Digging deep into our archives, we bring you this First Ride review of a legendary motorcycle: the 1995 Suzuki GSX-R1100. The GSX-R1100 became super popular in drag racing circles and for good reason – that 1074cc four-banger was made to zip you in a straight line quickly. If it was handling and circuit performance you were looking for, the GSX-R750 was the bike to choose. The 1100 was the sport tourer of the time even if it wasn’t supposed to be. At least we’d consider it one now thanks to its smooth, powerful engine, clip-ons above the triple, and comfortable seating position.
Let’s also take a step back and shed a tear for inflation. When it was new, you could walk out with one of these GSX-R1100s for $10,000 and have some cash left in your wallet. In 2023, a motorcycle with relatively similar performance would cost you twice as much! But instead of dwelling on the current, we’ll let you enjoy the past. Happy reminiscing.
First Ride: 1995 Suzuki GSXR1100
The Big Lean: Suzuki’s 1995 GSXR1100 Drops Weight, Gains Performance
When Suzuki’s GSXR model line was first introduced way back in 1986, they were quintessential sportbikes. Light and powerful with superior handling, the GSXRs were the scourge of racetracks and canyons worldwide. Since then, the years have been cruel: The GSXRs, unequaled kings of the proverbial sportbike hill in the late 1980s, grew fat and complacent at the top.
Suddenly, it’s 1994. And the GSXR lineup is pushing around a hundred or so pounds of extra pork that was nowhere to be found on the featherweight originals, and Suzuki is getting stomped in Superbike and unlimited-class racing the world over.
So Suzuki puts the GSXRs on a diet. The GSXR600 underwent the most drastic cutback – it withered away completely! The GSXR750 was run through the weight-reduction mill last year, dropping 24 pounds in the process. This year, thankfully, the GSXR1100 got put on a fast. And the results are spectacular!
If you cough up the $9549 (American dollars) suggested retail price for a 1995, you get 493 pounds of motorcycle – replete with an awe-inspiring 1074cc, four-valve-per cylinder powerplant – that is surprisingly comfortable: With bars mounted above the triple clamps, low-mounted foot pegs, and multi-adjustable suspension at both ends, this big Suzuki is surprisingly tour-worthy. Still, it’s not for the meek – although we could see going coast-to-coast on a stock GSXR1100, we’d count on taking plenty of stops to stretch and relax aching body parts.
And the GSXR1100 sacrifices nothing for this relatively sedate riding position – ground clearance is more than abundant. Expect to never drag parts on a properly set-up GSXR1100, at least not on the street.
One caveat about the GSXR’s suspension: The factory-recommended rebound settings are too slow, meaning the bike has a tendency to “pack” under braking, and therefore, to wobble over bumps.
And these rebound settings compound a perennial flaw in GSXRs: When honking along at racetrack-like speeds, Suzuki’s GSXR line gets into slight, low-frequency wobbles when hard on the brakes – most likely from chassis flex. No worries though, as these weaves are only significant enough to scare the rider, and won’t throw you as long as you don’t panic. This year, Suzuki beefed up the frame in the steering-head area, reducing – but not eliminating – this tendency. The upper rails are also improved, and in a further effort to improve rigidity, the brackets now bolt the cylinder head directly to the upper frame tube.
The swingarm, too, has been beefed up, and now features a racer-like “bridged” brace welded on top. Additionally, the right side of the swingarm is now extruded (forcing metal, usually in the presence of elevated temperatures, through an aperture of the desired shape) rather than pressed (stamping sheet metal into form), resulting – theoretically, at least – in greater rigidity. Overall, Suzuki claims 5 percent greater torsional (twisting) rigidity without a weight increase.
But if you sit around complaining about the GSXR1100’s minor handling problems and portliness, you’re surely missing the point! The chassis and tires on this machine are merely instruments to connect the 1074cc mill to the pavement, no more, no less.
Need to squirt past some traffic in top gear on a busy rural highway while riding two-up with a trailer? No problem on the GSXR1100. The motor’s been re-tuned for 1995 to churn out 10 percent more midrange, a good thing for any street bike, even if it is over-powered to begin with. And carburetion is flawless from idle to redline. Similarly, there are no surprises in the power delivery, other than that it makes gobs of horsepower, everywhere. So watch out–this bike is easy to get into trouble with, except in first gear: Suzuki has an ignition-retard circuit that, obviously, retards the ignition in low gear (it’s a red-and-black wire located under the seat).
So for the sport-touring enthusiasts out there, you owe it to yourself to take a test ride on a Suzuki GSXR1100. Because if you like horsepower, you’ll love this bike, and if any little aspect of the GSXR1100 bothers you, look to the aftermarket, which supports this vehicle with a plethora of parts. From high-rise bars to fairing-eliminator kits and trailers (or even Nitrous Oxide!), you’ll have little difficulty building your dream bike out of a Suzuki GSXR1100.
Specifications: Manufacturer: Suzuki Model: GSXR1100 Price: $9549 Engine: dohc, 16-valve, inline-Four Bore x stroke: 75.5 x 60.0mm Displacement: 1074 cc Carburetion: (4) 36mm Mikuni Transmission: 5-speed Wheelbase: 58.5 in. Seat height: 32.1 in. Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal. Claimed dry weight: 493 lbs.
1. Tokico brakes were awesome, never fading or misbehaving. And it’s a good thing, because this GSXR suffers from the same wobble-while-braking that’s plagued GSXRs for years, a combination of several factors, including a still-too-weak frame. However, one full-throttle burst is enough to wipe any complaints straight out of your head: This engine is nothing short of mesmerizing. And with a proven endurance racing record of success that virtually guarantees you years of trouble-free high performance, the GRXR1100 will amuse for years to come. Based on it’s awesome acceleration, surprising comfort and track record, I give it four (out of a possible five) stars.
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