Eighty five miles in, it hits me… have I really done 85 miles already? This is a regular journey and one that often feels like a plod, even on two wheels, but today I’m not only making decent time but it feels like it too. Everything about 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000FA is easy and whether that’s a good thing or not probably depends on how much you value that obscure quality we call ‘character’.
Truth be told, the 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000FA doesn’t have anything especially unique; no snatching throttle, no razor-sharp steering, no brick-wall brakes or, er, memorable riding position. What this bike has is an ability to cover ground quickly and confidently, in reasonable comfort with so much in hand that it flatters your riding.
Time for a confession. I didn’t ride much last winter and what miles I did manage were on small commuters and a handful of scooters. So this ride, 85 miles in, is my first proper blast of spring. We all know it; the one where you mistime the overtakes, stomp on the gear-lever, look half as far ahead as you need to and wobble round the corners feeling like a three-legged donkey running in the Grand National.
Except it isn’t like that today. I’m enjoying picking a line and hitting the marks every time, abusing the direct connection from right hand to rear wheel and feeling like a man who’s just had his light bulb switched on. On paper the Suzuki GSX-S1000FA isn’t that much different to Kawasaki’s Z1000SX and Yamaha’s recently discontinued FZ-1 Fazer. The recipe is simple; a ‘last generation’ sportsbike engine in a sporty-no tracy chassis with upright bars and enough comfort to satisfy motorcycling-2016’s old bones.
The Suzuki has more bells and electronic whistles, but that’s not where it scores most highly. Surprisingly, what makes the 2016 GSX-S1000FA feel so far ahead of the curve (I haven’t ridden Yamaha’s MT-10 so there could be a big ‘but’ coming soon) is that it feels so much like a Honda, which is the only motorcycle company out there that doesn’t have a half-faired gentleman’s version of its current super-naked.
The 2016 GSX-S1000FA feels like class. The reworked 2005-vintage GSX-R1000 motor sounds right and the engine’s architecture (long piston stroke, tuned for torque as much as power) combined with Suzuki’s trademark creamy-smooth fuel-injection makes this the easiest 140 BHP you’ll ever have to handle. Chuck in a light clutch and slick gear change and you’ll start to understand why this bike is so rewarding to ride.
The delivery feels urgent, but predictable in every gear. From almost-walking pace in top to ‘just-for-the-hell-of it’ snapping open the throttle in third, there’s a confidence about what will happen next that lets the rider just get on with enjoying the fun.
The riding position feels natural while cruising but turns sporty when cornering. Swapping a race-replica’s clip-on bars for a couple of cowhorn coathangers takes a lot of weight off the Suzuki’s front end, but the steering still feels predictable and accurate. Standard suspension settings (there are enough adjustments front and rear to keep fiddlers happy) are on the comfy side of sporty, but that’s fine for normal road riding. And the brake set-up helps the suspension by building power progressively rather than abruptly, which gives the forks time to react instead of crashing down onto the bump stops. The Brembo brakes’ initial bite is a lot less than other bikes of this type, but as you increase the lever pressure they deliver some serious stopping power.
By the time we hit 125 miles I’m ready for a stretch. A quick fuel stop needs 14 litres which equates to around 40 mpg – slightly disappointing if I’m being honest because we haven’t been going that fast or riding particularly aggressively. While sipping a drink I check my texts. ‘How are you finding the fuel injection?’ from a colleague who did a lot of miles on a naked GSX-S1000 last year. Now I remember. There was some talk of the GSX having a snappy throttle and sharp power delivery. I haven’t noticed it at all. Maybe the 2016 bike has been revised, maybe my riding is different to other people’s, maybe I’ve been riding this GSX-S1000FA in ‘rain’ mode, but to me this is smoothness personified.
There is no rain mode. There are however, three levels of traction control (along with a fourth mode, ‘off ’) which are easily accessible on the move and the most controlled (level 3) is the most interesting. On this trip I’ve been too busy enjoying life to experiment with it too much but yesterday I was fooling around on some local twisties, switching between modes to see what happens.
I’m no racer but in normal fast-and-clumsy riding I couldn’t have told you if it was coming in or not, regardless of the selected setting. I was on the verge of writing it off as a gimmick when I noticed, in some particularly twisty and grip-less corners that the light on the dash was flashing away like crazy. The system was working but without being intrusive and I like that a lot.
Suzuki has always done well with its GSX-S1000F range because the bikes have always offered a decent amount of usable road-sports performance for sensible money. Compared to the racier GSX-Rs the styling has always been a little more subdued and subtle.
This faired GSX-S1000FA-version looks stunning from the side, but slightly less so from the front (my opinion… what do I know?) and while Suzuki has apparently covered this example in superglue and ridden it through the Yoshimura aftermarket warehouse, it still looks a little too reserved for the performance it provides. Most of the accessories fitted were cosmetic, but beautifully made and they do make the GSX look a lot better. The end-can in particular makes a huge difference.
But all that bling will substantially add to the cost, and cost is where the 2016 GSX-S1000FA scores most highly. The standard bike is £9999, and the Yoshimura special edition costs £10,699, which is the same sort of price as a Triumph Tiger 1050 Sport or Honda’s VFR800. All three bikes have strong selling points, but for me, the GSX wins because it has all the performance you will ever need, impressive build quality and the latest smart tech that really, really works.
Suzuki was at pains to stress at the GSX’s launch last year that this is a sportsbike, not a sports-tourer. I have no idea what a sports-tourer is any more, but I’d assume at a minimum that it would have proper pillion accommodation and a centrestand so you can adjust and lube the chain in a French car park.
The 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000FA might not have either of those but is definitely a sportsbike that a creaky, middle-aged, old fella can ride a long way in comfort. For the money I can’t think of anything that can match it on performance and build quality.
2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000FA Specifications and Price
Engine : 4-Stroke, Transverse Four Cylinder, DOHC 16-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 73.4 X 59 mm
Capacity : 999 cc
Compression Ratio : 12.2 : 1
Induction : Fuel Injection
Transmission : 6-Speed, Chain-Drive
Power : 143.5 BHP @ 10.000 RPM (claimed)
Torque : 106 N.m @ 9.500 RPM (claimed)
Dimensions (LxWxH) : 2.115 x 795 x 1.180 mm
Wheelbase : 1.460 mm
Seat Height : 810 mm
Ground Clearance : 140 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 17 Litres
Weight : 214 kg (kerb, claimed)
Frame : Twinspar Frame
Front Suspension : Upside-down Fork, Coil Spring, Oil Damped
Rear Suspension : Monoshock Link-type, Coil Spring, Oil damped
Front Brakes : 2 x 310mm Discs, with Brembo 4-Piston Caliper, ABS
Rear Brakes : 220mm Discs, with 1-Piston Caliper, ABS
Front Tyre : 120/70 – ZR17 M/C (58W) Tubeless
Rear Tyre : 190/50 – ZR17 M/C (73W) Tubeless
Suzuki GSX-S1000FA Standard : £9999
Suzuki GSX-S1000FA Yoshimura SE : £10,699