It would be easy to dismiss the 2004 Suzuki GSX-R750 and simply give it a mere mention among the other new '04 sportbikes. The GSX-R750 has no direct competition--it alone represents the 750cc class. With the recent changes in AMA and World Superbike regulations, its existence cannot be justified as a racing necessity, and with a cursory glance at the 750 or its specification sheet, it appears to be simply an oversized GSX-R600 or an underpowered GSX-R1000--nothing to write home about. Indeed, passing over the 750 in favor of one of the incredible new literbikes, or even the GSX-R600, would be perfectly understandable. However, ignore the middle GSX-R and you will miss out on what could be one of the best bikes--if not The Bike--of the year.
Editor Kunitsugu's first-ride piece in our June issue ("A Force of One") outlined the important technical details of the three-quarter-liter Suzuki, but rather than barrage you with yet another rundown of GSX-R updates, here is the executive summary: The 750 is essentially a '04 GSX-R600 with a 5mm larger bore and a 3.5mm longer stroke. That is the only major difference, and it does account for much of the behavioral contrast between the two bikes. However, there are other, subtler changes that make the 750 stand out from the 600 much more than 150cc would lead you to believe.
It takes but a quick ride around town for that extra displacement to reveal itself. Whereas the 600 has a rather lethargic bottom end and midrange, the 750 pulls away from stop lights with at least some authority, and it doesn't require the careful manipulation of the clutch and throttle that the 600 does. While that is a nice characteristic, one aspect that is significantly worse than on the 600 is the throttle response. At low revs around town, it's virtually impossible to shift smoothly, as the jerky throttle and driveline lash (also somewhat more than on the 600) combine to make for a rough ride unless you are either very aggressive or very gentle with the throttle.
It's also immediately obvious around town that the 750's brakes work quite a bit differently than the 600's, even though the components are the same--we can only deduce that the pad compound is responsible. When we claimed the 600 had perhaps the best brakes of any sportbike, we were premature. That honor goes to the 750's brakes, as they have much better feel than the 600's when cold, and react more consistently over a broader temperature range. The only caveat is that they do have more initial bite, and require gradual application to avoid locking the front wheel unintentionally. This leads us to a common theme we encountered during our testing, one that separates the 750 from the 600 in more than just engine power. Many of the performance benefits the bigger bike offers require a certain level of rider skill, a level many potential 600 buyers may not have acquired. Remember this point; we'll come back to it later.
Back-to-back testing of the...
Back-to-back testing of the GSX-R750 with the 600 and 1000 resulted in some very interesting findings. If you have the finesse and skill to use the 750 to its potential, it's the better bike of the trio for canyon carving. We didn't have an opportunity to do a complete racetrack evaluation of all three bikes together, but expect the 750 to post a strong showing in our upcoming Bike of the Year test.
Every other aspect of city riding on the 750 is exactly the same as riding the 600--that is to say, adequate without being a major high point of the GSX-R ownership experience. Move to the freeway, and that similarity continues--the 750 is bearable for a long drone, but only just; it's not a bike you'd want to take on a longer trip. We will point out that at speeds just under normal freeway cruising, the 750's pegs and clip-ons vibrate more than the 600's. You'll want to get up to speed and through that annoyance right quick, as once over 75 mph everything is quite smooth. Bring the previous-generation 750--dating back to '00--into the picture and for city and freeway riding the same comparisons can be made to that model that we made between the new and old 600s in our last issue. That is, the new 750 is not a lot different in terms of comfort compared to the old bike; the closer, lower clip-ons are just as much of a stretch, the seat is a bit firmer, the fairing provides a bit less protection, and the mirrors are similarly spaced.
An outing at an MTC track day (818/932-0433, www.mtctrackday.com) at the Streets of Willow with a set of Michelin Pilot Race H2s fitted saw the 750 more in its element. That extra midrange from the displacement bump has the 750 pulling much harder off of turns, and the straights seem an awful lot shorter on the bigger bike. Flopping from side to side--and there are many such transitions at the Streets--requires noticeably more effort than on the 600, and throttle response in the mid to upper range of the powerband is much more abrupt--a very steady throttle hand is required. The brakes are as powerful as the 600's on the track, where you can keep some heat in the smaller bike's binders, but lack the 600's desire to keep working once you let off the lever. Our testers seemed torn between the 600 and 750 for track work--some felt the additional power offset the slower turning and didn't notice the more abrupt throttle, while others thought the 750 was much more work to get around the track at a slower pace. Again, it comes down to having the skill and experience to make the most of the 750's extra performance capabilities.