GSX-R1000 K9 Test
In the dark with the light behind it, this latest iteration of the open-class 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 has a similar silhouette to its predecessor. But, once you look closely at the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 it is easy to see how dramatically the bike has changed. Overall, the new 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 is slightly smaller, and aided by the elegantly swooping dual mufflers and angular, redesigned fairing, the bike has improved aerodynamics and looks even more aggressive.
But the major changes (which affect all the others) are to the Suzuki GSX-R1000 engine. It is not only lighter, but significantly shorter, too. Raising the countershaft puts the crankshaft and driveshaft closer together, allowing the engine to lose more than two inches from its length. That, in turn, permitted a shorter chassis with a longer swingarm, which translates to less rear-end squat and better rear wheel traction. Additionally, the wheelbase is reduced a half-inch for quicker steering.
Sitting on the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 for the first time at Willow Springs Raceway, the reduced size of the machine was immediately obvious. The tank and frame were noticeably slimmer, and the short stretch to the bars remains reasonable. The new, lighter footpegs are three-way adjustable, so the bike is still very comfortable, even for my lanky six-foot frame. I still feel like I’m sitting in the bike, which makes me feel more connected to it.
For more power, the bore has been increased, and the engine revs a little faster thanks to a shortened stroke. A new cylinder head with revised camshaft profiles has larger titanium intake and exhaust valves, larger intake ports, and a narrower exhaust valve angle, that produce smoother torque, again making the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 easier to ride.
The Suzuki engineers have yo-yoed back and forth between hydraulic and cable operated clutch mechanisms, although they have stuck with the same back-torque limiting slipper design that works flawlessly. The K5/K6 had a cable, the K7/K8 was hydraulic, and the K9 now goes back to cable actuation, supposedly for enhanced feel and reduced weight. I am a fan of the smoothness of a hydraulic clutch, but the weight advantage of cable is certainly undeniable; one thing is certain, I had no problem with the K9’s clutch and it behaved perfectly through an entire hard day at the track. The Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) allows selection of one of three engine power delivery settings to suit riding conditions, and the switch has now been moved to the left handlebar for easier operation while riding.
The 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000’s 448-pound claimed curb weight is perfectly balanced and seemingly disappears once underway. After I had warmed the tires, the first thing I noticed is just how outrageously powerful it is. The truly ferocious motor (reputedly putting out over 190 horsepower) whips out its power in a frenetic rush that spirals upwards in a dramatic, unruly fashion.
In the first three gears you have to consciously try to weight the front end down-an almost impossible task at full throttle. Although it gets easier in the top three gears, the Suzuki Gixxer was still lifting its front wheel over the bump on Willow’s front straight-and this at nearly 160 mph, almost tapped out in fifth gear! Put it another way, Suzuki’s claim of "increased horsepower" translates to over 120 mph in second gear-and almost 150 mph in third! Clicking up into fourth and even fifth gears doesn’t take the edge off one bit; the big Suzuki’s relentless GSX-R1000 motor still shoves you in the back like you are being flung from a nightclub. And forget sixth; even around the notoriously fast big Willow, I never managed to try it.
Despite this astounding, unholy power, the 2009 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 is at the same time surprisingly tractable and, provided you are precise, it has one of those perfect throttle connections that is seemingly hard-wired to your brain. Coming on to the gas at the exit of Turn 2 at around 110 mph, the rear Bridgestone BT016 (street) tire started to feel greasy and began to let go. As the rear started to slide out, I was able to modulate the power and control the slide. I am not comfortable that close to the edge of the envelope, but the rear Bridgestone’s excellent feedback, combined with the bike’s perfect fueling, helped save me from disaster.
Suzuki has now moved over to Showa’s excellent new Big Piston Fork design. The bigger piston gives more damping area for better feedback and less initial dive at the front. The 43mm fork tubes are carbonized titanium coated and are adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping. The Suzuki’s electronic steering damper has also been updated.
The new Suzuki GSX-R 310mm front brake rotors with aluminum floating pins, are an ounce lighter and work in combination with an updated master cylinder. The stiffer and lighter monoblock brake calipers have also been completely redesigned. With new pistons and low-expansion brake hoses, the brakes have noticeably improved feel and are less prone to fade when hot.
Willow’s fearsome buck-fifty-plus Turn 8 transitions into the reducing radius, slightly blind Turn 9. On one lap, I was already leaned over hard onto my right knee and realized I was a little hot coming into Turn 9. The track is nice and wide at the corner exit onto the straight, so although I wasn’t worried, I knew that I would run wide by a few feet. Nevertheless, I tried to lean the bike further over and tighten up my line. To my amazement, the Gixxer responded perfectly, adjusted its direction with absolute precision, and I hit the apex exactly where I had originally intended.
This incident summarized the Suzuki GSX-R1000’s handling for me. It is superbly neutral and so predictable that I was able to redirect the bike even in a tight turn at around 120 mph. If there is such a thing as linear handling-the flagship Suzuki has it. There is no initial flop on turn-in and, once leaned over, no reluctance to dial in more if necessary. For a motorcycle to respond so precisely at these kinds of speeds is a spectacular feat of engineering that builds rider confidence like you wouldn’t believe.
Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 K9 has become an even tauter track weapon, yet it is so well tamed, it’s simultaneously a perfectly responsive, user-friendly street motorcycle. The end result is such a beautifully balanced powerhouse that it seems capable of almost anything. Now, where’s my checkbook?