I'VE never gone so fast on a motorcycle. My top speed: 163 mph.
Actually, my top speed wasn't really mine. It was AMA racer Chris Ulrich's. I was just hitching a ride at the tail end of a track day to see what the 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000 can do in a pro's fearless hands.
My own top speed was more like 130 mph. At least I think it was 130. It's hard to tell when your speedo's doing the math as fast as Stephen Hawking and you're careening toward a corner, still having to downshift and hang off the bike.
Suffice to say, it was fast, though not nearly as fast as this bike can go. In first gear alone, its speed is within spitting distance of 100 mph. In sixth, it clears 170.
But speed alone does not make a sport bike. It doesn't cement Suzuki's current dominance in AMA Superbike racing or its status as the country's bestselling sport bike manufacturer. That's why Suzuki hasn't focused just on improving the usual performance aspects with its new Gixxer liter bike but its adjustability as well.
The 2007 GSX-R1000 has the usual trio of front and rear suspension settings. The footrests can also be moved around like pegs on a board. But the biggest news with this year's model is the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector, or S-DMS, which lets riders choose between different engine power settings at the flip of a switch -- while riding, at whim and as conditions warrant.
Say you're on the track and want to flash your bike's fanny at the competition. You'd want to go with the A mode, which jets riders into the next dimension at the slightest twist of the grip, regardless of throttle position. Dialing it back is the B mode, which softens throttle response until you're closing in on the top end of the power band, and C mode, which softens throttle responsiveness overall.
At least that's the theory. In the few days I had with the bike, and for the way that I ride, i.e., like a celebrity under contract, S-DMS was like the emperor's new clothes. S-DMS is really a tool for the track. On the street, the difference between modes isn't just shades of gray, but shades of a single shade of gray. Switching between A, B and C -- whether I was at steady throttle or running the same stretches of road over and over in the three different settings -- I couldn't tell much of a difference.
That isn't to say the bike's a scam. Quite the contrary. The new GSX-R1000 is an incredible machine -- not just on the track, where, while riding with Ulrich, he leaned so deep in the corners I almost scraped my boots and wet my leathers, but in the street, where it's as fluid and graceful as it is powerful.
For all its racer cred, the new GSX-R1000 is one of the smoothest, most rider-friendly sport bikes I've had the pleasure of saddling. Yes, it's powerful -- even more powerful than the previous model, by 4%. The 1,000-rpm increase in maximum engine output comes courtesy of overgrown intake and exhaust ports and a new 12-hole fuel injector that sprays gas into the throttle bodies in an even finer, Chanel No. 5 mist for more efficient combustion.
Since additional power makes even more heat, there's a bigger oil pump and a larger radiator on board, as well as a heat-dissipating composite electrochemical material on its cylinders. When the bike's engine temperature sent the mercury in excess of 200 degrees, I didn't feel it -- not on my calves, and not on my thighs.
The twin exhaust pipes on the new GSX-R are shielded for heat. They're also triangularly shaped like Toblerone, but what's really significant are the improvements inside. Traditionally, sport bikes haven't scored points with the Sierra Club; power improvements that give us riders a cheap thrill tend to create more pollution. But move over, BMW. The new GSX-R1000 doesn't meet only California's tough emissions standards. It also adheres to the significantly stricter limits set by Euro 3, thanks to a larger catalytic converter, an idle speed control and an oxygen sensor.
In these days when global warming makes daily headlines, it's kind of nice to have your cake and eat it too.
That makes the handling pure frosting. My first experience on the new GSX-R1000 was within an hour of riding one of its main competitors -- Kawasaki's new ZX-10R.
The first thing I noticed was how differently the two bikes were balanced, lengthwise. The front end on Suzuki's revamp felt a little longer and heavier, but the cockpit also felt less cramped.
At 55.7 inches, the new GSX-R1000 has a slightly longer wheelbase than it did last year. The bike is also a few hairs wider, to optimize the balance of straightaway stability and quick cornering. That necessitated a new frame, which is made from five cast-aluminum-alloy sections, and a brand new swingarm, which is now die-cast instead of stamped aluminum.
Made with fewer component parts and welds, the frame and swingarm each saved weight. Still, the new GSX-R1000 has gained 13 pounds this year -- but it wears that weight amazingly well.
2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000
Base price: $11,399
Powertrain: DOHC, four-stroke, four-cylinder, four valves per cylinder, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, six-speed
Displacement: 999 cc
Bore and stroke: 73.4 mm by 59 mm
Seat height: 31.9 inches
Dry weight: 379 pounds