Oct 20, 2023

Supersport Legend: A Look At The Suzuki GSX

The motorcycle that re-invented itself through evolution

It took the global cotton market collapse of 1951 and the closure of Suzuki’s famous loom manufacturing unit in Japan for the Suzuki Motor Corporation to reinvent itself and begin development with one of the best sportbikes the world had ever seen. Over the next seven decades, the company would build a series of motorcycles that would leave a mark, each eventually paving the way for the Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Suzuki was perhaps the most conservative of manufacturing companies, and the man considered to be the father of the GSX-R and an engineer himself, Mr. Etsuo Yokouchi, did what no other employee would consider doing with a product that was already reliable. Breaking away from the norm of overly reliable motorcycles that were heavy, boring, and never broke down, he had witnessed an interest in race replica sportbikes. Though the top honchos at Suzuki were not convinced about it being a serious business, Yokouchi's engineering department's R&D program of developing 100 horsepower from a 750cc engine with a 20% reduction in overall payload paid off with the creation and beginning of the GSX-R lineage. The Suzuki GSX-R750 may not have been the first factory sportbike, but in creating it, Suzuki had re-invented itself once again.

If there’s one motorcycle that customers desired in the guise of a factory machine, it was the Suzuki GSX-R750. When Suzuki responded with one in 1985, there had never been a race replica that was almost as close to Suzuki’s Works endurance motorcycle that won the Le Man’s 24-hour World Endurance Championship at the time of its debut. While the first iteration of the Suzuki was a street-legal, detuned version of the GS1000R, the overall construction of the GSX-R750’s components was designed for high performance, keeping the motorcycle light and fast. The high-performance two-wheeler infamously known as the ‘slabby’ owing to its slab-sided styling characteristics employed oil cooling to further keep the weight of the motorcycle down.

Like most air-cooled engines, cooling four-strokes is difficult given the narrow valve angle between intake and exhaust, making it almost impossible to place cooling fins over the combustion chambers. Though Suzuki's air-cooled motorcycles used tightly packed fins that managed the job, Suzuki later countered this by taking advantage of the generous volumes of oil circulating through their rocker heads by employing a larger oil cooler which increased cooling intensity using air while negating the need for weight-heavy water jackets around the cylinders. Thus born was the cutting-edge oil-cooled Suzuki Advanced Cooling System (SACS) and oil jets were used to cool the pistons.

Related: 5 Reasons Why The Suzuki GSX-R750 Is A Supersport Legend (And 5 Models That Prove It)

With a 749.7cc, four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve engine, the GSX-R750 produced a maximum of 100 horsepower (at 10,500 rpm) and 62.8 NM of torque (at 8,000 rpm), dominating the AMA supersport class, yet against its water-cooled rivals, they only won one AMA title in the Superbike class in 1989. The oil cooling was the restricting factor to a higher compression and in 1988 Suzuki increased the bore and stroke to 73.0 mm and 44.7 mm to employ bigger valves and gain more horsepower besides further increasing the oil circulation. It was the first major overhaul of the 429 lb (197 kg) Slingshot bike in 1988, introducing new 36 mm constant-velocity semi-flat slide carbs and a revised shorter-stroke with bigger valves and high-lift camshafts. This boosted the GSX-R's horsepower from 100 to 112. However, the combustion was inefficient with Suzuki reverting to the original bore and stroke of 70.0 mm and 48.7 mm in 1989. It was a limited “R” edition run with only 500 units produced that made 120 horsepower and came with an aluminum fuel tank and a single seat.

In 1990, Suzuki reverted to the longer-stroke motor, and out of all the oil-cooled GSX-R 750 versions built, this model year is considered its best version. The bore and stroke dimensions, cylinder head, pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft, were optimized based on the know-how obtained through the development of the limited-edition racing-spec GSX-R750R that debuted in April 1989, helping bump up its power to 115 horsepower at 11,000 rpm. It was the first Japanese motorcycle in its class to use fully adjustable USD forks (41mm) at the front and a fully adjustable rear suspension as well. It also featured a new 4-into-1 exhaust system, steering damper, 38mm carbs, smaller valves, a large capacity oil pump, a larger radial flow U-shaped oil cooler, and low-profile radial tires.

The most significant change came in 1992 with the GSX-R750 gaining a newly designed liquid-cooled system for the cylinders and cylinder head paired with an oil jet cooling system for the pistons. Combined with a 10mm shorter cylinder pitch and a 57mm narrower crankcase, this resulted in a slim and compact engine with an increased power of 118bhp at 11,500rpm. It had revised brakes and suspension (Nissin and Showa), all courtesy of technology passed down from the racing department. The motorcycle also featured a new angular (five-sided) aluminum frame and a sand-cast steering head section with increased torsional rigidity, a result of computer-applied analysis. However, rivals such as Kawasaki with its ZXR-750 were already ahead, and the twin-cradle-framed GSX-R was beginning to look outdated.

In 1996, Suzuki came out with an all-new GSX-R called the SRAD, the first since the 1985 original. The twin cradle frame was replaced with a new aluminum twin beam frame reducing the weight by 44 lbs (20 kg) to 394.6 lbs (179 kg), the same as the first generation bike, thanks to the lightweight magnesium engine covers that closed off the head, starter motor, clutch, and sprocket areas. While the new engine gained the SRAD (Suzuki Ram Air Direct) induction with 39mm electronically controlled carburetors, the chassis' shortened wheelbase of 1400mm, which was the shortest in its class and combined with an aggressive rake of 24º gave it knife-like handling.

Suzuki's model year 2000 brought the new generation of Suzuki GSX-R 750 to the fore, a culmination of 15 years of styling and development, and at the time, it was heralded as the best sportbike ever built winning awards for the best motorcycle its category. Having already pared weight with a new frame and magnesium covers, the 2000 GSX-R750's weight was further reduced with the cylinders integrated with the upper crankcase forming a rigid and strengthened part. The engine was narrower and combined with a more lightened chassis, it further helped reduce the motorcycle’s weight to 365.9 lbs (166 kg), a reduction of 28.6 lbs (13 kg). The 749cc four-stroker generated 140 horsepower at 12,500 rpm and 63 foot-pounds of torque at 10,500 rpm, which allowed it to reach a top speed of 174 miles per hour (280 km/hr). Despite a longer swingarm, Suzuki was able to keep the wheelbase dimensions the same as the previous model (1,400 mm), helping improve the GSX-R's handling and traction.

Related: 10 Reasons Why The Suzuki GSX-R750 Is The Best Supersport

The next major development came with the K4 model in 2004. The bike shared many features with its 600cc sibling, which was first introduced in 1998. Like the Suzuki GSX-R600 K4, the GSX-R750 K4 had the same rigid and well-balanced chassis using aluminum castings for the steering head and pivot areas. It featured a new motor with a bore and stroke of 72 mm and 46 mm, lightweight pistons, titanium intake and exhaust valves, increased compression, and a larger curved radiator, all of which helped boost its power by 5% to 130bhp. Due to the motorcycle’s compact nature and new 15 mm narrower frame, its weight was reduced to 359.3 lbs (163kg).

In 2006, the GSX-R750 finally came together as a complete supersports package, thanks to its older brother, the Suzuki GSX-R1000. While it handled much like its younger brother, the GSX-R600, the biggest change may have appeared to have been the styling, but there were plenty of changes throughout the machine that were not visible. Apart from the new aggressive bodywork with a narrow frontal area that gave the motorcycle a new look and a 5% increase in aerodynamic efficiency, the power plant was now 34 mm lower and 57 mm shorter than its predecessor with the riding performance substantially enhanced by a 35 mm longer swingarm. The seating position was also revised with a lower seat height, smaller tank, and adjustable foot-pegs, all helping in better control and helping the rider to reposition their weight.

Two years later, Suzuki based the 750 on the newly developed GSX-R600. It was characterized by the same horizontally-lighted headlamp of the GSX-R600, even the bodywork looked similar making it difficult to tell the two apart. The 2008 GSX-R 750's overall performance was fine-tuned with the adoption of multi-hole dual injectors (increasing from four to eight holes) per cylinder for better fuel atomization, an electronically-controlled steering damper, a back-torque limiting clutch and Suzuki’s Drive Mode Selector (SDMS).

