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5 Reasons Why The Suzuki GSX

Aug 27, 2023Aug 27, 2023

Here's what makes the Suzuki GSX-R750 so important and which models really stand out

It’s 1985 and a full seven years before the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade will appear, but Suzuki has already pointed the way to the future of the sports bike with the GSX-R750. A smooth but punchy four-cylinder engine allied to a light and nimble chassis, at a time when liter-plus sports bikes were heavy and with questionable handling. Despite the increasing popularity of the 1,000cc sports bike from the early 1990s-onwards, the GSX-R750 has remained one of the benchmark sports motorcycles, one that few rivals could match back in 1985 and that few can match today for the price. Devoid of excessive electronic interventions, the GSX-R750 is one of the purest motorcycles you can buy today and offers a riding experience few other motorcycles can match for the price.

Related: Here's What Makes The Aging Suzuki GSX-R750 An Iconic Sport Bike

Back in 1985, exhaust emissions for motorcycles weren’t really an issue so the original GSX-R750 had an air/oil cooled engine, pushing out 112 horsepower. Since 1992, the engine has been fully liquid cooled and, today, output is 148 horsepower and 64 foot pounds of torque. But the amazing thing about the engine is that it doesn’t have to be screamed to the red line - around 13,000rpm - to access the performance as is the case with many inline four-cylinder engines. It offers what you need throughout the rev range: full-bodied, punchy performance without the need to stir the gearbox endlessly which is perhaps a good thing as there is no quick shifter to play with.

The original and, some will insist, the best. Considered the first ‘race replica’ motorcycle, it was a street-legal, detuned version of the works GS1000R racer but with an ultra-light (for the day) all-in weight of 400 pounds, thanks to the use of exotic (and expensive) magnesium for various engine parts, mainly external covers. Air/oil cooled, with 100 horsepower and 53.8 foot pounds of torque, any good rider could run rings around anything else on the track day racetrack: a new standard had been set, and it would take Honda another seven years to build something better. Distinctive ‘slab-side’ styling and, if they are now collectible, the first generation GSX-R750 can still give a thrill on the road or track.

The very reason for buying a sports bike is the way it carves up corners as if they weren’t there and, in the GSX-R750, you have one of the very best in the business. Showa suspension is today employed front and rear and there is literally nothing that will upset it, no matter where in the corner you are. It goes a long way to show how a well set-up motorcycle should behave without the need to resort to a suspension and chassis specialist to set it up to your personal preference. How Suzuki has done it no-one knows but here is a bike that anyone can climb onto and be quick right out of the box, inspiring confidence and demonstrating how you don’t have to spend at least twice the money to be fast.

Related: 10 Reasons Why The Suzuki GSX-R750 Is The Best Supersport

Just three years in but a virtually all-new bike. The engine was heavily revised, now featuring a shorter-stroke for higher revs and larger valves, boosting power by 12 horsepower over the original. The chassis and suspension were breathed on, and the wheels went down an inch to 17-inches. Even more compact and the styling has lost the sharp edges for a more rounded look. Unfortunately, the weight has also gone up to 490 pounds but, for all that, this is still one of the sharpest-handling sports bikes out there. Also, available from this period is the limited-edition ‘R’ model, with a long-stroke engine, 120 horsepower, single seat and aluminum tank: expect to pay highly for this one but the ‘standard’ model is still more than enough for most riders.

Every element off the GSX-R750 has been honed over the years to a point approaching perfection. The specification might have remained static since 2011 and cynics might argue that is because Suzuki simply forgot about the model, but you could also argue that, having attained near-perfection, there was nowhere else to go! Braking duties are courtesy of Brembo and twin Monobloc calipers up front which have all the bite, power and feel you could ever wish for. If having no ABS is a deal-breaker for you, then look away now but, if you have an open mind and a sensitive right hand, you’ll have all the safe braking you need.

