As the new century dawned, it was pretty clear that Suzuki had been taking a knife to a gunfight for a while in the literbike class. After dropping the GSX-R1100 dinosaur back in the mid 1990s, the only bike the firm had to offer against Honda's CBR900RR, Kawasaki's ZX-9R and Yamaha's R1 was the GSX-R750. Of course, the SRAD GSX-R750 was a potent weapon, but not even it could give away 150-250cc to the more serious opposition. Suzuki's big twins, the TL1000S and TL1000R, had been disappointing, so the answer seemed obvious-get back to basics with a stroked version of the 750.
The bore was only 1mm bigger, but it was a 13mm longer stroke that added the extra 239cc. But what a difference those extra cubes made. The 2001 GSX-R1000 simply stomped all over the competition that had given its little bro such a hard time. Even the near-mythical Yamaha R1 was left looking a bit slow and dull by the new Suzuki, while Kawasaki's ZX-9R and the CBR929RR weren't even in the ballpark.
The Suzuki didn't have much in the way of high-tech features-nothing that the 750 hadn't already offered in engine or chassis gizmos anyways. Rather, the literbike put it all together in a super-torquey, light yet controllable package. Suzuki hadn't even bothered making it a "full" 999cc. The first motor was just 988cc, but it still kicked everything else up and down the track and street.
Of course it wasn't perfect: the six-piston front brake calipers lacked power and stamina-a problem the GSX-R range has often had of late. And while the gold-hued fork stanchions looked sweet, the way the titanium nitride coating flaked off after a few seasons of street abuse was a bit of a disappointment.
The follow-up model in 2003 was also a little underwhelming. Minor mods included new four-piston brake calipers that worked better and a black carbide coating on the fork legs. There was a little more go in the engine too, but with the opposition heating up in the shape of Honda's CBR954RR, Yamaha's fuel injected R1 and Kawasaki's ZX-10R in the pipeline, this was pretty much a stopgap model.
That was confirmed in late 2004, when a new GSX-R1000 was launched. A compact yet brutal bike, it saw a full 999cc motor for the first time. Without the emissions hampering of later models, it was a mega-light, super-controllable bundle of pure madness. On track, it was almost a match for the 750 in terms of agility, yet your right wrist could unleash a devastating blow of grunt with barely a flick. The power delivery was simply immense. The grunt just off-idle gave an immediate hit of dizzying acceleration, yet the fuel injection was faultless with perfect metering of power everywhere. The brakes were the best yet, helping make the 2005 model simply unbeatable.
Sadly for GSX-R fans, the 2005-'06 models seem to have been the model's high point. With the '07 model came ratcheted-up emissions regs; the Feds dictated a massive set of catalyst-equipped dual cans that added a lot of weight and fuss. Sure, peak power was up, but that came at the cost of a little midrange, and while the chassis gained some much-welcomed extra sophistication in the shape of advanced suspension, the appearance of the "chicken switch" Drive Mode Selector was a bad sign. We thought that the best way to control a 170 HP superbike was with the throttle rather than a restrictor switch.
Meanwhile, Kawasaki's ZX-10R had cornered a portion of the headbanger market, Honda's CBR1000RR was chomping at the bit and Yamaha had finessed its R1 into a truly awesome all-round superbike. In the last couple of years the GSX-R seems to have lost its heart. Honda ruled the roost again with a superb new CBR1000RR in 2008 before Yamaha's crossplane crank, fly-by-wire R1 stole the headlines again in 2009. Suzuki humbly exhibited an "all-new" GSX-R1000 for 2009 that simply missed the mark though. A fine bike of course, but the new GSX-R didn't excel anywhere, and the competition all looked much more serious.
2010 brought devastation to the Japanese superbikes from BMW'S S1000RR, and the GSX-R1000 fell victim alongside the other also-rans. It was a sad end to a legendary line, but we've got high hopes that the big GSX-R will soon fly again.