Which GSX-R should you buy?

Suzuki caused a tectonic shift in the motorcycle industry with the GSX-R750 and 35 years later the name still a sure-bet go-to for riders with racing aspirations. Any of the Gixxers – the 1000, 750 and 600 – are bikes capable for fast times on the track right out of the store.

The Bikes That Shook the World

The 1000 aka "the kilo"

The top “kilo” (1000) model pumps out 199 HP and propels the 445 lb bike to a top speed of 186 MPH. It has fully adjustable suspension, engine mappings, 10-level traction control and Suzuki’s latest 6-way inertial measurement unit for a fine-tuned fit to road and track conditions. For an additional $2,099 on top of the base $15,600 trim there is the GSX-R1000 R, with upgrades helping its rider shave off additional tenths off of the lap time: launch control, adjustable swingarm pivot, raec-quality suspension, a lighter battery and steel-braided brake hoses.

Suzuki GSX-R model lineup guide
- image 874682
2020 GSXR 1000

Carefully developed over the years, the GSX-R1000 is beloved for its reliability, dependability and predictability, even if it lags technologically behind most of the rivals in the superbike segment. It is also more affordable.

The 600 aka track weapon

The lightest of the true Gixxers, the GSX-R 600, comes at $11,399. It is also basically a bike for the track much more than the open road, probably more so than the bigger cousins due to its narrower power range. A lightweight of 412 lbs, it spews out 125 HP but requires a handful at the throttle, because the delivery happens only at high revs. Those capable of keeping the power on will enjoy the compact, hard, nimble and surgically precise motorcycle. But, again, the joy with it comes on the track much more readily than on the street.

Suzuki GSX-R model lineup guide
- image 773187
The Bikes That Shook the World
2018 GSXR 750

The 600 supersport class is not as fiercely competitive as the liter category and the GSX-R600 lives on comfortably as the motorcycle of choice for riders seeking exactly what Suzuki’s philosophy seems to have been over the past two decades: evolution instead of revolution and dependability instead of charisma.

The 750 aka the "middle-ground"

The GSX-R-750 is the oldest of the Gixxers. It’s direct predecessor was the one Suzuki unveiled first back in 1985 and the present model is the longest-running available without any significant changes. Outside of organized racing categories, the three-quarter-liter woos with a compromise combining the best of the high-strung 600s and the insanely powerful liter models. The engine delivers 148 HP across a far broader band than the 600 while weighing a mere 7 lbs more. Basically unchanged since 2011 and out of production in much of the world because it doesn’t meet strict emission rules, it lacks the state-of-the art gadgetry, but offers a classical race feel for just $12,499.

Suzuki GSX-R model lineup guide
- image 773710
2019 GSXR 600

The 750 Gixxer is the lone rider in the outdated category – no other factory produces a rival bike - but its qualities and affordability keep it in US showrooms for those seeking an uncategorized ride for the track or just a very powerful, if not a widely usable motorcycle for the road.

History

When Suzuki unveiled the GSX-R 750 in 1985, it created an earthquake in the industry. For more than a year the factory closely worked with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) to develop an all-new motorcycle that didn’t just look more a racing motorcycle than any other before it, but actually was as close to one as laws and construction costs allowed.

In fairness, the nearly equally iconic RG250 Gamma from 1983 needs to be mentioned as Suzuki’s first street-legal race bike with an aluminum frame, but a small two-stroke and far outside the four-stroke, big-displacement mainstream.

The GSX-R was far lighter than any other motorcycle in the segment and pumped out more power. For instance, with 388 lbs. it was just 24 above the minimum weight for race motorcycles and was 160 lbs. lighter than the most popular sport motorcycle of the time, Honda’s VF750F. At the same time, it delivered 107 HP, 16 more than the VF and reached the 160 MPH mark. Light and short, it was agile but also somewhat nervous at high speed in spite of 18-inch rims front and rear.

In order to achieve the stunning power-to-weight ratio, Suzuki used an all-aluminum, square-section frame and developed a compact oil-cooled engine. The muffler was a 4-in-1 one, both to spare weight and for the looks. Ready to go, it weighed 201 kilograms (443 lbs.), just a kilo above the limit set as development began.

The Gixxer also featured thick 43 mm forks and a novel rear shock linkage, top-shelf brakes and a fairing - all with double round headlights up front - that strongly resembled the factory endurance race bike of the time. The seat was split with the pillion elevated to provide support for the rider during acceleration.

The GSX-R specs forced rival makers into a scramble to deliver an answer, but it took years before a similarly influential model made it to the market, possibly Honda’s CBR 900 Fireblade in 1992.

Evolution

Suzuki continued nurturing its GSX-R sub-brand over the following 28 years, sometimes taking a wrong turn, but never long enough to tarnish the image of the sub-brand.

The 750 went through many changes, some substantial, some facelifts, until the final edition in 2011, which is still produced and sold in some countries, including the United States. The first major overhaul came in 1988: a whole new motor with 112 HP, modern 17-inch rims. Two years later, Suzuki unveiled the perhaps most-loved 3/4-liter, the "L" model, the first with inverted forks. In 1991, the GSX-R 750 was fitted with a liquid-cooled motor and a new five-sided frame.

By 1996, the GSX-R was falling behind some of its rivals, but then Suzuki unveiled the essentially all-new SRAD, with a modern twin-beam frame, the boosted to 128 HP and the weigh cut back to the arch-GSX-R level, but without the high-speed wobbles. With the 2000 "Y" model, the GSX-R lost the dual headlights.

With the K designation launched with the new millennium, the K4 – 2004 – was essentially a 750 wrapped into the body of the GSX-R 600. The weight went down to 360 lbs and power up to 130 HP. Since 2006 the 750 took on the design of the kilo-Gixxer and the power output reached 150 HP, the domain reserved for 1000 cc or larger motorcycles just a few years earlier. Following several facelifts and tweaks and a seven-year wait for the next big update, out came the K13, 17 lbs slimmer, with engine selectable mapping, Brembo brakes and more compact than ever.

With the supersport motorcycles market in decline and tougher emission criteria coming into effect in 2016, Suzuki stopped developing the GSX-R 750 and discontinued it in Europe, but it remains available in the United States.

Boris Babic
About the author

Related Articles

2020 Suzuki GSX-R1000

2015 - 2018 Suzuki GSX-R750

2015 - 2019 Suzuki GSX-R600

What do you think?
Show Comments
Motorcycle Finder: