Suzuki GSX 8-R - First Ride - Beating the Jozi Winter FIRST RIDE REVIEW SOUTH AFRICA

Suzuki GSX 8-R – First Ride – Beating the Jozi Winter

Suzuki GSX 8-R - First Ride - Beating the Jozi Winter FIRST RIDE REVIEW SOUTH AFRICA
By: Stefan vd Riet and Donovan Fourie Pics: BlackRock Studio

Let’s beat the Jozi winter and go ride sportbikes in the lowveld! Summer weather and twisties on a new bike? How could anyone refuse? Well, that was the plan anyway as far as the weather was concerned. It wasn’t Jozi winter, but nobody made their way into the swimming pool or even took their jerseys off, especially in the evening, but we still had a great time anyway. Suzuki spoiled the media with a fantastic weekend in the mountains to ride their newest selection where most buyers would probably end up taking it anyway. So on a frosty Thursday morning we all gathered for a cup of coffee at their head office to meet our new friends for the weekend, the GSX-8R in four different colours.

Suzuki GSX 8-R - First Ride - Beating the Jozi Winter FIRST RIDE REVIEW SOUTH AFRICA
A bunch of mates, news bikes from Suzuki Motorcycles, warm-ish weather and great mountain passes - What could be better?

I was initially invited along to grab photos of the weekend so I had no complaints when they stuck me in a Swift Sport for the first 3 hours of the trip out east while the rest of the media braved the cold highway. However, when we reached the promised land I managed to grab a ride on the new bikes to see what the hype was all about. On the way we stopped to check out the new Suzuki dealership in Nelspruit, known as Freedom Motorcycles, where most of the latest Zuk’s are for sale to the good people of Mpumalanga. From there I jumped on a bike and shunted out the door to go and get some photos in the mountains. We headed out to Kaapsehoop where I got to get my first taste of the new bikes in some proper twisties.

Now we all know that the super twins are the new mid weight sport bikes, easier and cheaper to manufacture, yada yada. But can an 800cc parallel twin really replace a 750 inline four?  Truthfully a 750 Gixxer is very hard to beat on these roads, but the answer does seem fairly positive. That being said, the 8-R is fast, it’s smooth, it’s got the power, it revs like a dream, and damn it looks nice. The future is going to be parallel and it’s not a bad thing.

Not only has Suzuki done away with the sporty four cylinder, but also the clip on handlebars, (with most manufacturers these days are following suit). Now you still have relatively low handles that are begging for that aggressive riding position, but you can actually take this bike touring without breaking your back and your wrists. Even cruising on the highway for over an hour is no chore at all, the fairing and screen throw enough wind over your head that you can have a relaxing upright ride to wherever you need to be.  A comfortable sports bike? Gimme one!

I spent a good amount of the weekend on an 8-S which suzuki loaned me as the photo bike, and while it has the same motor and frame as the R, it does struggle to keep up on the twisty mountain roads, especially through the corners. The R is as planted as can be, you can throw it around any bend with confidence and scratch that itchy knee all day long. The Hitachi Astemo (Showa) SFF-BP inverted front forks and Showa link type mono shock rear suspension are stiff, as one would assume but it does a great job of keeping the rubber down and the front aimed exactly where you want it. Some of the more track focused riders that joined tweaked their suspension to their preference and found the bike to have fantastic track potential. I just do breakfast runs and bike trips, I’m not chasing lap times or trying to set a record on the 22, so taking the 8R as-is works fantastically for me. I’m sure setting the suspension to your weight and riding style will help for a better ride, but you have to be someone who knows what you want out of a performance machine to even think about that. (Ed- to be fair, said track focused riders were at least easily twice Stefans weight, which speaks to the adjustability and individual set up of the 8-R as well as its usability amongst a wide range of riders).

All the new Suzuki’s come with their SDMS or power mode selector, simply put: slow, medium and fast, or Rain, Road and Sport. My opinion – just put it in Sport (mode A) and forget about it. You buy a sports bike for the power because you want to go fast and look good while doing it. This 776cc, 270 degree crank, 8 valve parallel twin, delivers smooth power and is no slouch, easily managing to break 200kph. We peaked at about 220 due to limited space which is near Suzuki’s claimed top speed of 225, still with a little more to give before the red line, you’ll be sure to get around 230+ on a long downhill with a backing wind. Suzuki’s patented biaxial primary balancer contributes to that smoothness from the fly-by wire throttle. Getting from 0-whatever is where the fun is anyway, the acceleration of the 8R is what you really want in a sports bike, even without the sweet scream of the four cylinder. Naturally we all spent the weekend racing each other around the mountains, riding from our hotel in Hazyview out to White River, down to Sabie and back again via the 22 in a triangle of spectacular spaghetti twisties. The perfect playground for the new Suzukis.

