If you're a regular here then you may have noticed that I'm partial to the occasional GSX-R. 600s through to 1000s have been reviewed on this site, and somehow I've always been the lucky guy to do it. Despite having the opportunity to lay my hands on some pretty special motorbikes, I've always found myself giving my own hard-earned to my local Suzuki emporium and hooning off into the sunset on a GSX-R 750 of some sort or another.
So with that in mind, how would the current incarnation of the GSX-R 750 stand up to its illustrious forebears?
For some strange reason, this is still the only sports 750 on the market. The capacity used to dominate sales as the smallest proper bike, but now buyers are seduced by the bigger numbers offered by litre class machinery, even though the 750 is still faster than they will ever be able to manage anyway. Perhaps it's not helped by the fact that, visually at least, there is no difference at all between the 750 and the 600. Perhaps the lack of a proper championship class holds it back. Either way, a class of motorbike that should logically be dominating the roads all over Europe remains woefully under-represented.
It's probably worth reminding you at this point that Suzuki, unlike some of the other manufacturers, tend to run their models essentially unchanged for at least two years. So the only difference between the 2008 and 2009 models is the colour of the rear footpeg hangers. And even that isn't a reliable indicator. Things have been hard in the market overall this year, and Suzuki actually didn't import any true 2009 models until very late in the year to allow their dealers to shift stock of the 2008 ones. It isn't that the bike hasn't sold well, just that it hasn't sold as many (and nobody else has either, that's the problem) as Suzuki expected. Though as a market percentage the 750 continues to plough a lonely but successful furrow.
For starters, let's look at the bike. In fact, let's compare it directly to the K6 that we tested last and see what's changed. It's fair to say that at a glance the only obvious change is the exhaust, which has grown considerably in stature and decreased in aesthetic appeal. The reason is quire simple. To move enough gas to make the engine run at its best while remaining within legally constrained noise limits, the can needed to get considerably larger. That cute little stubby on the K6, while looking great, wasn't very efficient. Which will be why any aftermarket cans you could get were much bigger, then. I know I've said it before, but it's as true now as before. The can looks much better in the flesh. It's big, yes, but it's nicely made and it's titanium so it looks reasonably trick. And surprisingly it weighs no more than an aftermarket one, either.
Moving to the other end, the other obvious change is the headlight, which is much wider to accommodate the three bulbs - a central projector-type dip beam and a conventional high beam on either side. Really, the other cosmetic changes are pretty minor. The fairing is slightly different, of course, because of the headlight. It's slimmer, yet fatter. Doesn't make sense to me really, either. But from some angles there's distinctly less of it, while from others there's definitely more. It works well enough, anyway, managing to look sufficiently businesslike and svelte to keep the GSX-R at the good looking end of the Japanese sportsbike market. And that's about it.
Until you get on. Because there's something odd on the right handlebar. Yes, the power mode switch, up until now the sole preserve of the litre-bike brigade, has found its way onto the 750. I'll come back to it. For now, just accept that it's there, OK? From the seat, it's pure GSX-R. Well it would be, wouldn't it? Everything is perfectly placed for comfort and performance, and there are enough toys to keep people happy without distracting from the real business of riding. As we've come to expect, the mirrors are reasonably spaced and work better than you can reasonably expect on a sports bike. The levers are in the right position out of the box, and the brake lever is easily adjustable for reach, which though common enough these days is still nice. The seat, again as we've come to expect, is fairly spacious and there's a reasonable amount of legroom as well. Perhaps you could go a fair distance on this. Thinking about it, we've said that about the last few GSX-Rs we've tested as well. Suzuki seem resolutely determined to keep their flagship sportsbikes practical, and that's something for which we should be grateful.
Starting the beast, again as normal with Suzuki, requires the clutch to be held in. No problem there, and the starter circuit also chops the lights until the engine fires to preserve battery power. Seems obvious, I know, but you'd be surprised how many bikes and cars don't have this obvious tweak and get flat batteries on cold dark mornings as a result. Anyway, fire it up and the resulting noise is quite a pleasant surprise. It may have a huge exhaust and pay all due respect to EU regulations, but this is still a GSX-R and it still sounds like one. Throttle response is crisp and the tacho needle has an urgency that no amount of regulation will dim.
