Liter bikes – motorcycles with inline-four-cylinder engines that displace around 1,000 cc’s – are, to me, kind of like the Beatles. They’re one of those things everyone else seems to love, but I just don’t care about. Between the lack of torque, vaguely annoying sound and general form factor, these I4 bikes just don’t do anything for me. But then I met the reborn Suzuki Katana, and now, the company’s latest liter bike, the GSX-S1000.
A little backstory: When the Katana launched, I was living in Downtown LA and going naturally a little stir-crazy with just my wife and me in a sub-1,000-square-foot apartment. Something about the almost violently ‘80s/’90s cyberpunk styling of the Katana paired with the legendary Suzuki K5 engine really resonated with me as I rode through an eerily empty Los Angeles. I still love that thing and the K5 inline-four engine is a big part of why. Its long-stroke design offers decent torque throughout the rev range compared to other engines in its class, and makes for a more characterful experience overall. That’s why when Suzuki overhauled its GSX-S1000 and its K5-derived motor recently, I felt like I owed it to myself to try one.
On paper, the Katana and the GSX-S are pretty similar. Both are inline-four-powered naked bikes with aggressive styling and reasonable price tags. Dig a little deeper, though, and things start to diverge. Whereas the Katana was a parts-bin special designed to throw things back to the heyday of Japanese superbikes, the GSX-S1000 is a thoroughly modern machine.
Well, mostly modern, anyway. The 2022 GSX-S1000 uses a seriously updated version of that sweetheart long-stroke K5 motor. It displaces 999cc and produces 149.9 hp and, importantly, 78.2 pound-feet of torque. That torque, while not Earth-shattering, makes the GSX-S a really easy, friendly bike to ride around town at sane, not-gonna-send-you-to-jail speeds. This is an important characteristic of naked bikes.
The updated K5 engine is paired with an extremely smooth six-speed sequential gearbox with a quickshifter that allows a rider to shift both up and down the gears without the clutch. This is a big deal because, while European bikemakers haven’t exactly had a monopoly on quickshifters, they’ve been much quicker to adopt them across their product lines. Suzuki employing this tech as a standard feature is a good sign.
In addition to the great gearbox, Suzuki opted to include a really pleasant, light clutch and its Low RPM Assist System, which automatically bumps revs to make it easy to get smooth starts from a stop even if you bungle your clutch work. So yes, you still have to use the clutch when setting off, but after that, you can rely on the easy-to-use quickshifter.
The GSX-S’ chassis is pretty standard as far as Japanese bikes in this class are concerned. The twin-spar aluminum setup does the job, looks the part and is something that Suzuki knows how to engineer well. The bike’s suspension comes courtesy of KYB, offering full adjustability up front for compression, rebound and preload, which is always nice to see at this price point. There’s also a single KYB shock out back, which has the same adjustability and will allow you to tailor the bike to your height, weight and riding preferences.
This adjustable suspension isn’t as plush as, say, the Ohlins units found on some Euro naked bikes, but it does a more than reasonable job of offering up a nice ride both in town and on canyon roads. The GSX-S feels nimble and flickable without seeming darty or nervous, which makes it a confidence-inspiring companion when it comes time to ride hard. At 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and almost 300 pounds, I’m well outside the average rider range for any motorcycle, but even riding the Suzuki with the less-than-ideal-for-me stock suspension settings is a really great time. Some preload and compression damping tweaks would take the GSX-S to another level entirely.
Braking is handled by a pair of Brembo monobloc calipers up front that clamp 320-millimeter rotors, while the single-piston Nissin caliper out back gets a 240-mm rotor. ABS is standard on the GSX-S, but lean sensitivity isn’t available. The brakes have good initial bite and feel unflappable even after charging hard into a few tight corners in a row. I suspect they’d hold up reasonably well to track use, but that’s not what this bike is for. That’s a job for the more hardcore (and fully faired) GSX-R1000.
Naked bike styling isn’t for everyone, of course, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that both Suzuki and Yamaha are leaning into that pretty hard. The GSX-S1000 isn’t what anyone would call pretty, but it’s at least purposeful and slightly milder-looking than any of Yamaha’s naked bikes. The seating position is comfortable for large riders, and the reasonable 31.9-inch standover height means that this bike will suit most riders.
One area where Japanese bike brands tend to lag behind European marques is with electronics. This is certainly the case with the GSX-S, which comes standard with a ride-by-wire throttle, user-selectable ride modes and multi-stage traction control, but doesn’t feature an IMU (inertial measurement unit) to add lean sensitivity to any of those systems. Is the lack of lean sensitivity a dealbreaker? No. Would it be nice to see it on a bike like this? Absolutely.
The 2022 Suzuki GSX-S1000 is available in dealers now with a starting price of $12,089, including freight and destination fees, but not including any dealer assembly fees, etc. That’s a couple of grand cheaper than Yamaha’s MT-10 and around $1,500 cheaper than Honda’s CB1000R.
The GSX-S1000 is basically a Katana for people who can’t deal with the square headlight retro styling. The riding experience is broadly similar, if slightly more refined. The electronics are a little better and the engine is a little more slick, but the Katana’s fun and easy-to-ride character is still alive in the GSX-S. The Japanese brands have always done a brisk trade in cost-to-performance and the 2022 GSX-S1000 is no exception.