A ‘Glaring’ Issue With The 2018 GSX-250R Headlight
Driving at night isn’t my favorite thing to do – especially on a motorcycle – especially if my headlight decides to turn off mid-ride. I’m sure we’ve all driven cars that have a burnt-out headlight before, but luckily there’s a second to act as back up in addition to your brights for many layers of reassurance. Heck, my roommate has driven his car with a headlight out for almost a year now (mind you, neither of us drive at night).
The 2018 GSX-250R takes this problem and makes it 10x as dangerous as it’s a motorcycle-related problem. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a document stating that 2,040 registered in the USA could be affected.
The document includes the issue and states it as a problem regarding the bulb filament breaking prematurely. Luckily this isn’t the end of the world as Suzuki suggests taking it to the dealership to get a new bulb popped in, but we can only hope that there isn’t something beyond the bulb that is causing them to show premature signs of breaking.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to replace a lightbulb (insert how many X does it take to change a lightbulb joke here), but Suzuki recommends you still bring it to a dealership so they can keep track of the repair when dealing with the recall on their end. No worries, it’s covered under warranty even if your unit is expired.
If you ride a smaller GSX in America it’s probably worth giving the Suzuki customer service department a call and giving them your VIN to ensure you don’t own one of the bikes affected.
Last week Suzuki put out a post on their official motorcycle Instagram stating that a “superior way to ride” will be coming soon. The caption stated: “The world is getting smarter, and so is your two wheeler! Get ready for a new, smart way to ride with #SuzukiIndia.”
With the very obvious hint towards a “smarter” ride and the image attached looked like a display of some sort, we can safely assume their small-displacement motorcycles will be perhaps featuring a new smart display or something along those lines. The post was hashtagged #SuzukiIndia – and we all know India loves their small-displacement motorcycles.
Fast-forward a few days later, they continued the teaser show by releasing a video on their Instagram. The video doesn’t have any information to offer other than flashy text overlay on the video stating “Introducing a technology that lets you stay in charge. stay tuned!”. Hmmmmm, thanks, Suzuki… You’re really going out of your way to make my job easy.
Again, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this has something to do with either smartphone connectivity to their smaller bikes, or a new display giving you more information than before, or both.
In order to put out a new display, you obviously need a new motorcycle to present it on. I think we can safely assume that this new display and “technology that lets you stay in charge” (…) will be featured on a new bike. Friends over at rideapart.com speculate that they may be coming out with a slightly larger 250cc version of the bikes, so we’ll play it by ear.
Suzuki has its 100-year anniversary coming up. The motorcycle company has a limited edition GSX-R1000R that it has created for the occasion.
Only 100 of the limited-production machine will be made and the price for one of these will be £16,999 ($22,000 USD). The bike comes with a retro-inspired livery that is featured on the GSX-RR MotoGP bike. This means you get a blue slate silver color scheme that pays homage to Suzuki’s racing motorcycles.
Otherwise, the motorcycle has the same variable valve timing system and the suite of electronics that the GSX-RR has. That includes 10 traction control settings, a quick-shifter, auto-blipper, launch control, and lean-angle-sensitive ABS.
The bike has a four-stroke 100cc engine that makes 199 hp and 86.7 lb-ft of torque. It weighs 488 lbs (203 kg). It can do a 0-60 mph sprint in just three seconds.
“With just 100 of these bikes available in the UK this is a unique opportunity to own and be a part of Suzuki history. The GSX-R range, and the 1000 in particular, has long been the flagship range of sportsbikes with an illustrious history both on-road and on the race track. To mark 100 years of our Suzuki company it was only fitting to adopt the retro-inspired livery of bikes that have achieved and contributed so much to our history,” said Suzuki GB’s head of motorcycles, Jonathan Martin.
It’s fantastic to see Suzuki celebrating its 100-year anniversary with a special bike like this. The motorcycle is a special machine and anyone who’s a GSX-R fan or a sportbike fan, in general, should be pretty excited about this machine. It will be on sale in the UK next month.
To further boost interest, Suzuki has added two value cosmetic accessory packs.
The $1499 Shogun Pack brings the ride away price up to $17,749. It consists of: Two-tone seat, smoked visor, front and rear axle sliders, body decals and carbon fibre front fender, clutch cover, starter cover and alternator cover.
The $595 Samurai Pack lifts the price to $16,845 and includes: Two-tone seat, smoked visor, carbon-design tank pad and side protection decals, plus body and rim decals.
