Words: Syed Shiraz
Photography: Arun Tyagi & Syed Shiraz
Earlier last month, we were invited by Bosch India to attend a conference and discuss, listen, suppress laughter, ignore, present ideas, etc., on “how electronics can make the life of bikers easier, better, and safer”. I, for one, had loved the concept and initiative by Bosch and was really looking forward to it. I had really expected it to be an enriching and fruitful engagement for all. And it could have been if it was not for one of the biggest gatherings of halfwits it turned out to be. But why this rant here, you ask? Before I give you the reason, let me just quote a few statements from the said conference first. “A Bullet ‘owner’ can ride a superbike well, whereas a superbike rider cannot ride an old RE.” This juvenile generalisation was done by one of the panelists(!), an “influencer” who, ironically, happens to approach big bike manufacturers for free rides to bike events promising them (and their machines) enough visibility (hence promotion) via her thousands of followers on social media.
And then I heard THIS – “Three people have died on superbikes recently as they believed that technology would save them. Technology should not be there in big bikes.” The gentleman who said this was perhaps oblivious to the fact that “senses” and “sensors” are two different words… I wanted to know more about this chap as the optimist in me still thought that he might have ridden to the venue on a ported RD, if not on an RGV500. I thought that, like me, he must be someone who likes his bikes with minimal or zero electronic interference, and, unlike me, he must be a little sceptical of new technology… I was dreaming. Because, I learnt that he was a co-founder of yet another RE club… His statement, therefore, was absolutely justified. Because these are the guys who have never heard of Charles Darwin… I am sure the Bosch spokesperson (a Motocross guy!) would have had to wash it all down afterwards with a lot more than his usual quota of red wine…
Okay, the reasons I shared my displeasure here are – a) I wanted to reiterate that the word ‘biker’ has become one of the worst cliches lately, and b) that anti-technology guy’s statement was unnervingly ringing in my ears when I went to pick up our test unit of the Suzuki GSX-S1000 a few days after the said event. Yes, that’s the power of STUPID. They can make a statement, completely devoid of logic, but backed with conviction stronger than Donald Trump’s, which can put the most sensible lot in self-doubt. That’s why we need birth control. Anyway, the fact that this bike’s motor was based on that of one of the maddest Gixxers ever (the K5), didn’t help either. To make matters worse, the S1000 looked to me like a demure version of the B-King that was just waiting to break its sheep skin cover to reveal the actual devil inside…
Thankfully, interacting with the friendly staff at Dream Suzuki (the sole distributor of big Suzukis in the National Capital region as of now) brought my heart’s rpm to its normal idle speed, and I patiently waited for two guys, in their late teens or early 20s, to finish making a walkaround video of the bike for their YouTube channel. All was good until one of them unnecessarily over-revved the stationary bike “for the viewers”. At this point, I so wanted the S1000’s inner demon to stick its Komodo Dragon tongue out and suck the imbecile into its airbox…
Anyway, with the kids finally gone, and bike-handover formalities completed, I asked the dealership executive if it had power/ride modes. “No, sir. Only ABS, and traction control.” Perfect! I said to myself, thinking that since it doesn’t have much ‘technology’ (read: ‘a plethora of riding aids’) going for it, it won’t kill me. Cool! Time to ride.
Swinging a leg over, the first thing I noticed was how compact this bike felt from in the saddle. Imagine a beefy Gixxer 155 / Yamaha FZ and you won’t be wrong. The seat height of 810 mm (lowest in segment) should allow anyone who is 5’4” and above to at least touch both tips of their riding boots on either side. For a better perspective, let me tell you that the smallest Gixxer’s perch is 780 mm high, while sitting on one of the S1000’s main competitors, the Triumph Speed Triple, will put your derriere 825 mm off the ground.
