If it’s competition that drives motorcycle development, then why does Suzuki continue to develop the GSX-R750? After all, it’s been years since Kawasaki and Yamaha gracefully bowed out of the three-quarter-liter class, leaving Suzuki as the sole survivor. And aside from a few regional organizations, most racing bodies have dropped their 750cc classes altogether. That said, we figured Suzuki would slowly let the GSX-R750 fall by the wayside, or at least limit the updates to “bold new graphics.” For 2011, that clearly wasn’t Suzuki’s intentions though. Instead, the manufacturer went forward with a rather in-depth revamp, cutting overall weight, refining the power delivery and improving handling.
During a recent trip to Barber Motorsports Park for the GSX-R750 press launch—which was held in conjunction with the GSX-R600 press launch—we found the all-new GSX-R750 to be quite capable on the track (“Don’t Call it a Comeback”, June ’11). However, when ridden back-to-back against the lithe-handling 600, we found the GSX-R750 to steer just a bit slower, making it slightly more of a challenge to hustle around Barber’s tight, technical layout. Plus, given the format of the press launch we were unable to spend any time with the GSX-R750 on the street, which is where most owners will inevitably spend much of their time. More one-on-one time with the bike was a must.
Revised and Ready
While it was revamped alongside the all-new GSX-R600, the 2011 GSX-R750 admittedly doesn’t feature all the same updates as its smaller displacement sibling. Even still, the revamped three-quarter-liter machine features—among other small changes—an all-new chassis, Showa BPF front suspension and Brembo front brakes.
In the engine department, changes for 2011 are limited to reshaped intake valves and new pentagonal-shaped cutouts between each cylinder in the crankcase, which replace the conventional round ventilation holes and are intended to reduce mechanical pumping losses.
More heavily revised is the chassis. Tilting the engine rearward three degrees around the countershaft sprocket allowed Suzuki engineers to shorten the wheelbase of the 750, which at 54.7 inches is 15mm shorter than the previous model. Further revisions to the 750’s frame and swingarm resulted in increased rigidity and a five-pound weight reduction (three pounds from the frame and two from the swingarm).
And while the all-new GSX-R is easily recognizable as a Suzuki, the bike is noticeably diminutive in stature. That is a characteristic attributed to the altered front and rear cowlings, which were both trimmed to match the bike’s shorter wheelbase—the front some 55mm, and the rear a generous 35mm. Fitted to the reshaped front fairing is an early-2000-esque vertically stacked dual headlight that we aren’t sold on, but is said to be a full pound lighter than that of last year’s model. All said, an additional seven pounds were cut by revising the body panels alone—a significant change.
Throw a leg over the 750 and there is absolutely no denying this is a Suzuki. As we have come to expect from Suzuki motorcycles, the feel from the saddle is best compared to sitting in your La-Z-Boy at home; it just puts you in a happy place. For 2011, this exceptional feel has been enhanced thanks to a redesigned seat, reshaped fuel tank and increased handlebar angle—all of which were incorporated with the hope of increasing not only comfort on longer rides, but also the rider’s ability to move about the saddle on the racetrack.
Needless to say, based on the exceptional experience we had with our 2011 GSX-R600 test unit and brief experience with the 750 at Barber, we were ecstatic to see a test unit show up at the office for further evaluation. No sooner than the bike arrived, we grabbed the keys and hit the road.
Turn the key on the sleek-looking 2011 GSX-R750 and you will see the dash (pulled from the GSX-R1000) come to life. In typical Suzuki fashion, the instrument cluster is well laid out, with all the pertinent information clearly visible. Getting accustomed to the unit is as easy as thumbing the meter switch on the right handlebar, which cycles through the different readouts, including the dual trip meters, odometer and lap timer/stopwatch—a new feature for 2011. Also a new feature for the 750 is the programmable engine RPM indicators located in the lower right-hand corner of the cluster. Within minutes we were able to set the indicator lights to go off at the RPM we desired, proving the system is as easy to use as it is convenient on the road.
The GSX-R1000-inspired instrument...
The GSX-R1000-inspired instrument cluster offers up all the pertinent information. New for 2011 is a lap timer/stopwatch feature plus programmable rpm indicator that we rarely used on the track.
Just two modes are available...
Just two modes are available on this 2011 model. The rider can switch from full-power A mode to restricted B mode via the switch that has been moved to the left handlebar –this means no longer are you forced to use your throttle hand when looking to make the change.
Tuning the Showa BPF is surprisingly...
Tuning the Showa BPF is surprisingly easy; a mere half-turn of compression was the answer to our setup issues at the track.
Noticeably missing is the indicator for the Suzuki Drive Mode’s C setting. That’s because for 2011, Suzuki has ditched the third, more restrictive mode and opted to go with just a full-power A mode and restricted B mode. Based on the fact that the bike’s Bridgestone BT-016 tires were fresh from the mold, we toggled over to B mode before taking off to see how the 750 would handle some of LA’s ...err... finest roads.
It wasn’t more than a few...
It wasn’t more than a few miles down the road that we realized adjusting the three-way adjustable rearsets to their lowest position would be a must. The change took just minutes and made the ride that much more comfortable.
Not to our surprise, the bike doesn’t disappoint on the road. Almost instantly we felt at home with the 750, slicing through traffic as if it was our own bike we had been riding for years. And after adjusting the rearsets to their lowest position (this is almost a must—especially for riders long in the inseam), we grew even more comfortable, finding the revised ergos, reshaped tank and short 31.8-inch seat height to play a big role in overall comfort.
With the tires adequately scuffed and up to temperature, we opted to switch out of B mode, which admittedly did its job, but got rather boring after some time in part to its extremely flat power curve (the only time we would go back would be later in the week, when carving along some of Southern California’s coastline, where the roads were soaked and we needed the softer power delivery of the more restrictive B mode).
In full-power A mode the GSX-R750 gets you to ticket-worthy speeds surprisingly quick thanks to its meaty midrange and the roughly 20-percent more horsepower it has on the 600. Throttle delivery is crisp and the bike’s power delivery is especially smooth too, meaning you can expect a completely hiccup-free ride whether you are taking off from a stop, accelerating at city-street speeds or cruising at highway pace. This is a testament to the work of the Suzuki engineers, who for 2011 diligently went about revising the bike’s ECM (which has been relocated from under the seat to in front of the airbox for weight savings within the wire harness) and dual throttle valve fuel injection system.
Fuel efficiency has also benefited from the work done to both the fuel injection system and eight-hole fine-spray injectors. In fact, according to Suzuki fuel efficiency has received a healthy 10-percent bump for 2011. Our test unit backed up that claim by consistently getting an average 44 mpg; impressive, especially for a sportbike.
Nothing is perfect though, and we will admit that the ride on the counterbalancer-equipped Suzuki is plagued by a significant amount of vibes felt through the footrests—although that’s one of our only complaints with the 750 on the street. The other complaint isn’t much of a gripe, depending on personal opinion, but has to do with the howl from the bike’s intake. Obnoxious? Cool? The answer seems to depend on the rider. Although we will say most of our test riders were not exactly enamored with it, especially when cruising down the freeway at 6000 rpm—where you often find yourself when putting along in high gear.
In regards to the 750’s new Showa BPF suspension and Brembo monobloc brakes though, there is certainly no hemming and hawing. Both are hands down the greatest addition for 2011 and work exceptionally well, both during freeway rides and stints through the canyons. On the rough LA roads, the Showa front fork provides a feel that walks the fine line between harsh and compliant, but falls on the side of compliant. When the road tightens the bike feels even more at home, carving the corners with racebike-like finesse. Grab the brakes and prepare to be impressed, too. The Brembo monoblocs clamped to the dual 310mm front rotors are good for an extremely crisp initial bite, plus provide extremely great power all the way through the pull.
While the bike obviously excels on the street, the 750—with its race lineage—certainly has a soft spot for racetrack speeds, which is why we arranged to spend a day at the track as soon as we could.
Located just a few hours north of our humble abode in Southern California, Buttonwillow Raceway’s full layout features a number of hard braking areas that would test the new Brembo brakes, rough sections that would be the ultimate test for the Showa BPF suspension and technical sections that would allow us to see if the GSX-R750 was equally as strong a performer as its nimble 600cc sibling.
During the first few laps on track, we scrubbed in the new Bridgestone R10 rubber we had mounted up, and then worked on getting our heads up to speed. As speeds increased though, we noted a vague feeling from the front and were slightly taken aback by the bike’s tendency to squat in the rear mid-corner, which forced us to run wide on corner exit. Knowing the problem could be easily fixed with a few minor suspension adjustments, we headed back to the pits and grabbed a screwdriver. A half-turn of compression was removed from the Showa BPF up front and a full turn added to the Showa rear shock.
Amazingly, even with such a minor change the GSX-R750 came to life, which says a thing or two about the bike’s superb factory settings. As our speeds—and comfort level—increased on the track, what we began to appreciate more and more was the power of the 750. Similar to the GSX-Rs of yesteryear, the 2011 model’s inline-four engine pulls hard from 6000 rpm upward and corner exits are met by a healthy roar from the GSX-R’s all-new, 2.4-pound-lighter exhaust. Stand the bike up onto the fatter part of the tire, grab a gear from the just-slightly notchy six-speed gearbox and hold on; this is no measly 100-horsepower 600. Although the dyno shows little change in power compared with the previous model, the new 750 feels slightly stronger than last year’s model thanks in part to a better power-to-weight ratio and straights are eaten up relatively quickly. Plus, with the bike’s smooth power delivery and revised ergos, the 2011 750 is surprisingly easy to hustle around at speed too.