You can “build your own” Katana on the official website and clicking on the ‘Build Your Bike’ feature.
They include cruise, hill hold, slope and load-dependent braking, ride modes, traction control, leaning two-stage ABS and LED lighting.
The only thing missing is self-canceling indicators.
Otherwise, I reckon the flagship XT model is an ideal bike for touring our wide brown land in safety, comfort and style.
In fact, I reckon it’s the most stylish of all the sport adventure tourers, especially in the “Marlboro” colour scheme of my test bike. It looks like a handsome Dakar attacker!
The smooth ride-by-wire throttle and upgraded Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU) on the XT allow for the host of hi-tech functions that make sport-touring safer and more effective on just about any road surface.
However, even the first level of ABS and traction control are still a little too interventionist on dirt roads. I’d prefer a bit more brake lock and wheel spin for tighter and more controlled cornering on gravel. It would be also handy to have the ability to switch off the ABS on the back only.
Otherwise, on gravel, it’s probably best to just switch off both traction and ABS.
The front brakes are very effective and responsive but probably with a little too much initial bite for gravel roads, while the rear brake has good feel and effect.
The XT’s braking system also features Hill Hold, Slope Dependent, and Load Dependent controls.
Hill hold automatically applies the rear brake when stopped on an upward slope to prevent it from rolling back; Slope Dependent control monitors the angle of the bike on a downhill slope to prevent rear wheel lift; and Load Dependent system automatically compensates for solo riding, two-up and luggage.
Other tech features include Low RPM assist which adds some revs so you don’t snuff it when taking off at the lights and the Easy Start one-button ignition/kill switch.
At the heart of the 1050XT is the creamy mid-torque feel of the 1037cc V-twin engine that now comes with three engine modes to smooth out throttle response for low-traction surfaces.
Transmission is like most Japanese gearboxes: silky smooth, faultless, and easy to find neutral.
While the drivetrain won’t set your hair on fire, acceleration is brisk and response is crisp. Goldilocks would find it just right.
So is the handling.
Factory settings closely suit my 75kg frame. I just needed to wind off a bit of rear preload with the convenient knob on the left side of the bike.
Heavier and lighter riders should be able to adjust the rear preload and fiddle with the fully adjustable 43mm KYB inverted front forks to find a setting that would even suit Goldilocks!
Its long-travel springs provide a plush and comfortable ride across the roughest country roads. Yet it still feels agile and sharp for an adventure tourer with a big 19-inch front wheel.
The Voyager pack features aluminium panniers and top box in powder-coated black ($3599) and anodised silver ($3699).
The Trekker Pack ($6199 in black and $6299 in silver) includes Suzuki plug-and-play heated grips, LED fog lamps, and a 4mm aluminium skid plate.
Pillions will enjoy the generous-sized seat and large hand grips.
However, some riders might find their seat too short and may even get pinched on the backside by the join with the separate pillion seat.
I found it very comfortable sitting forward on the seat which narrows as it approaches the tank.
This not only makes it ideal when standing for off-road riding, but also easier to get your feet on the ground despite the high 850mm perch. I’m just over 6’ tall and can place both feet flat on the ground with a slight knee bend.
I like the standing position, but I would roll the bars forward just a fraction and I’d prefer the big rubber-covered footpegs a little further forward. The pegs also get in the way when you stop and put your foot down.
The firm vinyl seat feels comfortable at first but it does get tiring toward the end of a long day in the saddle.
While the adjustable windscreen provides plenty of chest protection, it creates a lot of wind turbulence around your head in either the low or high position. I’d either remove it or add a deflector accessory on the top.
It’s also annoying that you have to get off the bike to adjust the screen with the handle on the front.
(A word of warning: When following a truck, the windscreen creates a bit of weave at highway speed.)
Making your touring more comfortable and convenient is the cruise control with the on/off switch next to the throttle and the setting controls on the left switchblock. You can set speeds in fourth gear and above between 50 and 160km/h.
These same controls also allow you to toggle through the reams of information and adjustment on the massive LCD screen.
While the screen is visible in all lighting conditions, some of the information in the bottom right hand corner is small and difficult to read.
Good to see the addition of a USB port to the left of the instruments, making it even more convenient for Goldilock’s next big adventure.
Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
$20,990 ride away
1037cc 90° V-twin, liquid-cooled, DOHC
6-Speed constant mesh with back-torque-limiting clutch
43mm KYB inverted forks with adjustable compression, rebound and spring preload
Link type, KYB shock with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload
The new Suzuki GSX-R1000 is cheaper, with more standard features and available in the Team Suzuki ECSTAR MotoGP inspired Metallic Triton Blue colour scheme.
It now costs $23,990 ride away which is a $1500 price reduction on last year’s model.
Despite the price reduction, it now comes standard with the bi-directional quickshift system, previously only available as a genuine accessory.
This allows the rider to smoothly upshift and downshift without the need to use the clutch or throttle. The shift linkage can also be easily set for ‘reverse-pattern’ for GP-style shifting on the racetrack.
Another new addition is adopting Bridgestone’s latest BATTLAX Racing Street RS11 tyres, featuring improved wear resistance and high cornering performance.
The most powerful production GSX-R engine yet built uses technologies developed from Suzuki’s racing efforts such as Suzuki Racing Variable-Valve Timing, Finger-Follower Valve Train, Top Feed Injectors and Exhaust Tuning Butterfly Valves.
Output is 148.6kW (202ps) @ 13,200rpm with 117.6Nm of torque @ 10,800rpm.
It sits inside a lightweight twin-spar aluminium perimeter frame for optimum feel, quick response and agility.
Bringing it all to a halt are radial-mount Brembo monobloc calipers matched with hybrid floating/T-drive 320mm Brembo discs.
Dial-in rider preferences
The Motion Track Brake System uses input from the six-direction inertial measurement unit (IMU) to minimise rear-wheel lift during hard braking situations found on the racetrack.
It also benefits from IMU input and offers 10 levels of adjustability, allowing the rider to select the appropriate intervention to match road conditions and rider ability.
Further control and personalisation is available to the rider via the three-mode Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) system, letting the rider to tailor the engine’s power delivery and response to their preferred setting.
It comes with 12 months registration and Suzuki’s 24-month unlimited kilometre warranty.
There is also a Champion Yellow No.2 inspired by the second generation DR-Z Paris-Dakar racer and a Glass Sparkle Black.
1050 accessories kits
The 1050 models arrive with a choice of two accessories kits to tailor the big adventurer to your needs.
This features aluminium panniers and top box in powder-coated black ($3599) and anodised silver ($3699) including mounting brackets.
The 38-litre top box is made of 1.5mm aluminium and has four large tie-down points.
The waterproof, quick-release panniers hold 37 litres each.
That’s 112 litres of storage all up.
This matching system features stainless steel latches, glass-fibre reinforced plastic corner covers and one-key access.
On top of the Voyager aluminium luggage, the Trekker Pack includes Suzuki plug-and-play heated grips, LED fog lamps and a 4mm aluminium skid plate.
The Trekker Pack is also available in black and silver kit variants for $6199 and $6299, respectively.
Not only is the flagship V-Strom 1050 bigger with 5kW more power to 79kW at 8500 revs, but it is also more techno.
Some of the hi-tech features include cruise, hill hold, slope and load dependent controls, ride modes and LED lighting.
V-Strom 1050 press release from Suzuki Australia
Powered by Suzuki’s highly acclaimed 1037cc, 90° V-twin, DOHC engine which has further evolved for MY20, boasting increased top-end power whilst also conforming to Euro 5 emissions standards. Thanks to new camshaft profiles and timing, peak horsepower has increased considerably from 74kW / 8,000rpm to 79kW / 8,500rpm (106hp). The highly refined engine begins with a deep rumble low in the rpm range, then progresses through the mid-range along a strong and linear torque curve then keeps building through the high rpm range in a smooth yet enjoyable manner.
The distinctive new styling incorporates elements of both Suzuki’s legendary DR-Z desert racer and the large off-road model DR-BIG. The distinguishing beak design first adopted by Suzuki stays true to Suzuki’s heritage while also modernising the design to be more aggressive and bolder for the new generation V-Strom 1050.
The most technologically advanced production Suzuki motorcycle in company history, the latest generation V-Strom 1050 is the first to boast Suzuki’s new Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S). Combining an array of electronic aids and controls as well as several unique features only available on XT, further enhancing rider useability and convenience like never before.
An advanced cruise control system works in conjunction with the new ride-by-wire throttle system to maintain the set vehicle speed without the rider needing to operate the throttle, a welcomed feature for long-distance touring that assists in reducing rider fatigue. Cruising speed can be set from approximately 50km/h to 160km/h at fourth gear or above. A switch on the right handlebar can be pressed to put cruise control into standby,and the selector switch (up/down) on the left handlebars allows the rider to adjust the speed up and down accordingly.
