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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Suzuki GSX-S 1000A - first impressions and some comparisons

Well, the new bike is here and the Street Triple has gone... sniffle, sniffle!  I put the Triple on the NZ equivalent of eBay and the level of interest was amazing.  I could have sold it multiple times over but couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.  The new owners are a lovely young couple from Northland who did some thorough research and decided that mine was exactly what they were looking for.  I hope they have as much fun as I’ve had with it over the last 6 years.  Despite the prospect of a new bike, I was sad to see it go as it's done everything so well but it's gone to good people.  Hand-over was a perfect arrangement as it happened at the dealers in Auckland at the same time I picked up the Suzuki!

New owners Ray and Sandy, with Ray's dad - gone to a great new home!

Picking up the new bike on the Friday afternoon of a holiday long weekend probably wasn’t the smartest move with the Auckland Southern Motorway clogged with dimwits in cages hell bent on getting an early start out of the city.  Quietly filtering down the almost stationary traffic, it was really noticeable that there were plenty of drivers using their mobile phones and oblivious to what was going on around them.  I lost patience pretty quickly, dived out through the suburbs and went home the long way round through the countryside. After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination.... and certainly not clogged freeways full of knuckle-draggers!

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself……

I thought it would be worthwhile to record some initial impressions of the 190 km trip home on a new bike and contrast them where appropriate with the Street Triple and Blackbird before those thoughts become blurred.  Naturally, they are personal ones shaped by the bikes I’ve owned and the type of riding I’ve done over the years but here goes!


As mentioned in the previous blog post, the transition from Street Triple to Suzuki 1000 wasn't even on the radar, until a brief test ride two weeks previously which surprised me as the Suzy felt very similar to the Triumph in many important respects, albeit with a shed load more horsepower! Actually, I'd sat on a friend's "F" faired model the previous weekend and found that my feet could go flat on the deck.  That's what really started it so I blamed him to my wife!




About to leave the dealer and face holiday weekend traffic!

Travelling in heavy traffic on the motorway at slow speeds and indulging in a bit of filtering confirmed that despite the difference in weights (Triple ~170 kg dry, Suzi ~209 kg dry), the Suzy carried its weight very low and was ergonomically similar to the Triple – instant confidence!  I could also get my feet flat when the traffic stopped - important for an err... mature guy with stuffed knees! Rob, the salesperson at Holeshot Motorcycles reminded me before I left that the brakes would take some bedding in.  He was bang on the money – nowhere near as powerful as the Triple despite them being 4 pot radial Brembos so I added a few more lengths of following distance.  They slowly improved throughout the journey but have not yet reached the standard I’m expecting.

Reading ride reports on the Suzuki in the press, one common complaint is that it’s a bit snatchy from a trailing throttle.  That’s actually a fair call but the same complaint was levelled at the Street Triple when it first came out.  That gave me an advantage on the hand-over and didn't find it particularly intrusive on the trip home having got used to the Triple..  However, the new experience is only over 200 km so time will tell.

Leaving the motorway and getting out on to the country roads, it was nearly as nimble as the Triple, but not quite.  It did take a bit more effort to change direction through tight twisties .  It has a 190 section rear tyre compared with a 180 on the triple, a slightly longer wheelbase and more weight.  These factors will have some impact but as already mentioned, the difference isn’t huge.  Pushing it through the twisties as confidence grew saw the traction control activation light come on a few times.  Not a big deal as Rob had set it at "Old Fart" mode, the most sensitive of the settings.  I’d like to think that it was because the tyres were new rather than my age or perceived competence affecting his decision!

Stubby, raspy end can and chicken strips virtually gone in under 200 km

Handling over bumpy surfaces saw the bike skitter about far more than the Triple, but not in a particularly alarming way.  You certainly had to be a bit careful getting on the throttle!  It’s not a fair comparison at present though as the new bike running gear needs to loosen up before sag and damping can be properly adjusted for my weight.  I set the Triple up properly for my riding weight using quality aftermarket componentry and besides, international road tests say that not many bikes can live with a Triple in the tight stuff. 

The ride was in warm, dry conditions and the D214 sport tyres stuck well.  Rain grooves are minimalist and like most sport tyres, they require heat to make them stick.  From experience with the OEM Dunlop Qualifiers on the Street Triple, the prospect of riding in the rain in cooler conditions does not fill me with excitement, particularly as I have to do instructing in all conditions. The good thing is that the D214's should be dead pretty quickly and can be replaced with Michelin PR4's, which I love to bits.  Oh, and a real plus is that the turning circle is miles better than the Triple.  Having had to step off the Trumpy a few months ago when I stuffed up a feet-up U turn on a narrow country road in the presence of a rider I was mentoring makes me a bit sensitive to a lack of steering lock. Mercifully, the only significant damage was to my ego.

