It wasn’t meant to rain. I don’t mind riding in the wet – as long as I’m dry under my kit, I get a perverse pleasure from hacking through the pouring rain – but it ruins a track day. The first session, at half nine in the morning on Silverstone’s GP circuit was sodden. It had rained all night, the moisture was still hanging in the air, and the track was slick.
I’d been looking forward to trying my new tyres – a pair of Pirelli Rosso IIIs. The GSX-S750 comes with Bridgestone Battlax S21s as standard, which proved great. Not just ‘good by OE fitment’ standard like some bikes, but really good on the road and at Mallory Park in the dry. In the wet too, they never gave me the slightest cause for concern, but I did only ever use them on the road during rain, not trying to push myself that bit further on track. I changed them at 3685 miles – not because they’d had it, but because they’d started to square off, and as my time with this loan bike is relatively limited, I want to make the very best of it. Otherwise I’d have fairly comfortably got another 500 miles – maybe even 1000 if I was lucky, before reaching the centre wear indicators.
BSD hand-fitted the tyres; the Bridgestone S21s (second pic) were very close to the wear indicators; the Pirelli Rosso III’s (third pic) have plenty of meat on them…
I’d scrubbed the new Pirellis in during a few days of commuting, and the ride to Silverstone left me in no doubt that I’d have nothing to fear. A track is just a road with no cars after all, so why should riding it in the rain be any different? There was also hardly any sign of release-agent from the moulding process on the new rubber – a trend that’s a great relief after the slippery hoops we all used to battle with in the past.
Pottering through the spray, I slowly started to build my speed. I’m far from a late-braking king, but I was matching, and sometimes exceeding the corner speed of those who’d just overtaken me on the way in. The GSX-S had felt a fraction vague when leant well over in the dry at Mallory, but in the wet – and in any conditions on the road – it’s not an issue.
A rider sliding off his R1 in front of me discouraged pushing myself too far out of my comfort zone, but with the traction control at Level 2 – the mid degree of intervention – I had to be pretty aggressive with the throttle to feel the engine bog.
The only way I’ll be faster than the Bennetts Suzuki team is to block them in…
The Suzuki is unusual in that you can adjust the levels of traction control while you ride. If you turn it off altogether, it’ll stay off when you next turn the key. I rarely feel the need to shut it down though – why would I? Like the ABS (which isn’t switchable), I think these electronic rider aids should be embraced; I’d rather find the limit with a flashing light than a hedge.
While it’s not lean-angle dependent, the GSX’s traction control proved effective and relatively unobtrusive – the momentary feeling is of poor fuelling, like the engine’s running a little rough; I’d noticed it on cold tyres when pulling away once before… Combined with the wonderfully smooth throttle response, the tech just adds to the user-friendly nature of this bike. That’s not to say it’s bland – we all seem to hanker after the days of carbs, and this bike never ceases to impress me with its linear delivery.
Three sessions in and the track was drying out. My confidence was high. I knocked the traction control down to level one, and while there were still plenty of people passing me in the intermediate group, I was getting past a few myself. Until it went wrong. About three quarters of the way through Stowe while knee down (lots of hanging off), the front and back both lost traction. I must have run off the dry line and onto a damp patch. It felt heroically big to me, but doubtless barely registered to those following. It proved the predictability of the GSX-S chassis, and the Pirelli tyres, and that I shouldn’t get too cocky. Pride has always come before my falls.
The track did dry enough to start pushing the Suzuki a little more, but not to the extent I had at Mallory on the Bridgestones. I’ve no doubt that the Pirellis will perform fantastically – I’ve had previous versions on a few of my older bikes – but time, and some more spirited riding in the dry will be the true test. Until then, I’ve still no real complaints of this good-value street machine. Others might want the power of a 1000, but I certainly don’t.
Need to know: Suzuki GSX-S750
Engine: 749cc liquid-cooled parallel four
Power (claimed): 113bhp (84kW) @ 10,500rpm
Torque (claimed): 69lb-ft (81Nm) @9000rpm
Transmission: Six speed, chain final drive
Frame: Steel twin spar
Suspension: (F) 41mm inverted telescopic forks, adjustable preload
Damping; (R): rising rate monoshock, adjustable preload
Brakes: (F) Twin 310mm discs, four-piston radial calipers; (R) 240mm disc, single-piston caliper
Tyres: (F) 120/70-17; (R) 180/55-17
Seat height: 820mm
Kerb weight: 213kg
Fuel capacity: 16 litres (3.5gallons)
Another fan of sensible power
David Robertshaw from Essex was another 750 rider at the track day – he had a 2015 GSX-R750 (pictured above) that he’d bought when it was just a few months old. He shares my opinion that we don’t need big numbers to have fun…
“Every time I turn up to a track day, all the instructors go misty eyed, and say ‘that’s a great bike’. I’ve been spoilt a little – previously I’ve had a 2005 and 2009 Yamaha R1, and a 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10, but I wanted to get a Suzuki. I really like Japanese bikes, but I wasn’t sure I could trust myself on a GSX-R1000 with no electronics at the time I was buying, especially after having all the electronic aids on the Kawasaki. So I got the 750.
“It’s a terrific bike, and you can make more use of it than a litre bike – you can really rev the nuts off it and feel you’ve ridden it, rather than it riding you.
“I’m really impressed with the quality – it’s a great package, but I am looking at the new GSX-R1000 now… not so much for the additional power, but simply because I love the electronics. This bike doesn’t even have ABS; I haven’t missed it yet, but you only need it once. It’s the same with traction control – I went to Spa on the ZX-10, and it chucked it down with rain, but I had to take the opportunity to do a lap. I gave it too much, the back end stepped out, and I was saved by the traction control. The 750 is a bit more calm, but no less enjoyable.”