Suzuki’s flagship GSX-R1000 has served as market mainstay and brand hero bike for 20 years now. But is an early one a good buy?

When Yamaha launched the first of the venerable designation that its R1 has gone on to represent, it stole a march on its competition to forge a whole new category – that of the litre sports bike.

This sent other major manufacturers scurrying into design rooms all over the world, but most particularly in Japan. Much midnight oil was burnt looking to respond to Yam’s coup.

It took until 2001 for the first serious competitor to the R1 in Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 to make its way to market. While that may seem an inordinately long response time, the fact Suzuki was acutely aware that the bike had to be something very special, not just a bored 750, and that takes time.

The K1 of 2001 sent a shiver though the good folk at Yamaha. The R1 now had a very serious rival.

Get this one wrong and the brand damage would have been significant indeed.

In fact, it took Honda and Kawasaki six years to get something out there that could effectively rival the R1 with its CBR1000RR and ZX-10R, making Suzuki’s response look positively rapid.

The brand’s 750 had a hugely strong lineage and market following, but the three quarter litre capacity had run out of puff and then-proposed changes in superbike racing regulations added a great deal to the allure to the new capacity.

This would give Suzuki the opportunity to showcase the bike at the highest levels and flog a similar bike in showrooms around the world. It needed to respond well, and respond well it did, and, it was a wise move to keep the model name, which brought a great deal of buyer trust and sports category awareness with it.

The red and black combo was rare and will become a collector.

Hugely competent from the outset, the bike was voted as the International Bike of the Year in 2001 by 13 bike magazines from all over the world.

It took until 2005 for Troy Corser to deliver Suzuki its first World Superbike title, but the die was cast and world buyer uptake for the bike was phenomenal. Yes, Suzuki had got it right.

So the sports bike fraternity had grabbed on for dear life. But how does the bike stack up as a used buy in the real world of today?

For the sake of this exercise, let’s examine the models that ran from that very first bike of 2001 (K1) through to the 2004 model (K4) to see how they stack up as a used buy.

The K3 was an updated package. You got 0.745 kilowatts more power to brag about!

The bike made use of a 988cc, liquid-cooled, across the frame, 16-valve four-cylinder engine. Dry weight was 170kg and power figures were 116.8 kW at 9500rpm and 110 Nm at 8000rpm. Yep, a real world, 10.6sec quarter mile bike. Pretty heady stuff.

All this was housed in an aluminium beam frame, with 43mm, fully-adjustable inverted Kayaba forks.

Brakes were twin 300mm floating discs with six-piston Tokico calipers at the front and a single 220mm disc with twin-piston Tokico caliper at the rear.

Suzuki builds strong motorcycles and the first Gixxer was no exception, but on some examples the gold coloured Titanium Nitride coating on the forks has been known to deteriorate.

Neat and tidy, the paintwork screamed Suzuki.

Gearbox problems can arise with hard ridden examples, second gear wheelies tend to have their effects. Other than that, the bike is known for its toughness.

The GSX-R1000 came in for some revision in 2003.

Suzuki decided to drop the six-piston calipers. The new radially-mounted four-piston calipers gripped smaller 300 mm discs, all designed to save weight.

Headlights were mounted vertically to enable the ram-air intakes in the front to be placed 20mm nearer the bike’s centre line. The instruments were redesigned.

More power and torque and better throttle response was achieved by adding four ventilation holes between the cylinders to equalise crankcase pressure beneath the pistons, moving the air intake nearer to the centreline and upgrading the engine management system to a 32-bit CPU that monitors and controls the engine functions, input from the rider and the exhaust tuning valve.

Every madman on the planet wanted to own one – because they were fun.

The entire exhaust system was entirely made of titanium to save additional weight (600g) and the taillight was LED.

All this resulted in 0.745kW (whoo-hoo!) more power, increased torque by 10 per cent and made the bike 2kg lighter.

A more refined bike, this incarnation is claimed to offer a degree of touring ability. It is physically smaller than the earlier bike and as a result a little more nimble.

Keep an eye out for fairing fitment screws. The two bolts that hold the front fairing support have been known to work their way out.

Loctite fixes the problem.

Service costs

Japanese across the frame fours are a well-known quantity and, although there is some degree of complexity to the Gixxer powerplant, it’s a tough lump.

Keep to the service recommendations, look for service books on a used purchase and the thing should serve you very well indeed.

A minor service (oil change, lube and checkover) should cost around $200; an intermediate service (every 10,000km) should cost around $450; while a major service (incl. valve check and parts) will cost around $800, but prices will vary from dealer to dealer.

The verdict

The GSX-R1000 really deserved its place as the top dog in the litre bike stakes. It’s not for the feint of heart though, this is an absolute rocketship, in any guise.

The money

Price new: $17,990 (2001) $18,690 (2004)
Price now: $4000 (2001) to $5000 (2004)

GSX-R1000 K1

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