A decade ago, Jeff was out at Phillip Island testing the revised 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000... Check out how it stood up to being thrashed around the GP circuit. Photography: Keith Muir
The previous generation GSX-R1000 to the all-new back in 2012 Gixer was one fantastic bike. So good, in fact, that is cleaned up the Rapid Bikes 2009 Superbike Shootout, so just how much better was the 2012 model? 10-years ago, we headed to Phillip Island to find out…
From a purely aesthetic point of view, the new bike looked much better. The blue and white had a lot more blue in it, all the way up the side panels and, thankfully, those ugly twin mufflers and the four-into-two had been replace by a sleek, lightweight four-into-one. And us journalists sat through yet another presentation stating that four-into-one is the optimum layout. That’s after the presentation in 2009 saying four-into-two is better!
The rest of the bike looked the same apart from some slight styling changes around the tail and the seat. The technical presentation revealed changes that were purposeful and well researched and not marketing hype. Everything new on the bike contributed to this being the best GSX-R1000 to date.
A DECADE ON, THE RIDE
I headed out of pit lane at Phillip Island with standard suspension settings and fresh Bridgestone OEM tyres. Most manufacturers choose more race-oriented rubber for track launches but Suzuki always sticks with the OEM rubber. This can work for and against a bike – as a test rider I’d personally prefer not to be limited by tyres during a test, as I often can’t explore the true potential of a bike when tyres are the limiting factor. The flip side is that the bikes are tested as bought off the showroom floor. However, there are very few owners who would attend a track day without fitting appropriate rubber, so I think OEM tyres are often better for road only tests if they are not a pure soft compound sports tyre.
In saying all that, the Bridgestone’s were good and handled the many laps easily. They proved very durable and as the track temperature came up during the day they really came good – but they are not a track tyre. The rear tyre was a limiting factor. It was OK for the top guys like Gilesy and Waters, who enjoyed smoking them up everywhere, but for a rider like me who is more old school and likes to keep my wheels inline, I would have preferred R10s or similar. The BT20s are a huge improvement over the old BT-016s though that’s for sure.
Back to the bike. I had lost a bit of pork, well, 13kg, so it was great to get out and find that I didn’t have to come in and ask Phil Tainton to pull a spring out of the Team Suzuki race transporter for my fat arse! The bike felt light, nimble and I didn’t touch a clicker all day…
The first thing I noticed is the improvement in change of direct – doubtless due to the weight of the exhaust being lower. It is so, so easy to flick the bike from full lean to full lean even through fast sections like the Hayshed. In fact, the GSX-R1000 is more nimble than the Blade and S 1000 RR through here, both recently launched at the same track.
“The first thing I noticed is the improvement in change of direct – doubtless due to the weight of the exhaust being lower.”
The second standout for me in my first session was the fantastic improvement in the front brakes – a previous thorn in the GSX-R1000s side. Initial bite is great, followed by easy modulation through small braking inputs and much more intimate feel at the lever. Despite the BTL clutch being retained from 2009, the bike seemed to run into corners more freely, despite the increase in compression. So overall the combined braking package was, thanks partly to the stability of the BPF forks, sensational.
As I got into a rhythm on the 1000 I was also impressed by drive and acceleration off turns from low to mid range rpm. Out of turn four and MG the GSX-R1000 stonked even more than it used to. Definitely cementing it once again as the King of stomp…
One problem I experienced and, as it turns out, three other journalists also, is that my left thumb is flicking the Drive Mode switch, meaning the bike switched from C to A to B to C to A constantly throughout the lap and a few near highsides result when power suddenly comes in. It’s located below the left switchblock and honestly, for all the brilliant engineering that comes out of Suzuki, I’m stunned that this switch got through.
If I owned one of these, I’d disable the switch ASAP and find an alternative. In fact, I really didn’t see the need for the three modes at all. A is fine at all times and the bike is so predictable that wet weather riding is not going to be difficult, negating the need for any map changes.
The next four sessions were fantastic. We normally get four but I managed five somehow. The thing I loved about the GSX-R1000 was the feedback from the chassis and the grunty, ballsy engine and the 2012 model retained those traits. The softer suspension, felt like it could be a near perfect compromise between track and street and along with the chassis feedback, the bike promoted confidence in the rider and this was really highlighted by the fact that I could spin and slide the rear tyre off some of the faster corner with confidence – not my usual style.
“The softer suspension, felt like it could be a near perfect compromise between track and street and along with the chassis feedback, the bike promoted confidence in the rider…”
I’m no ex dirt tracker, no way. I also had a few front tucks midway through turn two and I was able to easily ride them out. These things highlight what a brilliant chassis the bike has – and with more track oriented rubber it would have been on rails.
The GSX-R was a fantastic bike for those of us who need feedback and feel and didn’t grow up riding GP bikes with stiff chassis’. All of that feel translates to a good roadbike and no wonder the Gixer has always been a favourite on Aussie roads. So much information is available from the pegs, the seat, the bars and generally the bike just moving around nicely. It’s a brilliantly communicable machine in an era where stiffness is taking feel away from us riders and then electronics are being dialled in to compensate. When the lap time goes down but the riding experience often does also. With the Suzuki, I still got that proper riding experience buzz. I felt like I’m the one in control…
The engine characteristics perfectly complimented the chassis. High performance with predictability and lots and lots of feel on the throttle. For me, it was a real bonus. I like my right wrist and brain to be a directly linked to that back wheel as possible and the GSX-R1000 was fantastic in that area. Feeding power on predictable and finding grip was easy, the bike didn’t need traction control.
“Feeding power on predictable and finding grip was easy, the bike didn’t need traction control. The smooth engine and the ECU controlled secondary butterflies took care of all that”
The smooth engine and the ECU controlled secondary butterflies took care of all that, along with the conrod ratio, cam profiles and power curve, and allowed the rider to be the traction control. Sure, as big horsepower numbers slowly out grow the current street sportsbike tyres, TC is handy, but not necessary everything.
Like the GSX-R600, the 1000 to felt, to me, like the most compact bike in class, and I found that difficult. I had to lower the pegs and I only just fit on the bike. I could ride it comfortably but found it difficult to keep my feet and legs in tight. Our long term 2009 GSX-R1000 was brilliant once we fitted wider ‘bars, a taller screen and adjustable rearsets. Made a big difference.
In terms of technology the GSX-R1000 didn’t tick all the boxes but if you do your homework you will actually see that there was a hell of a lot of technology in the hardware that makes up this machine. The incredible 27 years of R&D Suzuki have with the GSX-R range is invaluable and immeasurable. Yet they somehow managed to keep that GSX-R mojo in there. I have a 1985 model and I could feel that bike in the 2012 model while I lapped PI. Just magic…
The 2012 GSX-R1000 engine had FEM (finite element method) pistons developed in MotoGP. The process allowed lighter pistons with narrower pin bosses, new skirt shape, better durability and smoother valve recesses as well as a total weight saving of 11%. The benefits were more torque, smoother acceleration at low to mid-range and lower fuel consumption. Compression was up from 12.8:1 to 12.9:1.
Another big change was the pentagonal cutouts in the crankcases between cylinders. They were larger and the new shape allowed better flow of the trapped air under the pistons to flow to the rising side faster, reducing pumping losses due to internal crankcase pressure causing resistance to a downward travelling piston. Camshaft profile was been revised, too. The new exhaust system created higher exhaust pressure at high rpm so the duration of valve overlap was shortened when both valves are open. The inlet cam was carried over from the previous model. Redline remains at 13,500rpm.
The four-into-one exhaust system was re-introduced to save weight and was tuned for more response in the mid-range and to eliminate the previous flat spot at 6000rpm. In the cylinder-head, thinner material was used for the bucket skirts, saving 2.5grams per unit. This allowed Suzuki more freedom to optimise the valve lift curve. The back-torque limiting clutch was carried over, as is the gearbox.
