A real tour de force if ever there was one
WORDS AND PICTURES: MICHAEL COWTON
What makes for the perfect bike? Is there such a thing anyway? Age, style, marque all play a leading hand in our choice.
But then, how often have we bought our bike of choice, only to find that after a few weeks or months of riding, it is still lacking that overall feeling of, ‘Yes, this is the one’? I have thought that many times over, moving bikes on as another catches my eye.
As an example, I am still seeking the perfect Harley. Having gone through the Electra Glide Ultra Limited, Sportster 883, Superlow 1200 T and Heritage Classic, my current ride is a 2004 Fat Boy. I am now looking round for a nice Street Bob. I know, however, that that will not satisfy all my needs, but will maintain my HOG credentials. Is that enough of an incentive? Possibly not.
As a motorcycle journalist, I am in the privileged position of road-testing bikes on an annual basis. Countless models have passed through my hands, and on many an occasion I have been tempted to purchase a particular bike that I have really enjoyed. Let me ponder for a moment… the BMW R nineT Pure; Harley Sport Glide; Indian Super Chief Limited; Triumph Speedmaster; Triumph Rally 850 Sport… ooh, the Honda Rebel 1100 (I ended up with a purchase!)… and so on. Great bikes one and all for different reasons. Some affordable to me, others not so.
As you may know by now, I have a passion for cruisers, nakeds and sport tourers. My Indian Scout is gorgeous and shall remain so as it barely leaves the garage. My Honda Rebel 1100 is enormous fun to ride and gains a lot of attention. The Fat Boy is currently for sale.
Last year I had the opportunity to road test Suzuki’s GSX-S1000GT… and loved it; so much so that I contacted Suzuki once again this year to see if I could have one for another couple of weeks. The result! I loved it all over again. Could this, at last, be the one?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that perfection has arrived and am about to clear out my garage, for each bike has its purpose, or so I try to convince myself. But for some time now I have been seeking that machine that speaks to me: “I can do ‘almost’ everything you ask of me.” The ‘almost’ doesn’t cover green-laning, because that has never been my thing anyway, which is why I have never really been into ADVs. But a sport tourer? Yes, every time.
That is exactly why I am so taken with the Suzuki. Powered by that superb 999cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four-cylinder engine, the bike performs optimally in all types of riding conditions. A bike meet, a sporty Sunday morning blast along back roads, an overnight or long-distance tour, it’s there to do one’s bidding.
Opt for the ‘standard’ machine, and you are going to have to dip your hand deeper into your pocket if you are into year-round riding and plan on weekend or multi-day touring because despite the tempting colour-matched, spacious 36-litre capacity side cases, they come under the optional Genuine Accessory list – unless you opt for the ‘+’ model. The cases are £813.72, the attaching side case set is £207.62, and the side case lock set, is £72.11. Total £1,093.45. Didn’t someone just say ‘Ouch!’ They are simplicity itself to mount and remove via a quick-release key mechanism, and each will house a full-face helmet. GT+ customers also can upgrade to a 2.75-inch taller screen. With its arched forward styling, it helps reduce airflow to the rider. Don’t remove your hand from your pocket just yet, as you might want also to invest in a pair of heated grips. Why some manufacturers do not see this as a necessity on adventure bikes and tourers is beyond me.
Remember Suzuki’s somewhat blighted GSX-S1000F? I never rode one, but recall some reviewers not being particularly enamoured with either the GSX-S1000 or the ‘F’ faired version, stalling sales. It was a shame, because it was well priced, again with a superb powerplant and plenty of electronic assists to play with. My understanding is that the issue lay initially with the poor shock, plus the fact that the bike was up against some stiff competition price-wise.
Undaunted, Suzuki tried again, determined to break the mould in the sport-touring sector with the Grand Tourer. The five-gallon (19-litre) fuel tank is a half-gallon larger than that of the GSX-S1000F, offering a claimed 46.3mpg fuel efficiency before you require a refill. Interestingly, when my review bike was loaded back on to the van for return, the gauge was showing 50.6mpg, and that was after some spirited riding, too. As a part ‘tourer’, it is worth bearing in mind that the tank will be gagging for a refill after about 180 miles, even if you ease off the pace.
