Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fast Past II: Suzuki GSX-R1100 and Bimota SB6

Late-1990s Suzuki GSX-R1100. The ultimate big-bore sportsbike from Japan?

Though the Kawasaki ZZR1100 was the undisputed top speed king through most of the 1990s, the Suzuki GSX-R1100 (which was launched in 1986, before even the ZX-10 came out…) was never too far behind. And for many, the Big Gixxer’s bad-boy image and raw, visceral performance put it ahead of the smoother, rather more civilized ZZR1100.

Though it was initially powered by an air-and-oil cooled inline-four, by 1993, the GSX-R1100 had a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve 1074cc inline-four, which made a claimed 155 horsepower at the crank. (Most experts say actual power output was in the region of 125 - 130bhp.) The bike weighed 224kg dry, cost less than US$10,000 and was the big ticket for riders who wanted brute power and lots of speed.

You know you wouldn't want to spill the Gixxer 1100's pint...

In fact, while most riders and magazine journalists praised the 1100’s power, they were less than happy with its braking and handling abilities. GSX-R1100s were essentially big and heavy, which put a lot of stress on the bikes’ chassis (which was prone to flex) and suspension.

Suzuki stopped making the GSX-R1100 after 1998, though its smaller brother, the GSX-R750 continues to this day. The 1100 was replaced by an all-new GSX-R1000 in 2001, and as you would expect, the new bike was lighter, more powerful, faster and better handling than any GSX-R1100 ever made. That said, the 1100 still has a dedicated fan following and for many years, the big Suzuki was a popular choice for streetfighter conversions.

GSX-R1100 not exotic enough? Get the Bimota SB6 then!

But the GSX-R1100 story has another chapter – one that was written in Italy. In the mid-1990s, Suzuki used to supply Bimota with the GSX-R1100 engine, around which Bimota built the now legendary SB6. About three times as expensive as the GSX-R1100, the US$35,000 SB6 was fitted with a slightly modified version of the GSX-R1100 engine, with Bimota using their own cams, exhaust system and some other components. The result was a claimed 156 horsepower – about 20 more than the GSX-R1100.
Of course, Bimotas always had top-spec chassis and suspension parts and the SB6 was no different – light and stiff aluminium alloy chassis (which used Bimota’s ‘Straight Connection Technology’), 46mm cartridge Paioli forks, fully adjustable Ohlins shock, Brembo brakes, 17-inch magnesium wheels and various carbonfibre bits.

The Bimota SB6 was the last word in 1990s' Italian superbike exotica...

There was no pillion seat, which was just as well given that the bike was fitted with twin underseat exhausts – you wouldn’t want your passenger to end up with a burnt bum! At 190kg dry, the SB6 weighed about 35 kilos less than the GSX-R1100 and its handling was in a different league altogether. Top speed, at around 280km/h, was also slightly higher than the heavier GSX-R1100’s top whack, and according to a bike magazine test report, the SB6 would do the quarter-mile in 10.6 seconds.
Bimota made a total of 1744 units of the SB6 (also taking into account 600 units of the 1997 model SB6 R), and this was one of the best selling Bimotas ever. Today, Bimota seem to be in the doldrums. The Tesi 3D is quirky and eccentric at best, while the DB5, DB6 and SB8K simply aren't exciting enough. The Ducati / Suzuki engines they use are outclassed by the latest, greatest superbikes from Japan and even in terms of chassis, suspension and styling, Bimotas simply aren't what they used to be.
Perhaps what Bimota should do is take the latest Suzuki GSX-R1000 engine, hire the guy who designed the Ducati 1098 and build an all-new superbike for 2009? Maybe it'll happen sooner than you think... ;-)


Philip Heung said...

As a new owner of a Bimota SB6, I say "hallelujah!"

first_synn said...

"Hire the guy who designed the ten-ninety eight".

I wouldn't do that. Serggio Robbiano can put to shame ANYONE sketching motorbikes in Italy, bar the maestro Tamburini and perhaps, Adrian Morton.