As the traffic thinned out, the ability to get on the throttle improved, even though running-in revs and engine loads were strictly observed.  The Suzuki has about 45 bhp more than the Triple but that’s nowhere near the end of the story.  If you do the math, the power to weight ratio of both bikes aren’t a mile apart.  Coupled with the wide torque spread of the Triple, it’s only when wind drag starts to kick in at (say) above 100 km/hr that the Suzuki has a significant advantage and clears off.  For everyday riding where corners, road conditions or other traffic impact on speed, the difference between the 2 bikes is nowhere as much as you might think.

Menacing in matte grey metallic paint


The muffler is one of those stubby Moto-GP jobbies slung low for mass centralisation.  It's got quite a bark too which is quite pleasing.  At certain highway speeds and a neutral throttle, there is a droning harmonic-type noise. Unsure at this stage whether it came from the airbox, muffler or both.  Will investigate further although it wasn't really irritating.



At about 3/4 distance home, my butt started to ache a bit, causing a bit of shuffling about on the seat.  It's far too early to draw any conclusions about this.  The seat may soften, my butt might adjust and if they don't; the fall-back will be an Airhawk pneumatic pad like I used for the Rusty Nuts 1600 km in under 24 hours organised event on the Street Triple (HERE). 



Old Geezer plus new bike photo op on Coromandel Wharf


The instrumentation display on the Suzuki is superb, although overwhelming at first glance!  As well as the normal speedo/odometer/tacho/temperature functions, there is permanent ABS and 3 stage traction control which can loosely be described as Old Fart (or rain if you prefer), spirited road riding (2) and trackday (1).  There is also "off", reserved for those who's surname rhymes with Rossi.  The rocker switch on the left bar also allows several fuel consumption options.  The one I particularly like is the one which counts down the km's before fuel is needed.  Let's hope that it's not wildly inaccurate!

View from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise


The Beast safely back at home!


So what now?  The main thing is to get used to it and get the break-in period over and done with.  With a few mentoring sessions already scheduled with the Institute of Advanced Motorists, the 1000 km service should be reached in about a week, then it will be time to see what she'll do!  Some matte 3M anti-scuff film will be installed at the service to protect the rear of the tank and the tailpiece from throwover bags.  The guys at Holeshot Motorcycles already installed paddock stand bobbins and a switched wiring take-off for my GPS and radar detector as part of the deal.  Just have to figure where to put 'em.  A front guard extender to keep the crap out of the radiator is already on order and engine crash protectors will be ordered shortly.  A small Suzuki screen is on back-order.

THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS SO FAR

As I've only done one 200-odd km run from the dealer plus a 45 minute demo ride 2 weeks previously, the thoughts are only first impressions.  Reading back through what I've written, I don't seem to be jumping out of my skin about the Suzuki.  That would be a wrong impression - I love it and am really looking forward to riding it how it's meant to be ridden.   If anything, it's a strong complimentary reflection on just how good the Street Triple is. Totally bullet-proof in the 6 years of ownership, sublime handling and the power to weight ratio means that it won't be embarrassed in bigger company - horsepower is only one side of the equation.  If I enjoy the Suzuki as much as I've loved the Triple, I'll be a happy man!

My thoughts also turn back to the 1135cc Honda Blackbird which graced the shed for 8 years before the Triple. The fastest bike in production when it first came out and also bullet-proof.  On the downside, it was a tad too tall for me and carried its weight pretty high too which is why it had to go as I aged - low speed handling and parking on big cambers could be problematic. Comparing it with the Suzuki mass centralisation and lower weight, sharper handling and modern electronics isn't fair to a bike that was at the top of the tree when first released in late 1996. It does go to show however, how far motorcycle technology has evolved in 20-odd years.  I'll still look back on the Blackbird with huge affection but then was then and now is now - time to move on.

Finally, a personal acknowledgement of the great service I received from Holeshot Motorcycles, right from the demonstrator ride through to riding away on the new bike.  Being gushy about their service would do them a disservice.  Suffice to say that throughout, Rob, the guy I dealt with was friendly, accommodating and utterly professional.  Looking forward to building a long-term relationship with them.  Oh, and they are also Triumph agents so if the rumoured 800cc Street Triple ever gets released, there might be the opportunity for more business (subject to Executive Permission from Jennie of course)!

Can't wait for the next stage of getting to know The Beast!


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Taken by complete surprise!

Spring has sprung in NZ and a young man's thoughts turn to......  noooo - get a grip and tell the story!

Sometimes, near-serendipitous things occur which leaves one thinking, "How the heck did that happen?"  Well, a couple of events over the last week or so have ended up having that effect on me!

Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love the Street Triple which was bought new in 2009 after having ridden a Honda Blackbird for the previous 8 years.  It's done everything well..... out for a "brisk" ride with the lads, touring, mentoring advanced riding classes and is the most comfortable bike I've ever done the Rusty Nuts 1000 miles (1600 km) in under 24 hours endurance ride on.  It's also been supremely reliable - a rectifier replaced as part of a world-wide recall and 2 mirror stalks replaced under warranty due to rusting - the sum total in 6 years of ownership. The original review is HERE

The intention has always been to replace it with another Street Triple, albeit a sports "R" or "RX" version when the time came.  The light weight at 170-odd kg plus a modest seat height are ideal for someone who turns 68 this month!  There was no real hurry to replace the current bike as it's still in excellent nick but then a couple of things happened.......

The awesome Street Triple RX

The first thing was that Executive Permission was granted to get another bike with no grovelling whatsoever (the quid pro quo has not yet been discussed though, haha).  We all know what it's like when that happens - instant perusing of the Triumph catalogue and a good deal of on-line reading about the sportier Street Triples!

The second thing that happened was reading about rumours that Triumph would be releasing an 800cc version of the Street Triple.  A few worries crept in. If I get a new 675 now, what will be the impact of the rumoured 800cc Street Triple?  If I wait for the 800, will I be waiting for a year or two and will I actually like it when it comes out?   Aargh!  The course to true love never runs smooth (errr....so they say).  The result?  Procrastination and not knowing what to do.

Now it so happens that I was at a gathering of Institute of Advanced Motoring riders and a fellow Observer turned up on a brand new fully-faired Suzuki and invited me to sit on it.  The big surprise was that as a relative shortarse at 5' 8", I could get both feet flat on the deck.  Whilst the bike itself didn't offer immediate emotional appeal as I'm more of a fan of naked bikes these days, it did open my consciousness to other options.

Fast forward to last weekend....... I was in Auckland to help run a training course and ended up sitting on the new non-faired Suzuki GSX-S 1000A in a Triumph/Suzuki dealer showroom - seat height was perfect!  Would Sir like to take it for a spin?  Just about bit his arm off!  It's quite a small bike but I was a bit nervous about the offer, particularly with the weight at 207 kg compared with 170-odd for the Triple and my knees not being in pristine condition.

About to take the Suzy for a test - massive grin concealed by helmet

The salesman appeared to be remarkably relaxed at the prospect of letting an old geezer take out a beast with close to 50 horses more than the Triple.  He quickly indicated the essential controls and rather pointedly said that he'd set the traction control (yep, 3 stage traction control!) in Granny Mode.  Actually, he didn't use those words but would lay money that was what he was getting at.  Incidentally, if you look at the photo above, there is a black mark on the plastic just below and forward of the "S" brand badge.  There is also a scuff on the muffler which doesn't show on the photo.  These were apparently incurred by someone turning off the traction control and giving it a handful.  Maybe the salesman had every right to be cautious!

Within moments of heading out of the showroom, I was amazed at how easy the transition from the Triple to the Suzuki was - it's incredibly similar in terms of general "feel". It carries its additional weight really low so the extra kilos aren't apparent. In fact, it was amazingly similar in terms of both nimbleness and ergonomics to the Triple and it was these features which made the transition from one to the other so easy. The engine is based on the 2005-2008 GSX-R 1000, which has more torque than later versions, but with modern engine management electronics and a brand new rolling chassis to carry it.  The engine produces about 145 ponies, traction control (4 including turning it off!) plus ABS to deliver power and braking in a relatively sane manner.   The term "sane" is relative as the first twist of the wrist up the motorway would have had the Long Arm of the Law doing more than frowning if one had been around.   The acceleration was absolutely ferocious.  Radial 4 piston Brembos brought a bit of sanity to scrubbing off speed though!  Filtering through traffic in urban areas was just like being on the Triple - no drama whatsoever.

To cut the tale short, I came back with a grin a mile wide and put a deposit on one.  Had the choice of electric blue (too much like the old Blackbird), red and black (does nothing for me) or matte metallic grey.  The latter was perfect - understated menace and unlikely to attract unwarranted attention!  Picking it up later this month when the new shipment arrives.

The beast in blue (Suzuki brochure photo)

The beastie from another angle (Suzuki brochure photo)

Must say that getting a new bike right now took me by surprise and buying a Suzuki was an even bigger surprise, but the test ride really was that good! . I think it will be the right choice for my current circumstances.  I'm certainly not discounting a return to a Triple if and when when Triumph release the 800 (rumour late 2016 or 2017) but the Suzuki should be fine for now.  I'll be putting the Triple up for private sale in the near future.

I found a review of the Suzuki from a UK rider on YouTube.  His language is pretty colourful but is in context with his surprise as to its performance and is relatively amusing.  I'd like to think that my riding standard is a sight better than his though!  Maybe the test got to him.  Maybe the test got to me, haha!



When I've had the Suzuki for a week or two, I might put a post together comparing it with the Triple and some overall impressions.

Oooohhhh......  can't wait!