Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001-2002): Review & Buying Guide

Kev Raymond
By Kev Raymond

Kev's been riding since acquiring half shares in a CZ175 field bike back in the seventies, passed his test in a blizzard on Christmas Eve 1985, and got his first job on a bike mag in 1990. Likes: long distance touring and short-distance twisties. Currently owns a 1987 GSX-R1100, a 1992 Ducati 400SS, a 1973 Honda SS50, a 1978 Honda CX500, a 1988 Honda Bros special, a 1957 Mobylette and a 110cc pit bike. None of them work.

Suzuki’s superbike for the new millennium offered scalpel handling and sledgehammer power. Twenty years on it

 

No traction control, no anti-wheelie, no ABS, no quickshifter, no switchable riding modes – nothing to get between you and the road but scalpel-sharp handling and sledgehammer power delivery. Like the sound of that? Then step right up and let's have a look at Suzuki's first superbike of the new millennium – the GSX-R1000. Launched just sixteen years after the first GSX-R (1985's GSX-R750F), the 1000R wasn't just from a different century, it seemed like it must have come from a different planet. Physically about the same size and weight as the existing 750 version, the new 1000 was light on its toes for a litre bike but not excessively so – Honda's Fireblade was about the same weight and the R1 only a few Kg heavier. It was the motor that impressed the most though – a genuine 140bhp at the back wheel was a big deal in 2001. The move for World Superbikes from 750s to 1000s for 2003 meant a model update, so the original GSX-R1000 lasted only two years, but nearly twenty years on, a K1 or K2 GSX-R is still a hell of a way to get your kicks. The trick is to find a good one, so here's what to look for.

 

Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001-2002) Price

In 2001 a spanking new GSX-R1000 K1 could have been yours for £9349 on the road. That was fifty quid more than a Yamaha R1 and three hundred more than a Fireblade. Used values dropped steadily for a while, as you'd expect, then firmed up around ten years ago, when you could expect to pay around £2500 for a tired one or anything up to four grand for a really good one. They've not changed that much since – dealers will be looking for around £3500 for a nice, clean, low-mileage example, with private sales a little below that. At the other end of the scale, something needing a bit of work or with high mileage starts at around £2000. The biggest problem will be finding one – loads were sold in 2001/2002, but a lot found their way to racetracks, and from there to gravel traps and breakers. Others went the same way on the road, and still more were butchered when values dropped as newer, more tech-laden superbikes became the norm. So very good, standard examples are hard to find. Worth searching out though.

 

Power and torque

This was what had us all frothing in 2001. 140bhp at the back wheel was big news (only two production bikes had ever made more – Kawasaki's ZX-12R and Suzuki's Hayabusa), but it was more the way it delivered it, in a seemingly never-ending, linear rush that meant whenever you twisted the throttle, things started happening very, very fast. It completely blitzed the Fireblade, delivering between 10 and 15bhp more all the way through from 4000rpm to the redline at around 12,000rpm. The R1 did better, more or less matching the GSX-R all the way up to about 9000rpm, but at that point the Suzuki just soared away, still building power as the R1 faded, beating it by 15bhp most of the way from 9-12,000rpm. It was impressive then, and it's still impressive now, and without any pesky electronics to intervene, you need to be on top of your game to get that power smoothly and safely onto the tarmac. Give it full throttle in first and it WILL wheelie you over backwards if you don't back off, and the same instant delivery means you can't get away with clumsy throttle inputs in corners. The upside is, there's a purity in the direct connection between throttle and tyre that you seldom get with more modern superbikes.

 

Suzuki’s superbike for the new millennium offered scalpel handling and sledgehammer power. Twenty years on it

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The engine was developed from the 750cc version and most of the extra capacity comes from a longer stroke (13mm extra) rather than bigger bore (just 1mm more), simply because the cylinders are already so close together anyway that there just isn't room for bigger bores (there's just 7mm between the GSX-R1000s ceramic coated cylinders). So it's a relatively long-stroke engine which should make it less inclined to rev hard – the redline on the 750 is at 14,000rpm, while for the 1000 it's at 12,250. Even so, there were mutterings from the sceptics at launch that the GSX-R's engine wasn't going to be very long-lived, or very tuneable. Happily, both those predictions turned out to be cobblers. Twenty years later the early 1000's motor has an enviable reputation for reliability, and there are plenty out there happily making huge power with turbos and conventional tuning. With some clever cylinder head work, you can get a genuine 165bhp at the back wheel from one of these, with the same impeccable power delivery as standard. Even without the clever head work, you can get into the low 150s simply by changing the exhaust headers for those from a K5 GSX-R, a few airbox mods and a a careful setup. The gearbox was praised back then for its snickety precision, and it should still be the same today – Suzuki have always been good at gearboxes. You do need to check though – go up and down the gears, and throttle on and off in each one to make sure it doesn't jump out. Any problems are likely to be the result of cack-handed wheelies (missed or crunched changes to second in particular) and abuse than any fundamental flaw, but once bits start rattling round the box, it doesn't take long to make a serious mess... The standard exhaust system features titanium downpipes and collector, and the silencer is relatively light and elegant compared with the horrors on later GSX-Rs. Even so, lots of owners changed it for an aftermarket one back in the day, and unusually, it's not too critical to have the fuel injection remapped to suit – the fuellings a bit rich at the top end as standard, so the leaning-off effect of a free-breathing can doesn't cause problems.

 

Electrics

Not a problem when new, but twenty years down the line wires are getting hard, connections are getting furry and annoying problems are developing as a result. No more than any other similar aged bike though. Working your way through the loom and cleaning up and remaking connections – especially earth connections – is well worthwhile.

