The name of the game was power and the ever-popular bragging rights to the quickest 1/4-mile. For the performance rider the mainstream was being rewritten, but cracks were beginning to form in the lust for accleration. Heavy, cumbersome and uninspired compared to the salvos being fired by Europe, Japan's decision to treat chassis development as an afterthought kept many of its thoroughbreds in the barn when things got interesting.
A latecomer in the four-stroke sweepstakes, Suzuki was the least 'universal' and most rounded of the Japanese builders, producing off-center designs that included a brace of three-pot (some liquid cooled) two-strokes and the futuristic RE5 tourer. Failing on the sales floor the big rotary was short lived, but the machine's balance and high speed stability proved that Suzuki was capable of producing a sophisticated chassis. That development continued with the acclaimed GS750 and to the liter-spec GS1000. Our Bike of the Month.
Published in March of 1978, Cycle magazine boldly proclaimed the GS1000 “The best handling multi of all.” Responsible for designing the platforms used on the RE5 and GS750, Suzuki engineer Hisashi Morikawa was credited as the man behind the GS1000's over the road performance. How serious was Morikawa about fighting the forces of flex-induced wobble during cornering and braking? Start at the top of the GS's twin cradle and you'll see the steering tube is not only gusseted and reinforced top, side and bottom, but the top tubes are cross-braced no less than five times between the steering stem and the seat edge.
Constructed of large diameter, thin-wall tube steel, the entire frame, including swingarm (which at 42.7mm was the industry's beefiest) weighed only 38-lb. Roller bearings on the steering stem was not uncommon but Suzuki used an uprated, caged Timkin-type and needle bearings in the swingarm pivot where most fit cheap steel or nylon bushings. Tested with twin discs (three became an option later in the year) and a choice of spoke or cast wheels, the GS1000 also used motorcycling's largest (38mm) fork, which was air-adjustable using a special pump included in the tool kit. The 1000's twin shocks were adjustable for rebound dampening as well. Nothing new today perhaps, but if you're looking for the Godfather of adjustable suspensions (besides Bimota...) look no farther.
Given the era, it's equally remarkable that an engine as powerful and linear as the unit propelling the GS1000 play second fiddle to the chassis, but that only serves to demonstrate the brilliance of Morikawa's design. Cherished by drag racers due to its tough, pork-chop roller bearing crank (supported by no less than six-main bearings yet 2.2-lb lighter than the 750's) the 1000's cases are shorter and more compact than its smaller brother. To reach 997cc, the cylinder bores were increased 5-mm and the stroke lengethened 8-mm. A bank of 26mm Mikuni's fit on the 2v head, which featured revised combustion chambers. Praised for its smoothness, power, and durability the GS1000 was capable of 11.8 quarter-miles times, an average of 40-mpg and a top speed of 140-mph.
The editors of Cycle concluded their findings after testing the GS1000 by saying: “If a bike can retain its high speed handing stability over the course of over 180 miles of absolutely flat-out running, click off laps at speeds averaging over 101-mph and come to the end of the ordeal with no evidence of deterioration or distress, then it's inescapable that the motorcycle will handle on the street.”
“That's what the GS1000 did, and it left us with the opinion that the big Suzuki is the best high-speed handling multi available. It is, because that's what Suzuki specifically wanted it to be, and knew enough to achieve the objective. There's no magic here; Suzuki has come to believe that handling stability was not only important, but salable...investing development, imagination, time and money accordingly.”
It's fair to say the GS1000 made 1978 a one-bike race for the Big Four, even though the CBX posted a faster 1/4-mile time. Its superiority came not only in handing but real, working adjustability for ride and compensation. The GS1000 impressed with a balance of comfort, build quality and durability that simply made it a better motorcycle than anything else coming from its home country.
An impressive accomplishment for Suzuki, and a landmark design from Japan. For the very first time but certainly not the last, the European makers were forced to deal with a metric inline truly capable of mixing exceptional road holding with the aforementioned speed and power. Joining the 900 SS Desmo, Laverda Jota, and Moto Guzzi Le Mans 850 as 1978's best in the pure sports market, the Suzuki was a handsome, affordable alternative that took a performance backseat to nothing. Nolan Woodbury
Engine: 997cc DOHC, 8v four
Horsepower: 75 @ 8,000 RPM
Frame; tubular steel cradle
Brakes: 1-275mm disc (f) 1-275 disc (r)
Weight: 548-lb (wet)
Current Market Value: $1,750-$5,000
**Thanks to Ian Christopher and the rest at ADVrider for the pics and info!