Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L Review – The Real Dual for the Duel
Big bike, good bike so long post warning
Please excuse the ‘dirty bike’ photos. Udaipur, the venue of the ride, had been witnessing incessant rain over the past 10 days. There was no place to ride that would leave the bike clean and by the time we reached the point where photos could be taken, the Africa Twin was already looking like it had been through its element!
Few could have predicted that a television series starred by two non-descript actor motorcyclists would change the way motorcycling would be seen a decade hence. Evan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s documentary ‘Long Way Round’ glorified the trans-continental motorcycle tourer to no end and the dual-purpose motorcycle just came along for the ride. Not just for the ride but to stay. Since then we’ve seen the times of the dual sport or the dual purpose ‘go anywhere’ kind of motorcycles dawn upon us in earnest. Most other manufacturers across the globe were quick to realize that touring is the most popular form of motorcycling and so any and every motorcycle maker worth his name soon had a model or two in this dual-purpose category in their offer list. Honda has been a little slow in getting onto the bandwagon here, almost 10 years late actually though they are by no means a new player in this game by any standards. The Honda Africa Twin is an old timer but getting it up and ready for modern times took them a while. Finally they are here with the new Africa Twin formally numbered the CRF1000L. It’s new, up to date, bristling with technology and ready to take on anything either on road or off it.
The strong yet quiet thrum of a liter class parallel twin pervades my senses as I, literally and figuratively, use my right wrist to fly through the unusually green countryside of Udaipur. The Africa Twin, born for the ultimate battle in the world’s largest desert, the mighty Sahara, was quite fittingly given to us media riders for a first experience ride in the Sahara’s smaller and less glamorous cousin, our own Thar desert in Rajasthan. The progeny of the legendary NSX750 that won Honda four Paris Dakar titles in a row when the race used to happen in the Sahara, this modern day technology loaded avatar of the Africa Twin is no less revolutionary and robust in what it brings to its rider. And yet it remains in spirit and essence a humble, immensely capable and a thoroughly relatable machine that takes no time in becoming an extension of the rider’s self.
Not really dramatic to look at except of course in the rough with both lights on and the front lifted skywards, The Africa Twin is more of the function over form thing in person. The front looks strong and purposeful while the tail seems somewhat lack-luster, almost anemic. The bike though looks a lot better with the ride in the saddle than as a stand-alone. But then who would leave a machine like that standing alone and unattended! The simple and robust looks don’t really reveal the extensive state of the art tech hiding within. The bike has evolved into embodying the state of the art automobile technology and translates it into a completely user friendly and user beneficial form. Things like the auto transmission might feel a trifle alien for a while on a bike of this kind, all the more so while the left hand keeps searching for the missing clutch lever and the left foot for the gear lever but a few uncluttered miles on good tarmac makes this ‘new’ set up seem so very natural. You wonder why the DCT coupled with this auto-box was not around earlier.
The LED powered headlamps (18W high beam and 17W low beam) in off and on condition.
A basic read-through of the owner’s manual of the Africa Twin is strongly recommended or you’ll be lost in the profusion of buttons and levers clustered around the bar ends. And of course you’ll not really be able to fully enjoy the bike without knowing what all you can make it do. The bike looks tall but once you swing a leg over it and settle down in the seat, its height (adjustable between 820-840 mm) gets reduced by quite a bit. The rear seat ‘rears’ up quite high and you need to swing that right leg way up to clear it while saddling up. A better way is to stand on the left peg and mount. There’s an appreciable amount of sag in the suspension and so what seemed tall visually becomes just right when you settle your weight on the seat. For the more well endowed in the weight department like yours truly, the settling down is substantial. The cockpit does seem a trifle confusing but if you’ve been through the manual or were briefed by someone who knew about it, things do appear pretty logical. Switch on the conventionally placed ignition switch, flick the engine kill cum starter switch to run and press down further to start the engine (the kill switch cum starter button is a lovely new innovation). The motor comes to life without any hesitation and settles into a steady soft idle. Blip the throttle and it responds with alacrity.
The kill switch cum starter button. There’s the Drive mode selector with N – Neutral, D – Drive and S – Sport selection. Bottom row switches are Hazard lights on left and Automatic/Manual gear shift selector on the right.
