2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Test at Buttonwillow

“The more things change the more they stay the same” is the Americanized version of the epigram penned by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1849.

With this in mind, and against the backdrop of the incorporation of advanced electronic rider aids by most manufacturers of high-performance motorcycles, we find Suzuki’s GSX-R 1000 for 2015 to be, for lack of a better compliment, a leader in the field of electronic non-proliferation.

The more the other players in the race-replica market add to their electronic repertoires, the more pronounced are the shortfalls of those models lacking such appurtenances.

In its favor are its excellent ride and performance characteristics, and the lack of traction control, ABS, a quick shifter and anti-wheelie control will appeal to those who still argue for analog operation of their bikes. I do understand this attitude and respect those who choose to go it alone, but I wholeheartedly disagree and feel that, often, ego is more involved with this choice than common sense. That, or a sense that, somehow, the ride quality or experience will be diminished.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Test - tapped and track readyRace-style bikes are now routinely offered that claim 180 to 200, and more, horsepower. The idea of piloting one of these rockets anywhere near their limit, without available computer aids, is beyond my comprehension. Yes, there are a few riders who have those skills but why not avail oneself of all the help one can? It doesn’t interfere with how one perceives the ride and only enhances overall ability and safety.

There is not a single motorcycle on the MotoGP or WSBK grids that is devoid of rider aids. One must assume these racers are the best of the best yet they all rely on a slew of microprocessors. So if it is within your nature to abhor electronics then this GSX-R 1000 is for you. The only change for 2015 is the paint.

I just returned from a track day at Buttonwillow Raceway Park under the auspices of Stacy Wilson and her Let’s Ride Trackdays organization. It was a well-run, sold out, fun day under a sunny sky with mild temperatures. Perfect track weather.

Riding the Gixxer hard at the newly-repaved (to me) venue brought back the same results and memories of my track day aboard the 2014 model last June. Nothing has changed, except the asphalt, and in depth details of the ride can be found here – 2014 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Review – Still Crazy After All These Years.

What was more extraordinary was the comparison to Yamaha’s new YZF-R1. The 2015 model was made available to us the day before our track day. There was space in the trailer and we could not resist taking the R1 along.

This is not a comparison review but in riding the R1 in alternate sessions with the GSX-R. I could not avoid noticing the very obvious differences and what Yamaha, another electronic non-proliferation manufacturer up until this new offering, has done for its flagship bike in one model year.

UMC President Arthur Coldwells has reviewed the new R1 for the upcoming May/June issue of Ultimate MotorCycling Magazine (read Coldwells’ 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 First Ride Review). The R1 is a tour-de-force, brilliant on the race track and has to be widely opening competitor’s eyes. It surely opened mine.

This give me great hopes and expectations for Suzuki in the next year or two. Granted, Suzuki must be up to its eyeballs in MotoGP prototyping right now with the new GSX-RR, but that technology has to trickle down eventually. No?

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track TestAs with the last several, unchanged, years with the GSX-R 1000, the entire package is well integrated. It’s stupid fast with excellent brakes, has a solid chassis and suspension components, and offers immense grip both front and rear. As mentioned in last year’s review, one might be tempted to marginalize this Gixxer for what it doesn’t have but riding it is the proof of what it is; a bike that has been refined in every way over many years and upgrades.

Once the tires are warm this bike flings itself down Buttonwillow’s front straight at speeds around 140mph with few bikes able to out-accelerate it. Squeeze the brakes hard and go down a gear or two to dip left into turn one (Sunrise) then back on the gas. Setup to turn two (Off Ramp), a right-hand first- or second-gear carousel that’s not as cambered as one would like and everyone’s favorite turn to love or hate.

Once set, this turn wants a lot of lean and gentle throttle action as smart riders take it wide, riding right along the edge of the track. It’s a great place to pull off a pass on riders who see the shiny asphalt patch and don’t apply throttle soon enough. But it requires confidence in your bike. The outside line resolves itself as the best spot to be in for the straightaway that follows as the line opens up first on the left. The bike simply roars out of this turn.

Another great spot that accentuates the qualities of the GSX-R is further along the track at Riverside corner, a well-paved, no surprises, fast sweeper to the right. Power through here at over 100 mph in second or third, just adding more throttle the whole way as it finishes with a short straight into the left-hand chicane to Phil Hill. Again speeds approach 130 as the turn comes into sight.

2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Test – Same Sweet SongPhil Hill is my favorite turn on the track. Curving right and going uphill, riders can’t see the other side until fully committed. Enter at about 90-100, tip it hard right as the crest approaches and carve a fast line as the exit is plenty wide and allows some breathing room. It is an exhilarating corner to blast through, and the Gixxer just threads it with a bit of slide off the apex and rockets out of the turn, totally planted and stable.

All through the track this machine lets you know to respect its power but delivers what is still top level performance under all situations. I sure wish it had TC and a quick shifter.

Suzuki is not the only one; Honda also offers no advanced rider aides on its CBR1000RR except for ABS. But now that Suzuki has entered the MotoGP grid – and quite successfully, the Team ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP boys taking 11th and 14th at the opening round in Qatar – one must assume it also has a bevy of aids in place. I don’t understand why both of these major players have withheld this rider-aid technology, but I am excited by the prospect that, whether the manufacturers like it or not, the rest of the market will, most likely, drag them into the game. Let’s wait and see.