Then we come onto that button on the right. Let's get it over with, shall we? because Suzuki's mode control is, frankly, a complete waste of time. It's vaguely useful on the snarling GSX-R 1000, where the ability to tame the ferocious amount of power and torque with more than just the right wrist and some basic riding skill can occasionally be an absolute godsend. Though I'm pushed to think of when, in all honesty. I guess in the recent snow and ice it might have helped, though even the limited power left available would still be enough to spit you off in those conditions. Anyway, the 750 doesn't have the monster torque and power of the 1000, and really doesn't need the mode switch. The standard, full power position gives you exactly that. Full power. The middle setting, Mode B, gives you essentially the same sort of power as a 600. But without the rev-hungriness. Or the fun, to be honest. It just feels flat. And Mode C, the lowest power mode, feels as though some joker has pulled a couple of plug leads off and stuck a sock in the air intake. So just don't touch that button. I'll not mention it again.
Enough talking now, lets ride.
The clutch is typically Japanese light, and first engages with the gentle snick we've come to know and love with Suzuki gearboxes. Pulling away is utterly fuss free, the engine giving a reasonable amount of low down grunt. Certainly enough to get moving without needing vast amounts of clutch slip, anyway. The riding position turns out to be as comfortable as first suspicions suggested, and the mirrors do indeed work for seeing the world behind, as well as your elbows. So far so good, then. The standard electronic steering damper (that's another change from the K6) is light and unobtrusive at low speed, only firming up as you get faster. It's remarkably good for a standard fitment item.
Riding through traffic may not be what most people have in mind when they buy a GSX-R, but it's a sad fact of life that, at some point, you're going to have to. So it's a distinct advantage that this particular GSX-R is quite happy commuting through the rush hour. It's narrow enough that filtering is a doddle, and you can reach the mirrors easily to fold them back for those even tighter moments. Throttle response is ideal for this sort of work, and the brakes are both powerful and sensitive. Steering lock is compromised by the fact that this is a sportsbike, but it's still pretty good. In fact the only thing that really lets the Suzuki down is common to just about every sportsbike we get to ride. The horn is pathetic.
No matter how good the GSX-R is in town, though, it really belongs on the open road. And here it truly shines. Because there isn't the huge torque of a litrebike, the power is far more accessible without as much fear of flipping or highsiding your way into casualty. That's not to say that the 750 is slow or in any way weedy. It isn't. Simply that you can open the throttle harder and earlier and generally take more liberties than you might otherwise expect to get away with. And it shows in point to point times, where the 750 is genuinely as quick as anything else out there. You can carry more speed, accelerate with more commitment and, most importantly, leave yourself a bigger safety margin with this bike than any litrebike I've ridden so far. The handling, nimble and easy in town, becomes sure and predictable once the speed picks up. The 750 is easy to turn and sticks to your chosen line beautifully but doesn't ever feel flighty or overdamped. There's enough power to get you out of the slowest junction to silly speeds in no time at all, should that be your thing, and the brakes are as up to the job out here as they are in town. The noise, too, gets better as you start to explore the upper end of the rev range. And it was pretty good before.
I have also been lucky enough to take a GSX-R 750 on the track. It's like being on the open road, but better. Handling proved to be better yet when speeds really got pushed, the brakes were easily up to the job, even losing lots of speed for Mallory Park's hairpin, and the slipper clutch showed that yes, actually these things do have a use on a road bike. Even if it's only on the track that they really come into their own.
Just to make sure that the test was complete, I threw a bag on the back and went off for a weekend. Yes, it's a sportsbike and as such the touring experience isn't as luxurious as it might be. But it's perfectly viable, regardless. You genuinely can carry enough luggage for a week or two away (hell, do it right and you can carry enough for a lifetime away) and you can get to your destination without needing the urgent, and full time, attentions of a chiropractor. Fuel consumption is pretty reasonable, with a comfortable cruising speed giving a tank range of around 130 miles, which is also around the time you should expect to want a break of some sort anyway, if you're being remotely sensible. If you're not being remotely sensible then tank range is rather less.
To sum up, then, the GSX-R 750 is a genuinely brilliant all round bike. Though looks are subjective, I think it's stunning. It is faster than I am, and unless you're a professional superbike or MotoGP racer then it's faster than you, too. It handles as well as I could possibly ask, and on the track it's right up there with RS250s and Buell Firebolts as the best cornering bike there is. Though the standard tyres are a little suspect at times, and would benefit from being replaced as soon as practical. It's real-world usable, comfortable and forgiving enough to use as everyday transport. Yet it still managed to press my buttons in ways that very few bikes do, every day, every time I got on it. It's also astonishingly good value for money, being cheaper to insure and run than a 1000 by some way, as well as saving a chunk on the initial purchase price.
The final accolade is a simple one. When I needed to replace my last bike after it got nicked, the shortlist of replacements, despite the exotica I get to play with (and, to be fair, the excellent deals on offer elsewhere), rapidly dwindled to one bike. Yes, I bought a GSX-R 750 K9. With my own money. You should seriously consider doing the same.