2007 Suzuki GSX-R 1000
Jumping the Shark
Phillip Island, Australia
February 8, 2007
Once upon a time there was a TV show called “Happy Days”. This romanticized vision of the 1950s (devoid, for instance, of: red scares, ruthless conformity and systemic racism) was widely regarded for its fresh and uplifting tales of a simpler time. At one point in the show a new character was introduced into the story line. That character rode a motorcycle and wore a black leather jacket. Although ‘the Fonz’ was supposed to be only around for one episode he quickly became one of the stars of the show.
On one dark day the writers of the show ran out of ideas. They were dry. They smoked cigarettes, drank coffee, and threw darts but nothing came of it. There was no new high school dilemma they could rehash, no moral crisis to be solved by doing the right thing, no more good-natured sibling tension to exploit. Grasping for straws the team of writers used the last plot device that was possibly open to them. They would have the Fonz use his trusty Triumph to jump a shark in a tank.
“Jumping the shark” henceforth is colloquially known as the dreaded moment where the ideas run out and one turns to the realm of the absurd to continue the franchise.
It is difficult to get a solid feel out of the handling when the bike
is spinning the rear and floating the front.
The 2007 GSX-R 1000 has jumped the shark. This is not to say that the bike is not an impressive piece of equipment but it is telling when the new bike has significant weight gain and the most notable new feature is a switch on the handle bar that makes the bike slower. Yes, you read that correctly. You now have the option of buying a badass, lay-a-rubber-road-straight-to-freedom sport bike secure in the knowledge that you can, with the flick of a switch, significantly reduce its power output. This is what the market place has been demanding? Really? Just how have you GSX-R purchasers been filling out those new bike questionnaires? I always put down that I would be happier with my GSX-R if I didn’t have to change the 3-4th gear cluster every four races and the valve train would last longer than 30 hours. Which one of you put “A switch to make the bike slower”?
This assessment is cruel. Cruel, but fair.
The first appearance of a left side muffler on a GSX-R in history.
The OEMs have painted themselves into a bit of a corner with the constant revisions and updates of motorcycles. One unintended by-product of the two-year redesign schedule is that, while many people will purchase a new motorcycle in its first production year, few will purchase in its second year because they know that a new one will be coming out shortly. This puts a great deal of pressure on the manufacturers to release a new model even if they do not really have a lot of new features to go with it.
The 2007 GSX-R is a very nice and capable motorcycle. It has slightly higher peak horsepower output (4%) at a higher RPM (12,000 instead of 11,000) with more over-rev which may benefit a couple of liter bike racers with ever so slightly improved lap times at a couple of tracks. This increase in power will, of course, be totally irrelevant in 99.999% of street riding. The big drawback is the 13.2 lb increase in weight of the bike. Although the technicians were a little cagey about where this weight was located it seemed like most of it was attributed to a heavier exhaust system required for the both stricter emissions standards and to squeak this power output through regulatory noise testing.
Just think, there were many drawings proposed for various exhaust systems
and this was the best one. Makes you wonder what the ugly ones looked like?
This catalytic converter is part of the additional 13.2 pounds.
This may mean that with a $1,000 after market exhaust system the 2007 would get back to the fighting weight of the 2006 but the same $1,000 spent on an 2006 would probably maintain the weight advantage for the earlier model. Street GSX-R riders will, therefore, have scant reason to trade in their rides and most racers will be able to turn the same lap times on their prepped ’06 as with a prepped ’07.
The most inexplicable piece of equipment on the 2007 was the “mode” switch. The Suzuki- Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) allows the rider to choice between three (A, B, C) power band characteristic for the engine. The A mode is a full power mode which is very similar to the power band of the 2006 with the aforementioned 4% increase in top end. The B modes and C modes offer less horsepower. The B mode guts the mid-range while retaining the peak power and the C guts the mid-range and restricts top-end power as well.
This switch retards the ignition and retards the rate of opening of the secondary butterflies.
That would make this the “Retard” button.
The B and C modes offer this service through two mechanisms: slowing the rate at which the secondary throttle butterflies open and retarding the ignition timing. In both restricted modes (B, C) the engine control unit slows the rate at which secondary throttle butterflies open making the bike feel sluggish and unresponsive. I found myself constantly leading the engine with the throttle waiting for the engine to catch up. In C mode it felt like a flat 750 but with the weight of the liter bike, the worst of both worlds. Why anyone who has any business sitting on a liter class sport bike would want to have the mode in any position but A is beyond me. Various scenarios were put forth such as “rain” or “worn tires”. I discounted both of those by offering that the motorcycle already has a very effective way of controlling the amount of power flowing to the rear wheel called a “throttle” which varies the power by allowing more air to flow into the engine. This is controlled by the rider’s wrist. If the rider does not want the responsibility of controlling 160 odd bhp then maybe said rider should buy a bike with a smaller engine and enjoy the benefits of lighter weight as well.
