43 mm Inverted telescopic forks, compression, rebound and preload
Rising rate monoshock, compression, rebound and preload adjustable.
2 x 310 mm discs,
6 piston calipers
220 mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Alloy, 3 spoke
96.5 mm / 3.8 in.
Length 2055 mm /
720 mm / 28.3 in.
1135 mm / 44.7 in.
1400 mm / 55.1 in.
830 mm / 32.7 in.
130 mm / 5.1 in
179 kg / 394.6 lbs
194 kg / 427.7 lbs.
/ 4.8 US gal
6.3 l/100 km / 16.0 km/l / 37.6 mpg
Braking 60 km/h -
0 / 37 mph - 0
12.7 m / 41.6 ft
Braking 100km/h -
0 / 60 mph - 0
37.3 m / 122.4 ft
Standing ¼ mile
10.6 sec / 216 km/h / 134 mph
Standing 0 - 60 km/h / 37 mph
269.6 km/h /
White/Blue, Gold/Black, Yellow/Black
More of the same with only slight mods and a few internal changes for the
GSX-R750V. The aerodynamics of the slanted nose overhanging over the front
tyre and the rounded contours of the large detachable single seat tail cowl
were borrowed straight from the RGV-T. The large seat cowl also has the
distinction of making any followers' slipstreaming difficult in races. High
power, high reliability and the compact and lightweight features of the
engine and the chassis enabled the riders on the GSX-R750 to shine on the
track and the street riders to enjoy handling ease of a 400cc class chassis
but with explosive acceleration. New graphics.
A decade after the last of the
"legacy" GSX-Rs rolled off the line,
the engineers who were in place for its gestation are quick to move on to the
next chronological topic.
They are in no way ashamed of the 1992-95 GSXRs
- which were, after all, extremely successful for
Suzuki moto on many levels-but what
the company had in store for the next generation was nothing short of
astonishing. And they're eager to talk about the effort.
In many ways, the 1996 GSXR 750 T was
as much a departure for Suzuki moto
and as daring a leap into the future of sportbiking as the original
GSXR. It opened up new technological
avenues for the company, causing it to rethink a considerable portion of its
engineering efforts in addition to pushing its suppliers and production division
to embrace new forms and higher expectations.
The '96 GSXR also had finally broken
free of the long shadow cast by Mr. Yokouchi's amazing machine: no longer did
the GSXR have to look like the
classical notion of a GSXR. Say
so-long to fins on a liquid-cooled engine. Offer a wave of good-bye to the
over-the-top alloy frame.
Welcome, instead, a move toward the mainstream of sportbike design that did not
copy what Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha were doing but dramatically advanced the
state of the art. Low weight was back in style. High horsepower had moved up the
menu. Function had, once more, pushed form aside and asserted itself.
"The GSXR 750 T was a big step forward
for us," says Kunio Arase, who spearheaded the engine effort for this
generation. "Much of what we did with that engine we wanted to do earlier, but
we were held back by production concerns. Our casting technology was not
advanced enough to do much of what we wanted with this new engine family."
Better late than never, so they say.
Again, context is useful. Honda had dramatically reset the weight/performance
expectations with the CBR 900 RR, a bike sized like a middleweight but packing a
near-liter bike punch. It was certainly popular enough in the u.s. but it was a
sales steamroller in Europe, a very strong market at the beginning of the 1990s.
Kawasaki continued to develop the ZX-7 and, unbeknownst to Suzuki, was readying
an updated model, the ZX 7 R, for'96 that featured a significant weight
reduction. Kawasaki had also done well with the ZX 9 R, offering a relatively
comfortable sportbike with performance that beat the '95 GSXR 750 and
dramatically less weight than the GSXR 1100.
Yamaha's 750 was more expensive than its nearest competitors and failed to sell
well in 1994 technically there was no '95 model in the U.S. Yamaha was expected
to return for '96. All around sportbiking, performance was on the rise and
weight was on the way down. The trends of the previous few years were playing
out. Big-inch bikes continued to get faster and larger, which suited Suzuki moto
as it watched the liter class closely and elected to continue the GSXR 1100
through 1998 with minor changes; it retained the first generation of
water-cooled engine, traditional GSXR double-cradle frame, and bodacious power.
