2007 GSX-R1000 K7 vs 2017 GSX-R1000 ABS vs 2017 GSX-R1000R
I purchased my Suzuki GSX-R1000 K7 in 2007 and quickly turned it into a project motorcycle. Although I haven’t made any changes to the inside of the engine, the full Yoshimura exhaust system and Bazzaz Z-Fi TC electronics (traction control, quickshifter, and fuel module) were tuned by John Ethell on the JETT Tuning dyno to get the best from them.
With the air/fuel mixture optimized and the torque curve nice and flat, the engine puts out approximately 167 horsepower at the rear wheel.
Although this motorcycle does the occasional track day, it is mainly a streetbike. I went up two teeth at the rear sprocket and one down on the front, so the Gixxer pulls incredibly well in the mid-range and from low speed. Despite the gearing change, the already excellent throttle connection has stayed quite smooth.
The motor itself is just about perfect. It revs to the moon and produces power all the way until it gets there. It has such good fueling that I can get on the gas and spin the rear Dunlop Q3+ a little on corner exit if I’m feeling exuberant. In a full power wheelie, I can upshift through the excellent gearbox with ease. Even though I don’t have the skill to ride at balance point, the throttle has so much feel and power, much to the irritation of the Buttonwillow and Laguna Seca starter flagmen, I can keep the front wheel lofted in a power wheelie for pretty much an entire straight.
The K7’s stock rear shock was a weak point, so an Öhlins TTX unit was fitted at the rear; the front fork has remained untouched. The suspension is definitely firm, but compliant. Although I can feel bumps well enough, the chassis rarely gets unsettled. I also added an upright handlebar kit to give me a little comfort on our average 250-mile day rides around the mountains of Southern California.
After some experimentation, my GSX-R handles very well. Indeed, it has been the yardstick by which I’ve measured all other motorcycles’ handling for nearly ten years. Whenever I’ve ridden anything else, I’ve always sought the same intuitive turn-in, the same precision on line, and the same beautiful feedback and feel that I get from both ends of my bike. In fact, my own machine is so good, I’ve haven’t felt the need to upgrade at all. This machine is close to perfect and I believed that the cost of the latest model would not justify the investment; any upgrade would likely be incremental, and perhaps not even that.
Oh, how wrong I was—and I’m not too proud to admit it.
The new (2017 onwards) Suzuki GSX-R1000 L7 has been a long time in development; indeed, there were a couple of false starts to the initial launch. Although there were rumors of a new Gixxer Thou as early as 2012, it took several more years before the new GSX-R emerged in 2017. It arrived in two versions—the base model GSX-R1000 (plus the GSX-R1000A variant with ABS), and the flagship GSX-R1000R.
The base model is fitted with Showa’s doughty Big Piston Fork (BPF), and a remote-reservoir shock that has both high- and low-speed compression damping adjustment at the rear. The 2018 GSX-R1000 ABS is priced at $15,099, and if you’re going racing and don’t want the ABS, you will save $400.
Yet, as impressive as the new GSX-R1000 ABS is, there is of course a flagship version. The GSX-R1000R model ($17,199) comes with Showa’s top-of-the-line Balance Free Fork (BFF) at the front, and a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion-Lite (BFRC-Lite) shock at the back. Holy moly, I don’t know who does Showa’s marketing, but those names do not inspire confidence! I have however, experienced both of these suspension components on other machines and, despite the naming, it seems to work well enough.
The R model also comes with Suzuki’s proprietary quickshifter, and that unit incorporates a blip-downshift action as well. A couple of other minor differences on the R-model include a lightweight battery, a “race-ready” top triple clamp, and an instrument pod with white digits on a black background instead of the inverse.
The new GSX-Rs also come with a full suite of electronics that includes traction control, launch control, power modes, and rear-wheel lift mitigation. There is no dedicated wheelie control as it is incorporated as a function of the traction control—and it works very well. Actually, as a side-note to my fellow hooligans, TC setting 1 (minimum intrusion) allows for unfettered wheelies; any higher level of TC will reduce the amount of front wheel lift.
The new GSX-R, straight out of the box, won its very first MotoAmerica race at COTA in 2017, and continued to dominate for the rest of the year. Yet, for all the furor, the big question for me remained: How much better, if any, can the new model be compared to my personalized K7?
To help me in my quest to find an answer, I drafted in Senior Editor Nic de Sena, and my good friend Joe La Croix—a highly competent, very experienced road and track rider, and recent graduate of the Fastrack Riding Academy. Joe has owned and ridden many, many machines over the years, currently owning an Aprilia RSV4 and Tuono, and most recently, a Yamaha YZF-R1 for track days.
