2003-2004 Suzuki GSX-R1000

Smart Money

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Suzuki

Racing success isn't the only measure of sporting supremacy, but for the Suzuki GSX-R1000, seven AMA Superbike titles in the last seven years is a pretty good start. The 144-horsepower weapon was the liter-class force to be reckoned with, bumping Yamaha's 130-horse R1 into second place in its freshman year. But Suzuki needed something new to accommodate '03 AMA and World Superbike rules that would allow 1000cc fours. Plus, Yamaha's fuel-injected '02 R1 made the factory nervous.

They shouldn't have worried. Putting 152 horses in a more responsive package, the second-generation GSX-R1000 crushed all comers. Fresh software and hard parts let 988cc four rev quicker than its predecessor with more power from the bottom up and dead-accurate fuel delivery. Slip into top gear and vibration is minimal on the freeway, where a handful of throttle punts you from 60 to 80 mph in just under three seconds. Serious business begins at 6000 rpm. No need to exceed 9000 on the street, but the big GSX-R inhales a quarter mile in about 10.0 seconds at 140 mph if you do.

At 444 lbs. with a full 4.7 gallons of super unleaded-enough to put 190 miles between fuel stops-the '03 flicks into tight bends with a minimal effort and carves fast ones on the proverbial rails. Radial-mount Tokico four-piston calipers are light-years ahead of the fade-prone six-pot bits of '02. The whole package feels bulky compared to an '09, but humane ergonomics and superior wind protection make it a whole lot more comfortable on all-day rides, especially if you're tall.

Aside from a few minor issues, GSX-R holds up well over time. The stock clutch is fragile. If it's sloppy, slipping, noisy or grabby, look elsewhere or factor in the price of a more durable aftermarket alternative. That steering damper goes south over time, giving you inconsistent feedback through a set of bends. Damping disappears from the stock shock in a few thousand miles. Gold anodizing often peels off the fork tubes, especially on weathered example of the breed. A loose headlight assembly usually means broken mounting tabs. Take a close look at the DLC coating on the sliders as well. Imprecise throttle response is often traceable to a maladjusted throttle position indicator. Beyond that, watch for the usual evidence of ill treatment: loose, stripped or missing fasteners, shoddy installation of aftermarket bits, oil/coolant leaks or concealed crash damage. Otherwise, the foundation for two AMA Superbike titles is still a super bike.

Hall of Fame horsepower in a stiff, obliging chassis with brick wall brakes.

Rougher 'round the edges than an '03 R1. Shock fades over time.

Watch For
Shagged clutch, rough idle, spent steering damper.

The former Superbike king is still a stellar street bike.

2003 | $5875
2004 | $6335


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