First Ride Review

For years, sportbikes powered by 750cc in-line fours were considered the ideal compromise, with lightness approaching that of middleweights and power approaching that of liter bikes. But when racing regulations changed in 2003, 750s were abandoned by three of the four Japanese manufacturers. Suzuki has been the exception, continuing to build and refine its venerable GSX-R750 to the present day.

As good as the GSX-R750 is, it isn’t cheap (a new one will set you back $12,299) and its racy ergonomics and performance limit its street-riding appeal. Enter the GSX-S750, a new-for-2015 model that puts a retuned, 2005-era GSX-R750 engine in a more budget-conscious, street-oriented package. With an MSRP of just $7,999 and minimal bodywork, the GSX-S750 will compete head-to-head with naked sportbikes like the Yamaha FZ-09 and Triumph Street Triple.

Compared to the GSX-R it’s based on, the GSX-S has more low-end torque and mid-range power thanks to milder cam profiles and reshaped intake and exhaust tracts. At 48 mpg claimed, fuel economy is better too. The liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, 749cc engine benefits from trickle-down technology such as the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve and Suzuki Exhaust Tuning valve, both of which enhance throttle response. Ease of use is the key here, with smooth, controllable power, effortless shifting of the 6-speed transmission, and back-to-basics operation with no electronic rider aids.

Suzuki hosted the GSX-S750 press launch in Austin, Texas, on a cold, wet day that hindered our ability to evaluate its full potential. But there was a silver lining to the dark cloud. Sketchy conditions forced our normally hard-charging group of journalists—led by Austin resident and former GP champion Kevin Schwantz, no less—to roll off the throttle and ride more gingerly. Such restraint allowed me to appreciate the GSX-S750’s user-friendly nature.

First and foremost is the agreeable riding position. The upright handlebar allowed a modest bend in my elbows and back, the footpegs are positioned low and forward enough for decent legroom, and the 32.1-inch seat is well-padded and supportive. Pulling out of the parking garage and onto the slick streets of downtown Austin, I warmed up quickly to the taut, responsive throttle and the light, precise clutch and shifter. Steering was nimble and the Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 radials provided smooth side-to-side transitions and good wet grip.

Given that the GSX-S750 costs $4,300 less than a GSX-R750, certain budgetary concessions had to be made. The twin-spar frame and box-section swingarm are made of steel rather than aluminum, which contributes to the bike’s somewhat hefty 463-pound claimed wet weight. The inverted cartridge fork and link-style shock, both by KYB, offer preload adjustability only, but the one-setting-fits-all damping felt spot-on given our modest speed and lean angles. Less impressive were the Tokico brakes, a pair of 310mm discs with 2-pot calipers in front and a 240mm disc with a 1-pot caliper out back, which felt numb and weak. (ABS is not available.)

Suzuki may have had to scrimp and sacrifice to hit its sub-$8,000 price target, but the GSX-S750 doesn’t look or feel cheap. Its aggressive, streetfighter styling is fully modern, with a raked tail section housing an LED taillight and a sculpted 4.6-gallon fuel tank with textured side panels for added grip. A large analog tachometer is paired with an easy-to-read LCD that includes a numerical speedometer, gear-position indicator, fuel gauge, coolant temperature gauge, clock and a selectable odometer/dual-tripmeter/fuel-consumption meter. The GSX-S750 can also be tarted up with accessories such as a sport windscreen, lower cowl, rear seat cowl, lock-ring tankbag, expandable tankbag and cosmetic trim. If the Metallic Matte Black paint doesn’t float your boat, an extra $250 gets you the GSX-S750Z, a special edition with Metallic Triton Blue/Pearl Glacier White paint, bright-gold anodized fork legs, silver-matte finish on the handlebar, blue side plates on the drive chain and a red spring on the rear shock.

Suzuki goes to great lengths to emphasize the GSX-S750’s rich sportbike heritage but glosses over the fact that it’s priced to attract newer, younger riders. It will make a great step-up bike, perhaps after someone has earned their chops on a GW250 and is ready for more performance. It should also be a fast-and-fun commuter with enough zip for campaigning twisty roads on the weekend. Before we can pass final judgment, we’d like to flog it on dry roads and put it up against the competition. Stay tuned.