The bike looks tall but saddling up makes it very approachable even for the less tall riders.
The right hand switch cluster has the Neutral-Drive selector switch. Toggle it to the left and the bike gets into gear with a soft thunk. Careful, don’t blip that throttle now or you’ll take off! The left had side should leave you a little lost initially since there’s no clutch lever our muscle memory is embedded to grab and squeeze. There’s no gear lever under the left toe either. The Honda is letting you get to know it bit by bit. Just roll the throttle and you’re underway. Except for the left hand not working on the clutch (since the DCT working away to glory for you instead), getting to roll and riding is just like you’ve done on every other bike you’ve ever ridden. Roll the throttle and go. The under-square 999cc OHC Parallel Twin is a lusty performer, developing some 87 bhp at 7500 rpm and rolls out 92 Nm of torque at 6000 rpm. The 270 degree firing order makes it not just sound like a V-Twin but it the power output also feels like it is coming from V-twin! No slouch anywhere in the rpm band, it is at its best in the mid-range and that’s where you’ll want it to sit all day if you plan tour on this bike. The autobox does up-shift a trifle early than you would want it to in the default Drive auto mode. Select the Sport mode and things get better with the engine pulling progressively longer in each gear, depending on which Sport level you’ve selected (there are 3 selectable levels). Things getting complex already eh! There’s lots’ more coming your way Mr. Rider.
The left hand side switch cluster. Headlamp hig-low beam selection with Pass switch, LCD display mode selector, clock/trip etc Set button, horn switch, turn indicator and downshift toggle.
Parking brake lever and lock where the clutch lever is. The up-shift toggle (below with the + mark) and Traction level selector above it.
The Manual shift option lets you cycle through the 6-speed box using the two ‘shift’ toggle switches on the left switch gear cluster. The one up ahead (located where we have the day flash switch on most bikes) is for up-shifting while the one below the horn button is for down-shifting (to nit-pick here, the horn button should have been where the down-shift one is at least for our wild-west lawless traffic conditions). Those who have ridden the VFR1200R would be familiar with all this. So your left index finger handles the up-shifts while the thumb lets you downshift. No let-off of the throttle needed for either just like with a power-shifter. Only that the DCT makes it embarrassingly smooth. The Africa Twin though carries the third generation DCT, automatic gearbox and traction control tech compared to the older VFR. There’s also the very comforting accessory option of having a foot gear shifter placed where a conventional gear shifter is. My test bike came equipped with it and except for my tendency to ‘blip’ the throttle at every downshift, something that made the bike momentarily accelerate reminding me that I was trying to be smarter than the DCT, there was no perceptible difference in using the foot shifter. One down and rest up – even the shift pattern was the usual. A must-have accessory for me if I was buying the bike.
Toe shifter – an accessory worth its weight in gold!
The two section LCD type instrument panel.
ABS de-selection and G mode selection switches.
ABS comes engaged as standard though one can de-select it only for the rear wheel through a switch on the dash – a function needed for off-roading. But this needs to be done while the bike is stationary. All other selections can be done on the fly. The other main feature of the electronics is the traction control (the Honda Selectable Torque Control or HSTC). Again selectable with 3 levels offered and can also be totally de-selected. The lesser the available traction, for example with wet or otherwise slippery roads, the higher is the level of traction control advised. The tightest or 3rd level remains engaged as default and the rider can step down to 2nd or 1st through a toggle switch. De-selecting traction control requires a long press of the selection toggle switch. So when you ride the Africa Twin on good dry tarmac, get the Traction control out of the way. Going uphill on loose surface choose HSTC level 1. Any higher and the engine will cut power at the first hint of wheel spin and you’ll take a while getting uphill on a stuttering motor! It is only the wet and slippery tarmac that really needs HSTC level 3. Talking of traction control, there a ‘Gravel’ or “Gradient’ or just plain simple ‘G’ mode that lets you handle gradients with low traction conditions just as you would on a bike with a manual clutch using partial clutch usage. With the ‘G’ mode engaged (through a dedicated push type switch on the dash), the throttle becomes the torque controller for the rear wheel. Any spin of the rear wheels makes the engine reduce power till the wheel re-grips, ensuring power going down when you need it. Serious off-roading of course will demand that you disengage traction control totally to let the rear wheel spin away to glory as you power slide through the turns.
