2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 Review – Street Test
All of my friends—that is, every single one—ride an upright bike of some description. Perhaps I will hear disparaging remarks about “age” and so on from some, but in reality, several of my friends are quite young.
The truth of it is, although clip-on handlebars are fine for 20-minute sessions on the track, in the real world of negotiating traffic or spending the day ripping along your favorite twisty street ride, being in the fully committed riding position is simply a pain in the neck. Actually, it’s across the shoulders as well, but I suppose I’m getting a little pedantic here.
So, when Suzuki announced it was bringing GSX-R technology to an upright series of model machines, I was pretty excited. Earlier this year I rode the GSX-S750 and found it to be a fun bike that does everything very well. Yet, as a bit of a liter-bike snob, I was agitating to climb aboard the thousand as soon as I could. The 2016s are finally here, and I can tell you that the GSX-S1000 ABS did not disappoint me in any way.
2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 Review – Engine Talk
The motor is based on the architecture of the legendary K5/K6 GSX-R1000s. That engine had a slightly longer stroke and was, therefore, a little torquier than subsequent models. For a streetbike such as the GSX-S1000 that doesn’t require ultimate top end power, this is clearly the best way to go. Having thrashed it around a variety of fast (and slow) California roads, I discovered that the bike will unapologetically go as fast as you need it to, and with plenty in reserve.
Actually, the stonking mid-range caught me pleasantly by surprise. Even in fourth gear, the bike leapt forward and accelerated so hard the only thing that kept up was my smile. Incidentally, if you turn off the traction control—which can be done on the fly as long as the throttle is closed—the S1000 will happily loft the front wheel in both first and second gear, without any clutch help.
The inline-4 motor isn’t the K5 lump, as several internal items are different, including shorter, redesigned pistons, and the valve train, where steel valves replace titanium, and the camshafts and ignition have different timing. Redline arrives at 11,500 rpm—1500 lower than the GSX-R motor—and it is those upper reaches where the K5’s extra 17 horses lie. Although the GSX-S1000 “only” puts out a claimed 145 horsepower, those final few are simply not missed on a streetbike.
The real secret to the acceleration of the GSX-S1000 though, is how quickly it revs. As with all Suzuki inline-fours, the motor is smooth, and the engine revs snappily if you just blip it; on the move the bike feels agile and very responsive to throttle input. This gives the S1000 the aggression of a sportbike; it does not feel like a sport-tourer or some other com- promise; this machine is truly a sportbike with upright ergonomics.
Suzuki was one of the first with fuel injection, and its double-butterfly system, operating on 44mm throttle bodies, always makes for the silkiest throttle connection, bar none. Again, this helps make the GSX-S1000 incredibly intuitive, and amazingly easy to ride.
In slow, first gear corners, the throttle transitions from off to on are like butter and, with an engine that makes this level of mid-range power, that is a real blessing when you are hustling through tight twisties.
Stock exhaust systems are notoriously heavy and restricted, especially when it comes to noise. Somehow, the GSX-S1000 slipped through the cracks, and the stock note coming from the muffler is awesome. It’s not overly loud, but it has a crackle and characterful burble that quickly becomes a throaty howl when the throttle cables are being stretched. I don’t know how Suzuki got this one past the fun-spoilers, but kudos to them for doing so because it gives this bike an edgy auditory personality that helps foster our rebellious natures.
2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 Review – Electronics
The GSX-S now comes with the three-level traction control system first debuted on the V-Strom 1000 last year. The three levels (plus Off) are changed via the selector button on the left handlebar, and the level is clearly marked on the easy to read LCD instrument panel.
Fueling power maps are now gone; the TC will manage the power better than manually selecting a mode map anyway. Suzuki recommends Level 3 (maximum intrusion) for the rain, with Level 2 being a good compromise, and Level 1 allowing some rear wheel slip for serious sport riders. I enjoyed the pure simplicity of the selection system — it is very intuitive, so switching modes for different conditions gave me major confidence.
