It's a heritage thing: Suzuki's...
It's a heritage thing: Suzuki's sportbike history is largely based on the GSX-R750, and that is one reason the 750 has been continued in spite of having no racing class or competition. Since the first model was introduced in the United States in 1986, there have been six iterations, as well as numerous 600, 1000 and 1100cc spin-offs.
It's in the canyons that the 750 really, really excels. We took along our GSX-R600 and GSX-R1000 for benchmarks and found some very interesting results. As good as we said the 600 was in our last issue's test ("Sweet Symphony," July '04), the 750 is a discernible notch better. The points we noted that really held the 600 back--the brakes and lack of midrange--are nicely addressed on the 750: The brakes are consistent and powerful with just a light touch required, and the 750's extra displacement has it practically leaping off turns and eating up real estate in big chunks. In the rev range used in the bulk of street work, the throttle response is much smoother than around town or on the track, but it's still a problem that can really detract from enjoying the 750 on a section of curves where overly high or low revs are required. Have patience and work around those rev ranges and you will make serious time; be ham-fisted or anxious and you'll just get frustrated as your friends leave you behind.
Whereas there was a noticeable difference between the two bikes' turning abilities on the track, that gap is considerably lessened on the street, with the 750 steering just a touch slower as you arc into a turn on the brakes. We thought the 750's chassis was slightly more controlled over bumpy sections, which could have been due to each bike's setup, or perhaps some changes in the suspension itself. All the components--the shock, linkage and fork tubes--appear to be identical, but there may well be distinctions in the internals. Another of the subtle differences between the two bikes is the frame itself: The 750's cast steering head and swingarm pivot sections are slightly beefier, which may contribute to the bike's sure-footedness. On the setup side, the more we play with both the 600 and 750 GSX-Rs, the more we're finding how sensitive the bikes are to suspension settings. As little as a quarter-turn of front or rear rebound damping is a significant change, and the suspension softens up considerably with a rise in temperature.
Bring in the liter-sized GSX-R, and things just get better for the 750. The big bike feels like a marshmallow in comparison to either of its siblings, with its extra few pounds and additional gyroscopic inertia quite noticeable. If there was such a thing as a steering-quickness meter, and the 600 measured a 10, the 750 would be an eight and the 1000 would be a three--it's that much of a difference going to "Big Poppa." Yes, the 1K's oodles and oodles of torque and silky-smooth throttle response at the bottom have it leaping off turns where the 750 jumps and the 600, well...hops, but after that initial squirt the 750 doesn't lose as much as you'd think to the 1000. And the 750's binders are heaps better than the big bike's, which offer just as much stopping power once warm but dissipate that heat in even the shortest straights. Jump from the 750 to the 1000 and you'll have a big surprise in the first turn you encounter.
Even with 20 extra ponies on tap, it takes a long straight or a series of very fast corners for the 1000 rider to make up the ground lost in a twisty section, and during the course of our day's testing the 600 and 750 duo handily left the poor 1000 behind in most situations. The 600 and 750, while just a year newer in terms of development, are a noticeable notch superior to the 1000 in the chassis department.
All this raving about the new GSX-R750 may have you thinking the old bike must be a veritable turd, but that is certainly not the case--the '00-'03 version was really quite good. The '04's engine and suspension are not superior by huge leaps, but the brakes and chassis as a whole push the new bike that deciding step up the ladder of progress. Whereas previous versions were always conceived as a 750, and the 600 was spawned from its design--with sacrifices accordingly made--we get the impression the pair was more of a joint project. As a result, the 750 benefits from such updates as titanium valves, narrower throttle bodies and the slimmer tank that it may not have otherwise received.
We've gone from being slightly ho-hum about the 750 when we first heard Suzuki was updating it to being delighted that the company chose to do so. As more than one of our testers summed up the '04 GSX-R750 after a ride: "It's good. It's really good." Look for fireworks in this year's Bike of the Year face-off, where the GSX-R will go head to head with the ZX-10R and the winner of this issue's middleweight comparison test.
Could the 750 come back? One...
Could the 750 come back? One way is if MotoGP bikes or Superbikes get too fast and are downsized to 750cc--a logical step, and quite possible given the current rate of development. The GSX-R750 has had an illustrious racing career to date, and many riders (including both our editors, Trevitt on right) have raced one at some time in their careers. Current MotoGP stars Nicky Hayden (left) and John Hopkins (center) both had their initial professional successes on GSX-R750s.