It's been a foregone conclusion that Suzuki has pretty much owned the 750 sportbike class since the last generation GSX-R750's debut in 1996. In one deft engineering move, Suzuki left the competition so far behind that the other two manufacturers offering 750 sportbikes quickly dropped their factory supported 750 Supersport teams from the AMA National series after the first season in which the new Suzukis ran. Its incredible performance topped the best the sportbike world had to offer--garnering two consecutive Sport Rider Bike of the Year titles in '96 and '97.
But lately things have been getting a little tougher for the GSX-R750. The competition on the street has ratcheted up several notches, with a few bikes (most notably those pesky R-series Yamahas) displacing the Suzuki as top dog in the sportbike world. And the latest 600s have been creeping up on the GSX-R in 750 Supersport class racing, even though the 600s are shackled with a weight handicap. Some pundits were even predicting the demise of the 750 category--with each passing year, 600s were getting quicker, and open-classers were getting lighter and smaller.
Well, all it will take is one ride on the new 2000 Suzuki GSX-R750 to send the message loud and clear: Don't even think about writing off the 750 class just yet.
Put succinctly, if you thought the last generation GSX-R750 was a ripper, the new Suzuki will simply knock your socks off. We are dead-serious about this. The latest supersport weapon from Hamamatsu has not only raised the 750-class performance bar much higher, but also is threatening to tread upon CBR929RR/YZF-R1/ZX-9R turf. And that's saying a lot for a motorcycle that has already moved the three-quarter-liter performance boundaries far beyond previous expectations.When pre-release reports of the new GSX-R's weight and horsepower specs began trickling in, we found them hard to believe. How could Suzuki engineers possibly trim nearly 30 pounds from a motorcycle that was already the model of compact and efficient design? And how could they do this while extracting even more power at the same time?
Much of the overall weight reduction came from the redesigned motor, which scales in more than 11 pounds lighter than the '99 version. Although the basic configuration remains the same, every possible component was shortened, lightened or redesigned altogether to make the GSX-R engine even more compact.Fanatical attention to design efficiency resulted in revamped engine components that not only increase power output, but also remain smaller and lighter. For instance, although the more compact, higher compression ratio (12.0:1 vs. 11.8:1) combustion chamber and straighter intake ports are made possible by the narrower included valve angle (25 degrees vs. 29 degrees), this normally results in a taller cylinder head. Yet by carefully reviewing the interior design layout, Suzuki engineers were able to keep the overall cylinder head height the same--while shortening it 9.5mm and simultaneously shedding 500 grams.
Similar redesigns resulted in what may seem like infinitesimal weight reductions by themselves, but as a whole add up to major gains (remember that many of these lighter parts are reciprocating engine weight, translating to quicker revs and acceleration). Just a few of the many savings: valve train, 260 grams; camshafts, 200 grams (utilizing a cast iron alloy to allow a thinner construction); pistons and pins, 80 grams (forged instead of cast pistons, tapered pins); rods, 180 grams (shot-peening permits thinner design); crankshaft, 150 grams; air injection system, 700 grams (integrated design eliminates external hoses); crankcase castings, 690 grams--the list goes on and on.The Suzuki's chassis received just as much detailed attention to component shrinkage/dieting, and like the engine, the performance benefits aren't limited to less mass. Downsizing the primary frame spars not only allowed Suzuki engineers to cut weight, but also by moving the engine forward, placed more weight on the front wheel, and permitted a longer swingarm for better suspension control and rear tire traction. The primary frame section is 2 kilograms lighter than last year--with the swingarm shedding 800 grams compared to last year, even though it is 20mm longer.
Virtually every part on this motorcycle underwent some sort of weight loss program. Both the front fork and rear shock are shorter overall (plus a narrower fork pitch for better aerodynamics, and the shock body is now aluminum) for reduced weight, and lighter four-piston front brake calipers replace the six-piston units of last year. Brake discs, brake pedal, engine mounts, footpegs and wheels (the rear shrinks to a 5.50-incher) are lighter, thinner bodywork--everything had some weight shaved in one way or another. The end result? The new GSX-R scales in at 426 pounds wet; 27 pounds less than the previous model.
Working in tandem with the weight reductions are various subtle engine tweaks aimed at increasing the GSX-R's already class-leading horsepower. Besides the aforementioned higher compression ratio and straighter intake ports afforded by the shallower valve angle and consequent more compact combustion chamber, cam timing was modified to take advantage of the increased rpm range (redline sits at a stratospheric 14,000 rpm) made available by the lighter engine internals. Exhaust tuning was also slightly altered to match the improved breathing efficiency.