The engine is butter smooth and the overall vibration and harshness is very controlled, which makes the bike so smooth that you tend to ride it faster than you intend to. Coupled with this overall smoothness are the near-perfect gear shifts done by the DCT. Get into Sport mode or shift manually and you can take the bike past the 100 kph mark in under 4 seconds. The engine is also amazingly thermally stable. Sustained low gear usage in high ambient temperatures while trundling in heavy traffic made no difference at all to the engine. The coolant temperature did not budge even a bit past the half-way mark that it stays at once the engine is warmed up and there was no power drop at all. A tireless performer, this motor gives a decidedly long-legged feel to the bike. What goes must stop and the brakes on the Africa Twin are just great. Twin discs measuring 310 mm dia up front and a single 256 mm one at the rear handle braking duties and are more than sufficient to make the 245 kilo machine come to a stop quickly from scary speeds.
The 256mm rear disc with the ABS slotted ring. Simple, conventional and uncluttered mechanical layout.
The rear brake pedal. The foot peg is smallish. The foot peg rubber inserts can be removed.
Rear foot peg folded away.
Ergonomics are great for touring except that the reach to the wide handlebars feels a bit of a stretch. This ‘stretch’ does come in handy when riding off-road standing on the pegs. Talking of the pegs, they are smaller than usual for some reason and at times feel inadequate, especially on the right side where the engine casing protrudes out a bit. The bars though provide great leverage which coupled with the 43 degree steering angle one side and the surety that the engine will not stall during a turn, courtesy the dual clutch auto transmission, means that you can take really tight u-turns when you want to without the risk of dropping the bike. The seat is wide and well contoured though it did feel a trifle soft for really long days on the saddle. Rider placement is pretty good and the tank and frame shape allows a good and effortless grip on the bike with the knees, vital for rough terrain riders especially.
The well contoured wide two step seat.
Front upside down fork compression and rebound damping adjuster.
Rear monoshock pre-load adjuster.
While riding the suspension felt pretty plush and yet firm for most means and purposes. Yours truly did not attempt those high jumps that the publicity videos show but the suspension did soak up whatever the not so good and the really bad rain ravaged roads threw at it. The bike felt a trifle softly set up for a quick pace on twisty tarmac. The front end tends to dive quite a bit under hard braking. But then this is pretty characteristic in bikes in this category where the need for the suspension to cope with serious off-roading precludes more compression damping. Though apparently there’s plenty of compression and rebound damping adjustment up front range to cater for different rider weights, preferences and road conditions and things can be firmed up for sole tarmac use. The 21 inch spoked wheel up front coupled with the 18 inch rear rim helps the rider make short work of the off-road track. At the same time there wasn’t any perceptible gyroscopic force induced steering rigidity at high speeds, the bane of large diameter front wheels. It’s probably a combination of the bike’s geometry, weight distribution and the leverage provided by the wide handlebars that help here. One drawback of the spoked wheels is the necessity of using tube-type tyres, something that comes with a few disadvantages attached to it compared to using tubeless tyres. So punctures will necessarily mean fixing the tube unlike the usual way of inflating the tubeless tyre and fixing the puncture at leisure.
The short stroke under square engine responds with alacrity to all there inputs anywhere in the rpm band. Fueling is smooth and linear and the bike pulls perfectly in proportion to the input from the right wrist. Honda claims a fuel mileage of around 22 kmpl which translates to the 18.8 litre tank being sufficient for some 400 kms between refills. The 10.1:1 compression ratio will let you refuel from anywhere without the need for high octane petrol. The LED headlamps (17 W high beam which is selectable and the 18 W low beam that is always on) should be good enough for night riding. The 11.2 Ah battery is centrally located and seems sufficient for its duties. The Africa Twin comes with 250 mm ground clearance and will prance its way through Ladakh and Spiti.
