Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD, The Last 750 Superbike !

It is 30 years since the first Suzuki GSXR750F burst onto the scene, bringing with it an intoxicating mix of endurance race styling, proven technology and light weight. The 750F was launched in the same year of great machines such as the Yamaha FZ750, the Honda NS400R, the Kawasaki GPZ600R and Suzuki’s own king of the strokers the RG500. And yet the GSX-R750 continued to be developed. Today it’s hard to imagine a Suzuki range without at least one GSX-R in it and various capacity GSX-Rs have been produced (spotters rightly say it’s 31 years since the GSX-R400 came out in 1984...).

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

With the 750 being such a long-lived model, it was only natural that there would be times when it was outclassed – as it was in the early to mid-1990s. The competition was white-hot – the popularity of production racing in the form of World Superbikes had ensured that machines such as Kawasaki’s ZXR750 H-M models were selling like hot cakes, while homologation specials from Ducati with its 851/888 and Honda with the VFR750R RC30 and Yamaha with its OW-01 were the machines at the sharp end.

But where was Suzuki? Well it was nowhere, on track by the early 1990s. The early successes of the slabside machine in superstock racing soon gave way to middling results in superbike classes (save for Kevin Schwantz’s performances in AMA) for various reasons. Suzuki swapping from a long-stroke motor to the short-stroke 750J in 1988 – and then back again with the RR-K homologation special of 1989 – didn’t help. And the machine’s up-and-over double cradle frame may have been a signature of its design, but it made the engine stand tall in the frame, making breathing through a big airbox difficult and it fell into turns compared to the opposition.

The bike was also oil/air-cooled at a time when water-cooled bikes showed the way forward. Despite this, it took the prodigious talents of our own James Whitham to win a Production 750 title on a Slingshot in 1988 and an MCN TT-F1 title on the elderly F1-based machine he used in 1991.

The introduction of the water-cooled GSXR750WN in 1992 did little to stem the decline in racing – even if on the road GSX-Rs always sold well. What Suzuki wanted was a machine that had the DNA of the GSX-Rs of old, but with the modern engine and chassis architecture of a mid-1990s superbike.

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

On April 8, 1993, Suzuki bosses met at their headquarters in Hamamatsu and made the decision to build a world-beating, high-performance motorcycle that would also give them the base from which to launch an attack on the World Superbike series. The existing double-cradle 750WP was not really setting the world on fire, thanks to new 750 models such as Yamaha's YZF and Honda's CBR900RR FireBlade. Suzuki knew it needed to start with a fresh sheet of paper, unshackled by design traits from the past, such as the double-cradle frame. It also wanted to stick to the 750cc capacity class and take the fight to the Blade on the road (despite losing 167cc to it) so it could also be eligible for production racing.

Thankfully for Suzuki it had the new RGV500, campaigned that year by Kevin Schwantz, upon which to base the new GSX-R. Schwantz normally suffered compared to his rivals by having a 500cc two-stroke race machine which was fickle, but even by April 1993 Suzuki could see that the new RGV was different. Later that year Kevin would take the title and the dimensions of his bike would be used as a starting point for the GSX-R750WT.

Haruo Terado was group leader for Suzuki’s motorcycle engineering department and he was at that first meeting. He recalls:

"In 1993 others had released new 750cc sports machines so this made it necessary to create a new generation of GSX-R with all the heritage that name had. We decided to do this we would use Kevin’s RGV500 Gamma two-stroke 500 and combine it with a light-weight but powerful four-stroke 750cc powerplant. Our engineers were given a target weight of 179 kilos and a power-to-weight ratio of 1.398 kilos per horsepower."

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

In charge of the engine development was Masahiro Nishiwaka and the basic engine architecture was set at 72 x 46mm bore and stroke (identical to the YZF and the RC30), with a redline set around 13,500 RPM for the short-stroke motor. Weight-saving meant that the whole engine was nine kilos lighter than the previous model’s and the engine was narrower too, thanks to the use of SCEM (Suzuki Composite Electro-chemical Material) which negated the use of cylinder liners, meaning the bores were 5mm closer together than previously. Giving the bike the name by which the model was known ‘SRAD’ was the ‘Suzuki Ram-Air Direct’, the firm’s own version of ‘Ram-air’ which Kawasaki had used to great effect on machines such as the ZZ-R into the airbox and then onto the 39mm Mikunis. With around 5% extra power at speed thanks to the SRAD system, power was a remarkable 126bhp at 12,000 RPM – comparing well with the Blade.