The GSXR 1100 retained its mantle of asphalt-searing torque and seriousness of
But the 600 cc sportbikes had become the hottest class in town, offering a lot
of performance for the dollar. The scene was being set for the obsolescence of
the 750 class. Theoretically this category was caught in the middle-not as much
raw performance as a full-liter bike and without the feathery handling and
accommodating powerband of the 600s. None in the press would blame Suzuki moto
for leaving the 750 class behind.
Except that Suzuki moto had other plans. The new GSXR 750 would return with a
vengeance to the light-is-right mantra, forcing many riders to question the
belief that the only way to get a low-mass sportbike was to buy a 600. Consider
the numbers: dry weight of 395 pounds, nearly 50 below the previous
liquid-cooled GSXR 750, and 125 crankshaft horsepower. Close, dangerously close,
to the 900 class machines.
Suzuki moto achieved these laudable numbers in a way totally familiar to GSXR
fans, by scrutinizing every component, every shape, every choice of material on
the motorcycle. In this quest for low weight, nothing was sacred. Except it had
to be an inline-four. When the engineering team today is asked about alternative
layouts, they answer almost in unison, "No. The inline-four is the best
configuration." Period. End of discussion. Yet, in the new GSXR power plant,
nothing of the old remains. From the bottom up, Suzuki moto created a unique
three-level crankcase assembly, with two major split lines-one on the crankshaft
axis and one just below for the two transmission gears.
There is another split where the cylinder assembly fits into the upper third of
the main case, another (obviously) at the head, and another at the oil pan.
Traditionally, the overall length of the engine is set by the space required to
pack the crankshaft, primary drive, clutch, main transmission, and countershaft
along a single axis. It's possible to shrink the engine's length by making the
transmission smaller, but this tactic can sacrifice strength in the face of
ever-increasing engine power. The other possibility is to stagger the gears to
place the transmission's mainshaft below the crankshaft, which allows everything
else to move forward.
Suzuki moto placed the crankcase splits at an angle from horizontal, actually
perpendicular to the bore axis for increased strength. It's a fine balance. Cant
the cylinders way forward and you'll achieve a desirable front-end weight bias
at the risk of making the engine effectively longer. Modern inline engine
sportbikes, with their steep steering geometries, have precious little room to
spare between the front wheel and the exhaust system.
It was becoming more common for sportbike manufacturers to build engines with
the cylinder block cast as one with the top of the crankcase, but Suzuki moto
didn't follow this trend for a simple reason: its engineers anticipated building
more than one displacement from one engine design.
Design a single monoblock assembly, and you're instantly limited in what you can
do with bore and stroke measurements. Bore can expand or contract slightly,
depending upon how beefy the cylinder liners are designed to be, but stroke is
trickier. Move to a shorter stroke than the original design without changing the
deck height, and there will be more cylinder wall than is necessary. In turn,
the connecting rods will need to be longer, which mayor may not be to the
engine's mechanical advantage but surely will not help weight. On the other
side, engineers trying to make a 750 into a 1000, for example, face another set
of challenges if the relationship between the crank main bearings and
cylinder-head surface cannot be easily modified. Suzuki's solution allows for a
relatively simple change of the cylinder casting to accommodate changes in bore
and stroke without tearing up the blueprints on the rest of the bottom end.
For the new GSXR 750, Suzuki moto aimed to make the engine as compact as
possible. The previous engine was based heavily on the earlier oil-cooled model,
so the bore spacing was wider than it really needed to be in a purely
water-cooled engine, and the central cam drive was less compact than the
end-drive that appeared on the new engine. (An air-cooled engine worked well
with a central cam drive because it created a cooling passage between the two
hottest cylinders and kept from blanking one of the end cylinders as would an
end-drive system. Advancing technology-stronger cases, stiffer cranks, more
precise drive systems-helped make end-driven cams compact and accurate.)
By moving the cam drive to the end, the cylinder bores could be moved very close
together, further reducing engine width. In the GSXR 750, Suzuki moto used a
special plating process that applied a nickel-silicon-carbide coating to the
aluminum block casting and called it SCEM, for Suzuki composite electro-chemical
material. This long-wearing surface doesn't just create a lighter block; it also
transmits combustion heat to the water jackets more efficiently than traditional
steel liners. The GSXR 750 is an open-deck design, with exposed water jackets
fully encircling the bores. With the engine now 1.2 inches narrower than the
previous GSXR 750, Suzuki moto could abandon the behind-the-cylinders alternator
placement with its associated gearing and turn to a compact unit on the left end
of the crankshaft. This change simplified the engine and helped lower its
overall center of gravity. That tiny increment of power required to turn the
alternator gear was put back into the drivetrain.
