First Ride! 2015 Suzuki GSX-S1000!

Author: Roland Brown Posted: 27 Mar 2015

Based on the K5 GSXR motor, this bike always had potential

Of all the new bikes of recent years, the GSX-S1000 is perhaps the one with the most obvious potential – and with the most potential to be disappointing. When you’ve got a super-sports bike is as good and well sorted (if now as long-in-the-tooth) as Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, ripping off its fairing to create a quick, sweet-handling and fun-to-ride naked sports bike should surely be a piece of cake.

But of course it’s never quite that simple, and you only had to ride Honda’s detuned and distinctly dull Hornet 900, Yamaha’s original FZ1 or even Suzuki’s own less-exciting-than-it-looks GSR750 to realise that the stripped-down sports bike concept doesn’t always quite deliver on the promise.

So there’s good news from the launch in Alicante for all those Gixxer fans for whom the idea made perfect sense, because this time Suzuki have got it right. The GSX-S1000 has a few compromises and rough edges, but it’s fast, light, handles, stops and likes being ridden hard. Basically it’s a proper naked sports bike with the heart of a GSX-R.

A proper naked sports bike with the heart of GSX-R

And no ordinary GSX-R1000, either. Suzuki started this project relatively recently and could have used the current model’s engine, but they chose the powerplant from the most famous one of all. The 2005-model K5 is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the GSX-R1000’s competitiveness, and also took Troy Corser to the firm’s only World Superbike title. Even more importantly, its long-stroke dimensions meant it was better suited than the later lumps to a naked roadster for which low-rev and midrange performance are more important than high-rev power.

Suzuki’s development team gave it slightly softer cams, new pistons with lower compression ratio and reduced weight, and low-friction plating on its cylinders, to reduce friction. Then they added a revised injection system, redesigned airbox and a new four-into-two-into-one exhaust system with a stubby silencer. The result is a claimed max of 144bhp at 10,000rpm, which is almost 40bhp down on the GSX-R (and well down on BMW’s 160bhp naked S1000R) but just up on the 140bhp of Kawasaki’s Z1000.

The chassis is based on a new twin-spar aluminium frame that Suzuki claim is lighter than that of the latest GSX-R1000. It takes a very direct route from steering head to the pivot for the swing-arm, which comes from the 2014-model Gixxer. Suspension at both ends is from KYB (Kayaba), with fully-adjustable 43mm forks and a shock that’s adjustable for preload and rebound damping.

It feels promising the moment you throw your leg over the seat

The GSX-S feels promising the moment you throw a leg over its seat, which at 815mm is pretty low and thinly padded, and lean forward to the slightly raised, black-finished Renthal Fatbar. It’s a compact bike but there’s a bit more legroom than the GSX-R1000 gives. At a standstill if felt very manageable. At 209kg wet it’s 4kg heavier than the Gixxer but more than 10kg lighter than the Z1000, at least on paper.

That makes for a useful power-to-weight ratio and the GSX-S lived up to it on the road, by feeling quick, agile and entertaining. In fact to start with it was slightly more aggressive than I’d hoped, because throttle response in the lower gears was slightly snatchy, not really annoying so (not as noticeable as Yamaha’s MT-09 on its sharpest mode, for example) but just enough to make precise control a bit less easier than it might have been after we’d headed down the coast road and turned onto the twisty roads inland from Alicante.

The abruptness wasn’t noticeable in the higher gears, though; and after a while I’d got used to it enough that I was hardly aware of it. And the rest of the GSX-S’s delivery was immaculate. There was heaps of smooth low-down power, enough to follow traffic at 40mph or less in top, then simply twist back the throttle to shoot past when a gap appeared. Then at just over 7000rpm the Suzuki kicked harder, its pleasantly burbly low-rev exhaust note turning to a scream as the revs headed towards the 11,500rpm maximum.

Naked bikes aren't built for high speed

Naked bikes aren’t built for high speed, the GSX-S in particular because its small instrument panel means it has virtually nothing to keep off the wind. On a cold day in southern Spain I’d have been glad of the accessory flyscreen and heated grips. And I had to hold on tight, later in the day, when on one traffic-free main-road straight the Suzuki scorched smoothly forward towards a likely top speed of 150mph or more, staying impressively stable in the process as I made a futile attempt to dodge the breeze.

Needless to say there was more than enough instant torque for effortless wheelies on the throttle, though first you have to turn off the traction control, which normally cuts in to keep the front wheel close to the ground. The TC system has three levels, easily adjusted via a button on the left bar. I left it on the least intrusive setting for most of the day and was glad to have the system for peace of mind on some occasionally damp and slippery roads, though I was never conscious of it cutting in unless deliberately provoked on a slippery patch.

Chassis performance was very impressive, firstly in the bike’s pleasingly light and agile feel (in contrast to that of the relatively ponderous GSR750, for example). Just inland from Alicante are some fantastically twisty roads that are mostly well-surfaced but have a few cracks and bumps to add to the interest. The GSX-S carved through with impressive composure, its suspension doing a good job without requiring a tweak from showroom settings. There’s none of the semi-active sophistication of the BMW S1000R here, but the Suzuki’s simple system was effective.

Our man reckons the brakes are pretty good

The brakes were good, too: Brembo radial monobloc calipers biting 310mm discs up front, with an ABS system that impressed without approaching the high-tech wizardry of the latest cornering systems. (There’s also a non-ABS model that costs £8999 compared to the ABS bike’s £9499, but when the anti-lock works this well it’s surely worth having.) Dunlop’s D214s found traction even when spits of rain on my visor suggested the surface didn’t have much grip, and there was enough ground clearance despite footrests that are lower than the GSX-R’s.

Practicality is never the key issue for a naked sports bike but the GSX-S should prove reasonably easy to live with (and the faired GSX-S1000FA will follow a month later, in late June). Mirrors are slightly narrow but at least clear; the seat looked quite thin but gave no discomfort in a fairly long day. The 17-litre tank would be good for a range of little more than 120 miles at the sub-40mpg launch average, but that involved plenty of thrashing so plenty of owners will do better. Fuel consumption and range are shown by the instrument panel, whose digital speedo sits below a bar tacho that can be customised to display its info in several different ways.

If a naked GSX-R1000 has always appealed, the GSX-S won't disappoint

That’s a neat touch, and there are others, from the simple but effective switchgear (no self-cancelling indicators though) to the way the bike fires up with a brief press of the starter button, and no need to pull in the clutch. Along with the flyscreen, accessories include coloured Renthal bars, carbon-fibre mudguards and a classy looking Yoshimura EVO4 exhaust. All those would enhance the Suzuki but the vital thing about this bike that its basics – the engine and main chassis parts – are spot on. If a naked GSX-R1000 has always appealed, the GSX-S won’t disappoint.


£9499 (£8999 without ABS)


144bhp, 78ft.lbs

Wet weight

209kg (207kg without ABS)

Seat height



Blue, red, grey