To ensure as fair a comparison as practical, I left the K7 alone, and made sure the two new Gixxers had the stock suspension settings. My K7 is fitted with Dunlop’s brilliant Q3+ tires, while the new machines both come with Bridgestone’s excellent Battlax Racing Street RS10 tires. All three bikes had the same tire pressures of 32 psi front and 30 psi rear.
The route we chose was impacted by California’s recent natural disasters, so we were fortunate to be able to ride a nice, twisty, 200-mile trip on a bright, cool day. This ensured that all of us would get to know each bike.
Unsurprisingly, my 2007 GSX-R1000 acquitted itself incredibly well. Joe climbed off it with a big grin and commented, “Getting on this bike, as with any Suzuki, I had immediate confidence and comfort. Their company slogan should be Built For Humans. It is very stable and solid, with linear power, easy turn-in, and gave me total confidence in the front end.” He also observed, “It’s easy to think this bike is as relevant today as when it was new.”
Nic de Sena is now a seasoned Ultimate Motorcycling staffer. To my chagrin, he wasn’t quite as enamored with the K7 as Joe had been, but he was still complimentary—so he gets to keep his job. Nic felt that the handling was good, but the bike simply “wasn’t quite as agile as the new machines.” He also noted, “The weight distribution feels much better on the new GSX-Rs, which makes them easier to push around.” I cannot fault him for those statements.
Having now ridden the new model, there is no denying it, the new generation GSX-R is very obviously, a massive step up. My bike feels dated and coarser in almost every aspect.
At just over 440 pounds (curb weight, claimed), the new GSX-R is almost exactly the same weight as the previous generation machine. Yet, thanks to the latest mass-centralizing design and changes to the chassis, it actually feels much lighter— more like a 600 did just a few short years ago. It’s not just overall weight that makes a difference—it’s where that weight is placed that counts. The evolution over 10 years in just this alone is a massive upgrade.
The new generation engine shares some similarities with the old. The same inline-4 high-revving ‘screamer’ motor is retained. However, that’s about where the resemblance ends, as the new motor is smaller, lighter, and much more powerful.
The K7 revs to a 13,500 rpm redline, producing power all the way there. I can pull to the redline in fifth gear, change into sixth—with a corresponding 500 rpm drop—and the motor will still pull those 500 rpm back and keep accelerating all the way to the rev-limiter.
As mentioned, I have geared the bike down a little, so in terms of power on the street, the 2007 bike and the new motor seem closely related. But, as with the suspension and handling, as it turns out, there’s no real comparison.
Although Joe felt that the K7 has “solid, linear power”, as it turns out, there is almost no comparison to the new generation in terms of gargantuan, linear power; effortless smoothness; and rider-friendly usability. Although Joe did note that the new generation motor has “that familiar GSX-R growl and intake noise that lets you know it’s still a Suzuki.” He then goes on to say, “As soon as the wheels start rolling—and I mean literally the moment they move—I can feel how things have come along, and in that instant the old model seems very dated.” Somewhat reluctantly, I completely agree with that.
The new motor is more compact than the decade-old K7, and it is very much smoother as well. Of course, Suzuki’s proprietary Variable Valve Timing (VVT) that allows such powerful mid-range punch without sacrificing top end power at that breathtaking 14,500 peak power redline, pays big dividends. The new motor is substantially more powerful than the K7, and even with my gearing cheat, the new motor simply feels stronger, everywhere.
Nic said that the K7 has “the peaky character of an inline-four from that era. Whereas the new engines are smoothed out in every sense of the word, and they deliver more power, far more evenly.”
Joe went into more detail when he said, “The new model says, ‘You think that one [the K7] is easy to ride? Watch this!’ …and it is so much more fluid and smooth. Power delivery is silky smooth and it definitely gets your attention on the top end. This bike feels lighter, faster, smoother, and even easier and more friendly than the older model. It is a dramatic improvement.”
The new GSX-R motor simply has more of everything, everywhere, and the power delivery is so smooth that it never even feels particularly stressed—even when it’s screaming near the rev limit. With stock gearing, the new GSX-R will easily power wheelie in the first two gears, and to do it in third only needs a small rise in the tarmac or a pull on the bars—and that’s stock.
Performance freaks and racers will note that the standard ECM mapping restricts the power about 2000 rpm before the redline by not opening the butterflies fully. Aftermarket tuners can flash the ECM and in so doing, release approximately 17 more peak horsepower (as well as jeopardize your warranty). For the street, you simply don’t even come close to needing it. My feeling is, save yourself the 200 bucks and just tell your buddies you had it done. The GSX-R is so blisteringly fast no one will ever be able to prove you didn’t do it anyway.
