Suzuki GS500F / GSX650F / GSX1300R


The top Sports Tourers

Don’t look at us – you put them there!

According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) list of the top-selling sport touring motorcycles for January to December 2009 (and again in early 2010), Suzuki took all three places on the podium. The GS500F took the gold with 440 units sold, the GSX650F pulled the silver with 420 units and the GSX1300R Hayabusa held the bronze, selling 347 units.

To put it in perspective, this trio beat bikes including the Triumph Sprint ST, Suzuki 1250 Bandit, Honda CBF1000 and the ever-popular Honda VFR800.
I am sure, like me, you are scratching your head, saying, “Sports tourers?” Exactly, and when the Bear suggested we do a comparison between the three, I thought he had gone mad!

For the comparo, the riders were Mike commanding the GSX650F and Kat taking charge of the GS500F, while I rode the Hayabusa. Hey, somebody’s gotta do the hard yards.

After some time away from riding motorcycles, less experienced Kat was allocated the air-cooled, DOHC, parallel twin LAMS rated GS500F. Her feedback really proves the easy-to-ride nature of the bike for learners or those returning to motorcycling. Of the thousand-odd kilometres we rode, Kat had only one “Oh no, my legs are too short!” moment and tipped over in the gravel at a service station but apart from that she handled the sometimes trying weather conditions gloatingly, showing what she said about the GS500F, “It is so easy to move around”, to be so true.

The GS500F has been around for quite some time and is a very popular LAMS bike, while also holding its price well on the second-hand market.

We mounted a tank bag and seat bag to the GS500F and the seat height of 790mm made it easy to get on and off. I have to point out that the GS500F lacks the luggage hooks that for a sports tourer, I would have expected. The engine, being a carburetor parallel twin gives enough torque to travel at highway speeds, although it is a little coarse down low. Fuel injection no doubt would fix it but that would also increase the price.

To add to the simple nature of the whole package the gearbox is easy to get through and the gearing is nicely spread. Kat found the handling pleasant, as did I. It is compliant enough to handle our rough roads and the steering is light at all speeds.

Kat thought the brakes gave good feel but I found the rear brake to be a little vague at times, especially at higher speeds. The Bridgestone tyres gripped well in all conditions and they wore very well, basically not changing during our 1000km ride.

With any bike that fits into the sport touring category there must be some sport in the machine. The GS500F is styled on the principle of its larger brothers, the GSX-R range. The finish on the bike is good when taking into account the low price and because it has been proven over quite a number of years, should give many maintenance-free kilometers.

The liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-cylinder GSX650F is a bike I feel should sell far more than the figures indicate. It looks modern, it has a silky smooth engine and to top this off, handles effortlessly. I asked Mike about the 650 and he said, “I like the looks of the bike, but I would take the purple stickers off.” Maybe the white with purple decals is meant to woo the female segment of the market – the purple decals change their appearance in sunlight to more of a pinkish colour. To prove the point, I showed my wife the bike and now she wants one!

The 650 appears far better finished than the GS500F and the engine is so silky smooth you hardly notice it’s there. Mike thought the engine pulled well but I found the midrange to be lacking slightly and through corners had to keep it well above 8,000rpm.

Handling is excellent for this class of bike and with an upright seating position and a nice screen height that works well, it is easy to ride at any speed you want. The instrument housing is something Mike really liked and is styled on the GSX-R range, so it supplies all of the information you could ask for.

One reservation Mike had was the seat, which he felt was good for only about an hour’s riding. But after comparing the comfort of the 500 and the 650, I think the 650 wins hands down. It just feels more natural and suitable for a wider range of riding styles.

In terms of putting luggage on the 650, there is an array of handy knobs and hook points that make this better than the 500 and the points that are available do not detract from the clean look of the bike.

GSX1300R Hayabusa
The Hayabusa is the big brute of the trio. Everyone knows that this thing is an absolute powerhouse but in terms of it being a sports tourer I do have some reservations. I am a tall man and find the seat-to-peg height too short.

The low bars can also become tiring, although the actual seat pad is quite comfortable. I would love the ’Busa to have the seating position and upright bars of the 650, then it would almost be the perfect sports tourer.

The suspension is set up nicely for normal riding but if you push this bike hard, I suggest bumping up the rear preload because a bit of wallowing starts to creep in. The front is just about right and the only time I would play around adjusting it would be if I owned one.

In terms of finish, the wind tunnel-tested flowing lines and the quality of the paintwork are excellent.

