It’s been loitering around longer than Dot Cotton, been bedroom wall fodder for hoards of teenagers, and in its time has housed more bums than Henman Hill. Yup, we’re talking about the Suzuki GSX-R750. It changed the game back in 1985 and celebrates its 30th birthday in 2015, albeit with a slightly more modest impact on the motorcycle world in its current guise.
People forget (including Suzuki, by the sound of it) that the GSX-R400 was actually born in 1984, thus making it the 31st anniversary of the marque, but there aren’t many sportsbikes with the rich history of the 750 – and certainly not the long lost GSX- R400. So it’s the 750 that we celebrate today.
There’s a reason why Suzuki has persevered with the 750. Thanks to minimal tweaks and mirroring development and updates with its siblings in the latter years, the middleweight hasn’t broken the Suzuki bank, yet still sells in respectable numbers. True, the race on Sunday, sell on Monday ethos has slowly diminished, and you don’t have to buy a 1000cc bike just because you adore a certain racer, or your missus wants a piece of him. Likewise, 600s undoubtedly aren’t everyone’s cuppa. That’s why the GSX- R750 is the perfect middleman.
11,110 days have passed since its inception (I should have waited a day…) and the 750 ignited over a million GSX-Rs leaving the Suzuki factory. A million! Like anything, it’s had its ups and downs, and the first prominent up was obviously the launch in ‘85. Katanas, GPZs and a few Hondas were the first banging four-strokes, joining the popular (and much lighter) two-stroke brigade, but the GSX-R was the first pukka, focused sportsbike with a multi-track mind.
But the original Gixer was hardly dripping with cutting-edge technology. While Yamaha’s FZ750 used a liquid-cooled, five-valve engine slanted in the frame, the GSX-R’s lump was air/oil-cooled, but it still managed to blow the back doors off everyone that rode it.
Like many of us, the 750 struggled with its weight over the years and the early-to-mid 90s was a prime example. It was underpowered and tipped the scales at way over 200kg. The shellsuit graphics were a bit keen, and you could lose yourself in the multitude of suspension settings. Get one set right and you could well find yourself burned at the stake by the pagans. So it was the likes of Kawasaki with the ZX brigade that kicked Suzuki and the GSX-R into shape.
Being born in the early 80s (I know, hard lifestyle), it wasn’t until the SRAD made an appearance that the 750’s presence was felt from a personal perspective. 140bhp and weighing feck-all, it was another game- changer and I couldn’t wait to try the SRAD. The often-overused word ‘hooligan’ was synonymous with GSX-Rs at the time, and the SRAD still feels rampant even now.
Going back to late 90s and early noughties, how many 750s were still around? The ZX-7R stopped in 2003, MV was teasing us with fragile, expensive exotica, but Suzuki was the stalwart manufacturer and continued with meaningful development. While many manufacturers dabbled with 900s and 1000s, as racing took a stranglehold on cubes, Suzuki persevered with the 750, and the bike developed in partnership with the big ‘un.
Suzuki also had to make a 600 in 2001 to counter racing needs. They were also aware the 750 had to continue and launched the kickass 2000 Y model, which again raised the middleweight bar.
Before the European armada of the late noughties, it was all about Japan and the big four’s big fours. Aprilia’s agricultural twins were part of a very limited range, BMW weren’t even making sportsbikes at the time, and Ducatis were often out of financial reach, with preconceptions of reliability outweighing ownership potential.
And that’s why the 2006 GSX-R750 was, and still is, one of the most prolific sportsbikes ever made. Pre-electronics and rider aids, the Seven-Fiddy was often faster, or at least just as fast, as some of the lairy litre bikes, with a 600’s nifty handling, a decent wedge of usable power and sublime levels of grip. The truth is that if it wasn’t for racing, the 750 would have made the GSX-R600 obsolete and redundant.
Its development, technology and performance may have tailed off in the past few years, but the GSX-R750 is part of Suzuki’s make-up. It also fills a transparently evident gap between 600s and 1000s, although rivals also see this building fresher, sharper, more technological models like Ducati’s 899 Panigale and MV’s F3 range.
But losing the 750 from the GSX-R range would be like Triumph ending their love affair with the three-cylinder motor, Kawasaki ditching the colour green, or Honda binning the wings. The 750 is ingrained into the GSX-R cult and deserves another shot at greatness.