Talking about toes, leg length, etc., reminds me of one of the things I absolutely love about naked motorcycles – the ergonomics. These bikes (including the S1000, of course) provide the best riding posture of them all. So while the armchair position of cruisers might be great for the American highways, in the city it’s not the most conducive to swiftly avoid the potholes and, er, the humans with similar empty crevices in their brains. At the other end, the Supersports and Superbikes make you see the world around you like you were touching your girlfriend’s feet, while standing, and straining your neck to look up to see if she has changed her mind. That’s a painful thing to do daily, unless you are really committed…
Nothing of that sort with the S1000. It neither makes you as lethargic, that you fall asleep behind the handlebars, nor does it put you in such an uncomfortable position that compels you to doubt your love for motorcycling. The riding position on this GSX is aggressive enough to help you dodge all living and non-living things that conspire 24/7 to bring you down, but never gets demanding enough to make you curse your purchase decision when stuck in traffic snarls, amidst those conspirators… And it’s not only the shorter riders like me who would tell you that. Arun, my photographer for the day, didn’t find anything amiss for his 5’11” frame either.
My pillion did, though. No, she did not complain about the lack of grab handles (the pillion would never be able to hold on to those anyway on a fast bike); she was just unhappy with the height of the rear seat.
I forgot to ask her if she ever sat on a YZF-R15 V2… So that’s not a bike problem then. And you might want to get your priorities straight anyway if you’re looking at a street fighter (another term for nakeds) for carrying pillions. It looks good only in movies… Stick to the Bandit, ‘Busa, Ninja 1000, ZX-14R, or a car if you can’t go anywhere without your better half.
But, absolutely NOTHING in the segment (and price range) comes close when you are riding solo! BAMMMM! This motorcycle does not even blink before punching you in the face. Every twist of the throttle is like an uppercut to your chin, but, thankfully, Suzuki realized that it would be too much for most skill levels, and they equipped this motorcycle with a three-level traction control system to soften those blows. To keep you alive, basically… (contrary to what that gent from the event would have you believe).
I reckon that you should use level 3 for rains; 2 for dry; 1 if you really know what you are doing, and OFF if you have some fancy insurance. I don’t, so level 1 it was throughout. And I am glad I did not switch the traction control off. Because, even in its least intrusive setting (level 1) the velocity of this motorcycle managed to rewrite the definition of ‘scary’ in my mind. I now define it as, ‘the feeling when the front-end goes light at above 200 km/h”. And that was in third gear…
The table below will reiterate how the S1000 stands heads and shoulders above the rest in the power stakes, while still not requiring a ladder to mount it, unlike the CB1000R especially (with those specs and price, I wonder how HMSI are even managing to sell that bike!). It’s the Suzuki here that offers the lowest seat; makes the most power, and is the lightest of the lot!
S1000 vs Z1000 VS Speed Triple vs CB1000R: Quick Specs
The S1000 was first given to Indian media last year around the Gixxer Cup so I am sure that by now you would have known all there is to know about how this bike carries a massively reworked K5 GSX-R1000 motor, and more, so I won’t bore or stroke you (sorry, just couldn’t resist!) to death with the technical details, but I believe you certainly won’t mind knowing how the legendary motor accelerates in its latest avatar, right?
Like with the Ducati Monster review, this time also I have taken out a couple of clippings from raw video recordings. The first one shows you the 0-100 km/h sprint; the second shows the top speed achieved (while I believe the bike is much faster than that…), but the third might be the most interesting for some as I managed to redline (11,500 rpm) the bike in first gear…
Video 1: GSX-S1000 0-100 km/h
Video 2: GSX-S1000 Top Speed Run
Video 3: GSX-S1000 1st Gear Top Speed
But this motorcycle is not just about insane acceleration. In fact, any street bike, irrespective of its cubic capacity, should be easier to ride in the city. The S1000 excels here as well. No, let me rephrase that for you – the Suzuki GSX-S1000 is the easiest-to-ride litre-class motorcycle I have tested yet! Just a while ago you had read about 200 km/h in third gear; now, how about 30 km/h in 6th gear? Of course, that is not how you should be riding a sportbike (like you should not be doing crazy speeds on public roads) but as a tester I have to tell you that it can be done. What this trait of the long-stroke motor essentially means for you, dear reader, is that you don’t have to downshift every time you apply brakes to slow down. For example, there are many occasions where you to have to tap on the brakes momentarily to bring the speed down from, say, 70-80 km/h (in 6th gear) to 40-50 km/h. Usually, that is accompanied by a couple of downshifts, but, on the S1000, you can just roll on without summoning the clutch. Here is a short video of it, then:
Aiding that fantastic motor, and the beautifully sorted gearing, in making the S1000 a sublime city tool is the generous (by litre-bike standards) turning radius. Unlike most big bikes, which might get smirked upon by even bus drivers if someday an Open Class U-turn competition is held, this one is more adept at the task than our government. Okay, that was an exaggeration; the bike is not THAT good in taking U-turns, but it is definitely a whole lot better than most litre-class bikes… But I was still pleasantly surprised to learn that despite sharing the swingarm with the company’s flagship, the GSX-R1000 (NOT the K5, but the latest one), it’s the S1000’s chassis that’s lighter!
