I’d been wanting to test-ride the Suzuki GSX1400 for a long time.
The big Suzukis were first brought to my attention by a couple of our regular readers owning them; and saying how great they were. But getting a demo model to test was almost impossible. Dealers tend not to have demo models of these; probably because, in over-all sales, this big-bore retro-naked type bike is not a huge seller. But, as I intended doing a comparison of big-bore nakeds, I was especially keen to get a ride on the big Suzi.
I finally got a chance to take one for a ride when the friendly folk at Picton Motorcycles were able to provide an as-new 2nd-hand model for me to test. With just over 3,600km on the clock it was basically just run-in. Ideal! The only difference to showroom spec was the small screen; an accessory that most people would probably fit anyway.
I had looked at them and sat on them in the showroom; and that was impressive. The riding-position is typically very up-right and roomy, with just a gentle lean forward to the bars.
The seat is superbly comfortable! It’s wide and plush, and feels almost like a gel seat in the way its softness pampers your posterior, while still remaining sufficiently supportive. The height is a comfortable 790mm.
Suzuki, with some of their bikes, has a history of progressively making their seats less comfortable on each model up-date; but thankfully this one has been left as it was. Please, please, Mr. Suzuki, do not change it!
Something I don’t often comment on in these tests is how the bikes are for pillions. Well, the GSX caters for them very well. That terrific seat is still terrific up back, and the pegs aren’t overly high.
Oh, and if you lift the seat up, Suzuki claims that there is just over 10 litres of storage space underneath.
The side-stand is another thing I don't often comment on, but this one draws comment because I noticed it being particularly easy to use; and it has a long foot section – good for parking on soft ground.
The instruments are typical of the retro-naked style, with two analogue dials, each having a small LCD display at the bottom. As you can probably see in the photo, on the left is the odo /trip meter, on the right is a clock and fuel gauge. The speedo is numbered up to 260, and the tacho goes to 11, with a red-line at 9. And there's a bunch of the usual lights (neutral, blinkers, etc) on the panel inbetween the dials.
One of the things I noticed was that it doesn’t feel as heavy as it is. (An impression that was to continue when I rode it). At 225kg, it’s exactly the same weight as the Bandit (the faired version); but sitting on each, lifting them off the side-stand, and rocking them side-to-side, it feels lighter. It must carry the weight a bit lower.
The bike might look very retro, but it’s not an old model. It was first introduced in 2002; and it was pretty well-equipped right from the start. For example, it always had fuel-injection and a 6-speed gearbox; features that some of its competitors, and even its stable-mate, the Bandit, didn’t get until 2007. (And some of the opposition still run just a 5-speed box).
At $13,290, plus on-road costs, it isn’t quite the bargain that some other Suzukis (Bandit, GSX650 etc) are, but it’s still cheaper than it’s main competition.
Now, back to Picton Motorcycles, and time to hit the road. There are some good biking roads in this area; lots of sweeping corners and undulating country-side, plus some more hilly sections too. These are secondary roads, and while they are generally pretty good, there are the usual bumps and surface irregularities – good roads to see how the big Suzi handles some real-world riding. The only place I didn’t try it was on expressway riding.
The first thing you notice is how easy it is to ride. As I’ve already mentioned, it feels lighter than you’d expect, and all the controls are light and easy to use too. Even the clutch is remarkably light for such a big engine. Twist the throttle a bit and there’s a surge of power to get you on your way.
And that brings us to the heart of the matter; the engine! Suzuki claims it to be “the largest displacement in-line 4-cylinder engine in its class.” And with 1402cc, who’s going to argue? The engine is an air / oil cooled unit, running a compression ratio of 9.5:1. Suzuki don’t give power figures for their bikes, but sources I’ve seen give maximum power as 76kW at 6,500rpm, and maximum torque as 124Nm at 5000rpm. Typical of bikes today, the engine and exhaust is pretty quiet. It’s also very smooth. There are virtually no vibration periods anywhere through the rev-range.
Typical of the breed, the big engine is very tractable, and pulls strongly from low revs. From 2,000 rpm, even in the higher gears, there’s just a slight harshness pulling away, before regaining its usual smoothness as the tacho gets to the next number on the dial. And, of course, there’s heaps of power; and especially torque.
It accelerates well; as you’d expect! Although the acceleration is tempered a little by high gearing. It’s good from anywhere in the rev-range, but to get it moving at its best, you’ll often want a down-change. (I’ll get to the gearing shortly). Still, open the throttle at 100kph, even in top, and it surges forward, the speedo swinging quickly into the higher numbers. You’ll see 120 almost before you’ve looked down, and then it’s swinging past 130 and 140 in very short time. And you don’t need a lot of road to do it on. I only gave it an occasional short burst of acceleration, not even using full throttle, but I still saw 150 come up, very briefly, before I buttoned off to a more sedate (read “legal”!) speed.