The fueling on my 2007 model is very good, even with the shorter gearing, which can accentuate fueling glitches. Still, it simply doesn’t compare to the new Suzuki ride-by-wire system, which is possibly the smoothest and most precise throttle I’ve yet felt. At the apex of each corner and coming back into the throttle—especially on the street where the throttle openings are much smaller than on track—the smooth linearity of the Suzuki is so much more forgiving than the 2007 model.
One nearby freeway is a concrete super-slab and, in typical California crappy fashion, the surface has ridges running across the lanes where each slab joins the next. Cruising at 75 mph on the K7, the vibration coming through the grips makes me wonder if my dental fillings are about to come loose, and it’s tough to stay consistent on the twistgrip. Yet riding the new GSX-R, I was happily surprised to see that although my hand and wrist were still somewhat shaking from the vibration—the throttle stayed smooth and the power remained constant.
The Bazzaz quickshifter (upshift only) fitted to the K7 has always worked beautifully, and the Suzuki gearbox—as is typical with every Suzuki—is precise and makes for easy shifts. I have very rarely had a false neutral.
However, the new generation cassette-style gearbox is a noticeable level up. The lever throw is short, and there is plenty of feel. On the standard new GSX-R1000, clutchless upshifts are easy to accomplish—just a little slack on the throttle as you click the lever gets the next ratio engaged easily.
Imagine coupling this beautifully engineered gearbox to an equally well-designed quickshifter—that includes a blip-downshift function too. Well, there you have the GSX-R1000R. The Suzuki quickshifter has two settings within the menu system, with option 2 being the most sensitive and requiring a shorter lever stroke before the quickshifter activates.
The downshifting action needs to be a little more deliberate than when going up the cogs. Although it works with the throttle open, the downshift is smoother if the throttle is closed.
I have a local corner that is a fast, steep, uphill lefthander. If I’m not going at it hard, then mid-corner I have to downshift to get the best from the motor. When I stay in the throttle and change down using the blip-downshift function, it can be less than smooth; for this one type of shift, I use the clutch. For the more usual type of downshifting—on the brakes—then the downshifter really comes into its own. I can make multiple rapid-fire downshifts that engage seamlessly without upsetting the chassis.
Nic felt the quickshifter alone was well worth the upgrade dollars. “The benefits of a quickshifter are numerous and I’d be inclined to go towards the R model based on that alone,” he said. “Quickshifters allow me to focus on corner entry without distraction; on the track or street, this is a great tool.”
Joe went one better in his praise. “The quickshifter is one of the best I’ve used,” Joe said, “and on many downshifts it was so imperceptible I had to look at the dash to make sure the gearbox did in fact downshift.”
Another big difference between the 2007 GSX-R and its modern brethren is the suspension. The K7 has a stock front end and an Öhlins TTX shock on the rear; overall the feeling is firm, yet compliant. Joe commented that the bike’s suspension “gets any bump over and done with very quickly.” Although you feel the bump, only in extremis does it upset the chassis. The K7 feels planted and stays on line, even if there’s a bump in the middle of the corner.
The 2017 GSX-R1000 base model however, comes with Showa’s Big Piston Fork and a Showa piggyback reservoir shock that is adjustable for rebound damping, with Hi- and Lo-speed compression damping. The Showa components are a step up, with the decade-newer suspension being more compliant while not making the motorcycle feel soft.
The new generation GSX-R has increased chassis stability as well as improved aerodynamics. The engine has been rotated backwards by six degrees, reducing the distance from the fork to the chassis center by 20mm. This allowed for a 40mm increase in swingarm length.
The chassis is also 10 percent lighter than before. Despite not having the advantage of the K7’s handlebar leverage, the new GSX-R turns quicker without losing any stability. Nic commented that the standard GSX-R1000 has “good spring and damping characteristics that aid in keeping the whole package in shape. The base settings are all right for the street, but would not be 100 percent right for me on track; they feel a bit off in certain aspects. Still, the bike was extremely compliant and poised. In comparison to the K7, it is far more refined and doesn’t transfer as much energy through to the rider.”
Joe felt the same as Nic, and offered that “this bike feels lighter, faster, smoother and even easier and more friendly than the older model. It is a noticeable improvement.” Joe went on to say that the new bike “is so flickable and light, it turns in easier than almost anything I’ve ridden with clip-on handlebars.”