That, together with a sporty steering geometry, means that you can this slice through traffic with the deftness of a lithe quarter-litre sportbike!
Also, the clutch is light and the gearbox is the slickest I have experienced thus far!
And though I don’t know whether our test bike came with default/stock suspension settings or they were fettled by someone, the suspension tune, for a 55 kg me (ya, I have gained five kilos to make such bikes’ fat shocks work a little at least!), worked amazingly. In fact, the ride quality is again the best of all the litre-class bikes I have tested yet. Okay, it’s a tie with the Ninja 1000.
Therefore, neither did I really find any need to play around with the fully adjustable (preload, compression, and rebound) front suspension, and semi-adjustable (preload & compression) rear, nor did we get the bike for the amount of time that would have allowed us to completely explore the adjustable suspension, and determine precisely how the bike would behave with a heavier rider/pillion in different riding conditions. Still, with the amount of adjustability on offer, I firmly believe that riders weighing well beyond 100 kg would also be able to tune it perfectly to their liking.
Moreover, excellent ride quality and agility do not go hand in hand generally, but this Suzuki was a revelation. Plus, with a rider of my size and weight whipping it to above 200 km/h, you can’t doubt the stability of this machine either.
And this one happens to be the coolest of them all too! I am not talking about the design, obviously (though it works for me), but the engine temperature. I had tested the motorcycle just after the Monster when the city’s temperature was at its worst (above 46-degree Celsius) and even then it did not heat up like the other big bikes! That is a big achievement for what is the most powerful litre-class naked (excluding the super expensive Europeans) at present.
But, the brakes were underwhelming. I mean, the stopping power is definitely there but, a) there is zero initial bite, and b) the lever comes almost halfway back (irrespective of the chosen 6-level adjustable span setting) towards the throttle grip before the caliper begins to grab the rotors, and even then the feel is nothing much to speak of. It’s disconcerting initially, but you can adjust to it.
That said, it should not be like this, period. I don’t know whether this was an issue only with our test bike (the same bike is used by the dealership for customer test rides), but it would help Suzuki to check it… Thankfully, the Dunlops offer brilliant grip and one way of telling that is when the ABS does not kick in vehemently every time you go hard on brakes, even on less-than-perfect surfaces.
Oh, I almost forgot – it sounds bloody good too! Usually, stock exhausts emit a thin shriek which is why, I guess, most owners go for those thunderous-sounding aftermarket ones. While the former make the posers feel that PYTs won’t notice them, the latter types come with a lifetime guarantee to get you noticed by all. In DISGUST, that is. The S1000’s music system, meanwhile, seems to have the perfect equalizer settings from the factory. The neighbours will get to hear it, eventually, but they’ll silently appreciate your taste in music…
Talking about neighbours, their most frequent query happens to be the ubiquitous “what’s the average (fuel consumption)?” I got 16.6 km/l with redlining the bike too often, which means a considerate owner should see around 20 km/l, which in turn translates into a range of more than 300 km. Good enough for those weekend getaways to the hills, then. The range (distance-to-empty) indicator (see below) would help here. The S1000’s instrument cluster might appear darker in pictures but the readouts were always legible under varied ambient lighting.
That reminds me to share one more thing. If I look back, I realize that all the faired motorcycles I have ridden till now, their headlamps are just pathetic, despite being dual units. In striking contrast, the standalone single units of bikes like the Scrambler, and even the Dark Horse (oh! the irony) for that matter, light up the road ahead in a much better manner.
Have not delved deeper into it yet to check whether it is about the positioning of the headlamp or the wattage, but that’s a test for some other night.
As of now, the nakeds, especially the S1000, appear brighter (more than one pun intended) than everything else. Including that bloke from the conference.
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