Suzuki’s famous Drive Mode Selector (SDMS) is now available on a V-STROM for the very first time, offering riders the choice of three difference output characteristic modes. A-mode provides the sharpest throttle response, B-mode provides a slightly softer throttle response and C-mode provides the softest response of the three modes.
Another Suzuki first is the Hill Hold, Slope Dependent and Load Dependent control systems available on XT. Hill hold control automatically applies the rear brake when the motorcycle is stopped on an upward slope to prevent rollback when the brakes and clutch are released. Slope Dependent control constantly monitors posture and if required controls brake pressure to prevent rear wheel lift during downhill braking.
Load Dependent system supports optimal braking by compensating for varying load conditions such as the difference between riding solo or with a pillion and loaded luggage vs unloaded.
An updated traction control system now features three modes of control (previously two) inspiring greater confidence in diverse riding conditions. Mode 1 is for spirited riding with minimal level of intervention. Mode 2 is ideal for commuting and regular riding conditions and Mode 3 is best suited for poorer riding conditions such as wet or cold roads as it offers the highest level of intervention.
An upgraded Bosch inertial measurement unit (IMU) equipped on the XT model now works on 6-directions along 3-axis rather than the 5-axis of the previous system. This allows it to detect pitch, roll, and yaw movements based on the angular rate and acceleration. This new high-performance 6-direction IMU combines a 3-axis angular rate sensor (gyrometer) and a 3-axis acceleration sensor in a single compact unit.
The motion track brake system exclusive to XT combines information on the posture of the vehicle from the new IMU with the front and rear wheel speeds. This allows the ABS to activate not only in a straight line but also when the vehicle is leaning. When the brake lever or pedal is operated, this system instantly assesses the need of ABS operation by calculating the posture of the vehicle and front and rear wheel speeds. When judging the need of operation, ABS unit decreases braking pressure, and continues to control the increase/decrease of the pressure according to the traction available.
This latest ABS system allows the rider to select from 2-levels of intervention. Mode 1 provides minimal intervention and is suitable for flat dirt roads, whilst Mode 2’s intervention timing is earlier than Mode 1 and is ideal for normal tarmac roads.
A newly added Combined Brake System automatically applies pressure to the rear brake to help stablise the motorcycle when the front brake pressure rises to a certain degree.
An updated windscreen design compliments the new exterior design. Developed utilising wind-tunnel testing, the new screen can be finely adjusted without tools to one of 11 positions across a 50mm vertical range.
The instrument panel presents all required information on a full LCD screen using a clean and intuitive layout with information displayed in order of priority. Included in the display are the speedometer, tachometer (full pixel digital display), gear position indicator, odometer, trip meter (A, B), instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, driving range, fuel level indicator, engine coolant temperature indicator, ambient air temperature indicator, clock, voltage meter, service reminder, SDMS mode, traction control mode, cruise control indicator, ABS mode, hill hold indicator, engine rpm indicator light,frost indicator light, turn signal indicator light, high beam indicator light, traction control indicator light, ABS indicator light, and neutral indicator light.
A USB port is located left side of the instrument panel. It can be used as a power source for charging a smartphone, navigation system, or other similar device.
The lightweight and compact chassis is the core factor in achieving the V-STROM’s comfortable and enjoyable character. The narrow width of its V-twin engine allows the motorcycle to maintain a slim body shape even with a 20L fuel tank present, allowing the rider to easily reach the ground with their feet.
Utilising a cast aluminium twin-spar frame featuring the optimal rigidity balance for exceptional stability and handling performance. The frame supports everything a rider requires to embark on their next big adventure from straight line stability to smooth and natural cornering with high levels of traction.
The 43mm KYB inverted front fork features adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload and can be tailored based on rider preference and usage.
The V-Strom 1050 XT also sports a completely new seat design that allows the seat height to be adjusted an additional 20mm higher than the standard position. The KYB rear shock features adjustable spring preload via an external hand dial to easily facilitate adjustments between riding solo, with pillion or fully loaded with luggage.
TOKICO Monobloc radial mounted front brake calipers handle stopping duties matched with dual 310mm floating discs provide strong braking performance with remarkable feel.
