After my colleague Dave Cilliers and I managed to “win” our little contest against Ridefast magazine, assembling two Suzuki GSX-S1000s from as-shipped condition to delivery condition, both teams got to ride away on the bikes to keep them for a couple of months. Dave took first dibs and you can read his impressions here but, for the last two weeks, the Suzuki has resided in my garage, giving me the chance to renew my acquaintance with what has long been one of my favourite Suzuki models.
It is adventure bikes that garner all the headlines which is understandable as they are so popular and that is a shame as there are so many interesting bikes behind all that noise that simply don’t get the attention they deserve.
The GSX-S1000 first appeared in 2015 and gained immediate respect for having a lightly reworked version of the iconic 2005 K5 – K8 GSX-R1000 engine. That engine had a longer stroke than previous versions, giving a much broader spread of power and torque, not to mention a glorious howl from the exhaust pipe. The GSX-S chassis had lazier geometry than the GSX-R for better stability, KYB supplied the suspension and Brembo the brakes. Cheaper than rival bikes from Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, BMW, Aprilia and KTM, it was in no way inferior to any of them and Suzuki engineering meant the engine was virtually bullet-proof.
Fast forward to 2021 and a second-generation GSX-S1000 arrived, with detail differences throughout, including new styling. The engine received new cams, valve springs, exhaust and air box to not only make the engine Euro5 emissions compliant but boost power to a genuine 150bhp. With the new bi-directional quick shifter, the engine is near-perfect: brilliantly responsive, impressively tractable and endlessly flexible. It’s more than quick enough for the street and would prove to be exhilarating fun on a race track.
There are three engine modes, A, B and C, with ‘A’ being the most direct and responsive. If anything, for street riding it is a little too sensitive, producing a slight lurching ride over bad roads as your right hand can’t help but be jostled. ‘B’ spec is much better in this respect while affecting performance, not one jot. Completing the electronics package is five-way traction control, ABS, Suzuki’s Easi-Start and low-rpm assist which helps prevent stalling. There’s no internal measurement unit so no lean-sensitive TC or ABS but that’s not a deal-breaker.
The engine is just amazing. It is so tractable that I would often turn a sharp corner and accelerate away with the bike still in fifth gear! Laziness on the part of the rider, perhaps, but it is easy to be lured into doing that by the torque which is frankly incredible for an inline four-cylinder engine. Even ignoring the quick-shifter (which is one of the best I’ve ever sampled), this is a completely relaxing bike to ride around town as you can just leave it in one gear and use the whole rev range.
Of course, that is not what this bike is about. Get it out on the open road and it is everything you could ever need: super stable, confidence-inspiring and real-world fast. The suspension, which is jarringly hard on poor city streets, comes into its own, the brakes powerful and progressive and the riding position is near-perfect and surprisingly comfortable for long days in the saddle. I can’t speak for the pillion seat but I suspect it might be on the small side to elicit similar praise from a passenger.
The looks are divisive. Personally, I’m not a fan of the headlight treatment but others who saw it loved it. The best thing I can say about the front is that, when riding it, you can’t see it! The headlights are impressive at night. The side profile of the GSX-S1000 is its best side by far and even the “sorry, we forgot to paint it” primer grey has grown on me to the point where that is the colour I would probably specify over the Suzuki blue that is also available and which his one of my favourite colours on any motorcycle.
The best thing about the Suzuki GSX-S1000 is the fact that it just doesn’t shout about itself. In a line-up of the current crop of naked sports bikes, it is possibly the one you would notice least: until you rode it, that is. It has a wonderful solid feel to go alongside the chassis dynamics and punchy engine. It just feels as if every element is working together in harmony which, of course, they should be doing but it’s always satisfying to feel it in practice.
If the Suzuki GSX-S1000 lacks the fireworks of the Ducati Streetfighter V4 and the Kawasaki Z H2 or the tech of the BMW S1000R and the Triumph Speed Triple 1200RS, then it is a refreshingly honest naked sports bike. It has enough of everything and no more to make it near-perfect: excess isn’t a part of the GSX-S1000’s make-up and, for my money, it’s all the better for it.
Let me put it another way: while the Suzuki has been in the garage, a few other bikes have come and gone but when it came down to it, the Suzuki was the one I chose more often than not to take out for a ride. It will be very difficult to hand over the key when the time comes to return it.
For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…