GSX-R 750 K4 on the road

Words and Pictures by Simon Bradley

*Click on pictures to enlarge*

The sportsbike community falls, it would seem, into three camps. The very bravest of you will, even now, be girding your loins and preparing to do battle with the fearsome beast that is a 1000cc superbike. The purest at heart will be doing your ankle exercises in anticipation of the forthcoming workout you’ll be getting dancing up and down your 600’s gearbox.

And the smartest of you all will be eagerly awaiting the delivery of your new 750.

As seems to be the norm these days, there is virtually no difference in appearance between the 2004 GSX-R 750 and its baby brother. Indeed, peel the graphics off and even the cognoscenti would be stuck to tell the difference. Both sport the latest in radial calipers (more on which later) bolted to serious looking upside down forks. Both have stacked headlights and a new LED tail light, and both have classy black frames with very meaty swingarms. In fact, the only visible difference is the tacho, which redlines at a pedestrian 14,000rpm on the 750 as opposed to the frenetic 15,500rpm of the 600.

So it may come as some surprise to hear that these two outwardly near identical bikes give a massively different riding experience. As soon as you press the button the 750 seems much more purposeful. Despite the enormous exhaust can with its inbuilt catalyst, there is a pleasing edge to the noise. Induction roar is more apparent too, and a brief blip on the throttle reveals the same hard edged bark that the previous 750 had. Now bearing in mind that this bike is a dealer demonstrator and had just five miles on the clock when I collected it, the motor still spun eagerly and promised lots of fun after a few miles loosening up.

It goes without saying that a 750 will offer rather more bottom end and midrange than a 600, and this is no exception. Despite the engine modifications, which all point towards top end rush rather than flexibility, the new GSX-R is extremely rideable, with plenty of urge throughout the available rev range (nominally just half the entire range for the first running in period) and a very strong hint of phenomenal performance just the other side of that initial 7,000 rpm running in threshold. By the end of the test we’d managed to accumulate enough miles to allow things to hot up a bit and things got very interesting indeed. Although still way short of being fully run in, this is a very quick bike indeed. And not just at the top end either, although power does build very distinctly as things start turning quicker.

But what makes the GSX-R 750 so effective is the ability to ride unfamiliar roads fast and safely without having to be totally committed. The handling is simply sublime, allowing high corner speeds with lots of margin for adjustment, while the flexible motor keeps things moving along at a merry pace. The real ace in the hole, though, is the brakes. Quite simply these are the best brakes I have ever encountered on a roadbike. They offer tremendous stopping potential but are incredibly sensitive at the same time. Despite being apparently the same as the 600, they are an order of magnitude better. And the 600 is pretty damn’ good in itself. To put it into perspective, in the torrential rain I was treated with this afternoon someone decided to park their 4x4 across a roundabout in front of me. I found myself doing an emergency stop in a puddle about an inch deep. No fuss, no drama, just enough feel to judge exactly how much grip I had (not much) and how much braking in reserve (loads). The Bridgestone 014 tyres obviously played their part as well, but the brakes are truly confidence inspiring.

Perhaps the fantastic brakes are a result of some subtle suspension tweaks, because the 750 feels more planted than the 600 and seems to turn in better, especially if you’ve gone into a corner a little hot and are having to brake deeper than usual. Now at road speeds that won’t mean much but on the track it should translate to this bike being the one to beat this year. In fact I’ll make a bet, here and now. I’ll wager that at trackdays up and down the land, the ‘fast boys’ on their litre bikes will be sitting in the pits scratching their heads and wondering why they can’t lap as quickly as this 750. Not only will it be pretty nearly as quick on the straights, a half decent rider will be at least as quick round the corners, will be on the brakes later going in and on the throttle earlier coming out.

There isn’t a great deal to say about the ergonomics of the bike, especially having reviewed the 600 just a couple of weeks ago. It’s comfortable enough to ride all day, the fairing works well enough to keep the worst of the rain off (and the frame rails get warm enough to get some feeling back into your fingers as well) and the mirrors, while hardly panoramic, are at least adequate to see what’s coming up. As is usually the case with Suzukis, the gearbox is as sweet as you like, the lights are fine and the horn is present but not exactly inspirational.

I’ve always felt that one of the things that separates the great from the merely very good, at least as far as bikes are concerned, is the ease with which you can ride under all conditions. Some bikes are fantastic full on sports bikes, some are great tourers while others are fine all rounders that really don’t excel at anything. But the GSX-R 750 is a great bike to just ride. It felt better and better as I started to push harder, relying on corner speed and midrange rather than the forbidden upper zone of the tacho. But at the same time it felt wonderful sitting back and bimbling through the countryside looking for good photo locations. And when the heavens broke and it hailed, snowed and dumped torrential, freezing rain on me then the GSX-R made a surprisingly capable motorway tourer. It’s a great bike.

GSX-Rs have always been the weapon of choice for the discerning hooligan. With a genuine track heritage, the GSX-R 750 in particular is renowned as a bit of a headbanger. And rightly so, too – there is something about the character of the bike that makes you try just a little harder, makes you brake a little deeper and get on the power a little earlier. It may not make you Kevin Schwantz but it gives you just a bit of his attitude. Now that 750s have been abandoned on the racing scene, Suzuki are the only company who have persisted with a sports 750. And they say they always will, claiming that the GSX-R 750 is almost a brand in itself. Which is all well and good, providing that they don’t end up making a shallow caricature of the original bike – brand and image over substance and performance – but carry on making the GSX-R what it should be. A proper sportsbike.

If this incarnation is anything to go by, Suzuki feel the same way. The best GSX-R so far? You better believe it.

Thanks to Premier Suzuki in West Wickham - 020 8777 8040 - for the loan of their demonstrator. You really ought to give them a call, book a test ride and bring your wallet. Because if you try it, you'll buy it...

Read external Suzuki GSX-R750 reviews on ciao.


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