As I approach the line of bikes in the garages ahead of me, I am taken aback by the fact that I; a club racer, enthusiast, and forum administrator have been invited to take part in the 2012 media release event at Homestead Miami Speedway representing www.Gixxer.com
. The lineup of bikes in front of me is nothing short of amazing.
You see, I am not a journalist, not at this point at least, but here I am looking at a row of around a dozen brand new, fresh out of the crate 2012 GSXR 1000s, wearing the latest race rubber from Bridgestone. The bikes are set up and ready to go for some of the nation’s most well-known moto-journalists. I am here to test ride the 5th generation of the bike that has won 37 national titles in the last ten years. That is quite a pedigree, and I am honored to be here.
Looking at the bike, a casual observer would think it has received nothing more than the all too familiar “BNG” treatment, and little else. But upon further inspection there is much more new on the bike than just some fancy new graphics.
Aesthetically the bodywork is essentially the same. There are some new graphics for the bike, as is standard practice, as well as some new highlights. The wheels have a red wheel stripe with a small “S” accent to tie the red on the side fairing and the red on the new calipers together. The gauges now are a black background to be more pleasing to the eye. Also, the seat has a slightly new texture to it to improve seated grip. It comes in two color schemes, the traditional blue and white, and a gloss and flat black version.
The first readily noticeable difference I spot is Suzuki has taken the bike back to a single exhaust canister. At the same time, the catalytic converter has been made much smaller, and more efficient. In doing so, the smaller more efficient exhaust contributes to the majority of the 4.4lbs of weight the bike has shed over the 2011 model.
My eyes will notice next, the addition of gold Brembo monobloc calipers similar to the ones the 600 and 750 are already sporting. The calipers are slightly different from the silver ones on the smaller bikes in more ways than just color though. The rotor cut is a bit narrower in response to the thinner (down from 5.5mm to 5.0mm) Sunstar Engineering rotors the bike is now fitted with. The caliper pistons are 32-32mm and the front is still utilizing a 310mm rotor. It should be noted though, that the differences in the calipers and rotor thickness might make them incompatible for those wanting to swap them for aesthetic reasons to the 600/750.
Yet another major change for 2012 that is readily visible is it is no longer sporting the same Bridgestones it has in years past, but rather an all new tire manufactured by Bridgestone, which is designated the S20. The new S20 front tire is 200 grams lighter, and the set utilize a new compound rubber and tread design, with the intention of making the tire work over a much more broad performance range. The changes allow the tire to have improved cornering performance with a larger contact patch, as well as improvement in wet weather and low temp performance as well.
The changes continue on the front of the bike with a lighter by 38.9g front axle assembly, which now utilizes a threaded axle and nut style assembly as opposed to the hollow bolt and inner thread of the previous year. The combination of lighter calipers, rotors, tire, and axle assembly combine to counter balance the loss of the 2nd exhaust canister removed from the 2011 model, giving the 2012 bike better mass centralization.
After the technical and track briefing we make our way back to the garages, ready to ride. The track is damp, but that is of little concern right now. It is drying out, and we all need to become familiar with the bike and the track. This is a good time for me to test out the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (SDMS) which I have never had the pleasure of utilizing before. It still has all three modes (A, B, C) unlike the new generation 600 and 750 which shed the “C” mode. Some people liken the three modes to the three supersports offered by Suzuki (1000, 750, 600 respectively). I personally do not find this to be the case. The “A” mode, as always, gives you the full power of the big 1000. “B” mode softens the throttle response through the first half of the throttle opening, but once you get to full throttle opening it is sent to full power as well and is notably more powerful than the 750 this mode is often compared to. “B” mode was quite useful in the damp conditions, and while learning the bike and a new track. “C” mode softens the throttle response throughout the entire rev range, and the entire throttle opening range. I found this power cut to feel like it made the bike a bit softer hitting than a 600 through at least 2/3 of the power curve. It without a doubt has its uses, but in my opinion it might neuter the bike a bit too much for many people’s taste. Suzuki has also added a dual trigger setup to make toggling through the modes easier and more intuitive; up with the left index finger, down with the left thumb. By continuing to cycle the mode selector in either direction the program will make a full circle and loop back to the top of the menu.
As the track dried out I switched the bike to “A” mode, and it was time to find out what changes were made to the engine first hand. Earlier in the presentation we learned the bikes peak HP is unchanged for 2012. Instead careful attention was given to getting rid of the characteristic dip in the mid-range power that plagued the 2011 model. As already noted part of that was accomplished by a re-vamp of the exhaust system. Suzuki also changed the pistons for 2012, making them 11% lighter, and improving the piston crown to improve combustion, as well as raise the compression ratio from 12.8:1 to 12.9:1. To contend with the exhaust and piston changes Suzuki improved the cam profiles in such a way as to be able to keep peak and high rev range power, while improving mid-range power and torque characteristics as well. An additional change the cam improvements necessitated was a re-design of the tappet skirts, making them lighter by 2.5g each. To contend with all of the above changes, the ECU program was refined, but is functionally unchanged. Lastly, the crankcase ventilation holes between cylinders were changed to a pentagonal shape found to further reduce pumping losses and help with the low and mid-range power output, as well as fuel economy (which is up by 8%)
After a few laps I began to get more comfortable with the bike, and the track, and really started to give it a go. I was very shocked at just how easy the bike was to go fast on. I am traditionally a “600 rider”, but the bike was very confidence inspiring and shockingly easy to ride. There is no surge, or sudden power change. The bike is smooth from the bottom all the way to redline. It is so smooth it is deceivingly fast. There is no dip in the midrange or lull in the power at all. All of this lends itself to a very composed and confident bike when giving it the proverbial beans on a race track.
The chassis was extremely well sorted, only requiring some minor damping changes to contend with being pushed to a fairly fast pace, and for the race rubber we put on it. The suspension is for the most part unchanged for 2012, other than some changes in the stock settings to account for the changes in weight to the bike. As my pace increased and I dialed the bike in a bit for the tires, as well as the changing weather conditions, getting the thing stopped at the other end of the circuits 150+mph straights began to get challenging. While the changes in rotors and calipers gave very good feel, feedback, and controllability on the brakes, as the session went on the brakes started to fade a bit. The bike is extremely good out of the box, but I was asking full race performance out of a street bike. I think in every day street use, and up to the average track day rider the stock components are very good, and will offer more braking performance than most people will utilize, but if you intend for the bike to do predominately performance riding a change of pads, lines and maybe fluid would likely would be in order.
All in all I was thoroughly impressed with just how good the bike was out of the box. In around 35-40 laps on the bike, I was able to lap the 2.2mi circuit in a respectable time of 1:34. For a bike out of the crate with race rubber thrown on it, that speaks volumes of just how good of a bike it is. I fully expect to see the 2012 Suzuki GSXR 1000 to continue its dominance on the streets, in the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide, and in its superb performance on circuits around the world all the while continuing to “Own The Racetrack”.
By Joe Melendez
(For a more personal view of the release event from my eyes, see my blog at http://www.gomotojoe.com/Blog.html)