Test ride: Sporty spice – Suzuki GSX-8R

It wasn’t the best time to take the new Suzuki GSX-8R out for a test ride.

That’s no reflection on the 8R. I really enjoyed riding the naked 8S but my next bike (don’t tell the wife as she thinks my current mount is a keeper) must have a screen and do I really need more than 100PS?

I miss a screen having switched to a retro naked four (most of you will guess which one) from an adventure tourer.

A couple of years after returning to four-cylinder firepower on the bike I dreamed about as a teenager, 50 years ago, I wonder if I’ve now scratched that itch.

With that dilemma in the back of my mind, I climbed aboard the Suzuki GSX-8R.

It feels compact, but roomy, and that 810m seat means I can get my short-legged feet firmly planted on the floor which is really important as I get older!

You soon realise that this is more than just a faired 8S.

It shares the frame and new 776cc, parallel twin engine but Suzuki has given it a sportier character.

The 8S’s KYB front forks have been replaced by non-adjustable Showa ones and the 8R gains a preload-adjustable Showa rear shock which makes handling sportier and sharper and the ride firmer but still settled.

The handlebars are set lower and further forward than on the 8S for a more focused riding position that’s still built for comfort.

Billed as a sports bike, it’s a capable sport tourer with a relaxed, upright riding posture and that small screen does a good job of deflecting wind from the rider. If you want more protection, there is an optional taller screen.

The fairing’s angular mirrors are set wide for good rear views.

The GSX-8R offers the best of both worlds, sporty yet comfortable, fun on twisty roads but able to eat up the miles when cruising.

The 82.9PS twin engine is a joy for everyday riding. It does its best work in that real-world range of 4,000 to 8,000rpm, with max power at 8,500rpm. There is little to gain from revving the nuts off it.

Some would dispute it’s a sports bike but, in everyday riding, it makes perfect sense.

With 78Nm of torque at 6,800rpm, 85% available from 4,000rpm, you do not need to keep using the gears to keep the engine on the boil. If you like to keep your left foot busy the standard quick-shifter makes light work of going up and down the ratios.

I was happy with 63mpg on the test route.

Three engine modes are available, ranging from responsive A to everyday B and comfort C. You can also alter the traction control settings on the fly with a closed throttle via the easy-to-navigate 5” colour TFT display.

Twin 310mm front discs, with four-piston calipers, provide strong stopping power with good feel and feedback. The rear brake is a single-piston 240mm disc. ABS front and rear gives confidence in slippery conditions.

The £8,899 8R comes in metallic matt black with black wheels, metallic Triton blue with grey wheels and, my favourite, metallic matt sword silver with red wheels.

If you’re going to own only one bike, the Suzuki GSX-8R ticks all the boxes – fun, practical, comfortable, sporty and a capable cruiser.

Having said that, there are a couple of things I would change… Firstly that long, ‘landing-strip’ rear light mount would be dumped for a shorter tail-tidy and I’d also go for an aftermarket rear hugger to help keep the bike clean.

If I decide to change my bike the GSX-8R will be my new ride. I’ve done the figures but it doesn’t stack up at the moment. So I’ll get some value out of my new tyres and look for a deal at the end of the riding season.

So, Orwell Motorcycles, be warned. I’m a patient man and I love to haggle!

Find out more about the Suzuki GSX-8R at orwell.co.uk/suzuki/new-suzuki-motorcycle-range/sport/gsx-8r