A touring rider’s work horse, an off-roaders’ able and trusty companion, a judicious blend of modern technology and traditional engineering, the Africa Twin does look like it will more than live up to its glorious Paris Dakar heritage. We all need a motorcycle that we can ride where we want to ride, a machine that keeps itself together through thick and thin and doesn’t cost the moon to buy and maintain. The CRF1000L Africa Twin is not a pretentious tourer wearing the clothes of an off-roader. It can actually take those jumps and whumps in its stride and then let you blast and swing your way home on tasty smooth tarmac. It is a bike that believes more in doing more with less than in posing with more and getting less done. The Africa Twin can be your machine, riding partner and psychotherapist all rolled into one. And with that killer pricing, you just won’t be able to resist the temptation. Go check it out.
Bajaj Pulsar NS160 Review
Is this new Bajaj Pulsar NS160, a proper progeny of the NS200 or is it a watered down version which resembles the commuterish Pulsar 150 more than the Naked Sports series? Let’s find out!
After the lacklustre sales of the AS150 and AS200, Bajaj realised it needed to get a little less adventurous and a little sportier with their product portfolio! So the two adventure twins were discontinued and the previously successful NS200 was brought back this January. But that left a gaping hole in the 150cc sports commuter segment, since the original Pulsar 150 is left with no sport but only commuter genes. Bajaj had nothing in response to the Suzuki Gixxer, Yamaha FZ and Honda Hornet, or even the age old Apache 160. TVS will soon be bringing a new 160 based on their Apache 200 as we saw in the pictures clicked by an xBhpian.
Which brings us to the recently launched NS160. A motorcycle meant to fill the void of the newer generation Pulsars and take on the three competitive Japs. A bike targeted at the urban young, who want a good looking bike, which isn’t too heavy on the pocket to purchase or at the petrol pump!
Visually the bike looks much like the 200. Which should work in favour of the 160, but will it be at the cost of the bigger bike? If you liked the 200, then this will be equally appealing. The skinny tyres are the visual giveaway of the smaller size of this motorcycle. Though Bajaj has tried to hide this by using a chunkier tyre hugger!
From upfront the bike has good road presence with its big headlight dome visually flowing nicely into the plastic tank extensions. Though the skinny forks remind you that this isn’t the 200. The bike we rode was grey, which looked quite subdued, the other option of red should be far more appealing to the target audience we believe. Build quality of the motorcycle is satisfactory and the switchgear is the same as used on the 200. Which isn’t perfect, the turn-indicator switch doesn’t feel natural to use if you are used to any other bike in the market. You need to re-work muscle memory; else you push the switch, take the turn and realize the indicator light hadn’t got turned on in the first place! An anomaly in the bike we rode was on the oil-cooler plastics, which was loose enough to be pushed off with the strength of a single finger. A stark contrast to the rest of the motorcycle which possibly means this was a one-off with our bike.
The differentiation from the older Pulsar 150 comes in the form of new technology. The engine is not all-new, but it isn’t from the old generation Pulsars either. The new engine is the bored out version of the one employed on the now discontinued AS150. The 160.3cc 4-stroke 4-valve oil-cooled twin-spark engine produces a decent power of 15.5 PS and 14.6 Nm of torque. Power is down from 17 bhp and torque is up from 13 Nm in comparison to the AS150. Bajaj has understood that these bikes are commuters at the end of the day. More torque by sacrificing the top end is a positive trade-off when riding in the city. The 2mm increase in the bore makes the NS squarer than the AS, which translates into better rideability for a commuter.
The gearing employed on the bike is also commuter friendly; one can trundle through traffic at 22 kmph in third gear without lugging the engine. In fact, it is easier to ride the 160 than the 200, as the latter forever wants to be revved. The NS160 will happily chug along without protest even with a pillion in traffic. We didn’t get an opportunity to test the top end on the narrow semi-urban roads, but the bike did pull strongly till 80 after which some effort was required. Though this was with a brand new engine which hadn’t been run in. The company claims a top whack of 115 kmph.