Chassis-wise, engineers used the baseline geometry and wheelbase of the RGV and clearly had to go with an aluminium beam-frame. Actual data shows that at 1400mm, the SRAD was actually shorter than that of the RGV500 by 20mm. It was also 5mm shorter than the FireBlade, 10mm shorter than the Ducati 916 and 20mm shorter than the Kawasaki ZX-7R and Yamaha YZF750. The beam frame was made from stamped aluminium sheet, with die-cast aluminium alloy sections that carried the steering head and swingarm pivot shaft. The whole frame was made using the same construction techniques as the RGV. 43mm upside-down forks were at the front, with a single shock on an upperbraced alloy swingarm.

If anything made people stand and stare at the GSX-R750WT SRAD it was the aerodynamic clothes it wore. The wasp-like rear-end was a love/ hate design trait, but the front the twin-shrouded headlights still had a GSX-R-esque scowl.The first glimpse the press got of the new GSX-R was when an amateur photographer standing trackside at Laguna Seca in California spotted the SRAD in shakedown tests in the summer of 1995. AMA Yoshimura Suzuki riders Fred Merkel and Thomas Stevens were seen thrashing both road and race versions of the new machine.

The world launch took place at Misano, Italy – back in the day when it was raced the ‘proper’ way around. The accolades came almost instantly. Most testers agreed it was a harsh, free-revving monster with nothing resembling good manners. But it was a GSX-R after all. Group tests in early 1996 saw it either close to the Blade in overall performance or better than the Honda. Cycle World in the USA made it the winner of their ‘Ultimate Sportbike Challenge’ against the likes of the Blade and the Ducati 916. They even called it "the closest thing to a street-legal grand prix bike."

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

Riding A street legal grand prix bike… Hyperbole, surely ? Thankfully if it does all go wrong, it’s my bike, so I don’t need to go crawling back to the owner. Chucking a leg over a pretty standard and mint GSX-R750WT SRAD is a pretty hard thing to do. Nowt to do with the seat height (at 830mm it’s the highest of its peers and you will often catch that pillion hump) but more because GSX-Rs are rarely standard.

I found this one locally on eBay. It was pretty standard (apart from the dangerously naff mini/submerged indicators) and all with just around 18k on the clocks. Sitting aboard the SRAD and I recall back in the day the original screen would almost cut the tops of the clocks, so it almost egged you into a racing crouch. This has a slightly blown screen, so you can see the clocks: clutch in, (a Suzuki trait) time to fire her up. Jab the button and add a dash of choke from the left-thumb lever and you’re welcomed by a harsh mechanical cacophony.The noise is almost the four-stroke version of a team of huskies raring to get going. This thing tells you at even at tickover that it’s ravenous for roads.

A downward click on the high-set gear lever and it’s time to go for it. Pottering around is not what the GSX-R750WT does. You feel that when you ride slowly on an SRAD. Where a comparable Blade or ZX-7R will have a dollop of civility and torque, the Suzuki – even at idle – feels like it needs to be unleashed. Give it some on an open road series. Two huge scoops fed air through the frame and the bike comes alive. Which is handy, as the comfort isn’t the best. Those handlebars are vibey, the clutch heavy on this example and the pegs feel slightly high. There’s also a slight rise to the gear lever which is even making me – with size 11 boots on – have to almost lift my foot a tad off the peg to go up a gear. Some fiddling needed then, but there’s no need to fiddle with my smile which gets wider as the rev-counter rises.

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

Sure, this thing will have less torque than a Blade, but this doesn’t mean it’s unrideable, just a little more demanding low-down. At 3000 RPM it will waddle along okay enough if you’re paying attention, but then as the tacho spins past 8000 RPM this thing starts to really take off, then when you get past 10,000 you’re really motoring, it’s still bloody amazing for a 20-year-old machine. Little wonder that in many road tests of the time the SRAD would be pumping out MORE power than the CBR900RR.

Words come straight to mind: two-stroke and hooligan. These have oft been used to describe the motor and they are still relevant today. Chassis-wise we’re let down a little here, thanks to being shod with Avon’s old sports tyre offering the VP2 and the brakes aren’t as good as I remember. Firstly, the tyres are just well past their best, so new ones would improve things a little. With the bike being so short anyway, I will probably go for a good, sports-touring tyre, as today’s offerings have more grip than the outright sports tyres of yester-year. That said this thing still steers like the original did, but there’s just some little vagueness in the steering that I can’t quite put my finger on. Either way it’s only a mild annoyance and you can sense a good 80% of the original bike in there. It still feels light – even if a bit bulbous in some areas – and scuttles through sweeping bends with minimal effort.

On the brake side I was a bit puzzled, as the bike came with a £450 bill for a full service AND new brake seals. The brakes were powerful, but you’d give them a good ol’ tug and it would take a little time to get the bite you expected. Despite both of these issues the bike still felt good and you know that with a little TLC it could be as good as it was brand-new. Yup, there’s still a lot of fun to be had on the GSX-R SRAD – mainly when you’re at 10,000 RPM or more.

