Suzuki's new GSX-8S naked bike doesn't quite whelm on the spec sheet
Suzuki has hit EICMA with a brand-new 776 cc parallel twin motor, aiming to take on the middleweight market where a lot of the fun's at these days. The first streetbike to use it is the new GSX-8S, but on the spec sheet, it looks a bit undercooked.
Every now and then in the ever-fracturing motorcycle world, a bike takes a fresh approach and sparks off a new market. The Ducati Monster of 1993 was one such a bike, combining the performance of a sportsbike with an upright riding position, a raised handlebar instead of clip-ons, and the most minimal bodywork possible. In a world of "standards" and "Universal Japanese Motorcycles," a new performance bar was set, and the first "naked bike" was born.
By 2014, bikes like the Aprilia Tuono V4 and KTM 1290 Super Duke R were clearly distancing themselves from the pack, offering stupendous, frankly intimidating levels of power to the naked class and offering mind-blowing performance to expert riders at premium price points.
And that's when Yamaha struck with its refreshing MT-09. Based around an entirely new 3-cylinder engine focused on light weight and accessible performance, it was much quicker than the 600-class bikes, with enormous gobs of torque everywhere at street speeds and beyond – but it was tons lighter, friendlier and cheaper than the liter-class machines. It was a smash hit, and it influenced everything from the Street Triple 765 to the KTM 790 and 890, and indeed arguably the latest-gen Ducati Monsters.
Suzuki, meanwhile, offered an inline 4-cylinder GSX-S750 that was terrific fun to thrash about, but did look a little bulky, revvy and lardy next to the lighter, torquier competition. It's taken the best part of a decade, but for EICMA 2022, Suzuki is finally ready to jump in with something more compact. And here it is.
The new motor is a tight little parallel twin displacing 776 cc. It runs a 270-degree crankshaft angle, for a v-twinnish kind of riding experience, and a new cross-balancer to keep the vibes under control, and it's focused on sweet throttle response, and "smooth, controllable" power that's sustained throughout the rev range.
Well, it'll be controllable alright ... It makes a touch under 82 horsepower, and offers a peak torque of 78 Nm (57.5 lb-ft). It's debuting in a new V-Strom adventure bike as well as this GSX-8S, and if we leap to the other end of the spec sheet we find the streetbike has a curb weight of 202 kg (445 lb). So it's a solid chunk heavier than the current MT-09, which weighs 189 kg (417 lb) at the curb and entertains with 115 hp and 88 Nm (65 lb-ft).
Thus, the GSX-8S is more of a bigger 650 than a smaller 1000, and regardless of its youthful looks, it's probably best filed at the affordable/sensible end of the middleweight naked spectrum. That said, you can't ride a spec sheet, there's a lot more to a bike than power-to-weight, and there's plenty of fun to be had reaching the throttle stop, which 8S riders will have ample opportunity to explore. But I can't help personally feeling a little deflated by the numbers here, given the chance to roll out a brand new engine platform.
In terms of looks, it's got plenty going for it, launching in simple white and blue color schemes featuring sharp, minimal bodywork, blue rims, full-color TFT dashes, stacked LED headlights, and highlighted tubular subframes supporting tidy tails. And the riding position looks plenty comfy, although as the press photos illustrate, you'll definitely want to hunch over in your raciest pose at all times, because otherwise you might find yourself looking like this:
Since it's ride-by-wire, Suzuki has thrown in some electronics in the form of traction control, selectable ride modes, low RPM assist and a bidirectional quickshifter, all of which are fine but seem far from essential with this kind of motor. There's single-touch start and clutch assist to ensure you arrive wherever you're headed with your hand muscles rested. The tank holds a modest 14 liters (3.7 gal), but Suzuki claims an excellent 4.2 l/100km (56 mpg), so you're good for a theoretical 270-odd km (168-odd miles) if you run it bone dry.
Early pricing rumors would place it comfortably cheaper than the MT-09, so it definitely has a chance to find itself a sweet spot and win riders' hearts, even if it's a mild tongue-twister to ask for at the bike shop. And Suzuki's form making excellent, if humble bikes like the SV650 gives the GSX-8S a solid shot at proving itself far more than the sum of its parts. We may yet be whelmed.
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Suzuki, If you want to replace my old F700GS, you'll need a bit more fuel capacity and a centre stand.