The new engine feels nothing like the older generation Pulsars and refinement is a big step up. We rode the bike during the second half of the day after it had been thrashed around by the media in the morning. Even after being meted out with some punishment the engine was smooth, the idling stable and throttle response is crisp. The gearbox is slick, with both upshifts and downshifts causing no trouble at all. The bane of the older bikes, finding neutral when stationary also seems to have been resolved as we found out in peak hour Hinjewadi IT Park traffic!
The frame is the same perimeter unit found on the NS200. Which helps greatly in improving the handling dynamics of the bike, but comes with a weight penalty. It is essentially over-engineered for the 160cc mill, which somewhat explains the up to 10 kg difference over the competition! As with most things engineering, there is a trade-off. Even though the wheelbase is the exact same as the NS200, the swingarm isn’t the same as per Bajaj.
How does this new technology translate into the ride on the road? Throw a leg over the rather high saddle, 805mm, and it feels immediately like the NS200. Press the self-start button and the engine immediately comes to life before falling into a steady idle. Fortunately the bike comes with a kick-start lever as well, so you needn’t depend on the battery in cold high-altitude conditions!
The clutch isn’t the lightest out there at first touch, but it has a nice smooth progressive feel to it. Slot the bike into first gear with the toe-only shifter and the bike cleanly pulls off, even with an incline and pillion. The shorter gearing and better torque are the heroes here. Once in motion, the distinction between the 200 becomes apparent. The missing power and the 10 kg less weight gives the bike an entirely different character as compared to its larger sibling. Much easier to throw around without any fear, but try stretching the revs in an overtaking manoeuvre and you are brought back to stark commuter reality!
The area where the bike shines is its handling. It manages to walk the tight rope of urban comfort and sporty handling. The suspension is substantially softer than its larger sibling but can take a reasonable amount of aggression, provided you don’t forget that it is a commuter at the end of the day. Bad roads are no barrier, as the softer suspension capably absorbs all the bumps thrown at it.
Brakes on the NS160 are a mixed bag. The front is sharp, with sufficient bite, but it isn’t progressive. First time disc brake users, of which there will be many, will have a tough time adjusting to the front brakes. More so considering, that the junta is generally scared of using front brakes. The rear employs a drum which ideally should be extinct along with dinosaurs. Unfortunately it isn’t and Bajaj says that a disc should be available at the rear as an option soon. We look forward to that.
What about the skinny tyres? That might be a major downside in the looks department, but once rolling, you just won’t notice. The handling and grip are sufficient for the target audience, without the higher rolling resistance which a 140 section rear tyre brings.
We rode the bike in daylight and therefore aren’t in a position to comment on the headlights efficacy, but with a 55W bulb and the same dome as the 200NS, the result should be consistent with the bigger brother. Fuel consumption as claimed by the company is between 40-45 kmpl, 2-3 kmpl less than the old Pulsar 150.
A question which many of us have is, will this bike be the death knell of the Pulsar 150 and 180? In the grand scheme of things, probably yes. But not as of now. All the Pulsars will be sold simultaneously. A bike with newer and better technology will surely sell more than an out-dated motorcycle right? Not always, as Bajaj found with the Pulsar 220 still outselling the 200NS by a decent margin.
The NS160 sits some INR 3000 more than the 150 and INR 1500 less than the Pulsar 180. Would most prospective buyers go for the 20cc more at a marginal price increase? This is going to be a tough sell for the Chakan based company to the average buyer who walks into its showroom.
How does it stack up against the 3 Japanese and the Apache 160? We need to wait for the update of the latter as it is at the end of its lifecycle. Compared to the Gixxer, FZ and Hornet, the bike sits pretty. It takes the fight to the Japanese, though the Gixxer is at par or slightly better, the FZ has a completely different character and the Hornet has sales numbers which is far ahead.
The biggest drawbacks for the NS160 are its highest in-class weight and saddle height. Neither is the bike the cheapest of the lot, a 1000 rupees more than the Apache and Gixxer, but significantly cheaper than the Hornet and FZ Fi. In terms of pure motorcycle, the Gixxer is the biggest competition, in terms of sales; the Hornet poses a stiff challenge. Will the NS160 manage to rattle the segment? We eagerly wait and watch!