Incidentally, traction control on the GSX-S1000 ABS is a natural wheelie inhibitor — as the front wheel slows down, the TC sees the differential in wheel speed and cuts the power; if you’re a wheelie aficionado, then you will want to turn it off. A yellow TC light shows on the dash to indicate you are unprotected; I preferred to think of it as a Fun On light, but that’s just me.
ABS is now included as part of the electronics, although there is an optional model without; that is the one electronic aid that I consider vital on the street. The Brembo Monoblock four-piston radial brakes are awesome, and the calipers are available in several colored options (including anodized blue), which struck me as a cool idea.
2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 Review – Chassis
Again, the chassis, although new, was developed using GSX-R1000 K5 DNA. Upright handlebars have a lot more lever- age, so stability is enhanced with a slightly longer wheelbase (2.2 inches), a degree more rake at 25 degrees, and just 4mm more trail. The net result is a motorcycle with handling eerily similar to the Gixxer, but with the necessary stability for an upright. GSX-Rs are always the sweetest handling bikes; Suzukis simply turn like no other, and the GSX-S1000 has inherited that trait.
The handling is helped by Suzuki’s attention to weight and mass-centralization — the naked version is actually lighter than any of the GSX-R1000s (even the latest one), so the S1000 is supremely flickable, and yet confidence inspiring.
Starting the day with a freeway blast to get to the canyons, I am incredibly reassured that the GSX-S1000 feels so stable. Yet, it is so light, precise, and taut, that I feel like this is one of the easiest bikes to ride I’ve ever thrown a leg over.
That is very good news for anyone wanting to upgrade to liter-bike power, because this bike is not intimidating (other than in reputation) and, once underway, the rider will actually focus on the road and his riding. This bike is that forgiving.
Suspension is by KYB 43mm fully adjustable forks, and a shock that is adjustable for spring preload and compression damping only. The ride is firm but not harsh and, unlike the original K5 Gixxer that had an appallingly under damped rear shock, the GSX-S1000’s rear unit is perfectly good for hard-core, fast street riding.
One road in particular that wound through the redwood forest was dread- fully bumpy. At times I wondered if the rear shock could be a little smoother, but the road was so extreme I’m perhaps being a little unfair. I did ride the Yoshimura tricked-out version of the bike, and with an Öhlins cartridge kit in the front fork and an Öhlins TTX rear shock; the smooth action cannot be denied and the upgrade improved the GSX-S1000 noticeably, if not considerably.
Ergonomics are mainly why this bike has come into play, and they were perfect for my six-foot tall, slightly lanky body. The handlebars allow for a moderately leaned in position, and the Renthal Fat Bars are about shoulder-width. The footrests are sporting and rear set, while the seat is fairly bucketed and predictably much more comfortable than the GSX-R perch. Suffice to say, the S1000 is more than comfortable enough to take touring, although Suzuki does not offer a luggage system as yet.
The faired version of the bike, the GSX-S1000F, is a $1000 more and will certainly prove popular with the sport tourers. However, for my money, I’m tempted to buy the naked and fit a small Yoshimura fly screen.
The result will be a light, agile, high-performance superbike that you will actually want to ride for extended periods of time. That Suzuki is able to offer the non-ABS GSX-S1000 at an introductory price of $9999 is amazing; this is not a bike that has been built to a tight budget like its smaller stablemate, the GSX-S750.
The 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000 ABS is a remarkable motorcycle, and if you are considering an upgrade to the liter- bike class or simply looking for comfort without sacrificing performance, then the GSX-S1000 must be on your short-list. It is a motorcycle that can most certainly compete with the best of the uprights in performance terms, and its Japanese competitors either produce less power, or are heavier and slower handling, or both. It’s a good thing Suzuki offers an unlimited mileage warranty, because you will be putting on plenty of miles.
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-V Custom SAK_ART Design
- Communications: Sena 20S
- Jacket: Dainese Air-Frame Tex
- Gloves: Dainese GUA X-Strike
- Jeans: Dainese Alien Pelle
- Boots: Dainese TR-Course Out Air
Photography by Enrico Pavia
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine.