Less is More
Gold Brembo monobloc calipers,...
Gold Brembo monobloc calipers, thinner Sunstar Engineering brake rotors and a reworked (shorter by 7mm) fork all contribute to a new, lighter front end. The Brembos are surprisingly high effort, but offer good power through the pull. Red pin striping on the wheels blends well with the red lettering on the calipers and is among the few styling updates for 2012.
To highlight the changes made for 2012, Suzuki invited members of the press to Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida, a recent addition to the 2012 AMA Pro Road Racing schedule. The track’s layout is quite interesting, with a number of gut-wrenchingly fast corners that bring you into the infield section of the NASCAR oval where there’s a mixture of tight corners that test the bike’s steering qualities.
The feel from the GSX-R’s saddle is strikingly familiar, as it should be; the ergonomics have gone unchanged for 2012. At racetrack speeds, the Suzuki’s handling feels noticeably different though. The bike’s more agile — especially in side-to-side transitions — thanks to the more forward center of gravity permitted by the new exhaust. Yes, the new single-muffler exhaust actually makes a difference in performance on the track.
The one-percent increase in front-end weight bias has made the GSX-R an easier motorcycle to turn. And the bike hides its 448 pounds well. The suspension and weight distribution isn’t the sole reason for the bike’s quick steering at the track, however. Credit must also be given the taller 190/55-size Bridgestone R10 racing tires Suzuki spooned onto each of the bikes prior to the test. Presumably, the bike will handle slightly different when shod with the 190/50-size Bridgestone S20 tire that comes standard.
The reworked Showa fork initially feels a bit soft, and throughout the day required we make some adjustments to better suit the aggressive riding at the track. Feedback from the front is as we’ve come to expect from the Big Piston Fork though, and the rear shock was equally as compliant mid-corner.
Power delivery feels much more linear for 2012 thanks to the revisions made to the engine. The biggest difference is that there’s no dip in the torque curve, and consequently no sudden spike in acceleration as you roll the throttle on out of a tight corner. Putting the power to the ground is much easier then, and traction isn’t being tested on corner exit (Suzuki says it’s this new trait that has allowed the GSX-R to forgo traction control for the time being). That added midrange power allows you to use first gear less often too, meaning fewer knocks to the shift pedal each corner.
The B and C riding modes go untouched for 2012. What’s different about the modes is how you access them; in the past you’ve had to hold the button down for a second to swap modes, whereas in 2012 a simple tap on the S-DMS gets you into the next mode. Seems like a rather unimportant change, but we accidentally knocked the switch on more than one occasion, leaving us floundering around in the heavily restricted C mode for a few corners before we realized what we’d done. To its credit, the C mode has an extremely flat power curve that will be advantageous in the wet.
Where the 2012 model reacts drastically different than its predecessors is in hard braking zones, where the new Brembo brakes do their best to bleed off the speed the GSX-R is capable of building. Feel from the lever is admittedly pretty firm, and while there’s a lot of power through the pull, you’ll need to use a good deal of force to get all that power, meaning one-finger brake action is not really much of an option. Whether the difference in feel between the 1000’s brakes and the GSX-R600’s brakes is a result of the new rotors or other variances is difficult to discern, but to be honest, the 2011 GSX-R600/750 Brembo brakes feel slightly more user-friendly.
Aggressive downshifts in the same hard-braking zones are no match for the back-torque-limiting clutch. As we’ve reported in the past, the unit does a superb job at keeping wheel chatter to a complete minimum. The electronically controlled steering damper works moderately well too, although we frequently had problems with the Suzuki shaking its head when grabbing a gear under hard acceleration down Homestead Speedway’s fast back straight.
Worth the Wait?
There’s a reason why Suzuki has had such success both on and off the racetrack over the years. The GSX-R package is stylish, agile, and powerful. The 2012 model is better than its predecessor too. But three years is a long time for a motorcycle to go without receiving any kind of updates. And after such a long wait, we definitely expected a few more advances than Brembo brakes, a few engine tweaks and an exhaust that should have come standard years ago. Perhaps the road back to the top of the literbike category will be a bit longer than Suzuki had expected. At least the company is trying.
Retail for the 2012 GSX-R is set at $13,799, which is just $200 more than the 2011 model. That’s one thing we’ll surely keep in mind as we line the bike up against the competition in this year’s annual literbike comparison. SR
Specifications 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline four-cylinder, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 74.5 × 57.3mm
Compression ratio: 12.9:1
Induction: SDTV, two injectors/cyl., 44mm throttle bodies
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Hypersport S20F F
Rear tire: 190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone Hypersport S20R F
Rake/trail: 23.5 degrees/3.9 in. (98mm)
Wheelbase: 55.3 in. (1405mm)
Seat height: 31.9 in. (810mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
Claimed wet weight: 448 lb. (203kg)