Photos: Thulashi Dharan J / Holy Biker
Bajaj NS160 Review: Tech Specs and Comparison
Technical Specifications provide by Bajaj
The Next Ghostrider? 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000/R Review
There are few bikes which evoke a sense of speed and mystery and associate themselves with real life superbikers who have achieved cult status riding them. Our own John Abraham in India is mostly associated with the Hayabusa due to his first Dhoom movie even though he is a brand ambassador of another motorcycle company. However on the world stage it was the Ghostrider who achieved cult status which many have tried to, like more recently – ‘MaxWrist’ who has been going around on public streets on a BMW S1000RR, and even managing to get out of jail to do it again.
For me however, it has been the Ghostrider with his black GSX-R1000. He set the European highways on fire and shared low res videos online via YouTube back then, which made him something of a fabled creature.
In fact his impact on so many motorcyclists was so much, including myself that I unintentionally modelled my likes towards a matte black Hayabusa which I so cherish now.
Though I do not possess the skills or the aura of the Ghostrider it is pretty evident how a bike and rider can shape impressionable minds to such a great extent.
Coming back to the present. I found myself flying to the Kari Speedway in Coimbatore, my first tryst with the famous track. I gather it has played a very important role in shaping a lot of riders and a lot of activities keep happening there. Much before than the F1 spec BIC came up in the north. I guess riding the GSX-R 1000 was an excuse enough to pay a visit. And of course the JK Tyre Championship along with the Gixxer Cup was going on there that weekend as well.
The weather was amazing. The place is surrounded by hills, albeit a little distant, the highest peak of Ooty, a dream hill station of India called the Dodabetta is apparently only 90 kms away. Alas I didn’t have a bike there to go out on the road! Seeing the GSX-S1000 and the Hayabusa parked there gave me a flash of insanity that I might steal one of those and head to the hills. But there was work to be done.
So it was the second time I saw the new GSX-R1000s in flesh, after the INTERMOT last year. There they were – a matte black with red accents looking absolutely fantastic and ‘ghostrider’ ride ready. The other in the traditional Suzuki blue colors – this was the top spec GSX-R 1000R. But I was already in love with the black!
Now, the Kari Speedway isn’t really suitable for 1000cc machines. What I didn’t know is the condition of the track was literally like that of a road with one-way traffic. Bumps et all and with gravel around a few corners ensured that no flirting with the bike was possible. At least I didn’t want to take any chances!
So I first went on the GSX-R1000 without the balance free shocks. The traction level was set at 10. The TC was engaging inexorably and I had to come back into the pits and change the level to 4. The difference was remarkable. I was able to pull the bike much faster without the TC spoiling the party. The bike was fast. Insanely fast. I had to first get used to the track which is pretty technical and not at all flowing like the BIC. This meant a lot of shifting gears (but not so much probably thanks to the SR-VVT, which allowed for variable torque in low RPMs). Caution had to be exercised launching the bike out of the corners. After all a 200 plus bhp litre class bike demands utmost respect.
I could achieve speeds touching 200+ kmph on the front straight, however I paid the price with a tank slapper due to bumps on the track! The bike’s front wheel lifted skywards but somehow landed back on ground allowing me to brake hard before taking the right at the end of the straight. That was one scary moment. I could feel the TC, ABS working in unison to keep me upright at that moment. The GSX-R1000 doesn’t have the quickshift like its R version hence a bit more coordination is required especially on a tight track like this. Since I was far from breaking any lap records and just ensuring I get the bike back into the pits unscathed (to avoid possible lynching from other journalists and Suzuki officials alike since there were only two bikes), I took it easy.
The power is available at all RPMs, again thanks to the SR-VVT, and I dare not test it all the way up to its purported red rev band.
The bike does change corners very fast, but I reckon it will be much faster on a flowing track if ridden by the same rider.
Suzuki were a bit late to the party in upgrading the GSX-R 1000, the last major upgrade was, I reckon, 8 years ago. But they have come back with a bang. The R version has Showa balance free WSBK spec shocks which make it more stable under bumpy conditions and consequently faster too. Both the bikes have an IMU but the R version uses it to apply cornering ABS.
