Suzuki GSX-R1100

When it comes to ultimate super bikes, they don’t come much more ultimate than this, Suzuki’s GSX-R1100 is one of the biggest, most powerful, and awe inspiring superbikes ever built. Unveiled back in 1986 to enormous acclaim, the GSX-R1100 (like its pioneering smaller siblings, the (GSX-R750) has undergone many changes over the ensuring years.

At its launch the big GSX-R was light, very powerful and wickedly fast. And over the years the Suzuki, pressured by competition primarily from Yamaha’s FZR 1000, piled no more and more power. But the trade off was more and more weight gained, and by the early 1990s the GSX-R1100 had become a muscle bound monster. Putting out 145 bhp in stock (but unrestricted) trim the GSX-R scaled over 500 lbs fueled up. That’s a lot of bike producing a lot of power.

But now the GSX-R1100 has undergone another transformation and although it is still big heavy and fast, it is no longer the bad mannered behemoth it once was. Gone is the wayward handling and peculiar steering, replaced by an altogether more docile beast. What happened was the Suzuki was that Suzuki radically uprated the GSX-R1100’s motor, turning it from an oil-cooled to a water cooled affair.

They did the same thing to the GSX-R750 in 1992 and the result was a biker that was better than ever, but not by much. The main cause for adopting water cooling is that it’s more competent, but because it’s quieter an important consideration in these days of increasingly stringent noise regulations.

Yamaha GTS 1000

When it comes to bringing technological innovation to mass produced motorcycles, Yamaha leads the way with its revolutionary GTS 1000. The GTS was the first mass production Superbike of the present age to use a front suspension system that didn’t employ a couple of telescopic forks and a chassis that doesn’t run more or less in a straight line from the steering head to the swingarm pivot.

Motorcycle manufactures have long searched for a method of suspending the front wheel of a motorcycle that doesn’t rely on conventional telescopic forks. ‘Teles’ are unsatisfactory for several reason, they are prone to flexing under braking and when corning, and then cause the front end of the bike to ‘dive’ under braking. The search for a realistic alternative has been the Holy Grail of motorcycle engineering.

Yamaha’s alternative front end, as featured on the GTS 1000, in a solitary sided front swingarm with hub-centre navigating not unlike one front wheel of a car. Separating the steering purpose from the suspension should, in theory, produce a bike that steers, corners and brakes better than a bike with conventional forks.

The GTS’s Omega chassis is different from that of a conventional bike because the front suspension removes the necessity for a headstock. The aluminium alloy frame is a squat box shaped affair which wraps around the engine, on to which are bolted the front and rear suspension systems, as well as the sub-frames necessary for the steering, seat and bodywork.

The result is a bike that has most sophisticated front suspension systems in production. The bad news is that, in the case of the GTS at least, this kind of suspension system offers no significant improvement over conventional telescopic forks. Being designed as a sports touring motorcycle the GTS is too long and carries too much weight to reap any benefits from the hub-centre steering other than the elimination of the front end drive under braking.

Triumph 900 Speed Triple

When Triumph rejoined the motorcycle manufacturing fray in the early 1990s the two wheeled world was impressed. And old and revered name had been applied to a thoroughly modern range of motorcycles and was being sold at prices that allowed Triumphs to compete directly with the Japanese factories.
A few years down the line Triumph have expanded and revised their range, dropping models that didn’t sell well and introducing new ones they hoped would. The speed Triple is one such machine, one which has been received with open arms by the motorcycling fraternity.
Whilst some manufacturers have gone all out at the retro market, aiming traditional looking machines at the born again biker, Triumph have taken a different approach. With speed Triple they have taken an existing Superbike from their range, the Daytona 900, taken off the fairing, and tidied up what is underneath to the point where it is aesthetically pleasing (not an easy thing to do with a modern water cooled motorcycle). The result is one of the leanest, meanest looking bikes around, a café-racer for the ‘90s, not a lash-up of bits and pieces designed to look like something from the mid-1970s.
The engine of the Speed Triple is the same excellent unit that powers a whole variety of Triumphs, from the Trophy 900 to the Daytona 900. it is a water cooled DOHC 12-valce in-line three cylinder that puts out 98 bhp and 60 lb/ft of torque, enough to dispense with one of the usual six gear rations. Not massive numbers for a 900, but sufficient to give Speed Triple a top speed of 140 mph.