The Ten ninety eight is beautiful, yes. But it is nothing exceptional. And all they did is to take a U-turn from Toaster designer's er.. I mean terblanche's POV to the one that was perfected by the maestro a decade and half back.

Anonymous said...

i think the 1098 is by far the best looking bike to come out of italy in the last 10 years. bimota should DEFINITETLY hire the man who designed it. as for tamburini, his last great work is the MV F4, which he designed 10 years ago. what exactly has he been doing since then? zilch! :-D

Anonymous said...

the duc 1098 is an awesome bike. i hope bimota take the 160bhp V-twin from that bike and build a rocking new machine that can take on the R1s and GSX-Rs of this world. Go Bimota, go!

first_synn said...

Anon: Do check out the concepts displayed by Cagiva/ Husqvarna at various motor shows. Take a wild guess as to who is responsible for them. And FYI, the replacement for the F4 is coming out shortly. In any case, MV is not a Honda or a Yamaha to bring out two dozen models per calendar year.

On a side note, why do you think the F4 hasn't been replaced for so long? Here's a thought: The F4 still looks fresh and beautiful, while Terblanche's "forklift" had to be replaced sooner than you could say, "Biposto"... :-D

To answer the first point you made, no, the Ten ninety eight is most definitely NOT the most beautiful bike to come from Italy in the last 10 years. I have observed the 1098, the Benelli Tornado Tre and the Aprilia RSV 1000 Mille (the new one) up close and personal, and the detailing in the latter two would put the Duc to shame.

WHich, in any case, is only an evolution of the classic lines of the 916.

Phil H said...

I'll have agree with first_synn here: the 1098 definitely AIN'T the best looking bike to come from Italy within these last few years.

As a Bimota owner, I am obviously biased, but to me, the 1098 looks somewhat similar to the latest R1 and CBR1000s out there. Classier and sexier of course, but still similar.

Jim said...

Dudes, come on, the 1098 most certainly is the best looking bike to come out of Italy in the past decade. These days, Bimotas are for wankers and for people with more money than sense.

Look at Ducati - their teams are winning everything in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Where the f*&^ is Bimota? And for that matter, where the f$%* has "Massimo" Tamburini been after the F4? He is only living on past glories. It's time we moved on from the 916 and the F4 and the 1098 is a move in the right direction!

first_synn said...

Er.. what does WSBK have to do with the looks of the bikes..? I fail to see the connection here... In any case, people buy Bimotas for the same reason that they buy outrageously priced Armani suits.

And with regards to Tambo, the guy designed the Brutale a few years after the F4, in case you forgot. He also did up a few Huskie off-roaders before the company was sold to BMW. He has completed work on the replacements for both the Mito and the F4, and both will be unveiled soon...

As i said before, Tambo isn't churning out two dozen designs a year coz he isn't asked to do so. And since when did quantity become the criterion for excellence in the area of design ?

Lastly, yes, the 1098 IS a step in the right direction. And ask any design student, and he will tell you that the lines are an evolution of those of the 916.

*Synner out*

Phil H said...

No need to use the F word here. It's just bikes we're talking about after all fer crying out loud.

Bimota is where they are now because they pushed to make an all Italian / all Bimota bike (instead of buying donor engines). Perhaps not the wisest business decision, but I admire them for their passion and for having the guts.

When was the last time a manufacturer went out on a limb to trying something truly different? Honda toyed with the ELF front suspension system for its race bikes, Yamaha produced the GTS (sadly with not so great results, but kudos to them), but Bimota stuck its neck out with the Tesi, Vdue, and other similarly daring and innovative designs (think SB2). When was the last time Ducati tried something truly different? Sport Classic? Hypermotard? Multistrada? (Don't get me wrong, I love and own Ducatis too, just not the new ones.) The 916 was brilliant but that was over a decade ago and it was penned by Mr. Ta (as in BimoTA).

True, Bimota hasn't won many races compared to Ducati, but do people want a Lamborghini because it won last year's F1 Championship? Bimota has always been about the craftsmanship, the dedication to quality, and most importantly, the passion for creating beautiful motorcycles with soul.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what a gsxr1100 1991 model sell for?



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