First Ride: 2003 Suzuki GSX-R1000

Fantasy Island: A Little Thunder Down Under on Suzuki's 2003 GSX-R1000

Back in Boss Angeles, nasty weather has my boys pinned down watching Three Stooges re-runs. Bike testing is impossible. Meanwhile, two hours south of Melbourne, the air-conditioned pressroom at Australia's Phillip Island circuit is perfect. Shaking off the effects of a lovely 16-hour flight, it's time to swing a leg over the 2003 GSX-R1000 and see what's what.

First, a few words from Suzuki's tech boffins about the new hard parts. In the engine department, combustion efficiency has been improved inside this more compact version of the 988cc four. Faster, smarter engine-control electronics intensify power and cut exhaust emissions. The whole package is a bit more compact than before. Wheelbase stands pat at 1410mm (55.5 inches). Steering geometry is steeper, 23.5 degrees of rake and 91mm of trail (vs. 24.0 degrees and 96mm on the 2002 bike). Moreover, weighing in at a claimed 425 pounds (wet, Suzuki's numbers there) the '03 edition is 4.4 pounds lighter than its predecessor. All that should add up to a more agile, more responsive beast.

Guess what? It does. Every lap is an exercise in throttle control. It's not easy, but getting a clean drive out of Phillip Island's Turn 12 and cramming myself behind the bubble puts an easy 167 mph on the LCD speedo under the start/finish bridge. Everything happens a little more quickly. Keep the brain up to speed and all is well. Suspension is better than before, especially up front. All that remains is to dial in suspension and ride height a little more accurately and go easy on these standard-issue Bridgestone street tires. What happens after that? Pick up the May 2003 issue from your nearest newsstand and all will be revealed.