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History of the Suzuki GSX-R1000

By BikeSocial

Bennetts BikeSocial was launched in autumn 2012



161bhp from a litre sportsbike was unheard of until Suzuki's GSX-R1000 K1 arrived in 2001

Author: Bike Social Second Hand Bike Expert Posted: 21 Dec 2015

Open wide and say GSX-Rrrrrrrrrrr

It may have been labeled as a 2017 concept model on Suzuki’s stand at Motorcycle Live, but we all know that’s not true and there was no hiding the joy on many rider’s faces when they saw Suzuki had at long last developed a brand new GSX-R1000. Or more to the point, two brand new GSX-R1000 models! So just what is it about this iconic brand that has caused so many of us to go weak at the knees at the thought of a new version appearing and why does it command such a strong place in the litre bike hall of fame? For the answers, sit back and meet the GSX-R1000 family – a kind of dynasty you certainly wouldn’t want as your next door neighbours as they would probably have a selection of cars up on bricks in the drive, but life would be considerably duller without…

2001 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K1/2

After Yamaha redesigned the sportsbike blueprint with the 1998 YZF-R1, it was going to take something pretty special from Suzuki to move the game on another giant leap – but that’s exactly what the original GSX-R1000 did. How? In typical Suzuki fashion, they threw the book marked ‘respectability’ out of the window and developed a proper hooligan litre bike with obscene amounts of power.

When it comes to chassis technology, the original GSX-R1000 didn’t break any new ground. Basically identical in design to the GSX-R750’s beam frame but with a stack of beefing up and Kayaba suspension instead of the 750’s Showa units, what made the GSX-R1000’s chassis special (aside from the gold nitrided forks) was the fact Suzuki had shoehorned in a simply insane power plant without adding any bulk. Amazingly, Suzuki claimed 166kg for the 750 and just 170kg for the thousand, despite it bringing 21 extra ponies to the party!

The 988cc powerplant, which was this odd capacity as MotoGP was limited to 990cc and there was a chance the firm’s MotoGP entry might have been an inline four instead of a V4, demonstrated Suzuki’s ability to squeeze power out of a fairly conventional in its design motor. As well as debuting the firm’s new Dual Throttle Valve System, which used  a servo to open the lower throttle valve, the inside of the inline four engine was pretty special and very compact. Incredibly, the 1000’s crank was the same length as the 750’s, helping keep the motor very narrow, while the pistons were actually lighter than the 750’s units despite being wider. Add to this Suzuki’s dedication to lighten internal components, reduce internal friction losses and speed up the ECU’s processing power and you have a motor that may not be have been overly technically advanced, but made a stack load of power! And that was what made the K1 such a standout machine and why riders all over the world in 2001 went GSX-R1000 crazy.

988cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, 16v, DOHC

What set it aside from its rivals: The original GSX-R1000’s sheer brute force upped the litre bike power game by 20bhp overnight while its lightweight chassis ensured it set new standards when it came to power to weight ratios.



Power: 161bhp @ 11,000rpm

Torque: 80ftlb @ 8,400rpm

Weight: 170kg



2003/4 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K3/4

Having so comprehensively blown the competition out of the water with the K1, the second generation of GSX-R1000 was never going to be able to recreate the same kind of headlines. This was the ‘update’ model, which basically meant a few tweaks before a comprehensive redesign after the bike had completed its four-year life cycle. As such the K3’s new parts were limited to mainly cosmetic alterations and a few subtle performance modifications.

Inside the engine, cylinder ventilation holes helped equalize the pressure to boost power by a claimed 3bhp while an updated ECU was now 32-bit rather than the previous model’s 16-bit with smaller injectors and double barrel throttle bodies. Alterations to the chassis were limited to a bit of rigidity tweaking, a change to the geometry to calm the GSX-R’s handling a touch and a black Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coating replacing the gold nitride on the K1’s forks. However, what most people remember about the K3 was the fact it was the first litre bike (not production bike, that was the ZX-6R by a whisker) to feature radial brakes.

With weight down by 2kg thanks to a new titanium end can, the K3 ensured the GSX-R1000 ruled the roost in 2003. However 2004 was a different story and with Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha all releasing brand new litre bikes, the GSX-R1000 slipped down the pecking order. Handily for Suzuki, a new bike was waiting in the wings and 2005 saw the release of what many regard as the best of the breed…

What set it aside from its rivals: The second generation of GSX-R1000 was the first litre bike to feature fashion-pleasing radial brakes while the chassis benefited from some MotoGP tech.


