Let me take you all the way back to 2014: Barack Obama was president of the United States of America, the United Kingdom was part of the European Union and people commonly used the word “meh.” Which was the perfect way to describe the GSX-S1000F when Suzuki introduced the bike at EICMA that year.
Driven by a detuned 10-year-old powerplant, the GSX-S1000F was a sport tourer that was bafflingly not designed for touring. Its passenger seat existed in name only and its subframe was such that it couldn’t hold hard luggage. It confused everyone, and along with sighs of “meh,” the overall response to the bike was something along the lines of: “Who on earth is this for? It’s several years too late – sport tourers are dead – but if you’re going to make a bike with sport-touring ergonomics and sport-touring characteristics and sport-touring styling then you should, you know, just make an actual sport-touring motorcycle.”
Six years later… Six years later… Six years later… Six years later, Suzuki has finally delivered the sport tourer that it should have made more than a decade ago. Looking like a Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX onto which someone has bodge-jobbed some Yamaha headlights, the new GSX-S1000GT is powered by the same GSX-R1000 K5-derived engine (now 17+ years old) as the aforementioned GSX-S1000F. It is equipped with electronics/rider aids that have become so standard that even Harley-Davidson is using them. In other words, the GSX-S1000GT is hilariously behind-the-curve, thoroughly lacking in creativity, offers absolutely nothing new or different… and I want one.
Yeah, I don’t understand what’s wrong with me. Maybe I just admire Suzuki’s chutzpa here: making a bike that’s this far behind everyone else takes a certain kind of ballsiness. You can’t help but feel a weird sense of respect for a company that’s so bad at following market trends. Suzuki is the Werther’s Originals of motorcycling.
NO PLANS TO OWN ONE ANYTIME SOON
With a starting price of £11,599 – £200 more than a Ninja 1000SX – I’m unlikely to buy a GSX-S1000GT anytime soon. But I’m sure the thing will be fun to ride. Well, maybe. Its inline four engine promises 151 horsepower and 106 Nm (78 ft-lbs in old money), which is decent when compared with the Kawasaki’s 141 hp and 111 Nm, but the Suzuki’s numbers come at pretty high revs: 11,000 rpm and 9,250 rpm respectively. How enjoyable the bike is or isn’t will depend a lot on when the torque kicks in.
Looking at Katana dyno charts (the modern Katana, of course, is just a GSX-S1000F in retro-flavored fairing) suggests the GSX-S1000GT will have a relatively flat torque curve, with the bulk of its oomph arriving at 4500 rpm. That’s decent, but the Ninja’s even flatter curve kicks in at 3,000 rpm.
The Ninja 1000SX – formerly known as the Z1000SX in the United Kingdom – has been the UK’s best-selling sport tourer for more than half a decade. That the GSX-S1000GT is so similar is probably not a good thing for Suzuki. Quickly perusing the list of features for each bike, I can’t find anything that really makes the Suzuki stand out. It has a little more horsepower (at revs that you are unlikely to ever see on public roads) and weighs a few kilograms less, but that’s about it. Still, there’s something about the Suzuki that appeals to me. Maybe it’s just the color scheme? I’m not a fan of Kawasaki green.
The Suzuki comes with three riding modes, uncreatively known as A, B and C. And its traction control can be adjusted to five different levels. You get an up-and-down quickshifter, slipper clutch and cruise control as standard. As with the Ninja, a centerstand doesn’t appear to be an option, nor does it look like it’ll be possible to mount both panniers and a top box – which is the sort of thing that greybeard riders (many of whom probably have a 90s-era Bandit sitting in their garage) will hate.
“All information from the electronic systems are displayed via a 6.5-inch color TFT dash,” states Suzuki’s press release. “Riders can constantly monitor their chosen settings and adjust on the move. As well as showing other readouts – such as speed, rpm, trip, range, gear indicator, and fuel level – the TFT display is designed to support the smartphone connectivity features of the new Suzuki mySPIN app.”
There’s nothing new about apps for bikes, but with each new connectivity-ready bike that rolls out I find I despise the concept just a little bit more. Largely this is because I have yet to encounter a single app-and-bike set-up that actually works. Suzuki, however, claims to be doing things differently.
“In contrast to similar products that employ systems developed for use in cars, the GT adopts hardware and software designed specifically for motorcycle use,” the manufacturer says.
Personally, I doubt the veracity of such claims. I also doubt it will matter to me; the app probably won’t be supported five years from now, when I might consider actually buying a GSX-S1000GT…
It’s hard to imagine there are a lot of people out there who would pay more to have an almost-the-same version of the thing that everybody likes – especially when the almost-the-same version will inevitably have a lower resale value. I’m pretty sure that will be the situation for the GSX-S1000F when it hits dealerships in November. The Ninja 1000SX is the thing everyone wants; the GSX-S1000GT is unlikely to steal its crown.
However, in roughly a year, Suzuki will inevitably do the thing that Suzuki always does: offering discounts, attractive finance, accessories packages or a combination thereof. That will be the point at which the GSX-S1000GT will start to make sense against the Ninja 1000SX. And three years after that, when the first owners’ PCP financing deals end, is when dealerships will start to have stock of well-maintained, low-mileage bikes, offered at roughly half the original asking price.
I wonder if my interest in the bike will last that long…
ARE SPORT TOURERS COMING BACK?
I wonder, too, if Suzuki – through dumb luck – has stumbled into a sport tourer revival. The primary reason the Ninja 1000SX has been Britain’s best sport tourer in recent years is the fact there aren’t really any other sport tourers on the market; the last time manufacturers really put effort into the genre was roughly 15 years ago.
In more recent years, adventure-styled machines like the Yamaha Tracer 9 and BMW S 1000 XR have filled the old sport-touring niche, but if you’ve paid attention to motorcycling scuttlebutt in recent months you’ll know that Honda may be gearing up to release the CB1000X, a production version of the CB4X concept it unveiled at EICMA a few years ago. Or, perhaps it will be called the NT1100 and be powered by the Africa Twin’s 1084cc parallel twin engine instead of the CBR1000’s inline four. In either case, the bike isn’t fully faired like the Ninja 1000SX and GSX-S1000GT but its styling and seat height move away from the adventure mold.
Maybe I’m just getting old but I think I like that trend. And I think that’s at the heart of why I like the GSX-S1000GT: I like the fact that it exists. I like that there is still life in the concept of having a bike that is capable of being stupid and practical and sexy.
Sure, I’m a fan of adventure machines and have owned two of them, but there are certain aspects of the genre that I find unnecessary/annoying. The ugliness of the bikes, for example. And poor weather protection. And wide bars that make filtering through traffic more of a hassle than it needs to be.
Long live the sport tourer and God bless Suzuki for being so lovably out of touch.