It would appear that us Brits have become disinterested in the world of the Sportsbike if the current motorcycling press is to be believed and I can’t even remember a time before the all new love of the Adventure bike came into being. In fact, so serious is the issue that most manufacturers have entirely given up on the design and production of all new SuperSport 600s and 750s entirely. This is a desperately sad situation to be involved in. There are a few stalwarts of the breed that are trying their very hardest, the 2017 Yamaha R6 being the obvious example and there are a few pre-registered Euro 3 Suzuki GSXR750s hanging around at the back of some dealerships but that’s just about it. Unbelievable.
Yes I know that we have the all new, electronically controlled, hyper Sportsbikes such as the Honda Fireblade, Suzuki GSXR1000, Yamaha R1, BMW S1000, Aprilia RSV1000, Kawasaki ZX-10R and Ducati Panigale but I’m not sure that they really qualify as true Sportsbikes. For me, a Sportsbike is about handling, lightness and revs, a bike that you can really use on the road today for a lot of the time rather than only some of the time that most manage on the bigger bikes. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for a early 2000 Fireblade to become the latest edition to the MotorMartin fleet but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Look back to the late 1990s when we had 600cc across the frame, four cylinder SuperSport bikes from every major manufacturer, we had the Europeans putting their own individual spin on the class with 675cc triples and 748cc twins and we had a full compliment of 750cc Sportsbikes that truly ruled the roads, bikes that combined the handling and minuscule build of a 600 with the explosive power and drive of a (contemporary) 1000cc.
How does the following sound? Yamaha YZF750, Kawasaki ZX-7R, Honda RC45 and the ubiquitous Suzuki GSX-R750, each designed to compete in the FIA World Superbike Championship against the twins of Ducati, a rather one sided fight if truth be told. What we had back then were two classes of Sportsbike that had every available resource thrown at their respective designs and engineering, each created by their manufacturers to represent the zenith of Sporting ambition. For us punters this truly was an exceptional time to be on the road and us Brits couldn’t get enough of them, starting on a 600 before gaining experience and moving on up to the bigger machines.
History has taught us that it was a certain type of rider that graduated towards the Suzuki, helped no doubt by the cult of the GSX-R or Gixer as it was also know. Everyone knew that the Honda RC45 was expensive and an HRC machine for the road, but contemporary road tests at the time suggested that the power available, 120bhp, allied to a unimpressive chassis dulled the sensations and so relegated the Honda behind the competition. The Yamaha YZF750, as a road bike was the safe choice, that’s if a bike with 125bhp and superb, if slightly steady handling, can ever be described as such, don’t get me wrong, ridden in isolation the Yamaha was an excellent choice it’s just that with it’s slightly larger foxeye fairing it was looked upon as a sensible choice. Kawasaki’s ZX-7R was/is the bike with the finest front end in motorcycling, another Green machine with a rip roaring, snarling beast of an engine with its typically snarling top end rush delivering approximately 123bhp in an addictive howl of ram air affected revs. The problem with the ZX-7R was bulk, blunting it’s power to weight significantly against the more lithe opposition.
All of which leaves us with the Suzuki GSX-R750T of 1996, the first water cooled Gixer and an all new cutting edge replacement for the last of the oil and air cooled behemoths of yesteryear. Suzuki had hit the metaphorical nail on the head with a bike that delivered everything that the aggressive looks promised. Realeased to great acclaim and much fanfare, in reality the GSX-R750 was the last throw of the dice for Suzuki as the previous model was the last of the line for distinctly old fashioned technology and styling. Always a race bike on the road the GSX-R 750 from 1994-1996 felt like it was from a different era, which of course it was.
Fortunately, Suzuki had listened to its customers and worked hard to develop an all new bike that would put the GSX-R750 back to where it should have been all along. With a new chassis, new engine, 39mm carbs and a stunning new shape certainly looked the part and gave Suzuki fans hope. Combine those features with a serious weight loss program which resulted in a reduction of 20kg to 179kg and an all new engine producing 128bhp and what Suzuki had come up with was a rocket ship.
The GSX-R750T was the machine with which Suzuki built to target the FIA World SuperBike Championship crown using technologies and dimensions derived straight from the 500cc GP racer. It even looked like the RGV500 works machine Kevin Schwantz rode in the World Championships the year before. Accordingly, Suzuki had created a legend worthy of the GSX-R nomenclature and secured the future of this iconic machine. Looking at the Suzuki objectively there really is little that is different to the offerings from Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki but it’s the way that the technology is packaged that is so clever and at the time, groundbreaking.
Suzuki had given its new Gixer an aluminium twin spar frame, 43mm inverted forks adjustable for compression, rebound and preload and a rising rate monoshock rear end which all but guaranteed GP style quick steering and beautiful handling whilst the heart of the GSX-R, it’s engine, was typical Suzuki. A four stroke, four cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, horizontal in-line four with ram air induction was, quite simply, a revelation.
Specifications show that the GSX-R 750T produced peak power equal to that of the Honda CBR900RR and exceeded all other 750s of the time whilst it’s 179kg weight was lighter than every other contemporary 600cc four cylinder. Put these facts together and it meant that the Suzuki presented the rider with searing acceleration towards a 163mph top speed and a motorcycle that could be flicked into corners with quite incredible speed and precision.
Prices for a decent, low mileage 1996 Suzuki GSX-R750T start from around £2000 and if you’re in the market for a cheap sports bike with character and speed aplenty then you really should be wanting one, I know that I do.
Where will you go?