With its decent power and relatively light stature (the 2011 model is in total 18 pounds lighter than the 2010 model) it goes without saying that you are sure to get into a few corners with a little more steam than you would normally like. Not to worry though, because the new Brembo monobloc calipers up front are up to the task of getting things slowed down. Similar to what we experienced on the street, the more rigid calipers provide a strong initial bite, even lifting the rear tire on occasion when grabbed with “uh-oh, I’m in too hot” force, and consistent power.
The 2011 GSX-R750 is the first...
The 2011 GSX-R750 is the first Suzuki sportbike to feature Brembo monobloc calipers. The remarkable feel from the brakes is matched only by the communicative feel of the well-damped Showa BPF front suspension. Note the early-2000-esque dual vertically stacked headlight.
The real treat on the track though is the Showa BPF-equipped front end. What really impresses us with this fork is not only its exceptional performance when hard on the brakes, but also its feel upon corner entry and in mid-corner. Thanks to new damping rates, the fork almost perfectly translates what the bike is doing underneath you, providing feedback that gives you utmost confidence in the front end; few forks have given us the confidence of the Suzuki’s BPF setup. Additionally responsible for our comfort on the track was the 750’s electronically controlled steering damper, which adapts to the higher speeds and only slightly allows the bars to twitch before gathering things back up.
A Lonely King
While we can’t speak for Suzuki and answer why the company continues to develop the GSX-R750, we can step up and say that we are glad it does. It would be a shame to see the Japanese manufacturer let this model fall by the wayside. For those who are looking for the nimble feel of a 600, but power of a larger displacement machine, the 2011 GSX-R750 is the bike to have. And at $11,999, the GSX-R750 is only $400 more than the GSX-R600. Can you say ultimate upgrade? SR
25 Years of GSX-R Models
Sportbike fanatics that have been around for a while will remember how much of a stir the original GSX-R750 created when it was introduced in 1985. Built with racing in mind and a primary mandate of reducing weight, the GSX-R was truly a racebike with lights. Just as sportbikes were dabbling with liquid-cooled engines, the Suzuki ‘s air/oil-cooled mill was housed in an equally innovative aluminum chassis. Few considerations were made for street use, which helped the GSX-R to scale in at a flyweight (for the time) 464 pounds wet, or about the claimed dry weight of its main competitor, the Yamaha FZ750. Emissions requirements, the International Trade Commission tariff on bikes over 700cc and worries that the bike was too sporty kept the bike from American consumers for a year, but journalists from the U.S. still attended the world introduction at Suzuki’s Ryuyo test track in early 1985. Jeff Karr attended for Motorcyclist magazine, and summed up his report as follows: “The GSX-R750 put on an impressive show at Ryuyo. When recently shod and ridden well, it’s a tremendously fast race bike, which should make it a wickedly fast bike on a racetracklike road.” While sales did in fact start slowly in the U.S. in 1986, the introduction of the GSX-R cup series late that year kickstarted the racing/streetbike relationship that grew to define the model and was responsible for launching many racing careers.
Landmark sportbike that it was, the GSX-R was nonetheless significantly updated for 1988—one year earlier than the expected four-year development cycle for the time. The second generation model had a short-stroke engine with larger valves for more power and higher revs. Chassis updates included a cartridge fork and 17-inch wheels (from 18-inch) shod with radial tires. Unfortunately, the Suzuki gained 26 pounds in the transition and the short-stroke motor was difficult to tune for racing. An RR model, built for 1989 in small numbers, reverted to the long-stroke motor while the production 1990 model did likewise. Other updates included an inverted fork and another 20-pound weight gain by the last year of this generation in 1991.
The third generation GSX-R finally followed its rivals in the switch to liquid cooling in 1992, but the family identity was kept by retaining the double-cradle frame (while other sportbikes were using beam frames) and closely spaced cooling fins on the engine. Although the engine was more compact, weight increased by yet another 20 pounds; revisions in 1994 to address this included magnesium engine covers, a lighter frame and hollow transmission shafts, shedding 30 pounds. It wasn’t until 1996 and the fourth generation, however, that the GSX-R returned to its lightweight roots with the SRAD version. Gone was the classical GSX-R look, and for the first time the Suzuki was lighter than the original version. The new engine featured slightly more oversquare cylinder dimensions, a three-level crankcase with two splits to stack the transmission, and in 1998 fuel injection was incorporated.
