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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Suzuki GSX-S 1000A - first impressions and some comparisons

Well, the new bike is here and the Street Triple has gone... sniffle, sniffle!  I put the Triple on the NZ equivalent of eBay and the level of interest was amazing.  I could have sold it multiple times over but couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.  The new owners are a lovely young couple from Northland who did some thorough research and decided that mine was exactly what they were looking for.  I hope they have as much fun as I’ve had with it over the last 6 years.  Despite the prospect of a new bike, I was sad to see it go as it's done everything so well but it's gone to good people.  Hand-over was a perfect arrangement as it happened at the dealers in Auckland at the same time I picked up the Suzuki!

New owners Ray and Sandy, with Ray's dad - gone to a great new home!

Picking up the new bike on the Friday afternoon of a holiday long weekend probably wasn’t the smartest move with the Auckland Southern Motorway clogged with dimwits in cages hell bent on getting an early start out of the city.  Quietly filtering down the almost stationary traffic, it was really noticeable that there were plenty of drivers using their mobile phones and oblivious to what was going on around them.  I lost patience pretty quickly, dived out through the suburbs and went home the long way round through the countryside. After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination.... and certainly not clogged freeways full of knuckle-draggers!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself……

I thought it would be worthwhile to record some initial impressions of the 190 km trip home on a new bike and contrast them where appropriate with the Street Triple and Blackbird before those thoughts become blurred.  Naturally, they are personal ones shaped by the bikes I’ve owned and the type of riding I’ve done over the years but here goes!


As mentioned in the previous blog post, the transition from Street Triple to Suzuki 1000 wasn't even on the radar, until a brief test ride two weeks previously which surprised me as the Suzy felt very similar to the Triumph in many important respects, albeit with a shed load more horsepower! Actually, I'd sat on a friend's "F" faired model the previous weekend and found that my feet could go flat on the deck.  That's what really started it so I blamed him to my wife!




About to leave the dealer and face holiday weekend traffic!

Travelling in heavy traffic on the motorway at slow speeds and indulging in a bit of filtering confirmed that despite the difference in weights (Triple ~170 kg dry, Suzi ~209 kg dry), the Suzy carried its weight very low and was ergonomically similar to the Triple – instant confidence!  I could also get my feet flat when the traffic stopped - important for an err... mature guy with stuffed knees! Rob, the salesperson at Holeshot Motorcycles reminded me before I left that the brakes would take some bedding in.  He was bang on the money – nowhere near as powerful as the Triple despite them being 4 pot radial Brembos so I added a few more lengths of following distance.  They slowly improved throughout the journey but have not yet reached the standard I’m expecting.

Reading ride reports on the Suzuki in the press, one common complaint is that it’s a bit snatchy from a trailing throttle.  That’s actually a fair call but the same complaint was levelled at the Street Triple when it first came out.  That gave me an advantage on the hand-over and didn't find it particularly intrusive on the trip home having got used to the Triple..  However, the new experience is only over 200 km so time will tell.

Leaving the motorway and getting out on to the country roads, it was nearly as nimble as the Triple, but not quite.  It did take a bit more effort to change direction through tight twisties .  It has a 190 section rear tyre compared with a 180 on the triple, a slightly longer wheelbase and more weight.  These factors will have some impact but as already mentioned, the difference isn’t huge.  Pushing it through the twisties as confidence grew saw the traction control activation light come on a few times.  Not a big deal as Rob had set it at "Old Fart" mode, the most sensitive of the settings.  I’d like to think that it was because the tyres were new rather than my age or perceived competence affecting his decision!

Stubby, raspy end can and chicken strips virtually gone in under 200 km

Handling over bumpy surfaces saw the bike skitter about far more than the Triple, but not in a particularly alarming way.  You certainly had to be a bit careful getting on the throttle!  It’s not a fair comparison at present though as the new bike running gear needs to loosen up before sag and damping can be properly adjusted for my weight.  I set the Triple up properly for my riding weight using quality aftermarket componentry and besides, international road tests say that not many bikes can live with a Triple in the tight stuff. 