As always, the look of any new bike is subjective. Suzuki has made some controversial styling decisions the last few years with their nakeds and sport tourers, but this new 8R really looks the part. It’s new and fresh but not as striking as some of the nakeds, so a traditionalist (old fart) could still appreciate the design. As far as the colours go, that lightning yellow stole my heart. The triple stacked lights and gaping air intakes upfront immediately grab your attention, followed by the sleek flowing lines along the very narrow machine, and that is one of the biggest advantages of the parallel twins, narrow and lightweight. The colours are boldly modern and fun, the 5 inch colour TFT LCD multifunctional instrument panel covers all the bikes systems and is easily legible in most lighting conditions. All in all, a fantastic package and really good value for money at R179, 950.00.

Suzuki GSX-S8R

Donovan Fourie says:

Suzuki is obviously happy with its new twin motor. It is showing it off everywhere it can. And so it should – the nifty naked 8S is jolly good fun, the daring DL800 is a do-all adventure machine and now that the Jack Russell and the Saint Bernard have been established, it’s time to debut the Greyhound.

The 8R is exactly the same as the 8S except with more clothes on – in this case, a somewhat fetching sports outfit with the now customary stacked headlights and air vents that grin at you manically making you want to back away slowly before there’s trouble. Essentially, then, the R is just an S with a fairing, but a fairing makes a difference or people wouldn’t bother building them. There’s obviously the aerodynamic proficiency at play here that was felt during the long, grey ride up the dreaded N12 freeway towards Mpumalanga. 

The S can cruise at 160km/h but the rider needs to keep their wits about them because a slight twitch of the throttle and the speed drops, or a sidewind hits you and the speed drops, or your lower intestine moves four grams of partially digested food four millimetres to the left and the speed drops. To summarise, the 8S can cruise and 160 but it takes effort.

The streamlined R cruises at 160 while doing its tax returns with one hand and playing a game of tennis with the other – it’s second nature. Also, especially on bumpy roads, the S’s bars have a tendency to be somewhat lively in the rider’s hands. It’s not unstable but it does move around. The R is completely solid, all the time. The screen might not appear as the wall of protection offered by the more tour-ey models but it does work. More so, the entire four hour journey to the easterly regions of South Africa was far from unpleasant. The bike is small and therefore perhaps a touch cramped but the bars are high enough to keep weight off your wrist and the air shoots high enough to not slowly unscrew your head.

Luckily, Mpumalanga has more than just freeways or no one would go there. We had a leg-stretch at the famous Woodsman Pub in Sabie and our group of 8Rs gathered in its fabled parking lot together with, as you’d expect, the usual array of litre superbikes that were already there. The chisel-jawed owners stepped outside, designer racing leathers adorning their bodies, to see what the ruckus was which immediately begged a new question – what would they think of these new tidbits? They have the superbike look but would the 800cc twin thing be accepted in the greater superbike community? Of course, bikers are lekker okes and would be polite regardless of what you are riding, but politeness and interest are different qualities.

Interestingly, they were truly interested in what these newbies were. They had heard of the new 8R because bikers are largely educated people, and took a good look while having a chat with us about them. We profess to not being concerned about the opinion of others but their nods of approval were genuinely gratifying.

And then it was back to riding…

The pieces of paper say that the 8R has a wet weight of 205 kg which is not the greatest boast. It’s not quite heavy enough to join Weight Watchers but also not exactly featherweight. Not that you’d notice as the sinuous array of mountain passes beckon. While the piece of paper weight might not be boastworthy, the smaller rotating mass means this bike turns on a dime. Get to a corner, let it fall in and then catch it again on the throttle. It’s so easy.

The 776cc parallel-twin motor pushes 83 hp and 78 Nm of torque that is not enough to produce excrement but still entertaining. The clever part about this motor is how it has a wide range of power throughout the revs. Riding through the famous 22 road between Sabie and Hazyview entails clicking the quickshifter up to fourth gear and running through the series of blissful corners by chucking the bike in and then controlling it through torque-filled blasts of throttle – BRAAAAP, hnmmmmm, BRAAAAP, hnmmmmm, BRAAAAP, hnmmmmm. 

A fully-grown superbike might navigate these turns faster but only if the rider is brave enough. And even the bravest might need periodic changes of underpants. The 8R is just fun, whether you’re a biking newby finding your feet in motorcycling or a seasoned pro having a jol – it’s all fun. That’s what biking is all about.

Get down to you local Suzuki Dealer and go ride one for yourself, and if you’re in Gauteng go see Jannie at Suzuki East in Boksburg or Pio at Suzuki Vereeniging in the Vaal Triangle and they will hook you up with some of the best coffee in town as well.

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