The footrests are constructed of tough steel and have been redesigned to make it easier for the rider to stand on flat dirt, and are also wider than the previous version.
Protection and convenience on the XT is taken to the next level with an aluminium under cowling and accessory bar guarding underneath and side of the engine whilst stronger hand guards have been employed to protect rider’s hands from wind, rain and flying stones. The lightweight centre stand is well balanced and is useful when performing maintenance tasks and loading luggage.
Wire-spoked aluminium rims are fitted as standard on the XT model offering improved road absorption whilst the standard model is equipped with 10-spoke cast aluminium wheels. Both variants are shod with Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41 tyres.
A vertically stacked LED headlight and LED rear combination light deliver excellent visibility and stylish looks, the XT also features LED indicators as standard equipment.
Other niceties include Suzuki’s Low RPM assist system which monitors and automatically raises the idle speed when taking off from a stop or when riding slowly through traffic and
Suzuki’s Easy Start System which provides ultra-convenient one-touch engine starting.
A 2015 US motorcycle industry study found that the availability of demo rides also improved customer satisfaction of dealerships.
The ninth annual Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) US Motorcycle Industry Benchmarking Study found that test rides were offered 63% of the time to mystery shoppers compared with 34% five years earlier.
It also found sales staff encouraged customers to sit on a bike 81% of the time, up from 70%.
A good dealer experience also translated to improved sales, with dealerships ranking in the top quarter selling 22% more motorcycles than dealerships in the bottom quarter.
It found Harley-Davidson, BMW and Ducati the most aggressive in offering test rides.
It is no coincidence that every Pied Piper study for the past decade or more has been led by those same three companies.
Aussie test rides
While there is no equivalent study in Australia, the results are perhaps indicative of strict global manufacturer training standards of dealer staff and attitudes to offering demo rides.
The lack of demo rides is one of the biggest complaints about dealerships we receive at MotorBikeWriter.com.
But many of these are for popular new models where demand outstrips supply and every bike that comes into the dealership is already sold.
Perhaps the most aggressive brands offering test rides in Australia are Harley-Davidson, BMW and Indian.
Harley not only offers test rides to licensed riders, but also offers a static ride to unlicensed riders with their Jump Start program.
It’s rare for any dealer to offer test rides of off-road or adventure bikes because of the risk of damage, but BMW even hosts annual GS demo ride days around the country.
And Indian throws in free fuel and accommodation on their weekend demo ride offers!
We only have our own experiences and anecdotes of readers to go on, but it seems Japanese brands are the worst at allowing test rides.
Maybe that has to do with complacency because they are the four biggest sellers.
But with sales crashing, distributors and dealers need to pick up their act.
It may cost more to have demo bikes available, but the results speak for themselves.
The motorcycle industry grapples with this basic sales technique.
Some dealers just see the cost of bike depreciation, fuel and staff time to take riders on escorted demo rides, rather than looking at long-term customer goodwill.
It also requires the manufacturers or importers to back them up with demo bikes and allow them to later sell them at a discount.
Riders see buying a bike as a lottery unless they can actually throw a leg over and feel the bike.
They need to evaluate the ergonomics for their body size, hear the noises, test the power and handling, and even feel the heat from the engine.
Have you ever been denied a demo ride? What did you do? Did you go elsewhere and buy the same bike or another brand? Leave your comments below.
As it continues to provide essential services to its loyal customer base and national dealer network, Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (Suzuki) is excited to support dealers’ ability to temporarily deliver products to customers’ homes or offices with “Suzuki Direct 2 You”. Suzuki announced this service on April 6, 2020 to its powersports dealers, providing them the opportunity to send Suzuki motorcycles, scooters, and ATVs directly to their customers, all while ensuring the same quality of service as an in-store visit
“We understand the landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for everyone, and we are working hard to ease that burden with new and innovative ways to continue our commitment to keeping customers and dealers a priority,” said Kerry Graeber, Vice President MC/ATV Sales and Marketing. “With Suzuki Direct 2 You, we feel it’s a great way to follow appropriate guidelines while providing a way for customers to still enjoy the perks of a new Suzuki motorcycle or ATV.”
Customers are relying on Suzuki to help make the buying experience safe, professional, and convenient, especially those unable to visit a dealership. To help facilitate the purchase process, Suzuki encourages its dealers to communicate through electronic means and other methods to minimize contact, where and when appropriate.
“Suzuki Direct 2 You” will be available through June 30, 2020 at participating dealers, subject to local laws and directives.