SRAD (Suzuki Ram Air Direct) air intakes were unchanged as were the throttle-bodies. The dual throttle-valve (SDTV) was a success on the previous model. Each throttle-body contained two ultra fine atomisation 12-hole injectors. As the rider opens the throttle, or primary butterfly, the ECM reads throttle position, engine speed, gear position, and incrementally adjusts the secondary butterfly to optimise intake charge velocity. The ECM also used the secondary butterflies to help limit back-torque into corners by opening slightly. The PAIR system is retained to help reduce emissions.
Although the frame remained unchanged, the chassis was tweaked for improvements in 2012. The front callipers were upgraded to Brembo radial-mount four-piston monoblock units. They are lighter, more rigid than bolt-together callipers, offering better feel. The 310mm rotors were 0.5mm thinner and produced by Sunstar Engineering. The master-cylinder from the previous model was retained, as was the rear brake system, comprising of a single-piston Nissin calliper and 220mm rotor.
The BPF forks were retained for 2012 but changes included a reduction of 7mm in overall length, 5mm in stroke and a softer set-up due to the reduction of weight thanks to the updated exhaust system. The softer settings improved shock absorption early in the stroke to help improve grip. The rear suspension was unchanged from the previous model, with a four-way adjustable Showa shock. For 2012, the Bridgestone S20 tyres were fitted.
The electronically controlled steering damper was retained, as were the adjustable rearsets, handlebars and controls. The front axle was 38.9grams lighter than previous and had a threaded nut rather than a bolt as per previous models.
The fairings overall styling was retained, with overlapping upper and lower sections and large outlets either side of the engine. The graphics covered more of the surface and the wheels were pinstriped. The trick stacked headlights were retained, as were the integrated mirror indicators. The rear lights were new and featured LED stacks that reduce weight. The seats (both passenger and rider) were high grip leather designed to allowed the rider to be more smooth and stable.
The 2012 dash had a new black dial incorporated into the analogue tacho. LCD readouts included an odometer, dual trip meters, reserve trip meter, clock, brightness adjustability, coolant temp, oil warning indicator, drive mode selected, gear position speed, rpm, shift lights and a lap timer.
2022 and what you get?
From 2009 through to 2017 Suzuki used the same short stroke 74.5 mm × 57.3mm engine in the 1000, with so any of that era will have similar character. But it’s the 2012 to 2016 model that has the more updates and you can pick one up these days for anywhere between $11,000 for a high mileage unit to $13,000 for a low mile stunner. They have really held their value and only dropped an average of 20 per cent in their new price in an entire decade…
Still, you are looking at another ten grand for a new one so you are getting a lot of bike for the money and we don’t see them dropping in value any time soon, only going up in the future… Most have around 30,000km on them and are as reliable as a freight train.
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Specifications
New Price: $17,990 + ORC
Colours: Blue/White, Black
Claimed power: 136kW[184hp]@11,500rpm
Claimed torque: 117Nm[84.2ft-lbs]@10,000rpm
Wet weight: 203kg
Fuel capacity: 17.5L, 4.6L reserve
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve, inline four-cylinder, four-stroke, 74.5 x 57.3mm, 999cc, 12.9:1, EFI, Wet, multi-plate slipper clutch
Gearbox: Six speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet multi-disc, slippe
Chassis: Twin-spar aluminium, cast aluminium swingarm
Rake: 23.5 degrees
Suspension: Front: Dual inverted 43mm Showa BPF, fully adjustable, 118mm travel
Rear: Showa monoshock, fully adjustable, 130mm travel
Brakes: Front: Dual 310mm rotors, four-piston radial mount Brembo monoblock calipers
Rear: Single 220mm rotor with single-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Cast alloy, 3.50 x 17in, 6.00 x 17in, Bridgestone S20 120/70 – 17, 190/50 – 17
Seat height: 810mm
Overall height: 1130mm
Overall length: 2045mm
Instruments: Multi-function display
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