The Big S brings out its first all-new model in nearly 25 years, the Suzuki GSX8-S, and we ride it in France.
The world has changed a lot since 1999. Phones had yet to make their indelible mark on our lives, fuel injection still wasn’t fully commonplace on motorcycles, and Family Guy made us laugh for the first time. It was also the time when Suzuki bought out the SV650, which, until this year, was the last all-new model the company bought out. Crazy, hey? The new Suzuki GSX8-S is the brand’s tilt at the uber-competitive mid-size naked bike market and goes against class stalwarts like Yamaha’s MT-07, Honda’s CB650R, KTM’s 790 Duke, and Kawasaki’s Ninja 650.
At $8849 MSRP, the GSX-8S is right in the middle of the price point for the category and comes with a 776cc parallel twin-cylinder motor running a 270 degree crankshaft has been developed and shared with the V-Strom 800DE.
The engine runs twin counter balancers like the KTM 790 Duke — dubbed the Suzuki Cross Balancer, patented by Suzuki and used for the first time on a production motorcycle. The system works by running a vibration-killing balancer for each cylinder running at 90 degrees to each other, below and in front of the crankshaft. Suzuki feels the extra complexity with a twin-balancer system that helps kill off as many of the first and secondary vibrations as possible is worth it over the weight disadvantage the GSX8-S motor has to its competitors.
The result is a deliciously smooth motor at low to medium rpm. The crank fires at 270 degrees and 720 degrees, which extends the time between the power pulses to give the rear tire a rest while invoking feelings of a more robust V-twin, and the stumpy little exhaust existing behind the rider’s right boot gives a decent little bark.
Wind the GSX8-S out, and the power really begins to peter out around 8000 rpm. This is a motor designed to be all things to all riders — but especially those on a morning commute. The ECU comes with three riding modes of the full fat A mode, B, and Wet C mode, and there’s switchable on/off traction control with three levels of intervention (just stick it in A mode, level one traction and forget about it).
Suzuki’s engineers have created a chassis that caters to the taller riders out there. Hallelujah! Unlike the short and compact MT-07, the GSX8-S has a longer reach to the bars and more room between the 31.9-inch seat and the footpeg, so riders above 5’10” will appreciate it.
The airbox has been moved between the frame rails and has thus allowed the engineers to create a longer gas tank, which opens up that rider triangle of bars/pegs/seat nicely.
The suspension is best considered basic. Unadjustable inverted forks that are quite soft at the top of the stroke work with a preload adjustment-only shock, which is par for the class but might start to get on your nerves when the pace begins to hot up. Again, the commuting nature of this bike shines through — if you want a beastly naked bike with the S badge, go for the GSX-S1000.
The brakes come in the form of Nissin four-piston calipers up front clamping on twin 320mm discs up front and a single piston Nissin caliper biting a 240mm disc at the rear, all feted by ABS. There’s no lean angle Cornering ABS on this bad boy — the class and price point see to that —but the brakes work quite well, and I didn’t experience any fade over a pretty spirited run back down the mountain from our shooting point. A span adjustable brake lever at least gives some adjustment for those whose hand size differs from the Suzuki test rider’s, which is probably all of us.
My ride on the Suzuki GSX8-S was best described as “nice.” It just so happened we were in Nice in the south of France, which certainly didn’t hurt matters. It’s a nice bike from Suzuki — not too flashy, not too cheap, just… nice. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It won’t blow you away like a Tuono 660 or a KTM 890 Duke. It’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to be a smooth, reliable, and funky little roadster that can handle pretty much every riding scenario you could throw at it on the street, and if that’s the case, Suzuki’s nailed it. I feel you’ll be seeing a lot of these, especially in the hands of new riders, in the coming years.