For more information on “Suzuki Direct 2 You”, please visit SuzukiCycles.com or contact a local Suzuki dealer for availability.
Remember UJMs? If you were a motorcyclist in the ’70s, or have a soft spot for bikes from that era, then you remember them well. Honda kicked it off in 1969 with its groundbreaking CB750, the first mass-produced motorcycle with a transverse in-line four-cylinder engine and an overhead camshaft. It was an air-cooled four-stroke with a five-speed transmission, a front disc brake, an electric starter and an upright seating position.
Honda created the formula and other Japanese manufacturers followed it. Kawasaki launched the mighty 903cc Z1 for 1973, Suzuki introduced the GS750 for 1976 and, late to the party but the biggest reveler in the room, Yamaha brought out the XS1100 for 1978. Similarities among these and other Japanese models of varying displacements led “Cycle” magazine, in its November 1976 test of the Kawasaki KZ650, to coin what became a widely used term: “In the hard world of commerce, achievers get imitated and the imitators get imitated. There is developing, after all, a kind of Universal Japanese Motorcycle…conceived in sameness, executed with precision, and produced by the thousands.”
Those UJMs, and the standards of performance and reliability they established, revolutionized the world of motorcycling. Decades later, descendants of those progenitors carry their DNA into the modern era. To see how well the formula holds up in the 21st century, we gathered examples from Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki for a neo-retro comparo. (As much as we would have loved to include Yamaha for a proper battle of the Big Four, its contemporary XSR900 is powered by an in-line triple that colors too far outside the lines of the UJM formula.)
Honda’s CB1000R, like its granddaddy, has a transverse in-line four, but it’s a more highly evolved one featuring liquid cooling and dual overhead cams with four valves per cylinder — a configuration shared by all three bikes in this comparison. Derived from the pre-2008 CBR1000RR sportbike, the CB’s 998cc engine has been tuned for low- to midrange power and its 6-speed transmission has an assist-and-slipper clutch. Like the others, the CB1000R’s standard equipment includes ABS and traction control, but it’s the only one here with throttle-by-wire and riding modes (Sport, Street, Rain and customizable User), which adjust throttle response, engine braking and traction control.
A round headlight and an exposed engine are about the only styling traits shared by the “Neo-Sports Café” CB1000R and the CB750. Kawasaki’s Z900RS, on the other hand, is a spitting image of its forebear. Round mirrors on long stalks, bullet-shaped analog gauges, a teardrop tank, a bench seat, a sculpted tail and gorgeous Candytone Green paint with yellow stripes are all inspired by the original Z1. Even the flat spokes of its cast wheels are designed to look like spoked wheels of yore. Derived from the Z900 streetfighter, the Kawasaki’s 948cc DOHC in-line four has revised cam profiles, lower compression, a heavier flywheel, a second gear-driven balancer and narrower exhaust headers for a mellower feel, and its stainless steel 4-into-1 exhaust has been tuned to deliver an old-school four-banger growl.
Jenny’s Gear Helmet: Shoei RF-1200 Jacket: AGV Sport Helen Pants: Joe Rocket Alter Ego Boots: Sidi Gavia Gore-Tex Tail Bag: Nelson-Rigg
Suzuki’s entry in this contest is the new-for-2020 Katana, a modern interpretation of the iconic 1981 GSX1100S Katana, which revolutionized motorcycle design by treating the bike as a whole rather than a collection of parts. Originally conceived by Hans Muth and reimagined by Rodolfo Frascoli, the Katana has a small fairing and windscreen, and, like the CB1000R, a stubby tail section. Based on the GSX-S1000 naked sportbike, the Katana is powered by a 999cc DOHC in-line four derived from the 2005-2008 GSX-R1000, tuned for street duty with milder cam profiles and valve timing, steel rather than titanium valves, lighter pistons, a stainless steel exhaust and a 6-speed transmission with an assist-and-slipper clutch.
Three bikes, three editors, two days. Before hitting the road, we strapped on soft luggage. None have centerstands, and only the Kawasaki has a steel gas tank that accommodates a magnetic tank bag, which carried our tools, flat repair kit and air pump. Its long, wide bench seat also has room for a good-sized tail bag. With their short tails and small pillions, the Honda and Suzuki only have space for small tail bags. Because the Suzuki’s bodywork is more stylish than functional, the Honda and Kawasaki are completely nude and none have hand guards or heated grips, we were exposed to the elements. We bundled up in layers for our mid-January test and pointed our wheels north, taking freeways and back roads up California’s Central Coast.