Engine:  988cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, 16v, DOHC

Power: 164bhp @ 11,000rpm

Torque: 80ftlb @ 8,400rpm

Weight: 168kg



2005/6 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5/6

The GSX-R1000 K5 marked a change in philosophy for Suzuki. Previous to this model, the GSX-R was all about brute force, however the K5 brought a new level of refinement that completely transformed the machine. How was this achieved?

To start with Suzuki completely redesigned the GSX-R’s engine, not only increasing its capacity to 999cc (the GP bike was confirmed as a V4) through a larger bore, but also introducing titanium valves, lighter pistons and a whole host of technical changes that boosted both the peak power and torque. To improve the ride a slipper clutch was also now included alongside a revised twin injector fuel injector system and even a gear indicator slotted into the dash. And the chassis also received a thorough update.

While the suspension remained the same basic units with their damping uprated, an all-new chassis brought with it a more compact GSX-R as well as increased strength and a 2kg weight loss. Not to mention an extremely cool trapezoidal exhaust system. Had Suzuki done enough?

While most people remember the brutal original ZX-10R, elegant underseat pipe R1 and RCV style Blade in 2004/5, the Suzuki was the silent assassin. Far more controllable than the argumentative Kawasaki, more spirited than the dull Honda and packing the kind of mid-range the Yamaha could only dream about, the GSX-R didn’t scream its credentials like the K1, but it did beat the competition. The GSX-R was back at the top of the tree, but only by a small margin and it wouldn’t take long for the competition to come snapping at its heels. But not before it had achieved a very significant first…

The K5 was the first Suzuki (and inline four litre bike) to win a World Superbike championship with Troy Corser at the helm in 2005. Even more impressive is the fact that when BMW were looking at building their new S1000RR superbike, the model they studied the most intently was the Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5.

What set it aside from its rivals: In a word – balance. The K5 managed to blend raw power with sublime throttle response and a beautifully neutral chassis.


Engine:  998.6cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, 16v, DOHC

Power: 178bhp @ 11,000rpm

Torque: 87ftlb @ 9,000rpm

Weight: 166kg



2007/08 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7/K8

In some ways the K7 can be viewed as the start of the GSX-R’s down turn in fortunes. However to be fair to Suzuki, not all of the blame for the GSX-R slipping from the top slot can be laid at their door.

By 2007 the EU had introduced some very tight emissions laws and that caused a real decline in not only the GSX-R’s fortunes, but also Kawasaki’s and even to a lesser extent Yamaha and Honda. Forced to add huge catalytic converters, the Japanese manufacturers were up against it and where Honda and Yamaha managed to weather the storm, Kawasaki dropped the ball big time with the unpopular 2006/7 underseat pipe ZX-10R and Suzuki lost the plot a bit with the K7/8.

Updated sportsbike models are meant to be lighter, faster and sharper, but the K7 was anything but. As well as gaining 6kg in weight, the GSX-R now came with two fairly unsightly exhaust pipes that were stacked full of emissions pleasing gubbins. Power may have been up by 4bhp thanks to tweaks to the fuel injection system, but with its wheelbase increased in length, geometry calmed down and heavy pipes muting the legendary handling balance of the K5, the K7 was a resounding disappointment. On the plus side, however, it did introduce the world to the delights of variable power modes and was the first GSX-R to feature an electronically controlled steering damper.

What set it aside from its rivals: The K7 was the first Japanese bike to feature variable power modes.


Engine:  998.6cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, 16v, DOHC

Power: 182bhp @ 12,000rpm

Torque: 86ftlb @ 10,000rpm

Weight: 172kg


2009/2011 Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9/L0/L1

The release of the K9 should have returned Suzuki to the sharp end of the litre bike war, but once again events conspired against them. For a start the name didn’t help matters – K9 sounded too close to canine when said quickly and that meant headlines involved the word ‘pup’ when the bike didn’t meet expectations. But was it really a bit of a hound?

Suzuki actually went to town when it came to redesigning the GSX-R1000. A brand new engine was more compact than before and featured a host of technical updates including higher compression, a stacked gearbox, bigger valves with dual springs, a bigger bore and shorter stroke and even variable height intake trumpets. This was a thoroughly new engine and it sat in a brand new chassis. Ok, the controversial twin pipes remained, but the brakes were now monobloc, the swingarm 32mm longer, wheelbase reduced, chassis redesigned and overall weight reduced by 7kg. The problem was it didn’t look that different to the previous model and its rivals had moved the game on.

