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suzuki gsx-r750

Generation R

(September 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Suzuki’s GSX-R750 spawned a whole new generation of sports tackle 35 years ago. Let's go for a fang down memory lane…

See our GSX-R1100 feature here

Just imagine that someone walks up to you this afternoon and says you can have a fair dinkum replica of a Suzuki MotoGP monster, with lights and number plate, new, for let’s say about $18,000. Would you buy it? Hell yes. Would it turn the sports bike market on its head? Probably, but maybe not as much as the first GSX-R did in its day.

It is difficult to overstate the impact the GSX-R750 had on the local, and world, market. And to get across just what a revelation the first version really was. While we hear plenty of hype about how a new design revolutionises a class, blah blah, the Gixxer really did, and it was years before the other Japanese makers stuck their necks out quite so far when it came to producing an affordable, ultra-light and serious racer rep for the road. In many ways, it defined what we now accept as super-sports motorcycles from Japan.

suzuki gsx-r750

Hard as it is for some of us to believe, the first model GSX-R750 is now 35 years old. Where in hell did the time go?

Okay, so let’s think back to late 1984, when the bike was announced (for the 1985 model year) and Australian dealers began decorating their shops with the very first GSX-R750 posters. While not exactly a new idea, the prospect of being able to buy a real racer with lights from one of the big four makers was, at the time, absolutely mouth watering. And here it was. An honest-to-god race-bike that looked damn-near identical to the GS1000R that nailed the 1983 Suzuka Eight-Hour.

The posters (how I wish I’d grabbed some copies at the time) proudly screamed two all-important numbers: 100 horsepower and 176 kilos. So what? In those days, you might as well have claimed to have fitted a rocket engine. A century of neddies was well into litre road bike territory, while the claimed dry weight was, frankly, incomprehensible. We’re talking 40-50 kilos less than the accepted four-cylinder contemporaries of the day. The numbers alone made it abundantly clear that it would, regardless of engine capacity, eat alive anything else in the Suzuki armory and, by implication, pretty much anyone else’s.

As it turned out, the model did not quite succeed in wiping the floor with everything else on the racetrack, though it met with a lot early success in production racing here and superbike plus endurance events across the globe. Yamaha’s marginally later FZ750, for example, was a more road-oriented machine which was forever giving the Gixxer a hurry-up.

suzuki gsx-r400

While we may not have understood it at the time, the GSX-R750 effectively established what was to become a narrow brand in its own right. Though the world saw the 750 as the parent of the GSX-R phenomenon, there was in fact a quiet predecessor in the shape of the GSX-R400 of 1984 (above).

Pitched primarily at the domestic market (hence the engine capacity) the 400 ran a liquid-cooled heart in an alloy frame, wrapped in an endurance-style styling package. It claimed to be a hefty 18 per cent lighter than its competition and won huge praise for its sporting ability. While the 400 was the stalking horse, it was the 750 which was the main game.

If the raw power and weight numbers got your pulse going, a harder look at the 750 spec sheet was a performance hound’s dream. For a start, there were flat-slide carbs as standard – everyone knew these were the choice of race teams. Then there was the beefy (for the time) 41mm front fork, an alloy frame for all to see and, strangely enough, an oil rather than water-cooled engine design.

The justification for that little item ran along the lines that it could do pretty much everything a ‘normal’ liquid-cooling system could achieve, but with less weight. Work on this idea had been underway for some time. The air-cooled GS1000R world endurance race engine employed oil-cooling jets on the underside of its pistons, which in turn had been developed to control the heat range of the far less successful XN85 turbo street bike.

All this added hugely to the bike’s street cred, as did the fact that it really did mirror much of the development done to make the GS1000R so successful. The chassis, according to design team member Akimasa Hatanaka, was the subject of “a lot of heated discussions. How should we weld the frame? What materials are best? In a lot of ways, we were groping in the dark. But we had the race experience to lead us. We knew that following what worked in racing would help.”

Colleague and team leader Etsuo Yokouchi, convinced there was a need to move away from what he saw as hitherto overly conservative design, felt racing experience could and should be more closely translated to the street. “The motorcycle doesn’t know where it is being ridden,” he once said.

There is of course an argument that the team may have overshot the mark, as the first model GSX-R750 – the F – was notoriously nervous at high speed, something addressed by a 25mm longer swingarm in the 1986 G model (below).

suzuki gsx-r750

So what was the first Gixxer really like? My memory of hopping aboard a test bike in early to mid 1985 is an overwhelming sense of “what the devil have we got here?” The machine had already begun racing locally with some success, and the raw stats were on a different planet to those for the Suzuki GS1100G I owned at the time. Like nearly 70 kilos lighter, with more horsepower, and what seemed like half the physical size, plus a steering geometry that wasn’t recognisable as the same vehicle.


Ignoring the spec sheet, you were immediately confronted with two bleeding obvious novelties: a race-style seating position, and a tacho that started at 3000rpm on the first version. That was quickly updated to dial set you see here.