Those SCEM-lined bores were home to 72 mm pistons, a 2 mm increase over the '95
GSXR 750 but still shy of the very short-stroke '88-'89 bikes. Stroke for the'96
bike was reduced from 48.7mm to 46mm, making way for a 13,500 rpm redline. Oil
jets cooled the pistons, just as on the original GSXR, but now from a gallery in
the case itself. No longer did the GSXR 750 have an oil cooler in the
conventional sense. In place of the familiar radiator, Suzuki moto used a simple
oil-to-water heat exchanger at the base of the oil filter.
Everything changed at the cylinder head, too. The included valve angle was
pulled in to 29 degrees, which helped create a more compact and efficient
combustion chamber. The compression ratio remained at 11.8:1, but efficiency was
clearly up based on comparative dyno charts of the period. Despite packing
considerably more top-end power, the new 750 also had more midrange punch than
the outgoing GSXR 750.
With this generation, Suzuki moto joined the industry in using downdraft
carburetors, in this case a special set of 39 mm Mikunis with electronically
controlled slide management.
A solenoid controlled by the ignition computer managed an air passage linked to
the top of the carburetor slide chamber. Under certain circumstances-low rpm,
for example-the system would prevent the slides from rising too quickly,
preventing low-speed stumbling that would otherwise occur with such large
carburetors. This idea would, of course, return in totally electronic form in
the 2000 GSXR 750, which is perhaps as good an indication as any that thoughtful
engineers rarely put ideas in the trash but save them for another day.
A straight-shot intake tract is more efficient, but there's more to it than
that. Kevin Cameron, in the December 1995 Cycle World, explained the new system:
"Lift the tank, pull the airbox cover, and look down the carbs with a light; you
will plainly see the valves. The more streamlined the port, the smaller it can
be made for a given airflow. Smaller ports make midrange."
With the four carbs now pointing straight up, the airbox moved from behind the
engine-right in the path of hot air-up under the forward edge of the fuel tank,
where orthodoxy says it should be even today. This change, in turn, allowed
Suzuki moto to fit real ram-air induction for the first time, via large tubes
and reinforced pass-throughs in the main frame out to a pair of ovoid ducts on
the face of the fairing.
The new engine's features would not have worked in the old frame, of course, but
they didn't have to. Suzuki had been campaigning its Rg 500 Gamma race bike in
international 500GP, and its star rider, Kevin Schwantz, was on the way to the
World Championship for 1993 when the'96 GSXR was being developed. With the
mandate to return to race bike technology - spurred on by Schwantz's success -
the engineering team chose to emulate the Rg 500 Gamma as much as possible.
This desire, as much as the drive to reduce weight and improve handling, pushed
the engineers to a twin-spar frame. Suddenly, the bike could be smaller and
lighter. Wheelbase shrank by 1.5 inches to 55-shorter, even, than the stubby
Honda CBR 900 RR. Rake came in by 0.5 degree to 24, even while trail increased
slightly to 3.8 inches.
The frame itself was made up of familiar materials-castings at the steering head
and swingarm pivot-with new vertical extensions to meet the alloy subframe along
with a few extruded pieces and stamped-and-welded main spar pieces. The
massively braced swingarm was also made up of stamped and extruded aluminum
pieces, with some cast items thrown in for good measure. Suzuki moto had learned
to be resourceful in design to use materials in ways that would minimize cost,
hence the variety.
Typically, the running gear was updated considerably. Six-piston front brake
calipers replaced the four-pot items from '95. The rear wheel was now up to 6
inches wide and wore a massive 190/50 17 tyre, up from the 170/60 on the '95
Suzuki moto wrapped the new technology in sleek bodywork styled by Toshiyuki
Nishino. "Engineering dictated the placement of all the major components, of
course," he says. "One of the big challenges was to create a pleasing shape to
the fuel tank while still having some capacity. The airbox was quite large." The
tank also had to follow the frame with a minimum of visual fuss, which made it
quite deep near the back. "We used contrasting paint across that corner of the
tank to reduce its visual depth," recalls Mr. Nishino.
That tail hump? Strictly for racing. "We did wind-tunnel tests," explains Mr.
Nishino, "and found that this shape was more efficient and made the airflow
behind the bike smoother." In other words, the hump made it harder for following
racers to draft.