The GSX-R1000 K9 arrived on the scene a bit too late. In 2009 all the excitement surrounded the new cross-plane R1, Honda’s solid blade and the immanent arrival of the BMW S1000RR with its fancy electronics package. The GSX-R remained a cracking road package, but it was lacking any standout features. Then, when the financial crisis hit, the bottom fell out of the sportsbike market and those who did still want the best track bike opted for the BMW. Short on cash and facing an uncertain market, Suzuki like the rest of the Japanese manufacturers abandoned the traditional two-year update cycle of their sportsbikes and instead attempted to weather the storm. This move allowed the European manufacturers to get the jump on them and KTM, BMW, Aprilia and Ducati all reaped the benefits of this new lack of competition while the world waited for the Japanese to respond…

What set it aside from its rivals: The K9 was the first Japanese litre bike to use Showa’s Big Piston Fork system.


Engine:  999cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, 16v, DOHC

Power: 182bhp @ 12,000rpm

Torque: 81ftlb @ 9,200rpm

Weight: 203kg (wet)


2012/13/14 Suzuki GSX-R1000 L2/l3/l4

Things didn’t start well for the updated 2012 GSX-R1000. Launched with a decided lack of fanfare, it was almost an apologetic response by Suzuki to the onslaught from Europe and Kawasaki’s on the money Ninja ZX-10R. The initial images made it clear the GSX-R had at long last dumped the twin exhaust pipes and added some cool Brembo calipers, but that was all that leapt out. Was Suzuki keeping something back? Yes and no…

Again, bad timing hampered Suzuki. With BMW, Aprilia, Ducati and Kawasaki all demonstrating that the future of sportsbikes now involved traction control and race ABS, the GSX-R1000 arrived with none of these. It didn’t even have ride-by-wire. This was a good old fashioned superbike made with engineering rather than computer assists at its heart and sadly for Suzuki, the market was now obsessed with 1s and 0s.

Digging deeper, fans of the GSX-R brand were delighted to hear the new bike’s engine had been overhauled with 11% lighter pistons, a new top end, revised cams and altered ventilation holes between the cylinders. Smiles widened even further when they heard of the tweaked chassis, upgraded forks, new brakes and fresh styling. But those wanting the best sportsbike money could buy looked elsewhere. The sportsbike world is a fashion and performance led market and the L2 couldn’t claim to be the top dog on any of these fronts. If only riders had looked a little closer…

Ironically, in its final year of production, riders eventually warmed towards this incarnation of GSX-R. A rock bottom price tag certainly helped catch their attention, but the fact this is an absolutely stunning road bike and incredibly easy to live with was its main selling point. With no annoying electronics to get in the way of the fun (although ABS arrived in 2014), the final ‘old school’ GSX-R1000 reminded us all why a 182bhp bike is so much fun to ride. And how good a sorted GSX-R1000 actually is.

What set it aside from its rivals: The L2 model is the last of the ‘old-school’ GSX-R models and a great road bike with a long-stroke motor that is packed full of grunt and limited electronic interference. It will be missed, but if the new 2017 model returns the GSX-R to the top of the sportsbike tree this blow will be softened…


Engine:  999cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, 16v, DOHC

Power: 182bhp @ 11,500rpm

Torque: 86ftlb @ 10,000rpm

Weight: 201kg (wet)


And the future…

Will the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 return Suzuki to the top of the sportsbike tree? It’s going to be a tough ask, but Suzuki do seem to be going about it the right way. The new GSX-R’s engine has been rebuilt from the ground up to produce class-matching power figures of 200bhp while the chassis is more forward biased to give it better handling and there is even the option of an uprated R version for those wanting a bit of glamour and extra performance. Launch control, ABS, traction control and a quickshifter are all in the package, so it is certainly the most technologically advanced GSX-R to date, but Suzuki have stopped short when it comes to electronics and there is no gyroscope, which will harm it a bit. With the amount of love the bike was receiving at the NEC show the signs are good, but will love translate into sales success? Only if the GSX-R1000 lives up to expectations…

Have you owned a GSX-R1000? Tell us about it. 

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