The ride was in warm, dry conditions and the D214 sport tyres stuck well.  Rain grooves are minimalist and like most sport tyres, they require heat to make them stick.  From experience with the OEM Dunlop Qualifiers on the Street Triple, the prospect of riding in the rain in cooler conditions does not fill me with excitement, particularly as I have to do instructing in all conditions. The good thing is that the D214's should be dead pretty quickly and can be replaced with Michelin PR4's, which I love to bits.  Oh, and a real plus is that the turning circle is miles better than the Triple.  Having had to step off the Trumpy a few months ago when I stuffed up a feet-up U turn on a narrow country road in the presence of a rider I was mentoring makes me a bit sensitive to a lack of steering lock. Mercifully, the only significant damage was to my ego.

As the traffic thinned out, the ability to get on the throttle improved, even though running-in revs and engine loads were strictly observed.  The Suzuki has about 45 bhp more than the Triple but that’s nowhere near the end of the story.  If you do the math, the power to weight ratio of both bikes aren’t a mile apart.  Coupled with the wide torque spread of the Triple, it’s only when wind drag starts to kick in at (say) above 100 km/hr that the Suzuki has a significant advantage and clears off.  For everyday riding where corners, road conditions or other traffic impact on speed, the difference between the 2 bikes is nowhere as much as you might think.

Menacing in matte grey metallic paint


The muffler is one of those stubby Moto-GP jobbies slung low for mass centralisation.  It's got quite a bark too which is quite pleasing.  At certain highway speeds and a neutral throttle, there is a droning harmonic-type noise. Unsure at this stage whether it came from the airbox, muffler or both.  Will investigate further although it wasn't really irritating.



At about 3/4 distance home, my butt started to ache a bit, causing a bit of shuffling about on the seat.  It's far too early to draw any conclusions about this.  The seat may soften, my butt might adjust and if they don't; the fall-back will be an Airhawk pneumatic pad like I used for the Rusty Nuts 1600 km in under 24 hours organised event on the Street Triple (HERE). 



Old Geezer plus new bike photo op on Coromandel Wharf


The instrumentation display on the Suzuki is superb, although overwhelming at first glance!  As well as the normal speedo/odometer/tacho/temperature functions, there is permanent ABS and 3 stage traction control which can loosely be described as Old Fart (or rain if you prefer), spirited road riding (2) and trackday (1).  There is also "off", reserved for those who's surname rhymes with Rossi.  The rocker switch on the left bar also allows several fuel consumption options.  The one I particularly like is the one which counts down the km's before fuel is needed.  Let's hope that it's not wildly inaccurate!

View from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise


The Beast safely back at home!


So what now?  The main thing is to get used to it and get the break-in period over and done with.  With a few mentoring sessions already scheduled with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the 1000 km service should be reached in about a week, then it will be time to see what she'll do!  Some matte 3M anti-scuff film will be installed at the service to protect the rear of the tank and the tailpiece from throwover bags.  The guys at Holeshot Motorcycles already installed paddock stand bobbins and a switched wiring take-off for my GPS and radar detector as part of the deal.  Just have to figure where to put 'em.  A front guard extender to keep the crap out of the radiator is already on order and engine crash protectors will be ordered shortly.  A small Suzuki screen is on back-order.

THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS SO FAR

As I've only done one 200-odd km run from the dealer plus a 45 minute demo ride 2 weeks previously, the thoughts are only first impressions.  Reading back through what I've written, I don't seem to be jumping out of my skin about the Suzuki.  That would be a wrong impression - I love it and am really looking forward to riding it how it's meant to be ridden.   If anything, it's a strong complimentary reflection on just how good the Street Triple is. Totally bullet-proof in the 6 years of ownership, sublime handling and the power to weight ratio means that it won't be embarrassed in bigger company - horsepower is only one side of the equation.  If I enjoy the Suzuki as much as I've loved the Triple, I'll be a happy man!