Now, to the gearing I mentioned. In top gear it runs at 33kph / 1,000rpm. So at 100kph the engine is doing a lazy 3,000rpm. Going down through the box, 5th is geared at just under 30kph / 1,000rpm, and 4th is about 26kph / 1,000rpm. Now, I like high gearing, but I’m inclined to think that’s a little higher than ideal, for the type of bike it is. You see, for me, the torquey nature of the engine encourages you to just change up and ride it on torque; pulling low revs in a high gear. That’s fine, and I prefer to ride like that; but the higher the gearing the more sting it takes out of the power. It’s not that you’ll ever be left wanting for more power (and if you do want more power, just change down – simple!), but it does change the character of the bike a little. For me, it takes just a little of the “fun-factor” out of the power that’s there. Put another way, it doesn’t encourage you to be a hooligan as much as it would if it ran lower gearing! (But, to be fair, if you want to be a hooligan just change down and you can really go ballistic!).
That was my impression when I rode it, and I kept thinking more about this afterwards. On a similar bike with slightly lower gearing, the difference between “just cruising along” and “having a blast” is simply how much throttle you use. On the GSX it’s a matter of which gear you’re in. Of course, if you regarded 5th as "top" (and some of it's competitors only have 5 speeds anyway), and just used 6th for high-speed cruising, then you'd have the same character as the lower-geared bike. But that was my point about the engine encouraging you to change up and ride it on torque. On a peaky sports-bike you have to keep the revs up, but on this you don't. Even at 4,000rpm you know that you can just drop it into the next gear and it'll pull it easily. So you do. Anyway, as I said, I like high gearing, and while it does give the bike a different character, I think if I owned the bike I’d prefer it this way. Cruise along in a high gear, or, as I said, change down and go ballistic!
Changing gear is not a problem, because the gearbox is delightfully light and easy to use. Clutch-less changes are easy, and even down-changes without the clutch (using the right amount of throttle) are smooth.
Brakes are good. They’re not overly powerful, but they’re okay. They can trick you in town though. Being used to using a little more pressure out on the road, at town speeds I squeezed a bit too hard a couple of times and the bike stopped with a jerk. Or rather, it looked like a jerk was riding it!
Especially for such a big bike, the Suzi handles very well. Again, it feels much lighter than it is, and quickly inspires confidence. It’s remarkably easy to steer, and with just gentle counter-steering it’ll point exactly where you want to go.
It’s easy to adjust your line through a corner too. This easy handling starts at town-speeds and continues right up to high speed on the open road.
No, it's not a sports-bike, and if you tried to ride it like one you'd start to notice the weight no doubt, but at sensible speeds it's great.
One report I read described the steering as “quick”. I wouldn’t use that word to describe it, but it does perhaps point to the reason for another impression of “lightness” I had. The bike doesn’t feel quite as solidly-planted-on-the-road as I would’ve expected. Don’t get me wrong, it never feels unstable, never shakes its head or anything like that. It’s just something I noticed, by comparison to bikes of similar size and weight. Big bikes like this tend to have a running-on-rails, glued-to-the-road feel. By comparison, the Suzuki feels a bit like a very stable mid-sizer. But it’s something you would easily get used to, and is just part of the light and easy feel the bike has on the road.
The ride is very good. It’s helped by the plush seat, of course. Sometimes bumps could be felt more through the hands than through the back-side. The suspension is fully adjustable – for preload, compression and rebound – at both ends; so you can fiddle with these to tailor the ride to what you want. As it was, some sharper bumps got through a bit, and just a couple of times minor bumps in corners seemed to unsettle it just slightly. But over-all, I thought it rode very well! With the great seat and comfortable ride, this is a bike that you could go a long way on!
Other things? Well the tank will help you go a long way, with a capacity of 22 litres. Colour options are black (as the test-bike) or a special blue and white colour (as the one I photographed in the showroom). Warranty is 24 months, unlimited distance.  
Okay, so what are the faults? Well, firstly there’s … um … and then, of course, there’s … err … well really, there aren’t any! It’s great! So, the “perfect bike” then? Well, no, I wouldn’t go that far; I did have a couple of minor gripes, didn’t I. There’s that slight “light on the road” feeling; and the brakes could be better. But hey, I’m clutching at straws here. Really, I didn’t find any major faults at all; it’s a terrific bike!
And if you want a second opinion, Motorcycle Trader’s Spannerman summed the Suzuki up pretty well recently when he said, “What you get is a comfortable riding position, inexpensive service and maintenance costs, excellent real-world performance, and plenty of street-cred.” He went on to describe the big Suzi as, “A fabulous ride; and I’ve never met a dissatisfied owner.” So it's not just me who reckons it's a good thing.
Well, there you have it; Suzuki’s big-bore, retro-style naked. It's a big muscle-bike, but it's also a real smoothie. It really is a great bike!

Ridden 2009
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