In 2000, the fifth generation GSX-R underwent a host of detailed changes that combined for a significant upgrade. Further weight savings resulted from the use of thinner bodywork, while many steel parts were replaced with aluminum; the fuel injection was improved with the introduction of a secondary butterfly. Updated again in 2004 with more detailed changes, the GSX-R750 took many of its cues from the 2003 GSX-R1000, such as extruded frame rails replacing the stamped pieces, radial-mount front brakes and (back to this again…) increased weight. A major update for generation seven in 2006 saw a completely new engine with truly stacked transmission and return to the original model’s bore and stroke dimensions, a frame made almost completely from cast sections and yet another increase in weight. The last upgrade prior to this year’s, in 2008, included styling changes, a new ECU and larger exhaust.
Many other Suzuki models can trace—either directly or indirectly—their lineage back to the GSX-R750. Most obviously, the current GSX-R600 and GSX-R1000 share many similarities, and in many cases exact parts. The GSX-R1100 was introduced one year after the 750 and was produced through 1998; the 1000 surfaced in 2001. The original GSX-R600 lasted only two years, 1992 and ‘93, before being dropped and was re-introduced to much greater success in 1997. And although they never made it to this corner of the world, GSX-R400 and GSX-R250 models extended the family even further. The Bandit, Katana and RF models have all used GSX-R-based engines over the years, and even the Hayabusa is heavily influenced by the GSX-R.
2011 Suzuki GSX-R750
||Liquid-cooled, transverse inline four
||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl. Shim-under-bucket adjustment
|Bore x stroke
||70.0 x 48.7mm
||SDTV EFI with 2 injectors/cyl. 42mm throttle bodies
||41mm Showa inverted BPF with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Single Showa shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Dual 310mm rotors with radial-mount four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers
||Single 220mm rotor with single-piston caliper
||3.50 x 17 in., cast aluminum alloy
||5.50 x 17 in., cast aluminum alloy
||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016F G
||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016R G
||23.5 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)
||54.7 in. (1390mm)
||31.9 in. (810mm)
||4.5 gal. (17L)
||419 lb (190kg) wet, 392 lb (178kg) dry
||Analog tachometer, multi-function LCD screen with digital speedometer, odometer, dual trip meter, reserve trip meter, clock, coolant temperature/oil pressure indicator, S-DMS and gear position indicators; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals. Lap timer/stopwatch and programmable engine RPM indicators
||10.40 sec. @ 134.70 mph
||60-80 mph/3.11 sec., 80-100 mph/3.57 sec.
||39 to 45 mpg, 44 mpg average
2011 Suzuki GSX-R750
+ Showa BPF gives great front-end feel
+ Great midrange power
+ Brembo front brakes provide great power
– Intake howl can get obnoxious
– Adjusting the footrests seems to be a must
– Noticeable buzz through the foot pegs
x Is this thing really only $400 more than the 600?
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front: Spring preload — 15 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping — 4 turns out from full stiff; compression damping — 5 turns out from full stiff; ride height — 7mm from triple clamp to fork tube cap top
Rear: Spring preload — 10mm thread showing; rebound damping — 2 turns out from full stiff; compression damping — 1.25 turns out from full stiff
“Would you like to supersize your GSX-R600 for an additional $400?” Yes please! That’s all I could think of when riding the new GSX-R750 (well that and the four Randy’s Donuts I ate before the ride). This bike does everything so well. The adjustable rearsets make for comfy ride, the Brembo brakes provide unbelievable power, the dash is user friendly and the styling is great with a nice little punch! Now I will say the ride on the freeway was a bit on the harsh side, and I didn’t really care for the instrument’s mode switches that are located on the throttle side of the bar as its difficult to use while riding and I found myself having to wait for a light in order to scroll through the gauge modes. The only other real complaint I had was that at certain RPM the intake creates quite a bit of noise.
During our recent 600cc shootout, the general consensus between the test riders was that the all-new 2011 GSX-R600 is one incredible machine. In fact, most of the riders (myself included) chose it as the hands-down king of the middleweight bunch. It wasn’t all gravy for the lithe GSX-R though. The first words out of almost everyone’s mouth following their first stint on the track was that the Suzuki was noticeably lacking in the power department. Enter the 2011 GSX-R750, the answer to our gripe. While the bike doesn’t benefit from all the same revisions made to the GSX-R600, it does feature the same agile chassis, potent Brembo monobloc brakes and exceptional Showa BPF front suspension. Add that to the 750’s strong midrange and additional power up top and you have a bike that I found to be equally capable and comfortable on the track and street. And for only $400 more than the GSXR-600, I have a hard time finding any reasons why anyone wouldn’t want to step up to the 750.
I still can’t help feeling that Suzuki shot itself in the foot with the pricing of the new 600 and 750. I’m not sure whether it was additional production costs or what, but making the smallest GSX-R the most expensive 600 by significant margin ($400 more than the Honda CBR), and then marking the 750 only $400 more than the 600 takes the gloss off the smaller GSX-R. Both bikes are fantastic, but selling the 600 with a 750 nearby on the dealership floor might be difficult.