With a new motor and the engine tilted rearward three degrees over the countershaft sprocket to shorten the wheelbase, Suzuki combined it with the chassis of the GSX-R600, both developed together at the same time in 2011. Suzuki had also focused its efforts on reducing the overall weight of the GSX-R750 via the chassis, swingarm, exhaust muffler, front forks, rear suspension, brake calipers, and external plastic parts, resulting in a motorcycle 17.6 lbs (8 kg) lighter in curb weight than the 2010 version. These revisions helped centralize its mass between the wheels aiding its cornering abilities and making it more agile.

The Suzuki GSX-R750 hasn’t changed much since 2011, but with emission norms getting stricter, the company signaled the end of an era when the GSX-R750 was dropped from most world markets at the end of 2018. Without enough sales, and providing a quick fix to get around emission entanglements just not justified, perhaps it was the sensible thing for Suzuki to do. Though still available in the United States with Model Years 2022, 2023, and 2024 shown on the website drop-down menu, the engine and chassis features remain the same. The price bridge between the 750cc and liter-class GSX-R is $5,000 (2023 - GSX-R750: $12,999 | GSX-R1000R 100th Anniversary Edition: $17,999). It has been 12 years since the last update and the GSX-R750 has fallen by the way-side - ABS, quick-shifter, traction-control, and fly-by-wire-system, none of the electronics are available except for power modes. Smaller rivals like the Kawasaki ZX-6R do better in the electronics department and is priced at $12,399.

Liter-class rivals, including its own older brother, the GSX-R1000R may have sentenced it to an early grave way before its time, but the Suzuki GSX-R750 continued to evolve. Coming up on 40 years, it has aged, but its will to live on is ingrained in its legacy and the fact that it continues to thrive and still enjoy a following of customers is a testament to its engineering, balanced yet decently agile handling and engine performance.

Power Plant


750cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, 4-cylinder, 16-valves, DOHC

Bore / Stroke

70.0 mm x 48.7 mm (2.756 in. x 1.917 in.)

Compression Ratio


Fuel System

Fuel injection with SDTV




Wet sump



Wet, multi-plate type


6-speed Constant mesh

Final Drive

Chain, RK52ROZ5Y, 116 links


Suspension, Front

Inverted telescopic, coil spring, oil damped

Suspension, Rear

Link type, single shock, coil spring, oil damped

Brakes, Front

Brembo, 4-piston caliper, twin rotor

Brakes, Rear

Nissin, 1-piston, single rotor

Tire, Front

120/70ZR17M/C (58W), tubeless

Tire, Rear

180/55ZR17M/C (73W), tubeless

Fuel Tank Capacity

4.5 gal. (17.0 L) / 4.2 gal. (16.0 L) CA model



Electronic ignition (transistorized)

Spark Plug



12V 65W (H9 high-beam) and 12V 55W (H7 low-beam)

Tail Light



Overall Length

2030 mm (79.9 in.)

Overall Width

710 mm (28.0 in.)


1390 mm (54.7 in.)

Ground Clearance

130 mm (5.1 in.)

Seat Height

810 mm (31.9 in.)

Curb Weight

419 lbs (190 kg)

Sources: Cycle World, Revzilla And MCN

Tarun is a gearhead who has been riding and working on motorcycles for over 25 years. A certified Kawasaki and Ducati mechanic, he loves working on motorcycles and is happy to have quit the software and gaming industry when he did. He has held the position of Manager for Service / Senior Manager for Sales & Marketing at India Kawasaki Motors Pvt. Ltd. and Manager for Service at Ducati India Pvt. Ltd. Born and raised in Rugby, England, he is now based in New Delhi, India spending his time consulting on setting up workshops when he can, working on motorcycles and all stuff that is cool. He considers himself fortunate to have ridden a lot of different motorcycles, thanks to a group (G.O.D.S) that he was once associated with and currently owns a Kawasaki ZX-11 and ZX-12R. He regrets not being able to keep a stable of motorcycles.

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