By the early 1990s, the GSX-R750 was getting outpaced by the Kawasaki ZX6R, so Suzuki’s engineers had to react, which was no problem as this was the age of the sports bike, so no expense was spared by the factories. The result was the GSX-R750T SRAD (Suzuki Ram Air Direct), the first truly all-new GSX-R since the 1985 original. Brand new and state-of-the-art aluminum twin beam frame, brand new all-alloy DOHC engine, producing 128 horsepower and 59 foot pounds of torque. Weight has been slashed back to 1985 levels, while the wheelbase was further shortened, partly due to an aggressive 24° steering head rake, giving super-quick and steering and pin-sharp handling. The king was back on its throne.

Right! How do we put this? Maybe it would be simpler to tell you that you’re lucky to have electronic fuel injection and move swiftly on! This is one of the last analogue motorbikes you can buy in any category, not just sports bikes. If you like your sports bike to respond to your inputs alone and not have your suggestions second-guessed by a computer chip, then the GSX-R750 is the bike for you. There is literally nothing: no electronic rider aids whatsoever - no ABS, no traction control, no slide control, no quick shifter, no wheelie or launch control, no cruise control or heated anything: nothing. You do get a choice of full power or slightly less power, but that’s yer lot. In a world of being told what you can and can’t do and when you can and can’t do it, it's fantastically refreshing. Just don’t let the legislators know otherwise they’ll be rubbing their hands in glee at having something they can ban.

Related: 2023 Suzuki GSX-R750: Performance, Price, And Photos

Yet again ,the chassis and engine was completely redesigned for the GSX-R750Y of 2000. The engine was shorter and narrower and now gave 140 horsepower and 62.7 foot pounds of torque, not to mention weighing 28 pounds less than the previous engine. Everything went on a diet, including the frame and the swing-arm was lengthened, although the wheelbase remained the same. New and increasingly attractive bodywork was more aerodynamically efficient, helping to keep the GSX-R750 at the top of the sports bike game, even with the Honda Fireblade and new Yamaha R1 leading the 1000cc sports bike class.

Where once the 750cc sports bike class was hotly contested, nowadays, the displacement is largely forgotten. Even the 600cc class is losing its importance, but that’s not to say that the GSX-R750 ($12,849) doesn’t have its fair share of rivals, if you are prepared to think a little laterally. The Honda CBR600RR ($12,099) is getting as long in the tooth as the Suzuki but is still a potent package - if you can fold yourself onto it, that is. The Kawasaki ZX-6R ($10,999) is in a similar position. Yamaha’s latest parallel twin-engined R7 ($9,199) can’t hold a candle to the Suzuki in performance terms, while the Triumph Daytona Moto2 765 might be the closest of all, but it is a limited edition model and, at $17,500, a lot more expensive. The MV Agusta F3 800 starts at $18,000 and heads into the stratosphere from there but, at that price, you are starting to head into 1000cc sports bike territory.

The last update to the iconic GSX-R750 line and the one that is available today although, for how long, remains to be seen. Even though development had slowed right down due to sports bike market playing second fiddle to adventure bikes for every manufacturer, Suzuki still kept faith with its middleweight sports bike, reducing weight once again, for a 418 pound all-in weight, while power and torque are up to 148 horsepower and 64 foot pounds. It’s still lacking in the electronics department compared to its 1,000cc sports bike rivals, although there are now two engine modes and ABS, but still no traction control. Showa suspension and Brembo monobloc brakes maintain the GSX-R750’s handling poise, and you will simply not find a better-behaving chassis anywhere in motorcycling for the price.

Harry has been writing and talking about motorcycles for 15 years, although he's been riding them for 45 years! After a long career in music, he turned his hand to writing and television work, concentrating on his passion for all things petrol-powered. Harry has written for all major publications in South Africa, both print and digital and produced and presented his own TV show called, imaginatively, The Bike Show, for seven years. He held the position of editor of South Africa's largest circulation motorcycling magazine before devoting his time to freelance writing on motoring and motorcycling. Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.