For me the new GSX-R is a great package, however the extra bucks for the R version will translate into faster (thanks to equipment like the quick shifter and BFF shocks) and safer (cornering ABS) riding – be it on the road or on the track.
The new GSX-R1000/ R is available in India for Rs 19,00,000/- and Rs 22,00,000/- respectively (Ex-Showroom Delhi).
The 80s was a transition period for superbikes. Engine technology had developed in leaps and bounds, producing far too much power than the tyres and chassis of the day could handle. The result was big unwieldy motorcycles which were more than a handful to ride. In superbike racing all the Japanese manufacturers were upping the game with their work on the engine. Suzuki took a different path to success, producing a more traditional engine but with a revolutionary frame. While the other Japanese manufacturers were using rectangular steel tube frames, Suzuki developed an aluminium chassis, ditching the traditional steel altogether.
With this innovation the Suzuki GSX-R 750 was born in 1985. Having a conventional engine setup made the bike a favourite among privateers. It didn’t just have phenomenal handling but because of its different frame, it visually stood apart from the competition. The sweet handling characteristic of the ’85 Gixxer has become a hallmark of superbikes from Suzuki. Hiroshi Fujiwara the main designer of this bike set in motion something which holds true even today.
The pinnacle of motorcycle racing sees the Suzuki in the same avatar. The common consensus in the MotoGP paddock is that the Suzuki GSX-RR ridden by Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins is the best handling bike on the grid currently. 2015 had seen the Japanese manufacturer re-enter MotoGP and they tasted success in 2016 with Maverick Vinales sewing up a convincing win at Silverstone.
Motorcycle racing aside, we would love to see the new superbike get a massively overpowered naked a la the KTM 1290 Super Duke R with its 170+ bhp. May not be the most practical motorcycle in the market, but then practicality at times is best shelved!
The New Tech
So what’s new with the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R 1000/R? Quite a lot it seems. In 1985, the frame used by Suzuki set them apart, now it’s the electronics. Though Suzuki is late to the ‘electrickery’ party, it has done a commendable job of getting it spot on.
The new GSX-R 1000 comes with a new chassis which is 20mm narrower at the widest point and it weighs 10% less than the previous model. Suzuki engineers and designers did extensive aerodynamic research and testing in the wind tunnel and on the racetrack during the development of the new GSX-R1000’s bodywork. Bigger discs help with improved braking over the outgoing model as well.
This is the most powerful bike ever built with 202 Ps of peak power and 117.6 Nm of peak torque. But this peak power hasn’t come at the expense of low and mid-range power. Thanks to the Suzuki Racing VVT (Variable Valve Timing), the engine produces oodles of power across the rev range. Suzuki claims that their proprietary system is much simpler than the competition. The simpler the tech, the less chances of failure.
This is why Suzuki says the bike is the ‘Best GSX-R Ever’!
The bike has 3 customisable modes which can be switched on the fly, though one must close the throttle before changing modes. It also gets a Continental Inertial Measurement Unit which is continuously measuring every motion and movement of the motorcycle. This allows for better electronic control during braking, cornering and acceleration.
For real world everyday ease of use, the Suzuki also has an Easy Start System. One touch of the starter button and the bike will roar to life. The rider needn’t pull in the clutch and hold the starter button. The electronics also help in starting the bike in cold conditions.
The R version of the gets even more goodies to go with the extra letter! Launch Control helps to get the perfect launch of the line on the track. You can whack open the throttle and the electronics will only send the required torque to the rear wheel to thrust the machine forward without spinning it up.
The Launch Control isn’t something you expect to use on a regular basis, but the Quick Shifter is. In the R, you can both upshift and downshift without using the clutch or playing with the throttle. This allows for smoother and faster shifting, a boon on the track.
The biggest step-up the R has over the regular is in the suspension. The Showa Balance Free Front Fork and Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite rear shock set the R apart. Simply put, this system gives more consistent feedback by negating the influence of unequal pressure of the oil.
All these upgrades put together make the R a significant step-up over the regular version. Changes which will surely make a difference on a track, on the street though, we aren’t so sure.
A few pictures from Kari, where the Gixxer Cup was also taking place.
Comparison with the competition