These things are (to coin the popular phrase) bullet proof. Which is good as most will have been thrashed, trashed and loaded with more tat and pointless frippery than you could shake a stick at. Hooligans are attracted to GSX-Rs in a way that they aren’t to CBRs so expect to find rough ones.

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

Let’s go front to back, shall we? Wheels, tyres and brakes: the one let-down on our test machine is the polished rims – they will be going back to standard, although many are polished as the original paint was very soft. Tyres: the first model came in 120/70 and 190/50 17s and you’ll find much debate with owners as to whether to go down to a 180/55 or even a 190/55. The 750Y of 2000 had a longer swingarm and 1.410 mm wheelbase, but went to a 180/55 to speed up steering a bit as a result, but people also fit them on the SRAD. It’s as much personal preference and look and what you use the bike for. We would suggest sticking to what’s recommended and in that size you’ve everything to choose from, from sports-touring to hypersport tyres.

When it comes to the SRAD’s brakes, for some reason the mid-to-late 1990s six-pot Tokicos always come in for a lot of stick – unfairly in our view. On many models the six-pots are swapped for bolt-on Nissin four-pots, but this is a maligned caliper and people trash them without sorting it. It seems the recesses where the pistons sit are not anodised but machined aluminium. Oxide forms around the dust seals, which increases pressure on the seals until they seize. They need regular cleaning and also SBS pads are a good swap from OE or the favoured EBC as they give a firmer ‘feel’ on the lever. The test bike had recently had a seal kit (£77.45) and new EBC pads (at £57.02) so I too may be going SBS...

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

Engine-wise you’re on a winner with the SRAD, as there aren’t many issues with this very solid engine. The thing thrives on revs and the only reported issues other than due to ham-fisted home servicing and the like are issues with keeping on top of the cam-chain tensioner and regulator/rectifiers letting go – pretty much similar to most 1990s Jap machines. Many will have aftermarket filters and exhaust on, as well as some carb work.

So if yours is running rough, you either need to invest in some set-up and dyno time, or go back to standard everything – which works just fine thank you. Later, fuel-injected models can have the FI light operate thanks to throttle-valve cap cables snagging: often this issue will have come and gone by now though.

Suspension was of a pretty high standard for the day, but thanks to the nature of the beast (sporty) and the nature of our roads (pot-holed) this (and tyres) should be the first thing you upgrade. Our example has a Penske rear shock in situ and many owners will upgrade (sometimes with the shock from later/other GSX-R models) but the original was just fine – albeit some owners reported that some bolts around the frame/shock area seem to mysteriously come loose. But then the SRAD is a vibey, visceral creature.

As touched upon before, the finish of the bike wasn’t the best of the Japanese – so expect soft paint on the wheels and the odd peeling sticker: as well as boot scuffs around that seat hump. Price-wise things are firming up – and quite rightly. The original was a shade under £9000 new, and good, clean bikes with around 30-40k on the clocks are still at around the £2k mark, but things are only going to go one way. We’ve seen low-milers around 10k on the clocks for around £3000. You will find lots of hounds out there and many racetrack/trackday refugees. All you really want to throw at a good, clean SRAD are tyres, chains/sprockets and keep on top of those brake seals.


Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Review, The Last 750 Superbike !

It’s just this simple: the Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD is a bona fide classic, like the GS1000, GSX1100 EFE and GSX-R750F before it: it represents something very special for Suzuki. A yardstick in Suzuki performance, it is a big leap forward for the GSX-R range and the Japanese sports motorcycle as a whole. The best bit is that most people don’t seem to know it yet.

In a couple of months, the Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD will be two whole decades old, and yet (despite the VJMC’s 15 year rule) people still seem to dismiss these modern milestones as bikes not worth saving, buying, or tucking away for the future. Meanwhile for those of us of a certain age, we remember the first time we savoured that SRAD power and the feeling is just as intoxicating the second time round. Do yourself a favour and try one.

Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD Specs

Engine : Four stroke, Inline-Four, DOHC 16-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 72 x 46 mm
Capacity : 749 cc
Compression Ratio : 11.8 : 1
Induction : 4 x Mikuni BDSR 39mm Carbs
Max Power : 126 HP @ 12.000 RPM
Max Torque : 80.5 N.m @ 10.000 RPM
Transmission / Drive : 6-Speed / Chain

Frame : Alumunium Twin-Beam Frame
Front Suspension : 43 mm Upside Down Forks, Fully Adjustable
Rear Suspension : Rising-Rate Monoshock, Fully Adjustable
Front Brakes : 2 x 320 mm Disc, 6-Pot Calipers
Rear Brakes : Single 220 mm Disc, 2-Pot Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 - ZR17
Rear Tyre : 190/50 - ZR17

Wheelbase : 1.400 mm
Seat Height : 830 mm
Weight : 179 Kg (dry)
Fuel Capacity : 18 Litres

Price : £1700 - £2500 (Minter)