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Suzuki TL 1000R
The TL1000R was Suzuki's second attempt at creating a V-twin powered superbike. The TL-R used an updated version of the TL1000S engine, but fitted in a supersports-style track-oriented chassis rather than the half-faired roadbike chassis of the TL-S.
The TL-R has very striking styling - a wide single headlamp fairing incorporates a pair of aggressive ram-air intakes before swooping back in an aerodynamic curve round the aluminium twin-spar frame. The seat unit has a large aerodynamic duck-tail fin, designed to reattach the airflow from the back of the rider, improving highspeed performance.
Under its smooth clothes, the TL-R is a high-specification sports machine. Its engine is the same eight-valve 90o V-twin as fitted to the TL1000S, but with some re-tuning to produce more top-end muscle. It delivers smoother, more linear power than the torquey TL1000S engine, thanks to fuel-injection and timing changes.
But it was the chassis that received most attention from Suzuki's engineers. The TL1000S suffered criticism for its lively handling, and the TL-R is a much more stable ride on the road. A steering damper is fitted as standard, to reduce any tendency for the steering to flap about under hard acceleration, although the revised steering geometry and heavier weight of the TL-R had already added extra stability over the TL1000S design.
The TL-R keeps the same unusual rear suspension system as the TL-S though. The rear spring is mounted separately from the damper unit, and the damper is a unique 'rotary' design. Rather than a conventional linear damper, which pushes a piston through a cylinder of damping oil, the TL damper uses a system of veins in an oil-filled chamber. The vanes are turned by a shaft linked to the rear swingarm, and the passage of the oil through holes in the vein gives the damping effect.
The brakes were also uprated over the TL1000S, six-piston Tokico calipers replacing the four-piston calipers of the 'S' model.
Had the TLR for 2 days and 700 pretty hard kilometres, during this time the big Suzuki really grew on me. First impressions were - God this thing is bloody heavy, that clutch is a nightmare. Last impressions were - this thing is great fun and has some real stomp. Now for the bit in the middle.
The TLR hasn't sold as well as Suzuki would have liked, there are many reasons for this. The wowser response to some plonkers having crashes just after the release of the TL1000S and blaming instability may be one of the main reasons.
Another big reason for the sales not being too fantastic is how carried away we are getting with numbers. For instance, in Yamaha adverts these days all we get bombarded with are weight and horsepower figures. We have all got a bit carried away with this and forget that on the road weight is not such a big issue.
The engine feels great and does not tail off at all before hitting the rev-limiter, which had me bouncing off the limiter with alarming regularity. The bike is still really pulling hard as it hits the limiter and I found this quite annoying. The dyno charts show that my seat of the pants impressions were well founded. You can see how far both the R1 and ZX-9R carry on pulling after their absolute horsepower peaks, while the TLR has a very short spread of peak power.
I think I would investigate a way of raising the limit by another 1000 rpm to give a bit of over-run (this would affect any warranty claims on the engine). The Honda VTR is a bit dead in the upper rev ranges, while the TLR has a great appetite for revs that is only interrupted by the early intervention of the premature rev-limiter.
The TLR on test was fitted with Yoshimura pipes and pumped out 119 horsepower at the rear wheel. This compares to the 128 and 132 we got from the Kawasaki ZX9R and Yamaha R1 respectively.
Those bikes are also around 20 kilos lighter than the TLR.
The weight of the TLR is felt when first hopping aboard (more so than on a VTR), but on the move it really isn't much of an issue. The steering damper makes things a bit heavy in slow speed manoeuvring but other than that it is well balanced and supremely stable. If I owned a TLR I would be tempted to junk the steering damper. I have been told however that insurance companies may refuse to pay out on an insurance claim if the damper is removed - bummer.
The TLR has a great note through the Yoshi pipes and its looks drew praise from nearly every non-biker I came across on my travels North East of Perth. The roads I chose to take the TLR on provided a constant barrage of very fast open sweepers, with more than a few bumps thrown in together with quite a strong side-wind for good measure.
This provided a real test of high speed stability which the TLR passed with flying colours. I was a bit concerned about the lack of feedback but decided to use the slow in - fast out principle for a bit of a safety margin. I feel that a more aggressive front tyre profile, such as that of a 207GP Dunlop, rather than the standard issue front Metzeler would aid turn in and front end feel. This would of course come at the cost of some of the stability but I think it would be a trade off worth having for the more experienced rider. The bike on test had been fitted with a D207 rear.
The horn is so pathetic it is funny. The pipes make a lovely deep bark that gives the toy train set style horn no hope of being heard. I think it must have been the same item as used on the RF900R.
The brakes are excellent, I tested them many times to a complete stop from high speed and they coped admirably. The other Japanese twin, the VTR, is greatly lacking in this area.
The 6-speed gearbox is great with a smooth, positive shift but the clutch is a two-stage affair that I found a little difficult to get along with.
In the first stage you can slip the clutch a little, but so little friction happens between the plates that it provides no useful drive, ease the clutch out a tiny fraction more and the clutch locks solid. Fast getaways can not be completed without the front wheel in the air, the height can be controlled on the throttle quite smoothly though if lengthy monos are in your repartee of tricks. By the way, stoppies are also easily performed on the TLR.
Out of low speed corners the TLR will also lift its front wheel on the exit while still in quite a lean angle if you get on the power early. A bit of authoritative shoulder work along with the aid of the steering damper makes sure that the front wheel comes down in the direction you want it to go. Be prepared to use some force and take charge of the bike rather than just going along for the ride.
The injection system has room for improvement with the bike hunting at low engine speeds. Maybe Suzuki should buy a VFR 800 and learn some lessons from them in that department. Maybe the huge 52mm throttle bodies provide airflow problems at low speeds that could not be overcome without sacrificing top-end power, as the VFR 800 does.
The fuel range is just under 200 kilometres if your right hand gets a bit carried away, I am sure this could be stretched to around 250 kilometres or more if using a bit of self-restraint.
If you are after a V-Twin I can also say that the TLR is by far the most comfortable and vibe-free choice I have sampled. The TLR is very comfortable in fact.
In conclusion I must say that the TLR is a well finished and great performing sportsbike - the new VTR-SP1 will have to be a great machine to best the Suzuki TL1000R.