A set of Pirelli Angel ST tyres had been fitted to the ’Busa for our test and they handled the massive amounts of power with ease. They are some of the best wet weather tyres I have ridden on. I deliberately rode through quite deep water to see if I could get them to aquaplane but they just stuck.

If you have short legs, be careful when throwing your leg over the seat hump because it is easy to kick, as our man Lester Morris found out. The large hump also made it impossible to stick luggage on the seat. If you opt for the standard pillion seat there are some hooks available. I was able to put a very large tank bag on the big metal tank and there was plenty of room in it for my gear for the weekend ride.

The fuel consumption figures shown separately for the Hayabusa were somewhat unreal for the level of rider who would own a bike like this and when I tested this bike in 2008, I achieved a more real world figure of 8.0L/100km.

Engine wise, the Busa will permanently extend your arms at just about any speed right up to numbers that will see you eating mass-produced slop behind bars. Three power modes are available via a switch on the right bar but I really don’t see the use of this, unless I was riding on snow, maybe.

Summing it up

All three bikes have their strong and weak points. There are Suzuki luggage accessories for all of them, as well as aftermarket options so to pick a winner would be near impossible; that is why they all win, because they are so very different in so many ways.

Fuel consumption
Our ride was well within the confines of the posted speed limits (so keep this in mind) and two of the bikes returned surprising fuel consumptions.
Mike riding the GSX650F was only half a litre less than the extremely powerful Hayabusa. The GS500F gave a miserly 3.4L/100km, the GSX650F consumed 4.72L/100km and the Hayabusa (ridden at the same speed as the other bikes, therefore nowhere near the speed its makers intended) sipped 4.91L/100km, which is excellent for such a beast of a bike.

Suzuki GS500F – Quickspecs
Model: Suzuki GS500F
Price: $8,490 (plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 34.3kW @ 9200rpm
Torque: 40Nm @ 7500rpm
Engine: Air-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, parallel twin cylinder
Bore x stroke: 74 x 56.6mm
Displacement: 487cc
Compression: 9:0:1
Transmission: Six-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
Suspension: Front, telescopic fork, travel 120mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload, 115mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 790mm, kerb weight 180kg (dry), fuel capacity 20 litres, wheelbase 1,405mm
Tyres: Front, 110/70/17. Rear, 130/70/17
Frame: Steel double cradle
Brakes: Front, single 310mm disc with twin-piston caliper. Rear, 250mm disc, single-piston caliper.
Top speed: 170km/h
0-100km/h: 8 sec
60-100km/h: 8 sec
Fuel consumption: 3.40 litres/100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 585km
Colours: Blue/black, black/grey
Verdict: Simply simple

Suzuki GSX650F – Quickspecs
Model: Suzuki GSX650F
Price: $10,490 (plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 63kW @ 10,500rpm
Torque: 62Nm @ 8,900rpm
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 16-valve, in-line four cylinder
Bore x stroke: 65.5 x 48.7mm
Displacement: 656cc
Compression: 11.5:1
Transmission: Six-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
Suspension: Front, 41mm telescopic fork with adjustable spring preload, travel 130mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, 128mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 770mm, kerb weight 216kg (dry), fuel capacity 19 litres, wheelbase 1,470mm
Tyres: Front, 120/70/17. Rear, 160/60/17
Frame: Tubular steel double cradle
Brakes: Front, twin 310mm discs with four-piston calipers. Rear, 240mm disc, single-piston caliper.
Top speed: 205km/h
0-100km/h: 4.2 sec
60-100km/h: 5.0 sec
Fuel consumption: 4.72 litres/100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 400km
Colours: Blue/white, white/purple
Verdict: Like silk sheets

Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa – Quickspecs
Model: Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
Price: $18,990 (plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 147kW
Torque: 154Nm
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 16-valve, 4-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 81.0 x 65.0mm
Displacement: 1,340cc
Compression: 12.5:1
Transmission: Six-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
Suspension: Front, 43mm inverted fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload, travel 120mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, 140mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 805mm, kerb weight 260kg, fuel capacity 21 litres, wheelbase 1,480mm
Tyres: Front, 120/70 ZR 17. Rear, 190/50 ZR 17
Frame: Twin-spar (aluminum alloy)
Brakes: Front, twin 310mm discs with four-piston calipers. Rear, 260mm disc, single-piston caliper.
Top speed: Limited to 300km/h
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
60-100km/h: 3.2sec
Fuel consumption: 4.91 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 425km
Colours: Black or White
Verdict: Yeehah!!