I love the fact that you now have a comfortable, all-day-long neutral riding position, as Suzuki has looked more closely at that, too, rotating the handlebar upwards as well as making it 23mm wider than the GSX-S1000F. The rider and passenger seats also have received attention, although, attractive as it is, I’m not so sure about the pillion seat, which now sits 2.3 inches higher than the rider seat. Despite its elevated position, it looks quite small for two-up touring, with the pegs also set quite high up. I didn’t have chance to carry a pillion, so that is mere speculation, so would be happy to hear any readers’ thoughts.
Despite that minor personal thought, there is so much to like about this bike, including the new 6.5-inch TFT display, a first on a Suzuki bike. The layout is clear, easy to read and navigate via the switch cluster on the left side, keeping you fully aware of all the bike’s systems, settings and real-time operating status. Connect it to your smartphone (go on, we’ve all got one) it can also display maps, incoming and outgoing phone calls, contacts, and music.
The bidirectional quickshifter has to be one of the smoothest I have experienced on a bike, and as one winds on the power from a standing start or when powering away from a corner apex, you sense the smoothness of the suspension as it glides you over road bumps, inspiring confidence as you progress. Then there’s the cruise control and selectable ride modes. Out riding with a mate, as we pulled up at a junction, he rolled up alongside, popped his visor, smiled, looked longingly at the bike, and commented: “Bloody hell, hang on a bit!” Yep, she’s all there.
And then, SIRS, there’s the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System, enabling you to optimise performance characteristics to best suit riding conditions and varying road surfaces you may find yourself encountering.
And that’s where Suzuki has got the GT bang to rights with the perfect balance between a tourer and a track-focused bike. If your intention is to enjoy long weekends away, then it is worth investing in a set of side cases or simply opting for the ‘+’ model. You can always pop off the cases to maintain the modern, sporty, streamlined look… especially as viewed from the tail section.
I put a good few miles on the GSX-S1000GT. Superbly balanced, a great performer, highly comfortable and full of spirit, to my mind it’s a highly successful alternative model to others in the market and has to be one of the best road-going bikes around, never failing to raise a smile. It kicks ass when you want it to and is a magnificent piece of theatre, yet it will happily meander along country roads when you’ve plenty of time on your hands. Suzuki has achieved a passage into modernity that others will envy, and whilst thumbing its nose at dissenters, it is a pièce de resistance for Suzuki exceptionalism.
Whilst this bike might still not be all things to all riders, and not tick all the appropriate boxes, it will most certainly do for me… er… should I venture ‘for now’…
- Colour: Metallic Triton Blue
- Price: £12,499
- Engine: Four stroke, transverse four cylinder,DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four; 16 valves
- Displacement: 999cc
- Transmission/Final Drive: 6-speed/chain
- Horsepower: 150hp/111.8kW @ 11000rpm
- Torque: 108Nm / 79.6lb-ft @ 9250rpm
- Fuel System: Fuel injection w/ ride-by-wire
- Clutch: Wet, multiplate SCAS type; cable actuated
- Frame: Twin-spar aluminium
- Front Suspension: KYB 43mm inverted fork, spring preload, compression and rebound damping adjustable; 4.7 in. travel
- Rear Suspension: KYB shock, spring preload, rebound damping adjustable; 5.1 in. travel
- Brakes: (F) Brembo 4-piston Monoblock calipers, dual 310mm discs w/ ABS (R) Nissin 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc w/ ABS
- Tyres: (F) 120/70-17 (R) 190/50-17
- Wet Weight: 498lb / 226kg
- Seat Height: 31.9 inches / 810mm
- Fuel Capacity: 5 gallons / 19 litres
- Contact: www.bikes.suzuki.co.uk