Perhaps there will be some aftermarket means of altering the stock maps which will allow for alternate tunings that are more aggressive but even that seems like it would have limited practical application.
In A mode the bike is, of course, crisp and powerful with an incredible top end rush. Phillip Island has a combination of long sweeping turns, some elevation changes and a couple of tight turns. The pavement is very grippy but has some ripples and texture to it from racecars and direct exposure to the Tasman Sea. The last bikes I rode at Phillip Island were the GSX-R 600 and 750 one year ago.
The 1000’s outstanding characteristic is its engine. All other aspects of the riding experience pale by comparison. The Bridgestone tires were pretty good for about eight laps, after which the rear wheel spin would become less controllable. When I say less controllable I mean to say that the rear wheel is spinning to some degree any time the throttle is opened. The bike handles this spinning, for the most part, with aplomb but it also means that the bike never really settles into a line since the rear is often a little out of line with the front.
With the stock suspension settings the bike felt over sprung and nervous. We added four clicks of rebound to the forks, one to the rear, dropped the front ride height (using the ‘preload’ adjusters) 5mm and took out some of th e high speed compression damping in the forks (the bike now comes with high and low speed compression adjusters on the forks which is pretty damn cool). These changes allowed me to get a little more feel for the front tire through the high speed rippled sweepers but the bike never really gave that 100% confidence feeling. The 750, by contrast, could be thrown aggressively into those turns with a much higher degree of precision and consistency. The 1000 handles well for a liter bike but it lacks the precise consistency of the 750.
Just because it’s a 1000 doesn’t mean you can’t corner it, just not as comfortably as on a 750.
Corners, of course, are not really what liter bikes are all about. Liter bikes are about shoulder dislocating, tire chunking acceleration and this bike delivers in spades. Adding yet another black line to the track exiting onto the front straight lets the bike show its true colors. The engine screamed as the rear spin picked up speed and the wind blast forced my helmet under the bubble. I had to time the shift to forth just right over the rise onto the front straight; if I hit it at the wrong time the bike shift would induce a high speed wobble against which the electronically compensated steering damper felt woefully inadequate. Catching fifth gear (which required a little more attention than I prefer to ensure that the shift took) while still under the bubble masked the acceleration to some degree. That meant that sitting up into the wind blast for turn one crushed my helmet back into my face. Even though my brain was telling me that the speedo was at least ten percent optimistic it was a little unsettling to catch the numerals 299 kph (about 180) out of the corner of my eye as turn one approached.
You don’t demand anything of this motorcycle, you gently suggest that it does what you want it to do
but if it wants to run wide, let it eat.
Turn one is no brakes (or just grazing them) on a 600 or 750 but the liter bike’s additional speed and not quite confident feeling front end urged a firm application of the excellent radial calipers and, since the bike has a great slipper clutch, dropping a gear as well. The slipper clutch is now hydraulically activated. Many times hydraulic clutches lack the required adjustability to get a good lever engagement point. I like to clutch with only two fingers to be able to leave the rest of them to grip the bar (sort of the opposite of two finger braking). This clutch could just accommodate that riding style with the lever adjusted all the way out.
The GSX-R’s engine was mannered enough to lull me into a false sense of security. It felt like the engine was using a different ignition map in second gear allowing for aggressive throttling out of slow speed turns without undue spinning. Similar enthusiastic antics in third or fourth would cause the rear to lose enough traction to get the bike into the 3-7 degree out of line position in which it spent most of its time. Similar acceleration on a nine lap old rear tire would result in “oh fuck” moments with full visions of a cartwheeling bike, scattering sea gulls and long bumpy rides to an Australian ER.
That long sweeper in front of the Tasman Sea is ‘Hayshed’, the toothiest turn on the track, the bike in the
foreground is just braking.
The 2007 GSX-R 1000 is, of course, a potent, capable and powerful motorcycle and will be, as usual, a strong contender in the new liter bike market place. It is not a giant step forward over the earlier generations and current GSX-R 1000 riders and racers will probably be well served to just keep what they have.
The USA doesn’t get the yellow or the black one because apparently only Yamaha can sell black motorcycles
in the U.S.(KAW?)
The Shark Tank:
The engine layout remains largely unchanged so the improved power output is generated from a number of small changes. The intake port grew 10% and the exhaust port, 20%. Exhaust valve lift increased to 8.9mm and the exhaust tappet diameter increased 2mm to 26mm. The new motor comes stock with iridium spark plugs. The 2007’s eight fuel injectors are fitted with 12 finer diameter holes vs. the previous iteration’s 4-hole configuration, offering better fuel atomization for improved combustion efficiency. The more aggressive top end architecture increases power at the very top of the RPM band but slightly reduces the mid-range. This bike has plenty of tire spinning mid-range to begin with so the slight decrease is not noticeable.
GSX-R 1000 at Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia.
Pressure equalization vent holes between the cylinders increased in size from 39mm to 48mm, reducing power loss due to crankcase pressure and contributing to the new model’s maximum power output at 12,000 rpm vs. the previous model’s 11,000 rpm. The traditionally trapezoidal radiator is 16mm wider at the top, 16mm wider at the bottom, and 160 grams lighter, delivering an increase in cooling efficiency of 1.1kw without the aerodynamic detriment of a larger frontal area. The oil pump was enlarged to handle a 10.5% greater pumping volume over the previous model year.
“You think you have a lot more time in Lukey (sp?) Heights right up to the point you are sliding on your head.”
– advice from Bridgestone rep and local racer.
A hydraulic clutch actuator replaces the cable-operated actuator for predictable clutch feel and engagement of the slightly tweaked slipper clutch which has wider drive cams with smaller angled faces combined with more reaction springs (4 as opposed to 3) for a more reliable back-torque-limiting clutch.
Unchanged for the 2007 engine are the titanium valves; the Suzuki Exhaust Tuning (SET) system which utilizes an ECM-controlled valve in the exhaust to either improve low- and mid-range power or ensure the bike passes noise and emissions restriction laws, or both; the oil cooler; transmission internal gear ratios; and the Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material (SCEM) cylinder plating.
The ’07 gets a new frame made of five cast aluminum sections which are welded together claiming to improve the handling and reduce weight by 200 grams. The swingarm is no longer stamped aluminum but is now also die cast. The die casting allowed the engineers to tune the wall thickness of the swingarm precisely to tune the side flex characteristics. The new swingarm is also 200 grams lighter. The rear axle is positioned 10mm further back in the swingarm effectively lengthening the wheelbase in stock trim.
The high and low speed compression adjuster are sure to baffle 99.99% of the riders out there but it is
indicative of how sophisticated the suspension has become on these bikes.
The rear linkage gets a completely revised layout (as does the oil pan) to make clearance for the sizeable and corpulent catalytic converter that is the matte black canister just in front of the rear wheel. The exhaust is completed with two aesthetically dubious mufflers.
This engine can produce prodigious amounts of power and heat. These radiators can dump it. We are all
jaded to titanium header pipes coming stock on motorcycles so we will not deign to mention them.
The front suspension retains the diamond like coating on the fork sliders and gains adjustable high speed and low speed compression damping. In short the high speed is for sharp bumps and the low speed is used to tune out oscillations and the like. I took out some low-speed damping to reduce the front wheel’s immediate reaction to small surface irregularities. Even after reducing the compression damping the bike felt a little over sprung in both front and rear for my 165lbs but then, it has to be able to carry a passenger in stock trim for its GVWR.
Suzuki has fitted an electrically compensated steering damper to the bike. This increases the resistance on the damper as the speed increases. I love the idea of these speed compensated dampers because it offers the promise of light handling at lower speeds without the terrifying tank slappers. In this application it would have been nice to be able to turn the damper to eleven because a couple of spots on the track required careful timing of upshifts to avoid sending the bike into an electrically compensated head shake.
The footpegs can be bolted into one of three positions. From the default selection you can either lower them 14mm or move them back 14mm. For my 5’ 10” frame the lower setting offered some degree of relief for my knees. As with all GSX-Rs it is a simple affair to reverse the shift pattern from street to GP.
Adjustable foot peg placements are tasteful, sensible and cheap to do.
The GSX-R is cleaner breathing than all its ancestors. Some of the weight gain for the bike can be attributed to this collection of emissions gear. There is a large catalytic converter under the bike, a new idle valve controlled by the ECU to maintain a proper idle at all engine speeds and the now familiar PAIR system which allows the exhaust pulse to suck fresh air into the exhaust pipe to continue combustion and reduce emissions.
The GSX-R is available (worldwide) in five colors and only in the U.S. for the low price of $11,399.00