you only have to park the new bike next to last year's to see how dated tubular canisters look.

The liquid-cooled, DOHC, 999cc four-cylinder, fuel-injected engine is now up in capacity by 11cc as well as half a tick in compression, which drives torque up significantly. The valve train that features a lot of light and slick acting titanium allows an extra 1000rpm and the whole thing drives through a six speed gearbox smoothed on downshifts by a back-torque limiting clutch. 44mm throttle bodies with dual valves take care of the squirt side of things and ensure that with the right diet the GSX-R makes a claimed 178 horsepower at 11,000rpm and a heyuuuge 12.0kg-m of torque at 9000rpm.

Now if those numbers doesn't mean much to you, think of it like this - that's eight horsepower more than a Hayabusa and close to the same amount of torque from a smaller engine and in a bike that's 49kg lighter.

As impressive as the engine and performance numbers are, the important components are the ones that let you get at it, namely chassis, suspension and brakes. Keeping the lighter front wheel in front of the chassis are adjustable-for-everything Kayaba 43mm USD cartridge forks with Diamond Like Coating (DLC) to reduce friction. Overseeing rear wheel behaviour is another fully-adjustable rear shock, again from Kayaba, located between the all new, lighter and more rigid chassis and the erm... all new, lighter and more rigid swinging arm. Making sure the steering accommodates the changes are a rake and trail of 23.8 degrees and 96mm.

It's not easy finding new superlatives to pen about a bike like the GSX-R1000 K5. However, looking back over my notes there's a phrase scribbled in the corner of one dog-eared page that perhaps sums it up "Like sky diving without a parachute" Written shortly after coming from the first lap where I'd actually used full throttle.

Like a lot of really powerful engines it's deceptive. There's no real power kick anywhere in the delivery - and nothing you can really say about it other than a string of wind lost expletives that miserably fail to capture the heart-seizing thrust delivery. Yet despite the ridiculous amounts of sheer energy there's never a sense of it being wild and unmanageable. Give it a small amount of throttle and yes there's instant force at the back wheel pushing and smoothly accelerating, always precise but always contained. Give it full throttle and it just sucks you from wherever it was you thought you were into another dimension of fast-forward action - just like falling out of a plane.

The same can be said for the handling too. The K5 is easier to ride than any of its predecessors, needing far less effort at the bars to take advantage of the agility permitted by the chassis geometry and the vast amounts of grip afforded by the Bridgestone BT014s. Although the springs and damping settings in the forks were set on the soft side at the start of the two days testing, once some extra preload, compression and rebound had been added, the tendency to float and settle after heavy braking or landings disappeared. The result was that on the approaches to bends, no matter how brutal you were in changing lines mid-corner or braking, no matter what size the bumps encountered around the track at full lean, the suspension composed itself in no time at all allowing ever-increasing levels of confidence. How confident? A younger and braver journo from the UK was seen sporting scuffs on his elbows that didn't come from crashing.

Suzuki has been synonymous with good gearboxes for years and so it came as a surprise to find that on more than one occasion the lever stuck on the up-change between second and third preventing shifts into fourth. Normally I would have just put it down to having feet that can't dance, but at least two other journalists reported similar problems. It's possible that it may have been something as simple as stickiness in the linkages, but no matter what the cause, the problem caused a few raised eyebrows as well as questioning looks.

Howling down the main straight on the way into turn one with over 270kmh on the dial, no matter how I much I screamed "just ease off, go back two and tip it in" I couldn't help but reach for the reassuring security blanket of the brakes. Yellower than a summer daisy that's me - but then a crash at over 200 and an arm full of stainless will do that - and frankly a bit of reassurance seems far more important than bravery.

In line with more and more sports bikes in 2005 the GSX-R has radial-mounted four piston calipers brakes served by radial master cylinders. Fitted to a pair of 310mm floating discs up front and backed up by a conventional 220mm rear disc, it's unlikely that there will ever be a shortage of reassurance for anyone. There's no doubt in my mind that radial brakes offer better feel, power and initial take-up than anything that has gone before.

Launches and in particular track launches are never particularly useful to the majority of riders unless they're pure track day junkies looking to shave a second a lap off here or there. There are no potholes, there's no crap on the roads and the team of experts waiting to attend to every little thing back in the pits make sure the bike is in nothing less than tip-top condition. In short it's a bit unreal.

There's absolutely no doubt that on the track the new GSX-R1000 K5 is much better than the earlier models in every single respect. It's highly likely that the new bike will be a better road bike as well, as in my humble opinion the designers and engineers have really worked some magic with this one. In the past I've gone on about how horsepower is irrelevant if you can't access it without undue risk - let there be no doubt that the GSX-R1000 K5 is not for beginners, or those seeking to impress their friends - it is an expert riders' bike. That said an expert will appreciate the fact that the magic that created the GSX-R has positioned its considerable performance within easier reach and thus made it more enjoyable and satisfying.

Looks-wise the new, more rounded styling has given it greater elegance and the new colours look great. People are bound to ask, "Is it better than the R1?" It's hard to say based on a track launch alone, but Suzuki has certainly pushed back the boundaries in the right directions and I rather suspect it is.

  • Seamless fuel injection
  • Easy steering
  • That muffler
  • Sticky gear selection
  • Colour combinations are looking tired

Type: Liquid-cooled, four stroke, DOHC, four cylinder
Displacement: 999cc
Bore and stroke: 73.4 x59mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Fuel system: Fuel injection - 44mm throttle bodies

Type: Six-speed, constant-mesh
Final drive: Chain

Frame type: Twin-spar aluminium alloy
Rake and trail: 23.8 degrees/96mm
Front suspension: Kayaba 43mm USD, DLC-coated, fully-adjustable, cartridge
Rear suspension: Kayaba fully-adjustable, progressive-linkage
Front brakes: Twin 310mm discs, radial-mount four-piston calipers
Rear brakes: Single 220mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Front tyre: 120/70 - ZR17
Rear tyre: 190/50 - ZR17

Dry weight: 166kg
Seat height: 810mm
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Wheelbase: 1405mm

Power: 178hp at 11,000rpm
Torque: 12.0kg-m at 8400rpm

Test bike supplied by: Suzuki Australia
Colours: Blue/White, Black/Yellow, Black/Silver
Price: $18.690