Contemporary press reports praised the new Suzuki GSXR lavishly: "The results of
our performance testing were truly eye opening," said Cycle World of its March
1996 road test. "The GSXR blazed through the Carlsbad Raceway quarter-mile in
10.61 seconds at an astounding 132.68 mph. Then, during high-speed testing at
our top-secret, high-desert test site, it uncorked a mind-blowing 167.5 mph
pass, This was balanced against a 165.3 mph run in the other direction, however,
yielding a 166 mph average...
These figures are absolutely unreal for a 750, and are more in line with
open-class machines." Two months later, Cycle World named it the "Ultimate
Sportbike" against such luminaries as the Ducati 916 and Honda CBR 900 RR. Kent
Kunitsugu, editor of Sport Rider, recalls: "The'96 model GSXR 750 was the
groundbreaker for Suzuki moto. It not only shattered the previous performance
standards for the class, it also created a benchmark for the sportbike world,
regardless of displacement. One needed only to look at the grids of both
professional and amateur races swollen with GSXRs that year (and for many years
afterward) to realize that Suzuki had indeed created the winner-both in the
dealerships and on the racetracks-they were looking for. That GSXR created a
whole new arms race between the manufacturers that has not abated since. And
we're all the luckier for it."
Without question, Suzuki moto had hit its mark. Glowing magazine reviews were
followed by brisk sales. The machine that many critics believed had rested upon
its laurels for too long was suddenly, vigorously back in the fight.
And it was starting to make a mark in racing. "The '96 bike was a huge
improvement for us," says Don Sakakura, racing manager for Yoshimura in the U.S.
"Racing is hard on the machines. We had some trouble with the cooling of the
['95 and earlier] bikes. But it was better than the oil-cooled engine. Hot
running led to a lot of distortion in the head and barrels. Maybe the radiators
weren't as good as they are now. We played with different-size coolers all the
time. Suzuki moto started sending us much bigger coolers; some of them were
three rows deep."
The new engine was not only more powerful but far more consistent on the
racetrack. And the new chassis was an improvement as well. "The GSXR became a
much more neutral motorcycle. On the track, it didn't do anything bad, or
exceptionally well, but it was consistent," says Mr. Sakakura. Consistency in
racing is sometimes its own reward.
Yoshimura's boat was raised by more than just the tide of a new motorcycle. In
'96, an Australian by the name of Mat Mladin joined Yoshimura. Continues Mr.
Sakakura: "Mat is a very intense competitor. From a team's perspective, he has a
lot of influence. He's a machine on the motorcycle; he's fast and very
repeatable. He could go out and do laps on consistent times and give us
incredible feedback: thorough, accurate, repeatable. The development cycle of
that period really accelerated when Mat came to the team. The results came much
quicker." With those results came a renewed respect from the home office.
"Suzuki followed our lead in development," says Mr. Sakakura. "As a result, we
were able to compete." At the same time Suzuki was churning away with Yoshimura
for an AMA Superbike title, the GSXR was mopping up in the Superstock class.
And still there were improvements waiting in the wings. "Aspects [of design] we
hadn't had to consider in the early days were things like recycling and
emissions," says Sadayuki Inobe, managing director of Suzuki. In fact,
increasing emissions regulations had begun to force compromises in jetting for
certain markets, including the U.S. Carburetors are inexpensive and may have a
nice "human" feel when jetted properly, but they're hard to get set up with
emissions in mind. To that end, Suzuki fitted the '98 GSXR 750 with a
Denso-controlled injection system using Mikuni throttle bodies and injectors. A
rack of 46 mm throttle bodies replaced the 39 mm carburetors and provided a
slight (5 hp) increase in peak power but much-improved "carburetion" in the
midrange. Cycle World said, "We found none of the off-idle surging evident with
the previous model's too-lean carburetion."
Suzuki moto was an early adopter of fuel injection for Supersport motorcycles, a
feature that is completely common today. At the time, few performance bikes had
anything but conventional carburetors, and riders of the time recall that some
of the jetting required to meet emissions left a lot to be desired from a
rideability standpoint. Suzuki's system was better, but almost as important, it
gave the engineers useful experience developing and tuning such a system for a
lightweight motorcycle with a powerful, low-crank-mass engine, one of the most
difficult applications there is. This is development experience that would hold
Suzuki in extremely good stead in the years to come.