My thoughts also turn back to the 1135cc Honda Blackbird which graced the shed for 8 years before the Triple. The fastest bike in production when it first came out and also bullet-proof.  On the downside, it was a tad too tall for me and carried its weight pretty high too which is why it had to go as I aged - low speed handling and parking on big cambers could be problematic. Comparing it with the Suzuki mass centralisation and lower weight, sharper handling and modern electronics isn't fair to a bike that was at the top of the tree when first released in late 1996. It does go to show however, how far motorcycle technology has evolved in 20-odd years.  I'll still look back on the Blackbird with huge affection but then was then and now is now - time to move on.

Finally, a personal acknowledgement of the great service I received from Holeshot Motorcycles, right from the demonstrator ride through to riding away on the new bike.  Being gushy about their service would do them a disservice.  Suffice to say that throughout, Rob, the guy I dealt with was friendly, accommodating and utterly professional.  Looking forward to building a long-term relationship with them.  Oh, and they are also Triumph agents so if the rumoured 800cc Street Triple ever gets released, there might be the opportunity for more business (subject to Executive Permission from Jennie of course)!

Can't wait for the next stage of getting to know The Beast!


24 comments:

  1. Nice looking bike! I notice that the tach goes up pretty high. What is the useable rpm range after the break in? And I enjoyed reading the review. It's almost like you are sitting across the table talking...

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    1. Hi Richard and thanks - quite looking forward to riding something with all the bells and whistles and a lot of grunt whilst I'm still relatively competent :-).

      It peaks at around 11,500 rpm but doubt that it's necessary to enter those regions as it's a bit of a torque monster. Even not exceeding 5700 rpm on the way home (equiv. to 140 km/hr in 6th), it pulled really hard.

      Thanks for the kind words and happy riding in all that ice and snow!

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  2. Congrats again on the new bike. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as you get to know it more. It's a Suzuki so it'll be at least as reliable as the Trumpy so no worries there. Love a ride on one as I like grunty naked bikes!

    I hear you on the PR4's - 400+km in the wet yesterday and they were fantastic!

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  3. G'day Geoff from over the ditch. I actually like the new Suzuki GSX-S it looks horn.
    The fuel consumption reading on my R1 is spot on so I don't see any reason yours shouldn't be. The dash will tell me I used 12.58 litres and when I filled up it was 12.6 litres, pretty good. I like the exhaust on the bike it looks good.
    The jap bikes seem to be getting thinner and thinner seats these days, my R1 seat is good for a day ride but more than that its a killer.
    I'd be interested in hearing more when you've got some more miles under the wheels.
    Good stuff mate.

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    1. G'day Steve! Thanks mate, it looks fairly big in photos, but it looks more like a 600! Thanks for the heads up, I think it will be really useful especially with a bit of spirited riding. I was interested in your ride report to Philip Island, thinking that you were a brave boy to put up with the load on your butt and wrists. I don't think my knees would bend enough to get them on the R1 pegs! I might do another post in a few months to revisit my thoughts.

      Hope the Wallabies go well tomorrow mate!

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  4. Cheers Andrew! Looking forward to learning more about its capabilities myself! The faired "F" version is nice too but like you, I like grunty nakeds. I couldn't tell much difference between the PR3 and 4 rears. Both were superb and had an identical life of close to 15,000 km, despite Michelin claiming a 20% better life for the 4's (and at greater expense). However, the PR4 front lasted nearly 20,000 km which is 3,000km better than the PR3. It felt slightly more stable too, maybe because the rain sipes have a bigger spacing so perhaps less flexing.

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  5. Geoff, I am going to miss your Triple, however THE BEAST is quite an attractive model, too. Nevertheless I hope for another Triumph in your stable in the not too far away future ;-)

    Enjoy your new ride!!! BTW what is your CFO going to get in return for approving this investment?