Taking center stage on the engine changes, however, is the new fuel-injection system that utilizes servo-controlled secondary throttle plates positioned above the throttle-actuated units. Controlled by a new 16-bit CPU and working similar in concept to a CV carb slide, the secondary plates maintain intake velocity when the primary throttle is opened in order to smooth out throttle response. The throttle bodies have shrunk to 42mm (from 46mm), but the bores are tapered--which helps maintain intake velocity for better midrange power.
And it's the new EFI's response that you notice right off the bat on the street. Cold morning warm-ups are just as quick as before, but the moment you take off from a stoplight, the new GSX-R's vastly improved low-to-midrange acceleration comes to the fore. Compared to the previous EFI model, the new 750 literally leaps off the line without much prodding, and almost requires a bit of restraint to keep from appearing as if you're treating every stoplight like a dragrace. And while the GSX-R's lower midrange power won't embarrass an open-class or V-twin sportbike, its acceleration is quick enough above 5000 rpm that you won't need to flick a few downshifts in order to shoot the gap between wayward four-wheelers. Helping in this regard are the slightly revised gearbox ratios, which are all lower than last year's model.
The Gixxer's somewhat excessive driveline lash remains, however. Sloppy shifting through the first few gears can result in a jerky ride, but concentrating on smooth throttle transition eases this problem. Even under a heavy throttle hand, gas mileage remained the same as last year, with the blinking fuel light coming on around 165 miles to tell you the bike has approximately 30 miles left.There were no changes to the Suzuki's ergonomics, so its highway manners remain fairly status quo. While obviously not a sport-tourer, the GSX-R's riding position isn't overly radical; the reach to the bars is fairly short, the seat foam seems softer than last year's model, and unless you're much over six feet tall, your legs won't be pretzeled by the slightly rearset pegs. The bike's four-cylinder powerplant remains silky-smooth at nearly all rpms, keeping the decent rearward images from the mirrors somewhat fuzz-free. And despite the new fairing's more radically-canted windscreen, wind protection is still good.
Of course, once you hit a twisty road, ergonomics, schnergonomics--who cares? Riding the GSX-R750 in its true element makes you realize just why Suzuki engineers went through all that trouble to shed those pounds--indeed light does make right.
The new GSX-R possesses that rare balance of agility and stability that many sportbikes come close to attaining, but never quite achieve. Dropping a substantial amount of weight from the bike has made it flickable without resorting to radical steering geometry figures. Even though the rake/trail numbers are the same at 24 degrees/96mm and the wheelbase has grown by 20mm, the new GSX-R's turn-in effort is much easier without being overly twitchy. Steering manners are sharp and precise, and the stock steering damper mounted below the lower triple clamp feels less stiff than previous years.
Suspension rates in the fork have been altered to work with the changes in weight and chassis configuration, and both ends seem to be pretty close to spot-on. The lighter brakes, sprocket assemblies, wheels, etc., have permitted softer damping rates to allow some compliance without sacrificing chassis control when the pace picks up. High-speed compression damping seems to have been relaxed also, as the big bumps don't transfer as much shock back through the chassis like in past models. Front end feedback is excellent, making for high corner entrance and midcorner speeds. And ground clearance is abundant, canceling any worries of dragging hard parts getting in the way.
But couple this lighter and better chassis with a screaming motor that cranks out 123.0 horsepower at 12,500 rpm, and you've got the ingredients for one of the most exciting motorcycles to ride since Yamaha's R6. There's plenty of good acceleration available from 8000 to 10,000 rpm, if you desire to move along at a decent clip without undue haste; one could ride around at that rpm all day and be satisfied with the bike's performance. There is a sense of urgency, however, as the revs start to pick up quickly in that range--almost as if something is about to be unleashed.
Once the revs get above that five-figure mark, though, the tach needle seems to leap toward redline, accompanied by the GSX-R literally leaping toward the next corner. While by no means a transition that we would label explosive, the increase in power and acceleration is dramatic, aided by the fact that the bike weighs less than most 600s. As long as you're up to the task, the gearbox's closely-spaced ratios are ideally suited for keeping the wailing powerplant on the boil, resulting in forward progress that easily rivals--if not surpasses--many of today's best sportbikes. For hard proof, look at the GSX-R's 10.26 second @ 135.6 mph quarter-mile time, or its astounding 172 mph top speed. Slowing this forward progress is ably handled by the new downsized four-piston caliper front brakes. Despite their smaller size, the power, feel and modulation is top-notch, promoting ultra-deep corner entries.
Coupled with its brilliant chassis, the GSX-R's incredible motor puts the Suzuki into rarified performance company. Anytime you combine such acceleration and handling attributes into a cohesive package such as this Suzuki, a landmark sportbike usually results. There are plenty of bikes out there with performance that is right at home on the racetrack, but this is a machine with a personality that has you wondering if number plates are available as an accessory. How good is the new GSX-R750? Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz commented after riding it, "I'm telling you, if I had this bike at Daytona in '88--just the way it sits right now--I could have won the race easily." Who are we to argue?