I kinda like it.
Suzuki GSX 1400
Road test and photographs by Simon Bradley
Whichever way you look at it, it's big. 1402cc. 105bhp. 228kg. 145mph. Big numbers, big presence. Big.
First impressions are everything when you're dealing with a bike that trades as strongly on image as it does on ability. And although it would have to be a particularly dark and misty night before you'd mistake the GSX1400 for a genuine classic like it's great grandad the GS1000, there's no denying that those first impressions are pretty good. It's a fine looking bike, especially in the classic blue and white colour scheme, and the air/oil cooled engine looks traditional enough despite the almost radiator sized oil cooler to keep the illusion going. Big (of course) heavily chromed twin pipes and the big (you expected something else?) chrome rimmed headlight make their contribution as well. But then things start to go a bit pear shaped. The front discs, for example, are?big. Actually, enormous might be a better description. And they've got 6 piston calipers as well. That's a bit out of keeping, surely? And that rear suspension. Sure, twin shocks are nicely historical, but what's all this adjustable damping malarky? I don't remember having that on my old Katana.
And that's the real strength of this bike. Unlike certain other retros I could mention, just because it looks like something from the 80's, at least at first, it doesn't force you to put up with the things we all secretly hated about big bikes back then. You know, appalling brakes, rubbish suspension and flexible frames. That sort of thing. At least, that's how it appears at first. To get the true story you have to ride the beast. So why don't we do just that?
No prizes for guessing what the first thing that comes to mind is once you've climbed aboard. Big. Although well padded and, um, big, the seat isn't especially high, it is wide, though, and as a result it's more of a stretch to the ground than you might expect. It's quite a long way to the bars as well, but by no means uncomfortable. Firing up the extremely untraditional fuel injected motor is a little surprising, if not disappointing. The noise, of course, is the sort of noise you'd expect from a motor this big. Just slightly quieter. Like an extremely powerful industrial tool that has been silenced by the Health and Safety Executive. Not a bad simile, that...
This is not a sportsbike, so you can't expect it to go like one. Ah. That'll be the next surprise, then. Open the taps in any gear at just about any revs and you will be rewarded by what I can only describe as a relentless surge of acceleration as your arms get stretched and everything around starts going very slowly. This is a seriously quick bike, although obviously sitting bolt upright with no streamlining is bound to impact on your top speed a bit. Plus, of course, the fact that sitting with your head in a 140mph wind tends to make your neck a little stiff. Happily, although not a sportsbike, the GSX-1400 isn't really a retro either. Suzuki call it "Naked Sports" which, I must admit, brings altogether different images to mind, but which probably isn't too far off the mark for this bike. You see, although it doesn't really look as though it should, it goes round corners really well, to the extent that a particular favourite B-road was dispatched in pretty much the same time as I would have done it on my own sportsbike. It stops as well, with the two big (of course) discs being gripped by equally impressive 6 pot calipers.
Over a distance you soon find yourself getting really into this bike. It doesn't respond well to ham fisted riding, making you subtly aware that there is a better way of riding without doing anything crass like shaking its head or getting out of shape at all. So you naturally adopt a slightly more relaxed position and attitude and as a result the rate at which you cover ground is always a pleasant surprise. It's also quite comfortable, despite the lack of weather protection (ours was fitted with an optional flyscreen that I would heartily recommend) and it looks great. And so, of course, do you...
This is a bike it is very easy to feel good about. It goes like the proverbial train, handles far better than it has any right to, stops on a sixpence and is comfortable. It looks by far the best of the current crop of naked musclebikes, it has huge presence and could only really be improved by the addition of a matt black four into one and painting the rear shocks red to give it that proper period feel. However, it can also deceive you into going quicker than you intend, or should.
The GSX 1400 does an excellent job of being everything that we would like to remember our favourite 70s musclebikes being like while at the same time being far better, in every respect, than they ever were. It's fast, it goes round corners and it's beautifully screwed together. Almost exactly unlike its spiritual ancestors, then...
At a glance:
Suzuki GSX 1400
Capacity: 1402cc 16v four
Power: Oh yes.
Tank capacity/ave range: 22l/180 miles
Seat height: 790mm
Weight: 228 kg
Rating: 4 Stars