Also in store for the '98 machine-the '97 was essentially unchanged from the
'96-were juggled cam specifications, a revised airbox with electronic flapper
valve, and subtly altered headers aimed at improving midrange power.
Weight-saving measures included a thinner primary gear drive and a smaller
chain-a #525 replaced the previous #530.
GSXR 600 SRAD: building a better 600
Suzuki moto took the opportunity to reenter the 600 class on the new 750's
platform, this time expecting considerably more success. It helped greatly that
the new bike was much smaller and lighter than the previous GSXR 750, so
retaining the major (read: expensive) components such as frame, engine, and
bodywork made sense.
Introduced in 1997, the GSXR 600 started its development at the same time as the
GSXR 750; rather than being an afterthought, it was part of the planning for
this generation of GSXRs. Although it shared a great deal with the GSXR 750, the
new GSXR 600 was destined to be slightly lighter (11 pounds, now 384 dry) and
more economical to build. Part of this economy came from the shared components,
but other savvy cost-cutting measures were put in place.
Those measures were not specifically in the engine. Sharing the cases with the
GSXR 750, the Suzuki GSXR 600 nonetheless received a new head atop the revised
upper cylinder casting that supported 65.5 mm pistons moving through a 44.5 mm
stroke. The compression ratio was up slightly (12.0 vs. 11.8) compared to the
GSXR 750, and the valves were, as you'd expect, slightly smaller. The bank of
Mikuni carburetors had 36.5 mm throats in place of the 750's 39 mm units,
although they consumed air through a 750-size airbox and ramair ducts. At the
other end, the exhaust system had head pipes 20 mm shorter than those on the
Suzuki moto also debuted direct ignition on the GSXR 600, a year ahead of the
GSXR 750 receiving the same technology. Sometimes known as "stick" coils, each
spark plug cap held a small ignition coil, which reduced the length of the
high-voltage circuit and improved spark energy. This technology also allowed for
individual cylinder timing. Suzuki moto would turn to mapping each cylinder
individually on later GSXRs to improve power and throttle response. Suzuki moto
retained the GSXR 750's frame for the GSXR 600 but fitted a lighter swingarm
without the upper bracing-it wasn't needed on the lighter, lower - power 600 -
which resulted in a shorter wheelbase of 54.7 inches (0.3 inch shorter than the
GSXR 750's). In a similar vein, the GSXR 750's inverted fork was replaced by a
conventional Showa fork, and the six-piston calipers from the GSXR 750 gave way
to four-pot Tokicos on the GSXR 600. Suspension rates were reduced as well.
Those are the specifications. What was important to Suzuki moto was that it had
a competitive 600 class sportbike to uphold the GSXR name. Road tests hailed the
GSXR's taut chassis and good power. Like the GSXR 750, it was considered much
more serious, radical even, compared to the 600 class weaponry of the age:
Honda's CBR 600 F3, still aiming for street manners over outright sporting
demeanor; Kawasaki's ZX 6 R, improving with every generation but still
considered" comfortable"; and Yamaha's YZF 600 R, very much out to be all things
to all riders with a near-sport-touring riding position and (still) a steel
For pure sporting prowess, nothing was in the GSXR 600's class.
Proof of that came from the racetrack, where the Suzuki GSXR 600 was competitive
immediately. In 1998, Steve Crevier won the AMA Supersport title on a GSXR 600
campaigned by Yoshimura.
More important, particularly to American Suzuki Motor Corporation, by the end of
this generation Mat Mladin had taken the AMA Superbike crown on the GSXR 750,
ending a ten-year drought. "Racing has always been part of the GSXR strength,
and winning with Mat in '99 was an important outcome for us," says Mel Harris,
vice president of the motorcycle/ ATV division. "It proved the strength of the
bike and without question spurred sales of the streetbike." These were the
earmarks of a company on the move, raising its game in part because it returned
to its roots. Those guiding concepts were to make the GSXR the best-performing
bike in the category, to resist diluting that endeavor with compromises for the
street rider, and to make the most of its expensive technology by leveraging it
across several models.
All smart manufacturers are good at spreading the development dollar, but Suzuki
moto, only a fraction the size of Honda, would soon become the industry leader
in doing more with less. Suzuki moto proved that the intelligence of the
engineering staff and the drive of the designers matter more than a big R & D
budget. As the fourth generation of GSXR wound down, few realized that Suzuki
had some amazing improvements in store for the GSXR that would usher in the new
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