The flagship GSX-R1000R has the sophisticated WSBK-derived piggyback reservoir BFF fork. The R’s suspension upgrade is another step up again from the base GSX-R1000, and a mammoth leap ahead of the K7. The R’s premium suspension is a revelation in itself. Going from my personal 2007 model that has served me so well to the new L7 with the BFF suspension was a startling difference.
My first long ride on the GSX-R1000R was on very familiar roads where I know pretty much every bump and ripple, certainly in the corners. I started to wonder if the road had been repaved because half the bumps seemed to have gone. By the time I arrived at our usual Pacific Coast lunch stop in Carpinteria, I couldn’t help but gaze in disbelief at the new GSX-R1000R parked in the curb.
It isn’t that the BFF suspension is soft—it’s actually quite firm. However, the key is that it reacts incredibly fast, and yet it stays smooth as well. This gives the feeling that the suspension has much more travel than the K7 provides. The suspension isn’t just better than the K7. Bumps are absorbed a whole lot more effectively than the BPF suspension on the base-model Gixxer.
Because the R is able to float elegantly over multiple bumps, it allowed me to concentrate more on the road ahead and my lines through the corners. With less energy being transferred to the rider, I found myself carrying more entrance speed on this trip than I have ever done before.
Nothing managed to upset the chassis, which stayed on rails with the tires firmly glued to the road. It’s not that the K7 is bad, it’s just that the GSX-R1000R is so overwhelmingly good that it makes the K7 look dated and basic by comparison. The K7 is a much more fatiguing machine to ride.
Both Nic and Joe agreed, with Nic saying, “The BFF suspension feels even more refined. Every action feels that bit smoother, and that gives the bike an advantage in stability. There’s not a huge disparity over the base-model, but there is a very noticeable benefit. The top-spec bike also feels a hair more stable and solid.”
“The BFF suspension on the R goes that much further than the BPF,” Joe added, “and the plushness of the suspension gives the R an even more composed feel over bumps.”
I upgraded the brakes on my K7 to Brembo Monoblock calipers fed by steel braided lines, though I retained Suzuki’s standard Nissin radial master pump. This particular brake setup fulfills my needs. Without having the backup of ABS on the street, I prefer my brakes to have a soft initial bite, followed by progressively more power as lever pressure is added.
Nic wasn’t impressed, saying, “One of the most notable aspects between this bike and the new generation are the brakes. The K7 braking power isn’t equal to the modern set up, and the feel at the lever just isn’t as strong”. He was also disappointed with the rear brake on the K7, which he described as “not working”. I only use it to feather the angle when I’m in a power wheelie, and I suspect the pads are coming up for a change.
As mentioned, there’s no ABS on the K7. That is in stark contrast to the ABS on the new GSX-Rs that include a sophisticated cornering ABS function that uses lean-angle data from the IMU to prevent wheel lock in a corner. It also has a rear-wheel lift mitigation function that prevents major stoppies at speed.
Even without taking the ABS functions into account, the new GSX-R brakes are another step up from the system on my machine. The rubber brake lines are a little perplexing, but they are easy and inexpensive enough to swap out if you will be doing any track days where overheating might be a consideration. On the street, it’s not a concern.
The answer to my question at the beginning—”How much better, if any, can the new model be compared to my personalized K7?”—is now obvious. Yes, it is very much worth upgrading to the new generation. In the last decade there have been enormous leaps in every aspect to both the motorcycle technology, and the design.
The transformation from the 2007 machine to the latest generation is startlingly clear. While the upgrade from the new base-model to the flagship R model is less stark, it is nevertheless very noticeable with the aid of the quickshifter, and the exemplary, top-of-the-line suspension. These big items, along with some small goodies, plus the availability of the new for 2018 Team Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP graphics, more than compensate for the extra couple of grand outlay.
I’ll leave the last word to Joe: “The new GSX-R is a remarkable motorcycle; it is completely compliant to my wishes. It feels small, and it’s easy to reach the bars, so it is very comfortable to ride, even around town. The rush of power when on the throttle is addicting, and the bike is shaped perfectly to lock your outside leg in, and let your weight go forward into the tank when braking for a corner. I found very little of my body weight was transferring to my hands and the bars—it is ergonomic perfection.”
“If you have a very limited budget for a motorcycle,” Joe continued, “you will do well, if you can find one, to get a 2005-2009 model for around 5,000 to 8,000 bucks. But if you already have one and want a new bike, the only thing better than an old Gixxer is a new one, and it’s well worth the money to make the move. It is a vastly different and much better bike. Buy the new one and let the guy on a limited budget enjoy your old one. Neither of you will be sorry.”
Photography by Don Williams