On the seventh day of Christmas!

This ride of Christmas is as special to me as it is iconic. The Suzuki GSX-R, or Gixxer for the aficionados, is one of the best known Japanese sportsters. Superseded in insanity by the mean Hayabusa when it was introduced in 1999, the GSX-R remains to this day an integral part of the Japanese sports bike legacy.

Though different engine sizes are available (600 and 750 cc), the 1,000 version is the one that has carved a place in many riders’ dreams and parents’ nightmares. With its high tail and foot pegs, low handlebar positioned at seat height, well-balanced silhouette and contrasting paint scheme, its look is the epitome of a sports bike. The GSX-R is more accessible than the Suzuki Hayabusa or Kawasaki H2, but isn’t exactly a starter model either, like the Honda CBR and Kawasaki Ninja. You might want to get a few hundred kilometers under your belt before jumping on one.

2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000
2017 Suzuki GSX-R 600

As a rider, I had yet to check the Suzuki GSX-R off my bucket list. The occasion presented itself during the summer when the GSX-R 1000R was added to the Suzuki press fleet. I wasted no jumping on the occasion that came with the warning that a full M license was required for this one. Not only was I curious to finally get to experience the Gixxer for myself but the model also holds a special place in my heart.

Over a decade ago, my parents and grandmother had offered me riding lessons for Christmas. Instead of a card with a little message to that effect, I unwrapped a Suzuki GSX-R 600 scale model.  It has since found a place among my automotive and motorcycle memorabilia, gathering dust, but it remains one of my fondest memories.

I had two reasons to test the Gixxer and it turned out to be everything I had hoped for; uncomfortable and devilish. Of course, riding in a crouching position can feel a little unsettling. The body is tilted forward with the hands positioned at knee height, slightly lower than the seat which puts an important amount of pressure on the wrists and gives the impression that a nose dive is only one rough braking away.

On a more philosophical note, however, hugging the gas tank also makes you feel “one” with the motorcycle and therefore much more in control. With roughly 180 horsepower produced by the 999.8 cc inline-four cylinder engine for a curb weight of 203 kg, control is key.

The power delivery is smooth and linear which made the takeoffs all that more exciting. The motorcycle is light, nimble and made me want to do naughty things. The little devil on my shoulder had knocked the little angel out with a golf club.

The 1000R is the sportier evolution from the standard 1000 with launch control, quick-shift system as well as track-friendly suspension and fork. Overall handling is precise but also unkind. The only remedy to biting my tongue had been to lift my bum up at every bump in the asphalt.

My experience of the Suzuki GSX-R 1000R is undeniably one of the highlights of my year. I got to check an item off my list and meet a legend on two wheels. I have since cleaned up the 600 model sitting on a shelf.


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