 

Suzuki’s superbike for the new millennium offered scalpel handling and sledgehammer power. Twenty years on it

 

Finish

Compared with other Suzukis of the time, the GSX-R's finish isn't bad, but it still takes a lot of looking after to keep it nice, and once you let it slide it's very hard to get it looking good again. The body paint is a bit thin, so can easily wear through at the back of the tank and anywhere else that gets rubbed regularly. Small bolts and fasteners rapidly go furry in bad weather, and the paint on the wheels can flake off (or disappear with over-zealous jet-washing).

 

Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001-2002) Economy

Few people buy litre class superbikes with economy in mind, but the GSX-R is pretty average for its class and age. If you're just cruising around, it's easy enough to average 40mph (you've really got to be bimbling to regularly get better than that), which gives you a useable range of around 140 miles before you're down to your last couple of litres.  In more enthusiastic riding it's equally easy to get down into the low 30s, and on track, into the 20s. Don't worry about it – rarely have complex hydrocarbons been more entertainingly wasted.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

Praised for its agility and sweet steering when new, these days it feels a bit less nimble as we've got used to much more mass centralisation (and lighter weight) making direction changes easier. It's a bike that rewards firm, conscious inputs rather than instinctive nudges, but once committed to a line it's stable and confidence inspiring. That assumes the suspension's all working well though, and it often isn't. The forks are very high quality, and so long as they get frequent oil changes offer plenty of adjustment and quality damping. Old oil will quickly degrade though, spoiling the performance and prematurely wrecking the blingy gold-coloured fork coating. A good suspension specialist can make the forks even better though. The rear shock is rebuildable, and it's worth having it done even if it's not done that many miles – modern oil is waaay better than the junk the factories used 20 years ago, which often also contains excess air so foams up under hard use. None of that's any good, though, if the basics aren't spot on – you need to make sure all suspension pivots are free-moving and well-greased, and that head bearings are greased and properly adjusted.

 

Suzuki’s superbike for the new millennium offered scalpel handling and sledgehammer power. Twenty years on it

 

Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001-2002) Brakes

Tokico six pot calipers were the talk of the spec sheets back in 2001, and some owners still swear by them. But they take a lot of maintenance to keep them sharp, and the faster you go and the harder you brake, the less well they perform – brake fade was an issue for track use, even when they were new. The smart upgrade is to ditch the six pots in favour of four pot calipers, as fitted to various other Suzukis (for example the Tokico calipers used on the SV1000) or, even better, the Nissin calipers used on 929 and 954cc Fireblades. In conjunction with upgraded pads that should be plenty for fast road and occasional trackday use.

 

Comfort over distance and touring

Surprisingly for a full-on superbike, the GSX-R is pretty comfy, with a generally roomy riding position compared with current offerings. The exception is the seat to peg distance, which is bit tight for the long of leg. Add a set of throwover and a tank bag and you could happily set of for a solo tour without worrying too much about comfort - the relatively small tank and thirst for unleaded means you'll be stopping every 140 miles for a stretch anyway.

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

Rider aids? Wash your mouth out.... The GSX-R is one of the last generation of nearly analogue machines. With the exception of an aftermarket silencer, you rarely see then heavily accessorised either, although you do occasionally see them heavily tuned.

 

Suzuki’s superbike for the new millennium offered scalpel handling and sledgehammer power. Twenty years on it

 

Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001-2002) verdict

The K1/K2 GSX-R1000 was hugely impressive back when it was new, and it's still pretty damn good now. Exactly how it feels to you will depend on your perspective. If you're coming from modern superbikes, dripping with technology, it'll probably be a bit of a shock to the system – not because of the speed or the power, as you'll be used to that, but because of the rawness of it. No computers analysing whether they can safely unleash the forces you're asking for when you twist the throttle, it just does what you tell it, and that means if you tell it the wrong thing, it's likely to hurt.... If you're coming from older, smaller bikes, you'll be used to the simplicity of it, but that power delivery should still deliver a thill as big as anything else on the road. Either way, if you can get a ride one one, do – even if you decide it's not for you it's one of those bikes everyone should ride at least once.

 

Three things we love about the 2001 GSX-R1000…

  • The power delivery
  • The (relative) comfort
  • The wheelies

 

Three things that we don’t…

  • Fuel consumption
  • Occasional gearbox woes
  • Slightly iffy finish

 

Suzuki GSX-R1000 (2001-2002) spec

Original price

£9349

Current price range

£2000-£3500

Capacity

999cc

Bore x Stroke

73x59mm

Engine layout

Inline four

Engine details

DOHC, liquid cooled, fuel injected

Power (tested)

140bhp (104.4kW) @ 10,500rpm

Torque (tested)

75 lb-ft (101.6Nm) @ 8300rpm

Top speed

176mph

Transmission

6 speed, chain drive

Average fuel consumption

39mpg tested

suTank size

18 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

156 miles

Reserve capacity

4 litres (warning light)

Rider aids

n/a

Frame

Aluminium twin spar

Front suspension

43mm upside down forks

Front suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Rear suspension

Rising rate monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Front brake

320mm discs, Tokico six-piston calipers

Rear brake

220mm disc, Tokico two-piston caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZRX17

Rear tyre

190/50 ZR17

Rake/Trail

24°/96mm

Dimensions

2045mm x 715mm 1135mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1410mm

Ground clearance

130mm

Seat height

830mm

Kerb weight

188kg

 

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