A quick note for collectors: if you see three large dials (below) instead of the two above, it's a Japan-market bike. Check the numbers on the speedo, as they're normally marked to 180km/h. This example has been retrofitted with a UK market gauge.


Hit the starter and there was immediately an aggressive growl – something which Suzuki has tried very hard to retain over the series – that had the timid corner of the brain questioning whether what you were about to do was either necessary or even a good idea. Clearly it wasn’t and therefore it was.

Damn it was fast and, on the rare occasions you actually got time to think about it, hellishly uncomfortable. Frankly I didn’t get to ride it in circumstances where stability became a life-threatening issue, but there was no question it was a lightning-fast steerer for the day that demanded your full attention if you were going to get within cooee of exploring its considerable abilities.

Responsive, fast, and much better than a mere mortal like me. That about summed up an afternoon’s play with the toy. Oh, and surprisingly, it was accessible. It started easily, idled, could be ridden at normal speeds by any dill, and gave every indication of being a solid, reliable mount at a halfway reasonable price. That last factor was the real kicker for a whole generation of riders – here was a very serious sports machine at sensible dollars. If you had a job, you could probably find a way to finance it.

suzuki gsx-r750

And now? There are plenty of motorcycles out there that had us in a lather of excitement at launch, but ended up being treated rather unkindly by history – and Suzuki has made its share. However the first GSX-R750 stands up well to the less than sympathetic glare of someone wearing the hindsight goggles.

A well-maintained one would still be an exciting ride today, as the power to weight figures still stack up as something with plenty on tap to make life interesting. Its handling will feel a little archaic, but still familiar to anyone who rides current sports tackle – though the 18-inch wheels will look way too tall and skinny to modern eyes.

You need a little patience to wake it up properly - it’s cold-blooded by modern standards. Even then, the carburetion is not slick, and performance can depend on your ability to show a little sympathy for matching your throttle hand to speed and gearing.

Get it right and this is a lively motorcycle. A hundred horses for around 180 kilos still works. It’s also low, narrow, and surprisingly responsive.

It tips in happily and responds to correction. With its narrow tyres, it feels like you’re tap-dancing on stilettos – fine if you’re used to it, but confronting if not.
This model saw the introduction of four-piston front brakes for Suzuki and, while they were the hot thing in their day, they’re just acceptable now.

Suspension had moved on from some of the anti-dive weirdness of the early eighties and made real attempts to offer useful adjustability. It works, up to a point, and now looks as spindly as the frame.

A big issue is finding a decent one. The first F model is distinguished by a shorter swingarm than the G, plus a muffler that has round colander-style holes in the alloy muffler cover, rather than the G’s slots. Both versions are thin on the ground in anything resembling reasonable and original condition.

At risk of sending values through the roof, this is a no-brainer when it comes to collectible status, in F, G of H form. The F is the first, but the later two are the sorted versions and will be easier to find.

While the GSX-R1100 became the marque’s standard-bearer in the performance stakes, from its launch in for the 1986 model year, in its day the 750 was nevertheless one very formidable bit of kit, along with being a trend-setter that we may not have fully appreciated at the time. If you have one of the first generation machines, my advice is to hang on to it…


suzuki gsx-r1100

The monster GSX-R1100G (above) was a truly awesome ride when launched in 1986. Blessed with an entirely believable 130 horses, it was heavier than the 750 at 197 kilos.

However it was a much better ride on the road, feeling more stable and a little more comfy – though the ride position was still a wrist-crusher.

It doesn’t have the 750’s race pedigree. However it and the slightly tweaked 1987 model (H designation) have a huge amount of performance to offer.

If you’re feeling an unreasonable urge to start collecting 1980s performance bikes, the 1100s arguably offer more value than their smaller cousins.

See our GSX-R1100 buyer guide.

Web: suzukicycles.org – really good reference material, mostly derived from contemporary brochures.

Suzuki has a great little archive of pics and stats up to the 2011 model, which you can find here.

Book: Suzuki GSX-R – a legacy of performance, by Marc Cook. Published by David Bull. An excellent reference done for the model’s 20th anniversary, it’s readily available via the web.

Suzuki GSX-R750F
Type: Oil-cooled in-line four with four valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke: 70 x 48.7mm
Displacement: 749cc
Compression ratio: 9.8:1
Fuel system: VM29SS flat-slide carbs

Type: 6-speed constant mesh
Final drive: chain

Frame type: Twin-loop alloy
Front suspension: Conventional 41mm fork, spring and damping adjustment
Rear suspension: Monoshock, spring and damping adjustment
Front brakes: Twin 310mm floating discs
Rear brake: Single disc

Dry weight: 179kg
Seat height: 755mm
Fuel capacity: 18.5lt

Max power: 100hp (75kW) @ 10,500
Max torque: 6.4kg-m (63Nm) @ 8000rpm

Price when new: Au$5700 + ORC

suzuki gsx-r1100



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