Common Tread

GSX-R gets a birthday facelift, vows to hit the gym

Aug 10, 2015

Kawasaki has been putting some special paint on Ninjas to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the line, but arguably the most groundbreaking sport bike, the one that best marked the beginning of the next era in performance street bikes, was the 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750.

To the great disappointment of U.S. performance junkies, that blue-and-white 1985 Gixxer did not come to the United States, but the 1986 red-and-black bike did. Now, Suzuki's marking the milestone with special editions for 2016 in both colors and, more importantly, promises that the GSX-R line is not going to languish, as it has in some recent years.

2016 Suzuki GSX-R1000
2016 commemorative GSX-R1000. Suzuki photo.

2016 Suzuki GSX-R1000
2016 commemorative GSX-R1000. Suzuki photo.

Suzuki showed off the new look, both on and off the track, at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, where the MotoGP series and MotoAmerica Superbike series raced this past weekend.

Far more important than some new paint, however, is the question about the future of the GSX-R line, with sport bike sales soft. Suzuki Motors of America President Tak Hayasaki admitted that the GSX-R line went quiet for a while (Suzuki halted imports for a time during the recession), but he said Suzuki was committed to the sport bike line now and more innovation will come to keep it competitive. Apparently, the new look for 2016 is supposed to fill the gap until Suzuki comes up with the real redesign.

1986 Suzuki GSX-R race bike
This 1986 GSX-R750 superbike, ridden at Daytona by Satoshi Tsujimoto, shows the original black-and-red paint scheme. Photo by Lance Oliver.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, sport bikes were beasts weighing nearly 500 pounds with steel-tube frames that did not inspire handling confidence. The GSX-R750's light weight (429 pounds), aluminum frame and purposeful components made it a big step forward. While some of the Suzuki racers on hand were not born when the first GSX-R750 came out, 1993 World Champion Kevin Schwantz was around to experience the progress the original GSX-R represented.

"I rode the GS700 at the time, with the high handlebars, the steel-tube frame. The GSX-R was a dream to ride," said Schwantz.

Suzuki GSX-R1000
Talk about the new street bike had to wait while everyone watched to see if Roger Hayden could give Suzuki its first MotoAmerica Superbike win of the season. He came up short by less than a tenth of a second. Photo by Lance Oliver.

The red-and-black paint scheme was also debuted on the track on the Yoshimura Suzuki superbikes in the MotoAmerica series. Suzuki executives on hand would no doubt have loved to cap off the weekend with an elusive first win in the 2015 season. Yoshimura Suzuki rider Roger Hayden has been the only person who has challenged the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha riders Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier, who have each won eight of the 16 races. But while they saw two great superbike races on Saturday and Sunday, they missed getting the result they wanted by tiny fractions of a second, as Beaubier edged Hayden in both races. How close was it? In the last three races, the two at Indianapolis and the second race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Beaubier has beaten Hayden to the finish line by a combined total of 0.139 seconds.