(no copyright infringment intended - free publication)
Suzuki-s Mega Retro
Suzuki's new GSX1400 has come out of left field to give you a dose of big bike fun. Does it match up to the scores of 'lighter = better' sports bikes?
Test by Nigel Paterson
Pics by Keith Muir
IF you like your bikes big, strong, naked and comfortable, Suzukiís new GSX1400 should be first on your shopping list. While most classes of bike are getting lighter, smaller and more high-tech, Suzukiís launched a big bike which uses an engine heavily based on Suzuki technology of the 1980sí GSX-R range, albeit fuel injected.
The combination of increased capacity and fuel injection has given the GSX more grunt than your average bulldozer. It makes the machineís ancestors seem gutless.
Although even experienced bike watchers could confuse the GSX1400 with a GSX1100 of 20 years ago (if the light was bad) the 1400 is a comprehensively better machine than its ancestor.
For a start, the 1400 steers incredibly sweetly. The combination of quality tyres, modern suspension, suitable steering geometry, a comfortable riding position and a superbly placed centre of gravity all combine to give the 1400 really neutral, confidence-inspiring steering.
When you add that nice riding position to the great steering and awesome grunt, youíve got a combination which cannot fail to put a smile on your face.
Right off the bottom, Suzukiís monster in-line four pulls harder than nearly anything else today Ė including trains, semi-trailers, teenage boys. You never have to twist the throttle very hard. This would be a great bike for pulling trailers or sidecars.
The donk is based on the old oil/air-cooled GSX-R motors, but they were never this big or so detuned Ė most owners will rarely bother to rev the GSX1400 hard, because the midrange is so strong. The redlineís a moderate 9000rpm, but they are big pistons.
I believe Suzukiís saying something about the future of its big-bore machinery by fitting fuel injection to this bike. Why does a retro have fuel injection? Is it because most big Suzukiís might be injected in the future? Could be. Itís one of the best injection systems Iíve sampled on a motorcycle, delivering the fuel seamlessly and faultlessly. Unless you have a hankering to play with a set of carbs yourself, I canít understand why you would want to use any other system.
The transmission is excellent. Suzuki builds great gearboxes, and this one is no exception. Slick, easy shifting at any revs. Itís got six gears, at least one more than you really need (I think a four-speed version could be fun) but its so nice to use itís certainly never a bother. When cruising in top at freeway speeds the engine just seems to be ticking over - which means this powerplant could last for hundreds of thousands of kilometres before needing any work.
Some vibration reaches the rider Ė through the tank, Ďbars and seat Ė at various engine speeds, but itís minor and nothing most people will even really notice.
Itís the return of the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) in the chassis department, with a steel cradle chassis connecting the steering head to the swingarm. Simple, cheap and honest, the frame did a good job of keeping the bike pointing the right direction.
The suspension is much better than we had to put up with when the UJM was the dominant force in motorcycling. Fully adjustable at both ends, once set up this machine inspires much riding confidence than I expected from a big, heavy, naked retro. The standard settings will be too soft for most Australians, but both ends can be tuned quickly and easily to your preference.
The brakes are superb. Big six-piston calipers up front give heaps of bite and stopping power. The power and control of these modern stoppers is wonderful.
Suzuki has designed this machine for touring and two people. Unfortunately not at the same time, but what do you expect from a naked? Thereís eight Ė yes, eight Ė luggage strap mounting points for strapping things to the back seat, thereís a useful compartment under the seat (I had a one-piece rainsuit, gloves, compact camera and sunnies under there, with room to spare), a big, broad pillion perch and a well-positioned grab rail.
The bike is well designed for touring. Thereís no weather protection, of course, but there is a big, relatively flat tank, just perfect for a tankbag, and the twin-shock design at the back means attaching soft or hard bags/panniers shouldnít present too many problems. The riding position is roomy, thereís plenty of legroom and the Ďbars are just a gentle lean forward (and they are old-steel Ďbars too, which means they are easy to change if thereís another bend out there you prefer).
Although itís pretty obvious, the GSX1400 is a bloody big bike, and is better suited to taller riders. The seat height is high (but not ridiculous) and manoeuvring this machine calls for a reasonable amount of strength.
The seat itself wasnít as nice as I had hoped - it became a bit of a hard perch after about 1/2 a day, sooner than I think it should have. There is, however, plenty of room to move around, which makes life a lot more pleasant. Under the seat lies a helmet hook, while thereís also an old-fashioned helmet lock on the frame rail, operated with the ignition key. Given the compartment under the seat, I would have preferred a hinged seat (rather than removable) but they went out with the ark.
The dash consists of two cylindrical pods, with the idiot lights positioned in between. In addition to the speedo and tacho, there are twin LCD tripmeters, a fuel gauge and a clock, all of which is good to have. Interestingly, Suzuki has shied away from using an oil level light, fitting an oil pressure light instead - which is as it should be. You can check your oil level easily yourself, but expensive damage can occur if your oil pressure drops and you donít know it.
The fuel gauge has five segments; thereís around 6 litres left, when it starts flashing thereís less than three and a half. The tank holds 22 litres; its fuel consumption averaged a pretty poor 14.5km/L for the test, giving a range to dry of about 320km. Iíd expect owners to get better fuel consumption, especially cruising. Thereís both a centre and sidestand, and both work well.
Maintenance Retro-styled machines lend themselves to home maintenance, but you might find yourself a bit bored with the GSX1400 if you decide to do it all yourself. Changing the oil (every 6000km) looks to be a doddle; the filter (a spin-on type) needs changing only every third oil change. The valves need adjusting only every 24,000km, half as often as youíd change the spark plugs. Thereís no carbs to balance, but Suzuki does recommend synchronizing the throttle valve every 12,000km. The battery is a sealed unit, requiring no maintenance. Which leaves the drive chain. Lubed every 500km, adjust as needed. Why Suzuki didnít develop a shaft for this machine I donít know, but I believe it would have made the bike attractive to a lot more riders.
Suzuki has built a really honest performer in the GSX1400. Although it looks a bit like the old GS and GSX range dating back to the 1970s, this is a modern machine with all the advantages which come with a modern design. If you liked the style of those older machines, this is a very modern and fun bike, which feels like it will go forever.