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  6. Hi Sonja! You'd better get over here to try the Suzuki over the Coromandel Hill! Will have to see if Triumph pull finger and whether the 800 is good.

    What makes you think Jennie wants something in return ;-) ? Actually, it might be a trip to see her sister in the next northern hemisphere summer with me as house husband!

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  7. Keep up the good work ol lad...

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  8. Thanks Tommo. Blog posts are a bit patchy these days due to other commitments which soak up time but try for an update in the coming months!

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  9. Good lad... I'm tonyt from the GSX-S1000 and the Hildenborough conection..lol......
    Tony

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  10. Great stuff Tony! My wife used to work at the Gate Hotel near the railway station when she was a student. I'm originally from Northants.

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  11. Yep knew The Gate... She must know Hadlow and Edenbridge..?

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  12. Yes indeed - she grew up on the Leigh Road then later off Riding Lane and knows all that area well. She moved to Northants after graduation but we used to spend a lot of time back in Kent. Her folks' place was a great place for overnighters when there was racing at Brands Hatch :-)

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  13. I loved reading this, and just purchased the same bike yesterday! I was torn between this one and the FZ09, but went with the Suzuki. Thanks again!

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    1. Hi! Thanks and congratulations! I think you made the right choice although the FZ09 is a great bike too. A friend has one (called the MT09 over here) and he had to spend a couple of grand to upgrade the budget suspension.

      Happy riding!

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  14. Great looking Beastie Geoff. I am sure you still have a smile on your face.

    I thought it interesting your turning radius is smaller on this bike that the triple. Brad's Tiger has a tighter turning radius than the Gladius too.

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    1. Thanks Brandy, terrible to say but I've been to busy to ride for the last couple of days - maybe today! Yes, the Triple is based on the Daytona which has notoriously poor lock.

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  15. CONGRATULATIONS Geoff! I would not have foreseen a Suzi in your future, I was convinced that you had Triumph in your DNA by now. Cheers Jules.

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  16. Thanks Jules! If you look at the previous blog post, you'll see that it wasn't planned! Nice to have a new bike to play with though :-)

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  17. Good on you Geoff - nice birthday present. I was always a fan of the K5 series - lovely bikes, but, as you, getting older ain't good on the joints, so it'll be interesting to see how the Suzi pans out. I'm sill just not quite sold on the looks of the current crop of "nakeds", although the SX looks better than the Z1000.
    The missus still hasn't got her Street Triple, although she's got her CB350K back on the road, and is also looking at an MT-07, and a W800 - the FZ1 is just getting too top heavy and long for her now.
    Mind you, with summer fast approaching over here, the comfortable riding envelope is getter shorter....not much fun when it's over 35C outside.
    Good riding.

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  18. G'day Jon - nice to hear from you! I did sit on A Kwaka SX some time ago as I liked the design but it was a touch tall for me and carried it weight fairly high too - not good for an ageing shortarse! Good to hear that the CB350 is back in service. Funny you should mention the W800 as it's a gorgeous bike and bullet-proof. I recently recommended it to a local chap who just wanted something to cruise about on.

    Enjoy your beautiful weather in WA and safe riding!

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  19. Hi Geoff,

    That bike is a looker! Did I see 13 on the tach - holy hannah! I wish you and your new bike many kilometres. Next year I tackle traffic class with students, taking them out into the wild woolliness of the everyday world. I have to modify my bike a bit, I am going to get the suspension lowered, i can't compensate for my 5'3" height and the 32" seat height makes it a stretch. It also took a bit of getting used to a harder seat and I can see an airhawk pillow or different seat being made.

    We almost purchased some suzuki gw250s for our novice class, but they were too heavy coming in around 400lbs and the fuel up top, to much for a novice student.

    Your bike is lovely, great lines. ENJOY!

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  20. Thanks Dar! With 145 bhp and the size of a 600, I can see why it has traction control 😬 . I've only used two of the 3 settings yet and won't be turning it off anytime soon!

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