With their refined, Swiss watch-like in-line fours, these modern-day UJMs are impeccably smooth. Snicking their transmissions into sixth gear and cruising at a steady speed is a sublime experience, with minimal vibration or unwanted perturbations. None have cruise control, but with fuel capacities ranging from 3.2 gallons on the Suzuki to 4.5 gallons on the Kawasaki and as-tested fuel ranges between 130 and 173 miles, the need for gas will likely precede the need for wrist relief. Upright seating positions and windblast on the chest keep weight off the wrists on all three, but there are notable differences in legroom. The Honda and Suzuki have the tallest seat heights (32.7 and 32.5 inches, respectively) as well as the highest footpegs, putting much more bend in the knees — especially on the Honda — than the comparatively spacious Kawasaki. Even though the Kawi has the lowest seat height (31.5 inches) and lowest pegs, on none of these bikes did we find ourselves dragging pegs in tight corners.
It’s in those tight corners that these bikes further distinguish themselves. With only 10 pounds separating their curb weights and modest differences in chassis geometry, their engine performance, brakes and suspension are what set these bikes apart. In terms of outright horsepower and torque, the Honda and Suzuki, both of which have sportbike-derived engines, come out on top. The Suzuki is the strongest, churning out 142.1 rear-wheel horsepower at 10,300 rpm and 75.9 lb-ft of torque at 9,200 rpm on Jett Tuning’s dyno, though its advantage over the others is mostly above 8,500 rpm. The Honda peaks at 125.5 horsepower at 9,800 rpm and 70.6 lb-ft at 8,300 rpm, but it’s much weaker than the Suzuki and Kawasaki below 7,500 rpm, a deficiency that’s obvious on corner exits and roll-on passes. Although the Kawasaki generates only 100.1 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 67.5 lb-ft at 8,500 rpm, in the midrange it gives the Suzuki a run for its money and leaves the Honda in the dust.
With their more compact cockpits and high-revving power, the Honda and Suzuki lean more toward the sport end of the sport standard spectrum. Their smoothness makes them sneaky fast, and their stock suspension settings are firmer than the Kawasaki’s. All of these bikes have fully adjustable upside-down forks and preload- and rebound-adjustable single rear shocks (KYB on the Kawasaki and Suzuki, Showa on the Honda), but the Honda’s suspension, especially its Separate Function-Big Piston fork, is the most compliant. Sportbike-caliber front brakes, with pairs of radial-mount monoblock 4-piston opposed calipers clamping large discs, deliver serious stopping power across the board, but the Honda has a slight edge in feel. Adding to a sense of confidence on the Honda are its Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 radials, which have noticeably more grip (but likely less mileage in the long run) than the Dunlop radials on the Kawasaki and Suzuki.
Despite being down on peak power and more softly sprung, the Kawasaki is by no means a boat anchor or a couch on wheels. It’s plenty fast, but its mission is clearly different than that of the Honda and Suzuki. The Z900RS stokes the flames of nostalgia while providing a more spacious, relaxed and comfortable riding experience, with every potentially rough edge sanded smooth. The Katana, on the other hand, is essentially a GSX-S1000 with plastic bodywork and a more upright riding position. In isolation there’s little to complain about when riding the Suzuki, but compared to the Honda and Kawasaki, it feels less refined, with more driveline lash and less precision during gear changes.
UJMs were the first motorcycles to be called “superbikes,” a name that came to be more appropriately applied to the racer replicas that proliferated in the late ’80s. These modern-day UJMs fall into the more mundane-sounding “sport standard” category, but there’s nothing mundane about 100-plus rear-wheel horsepower, high-spec brakes and suspension, standard ABS and TC, and a level of capability that’s truly impressive. For sheer power and sporting prowess, the Suzuki gets top marks, but its small 3.2-gallon gas tank and high price ($13,499) make it a tough sell. Priced a bit lower at $12,999, the ultra-smooth Honda has a strong top end as well as throttle-by-wire, riding modes and the best suspension and tires, but its weak midrange and high footpegs limit its overall appeal. A relative bargain at $11,199, the Kawasaki won us over with its throwback styling, spacious and comfortable seating, strong midrange, seductive sound and decent fuel range. If you do what we did — strap on some luggage and explore some of your favorite roads for a couple of days — you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Isn’t that why we ride?