Last weekend, I was given the opportunity to road-test the GSR-750 and the MT-09 back-to-back, and while these two bikes don’t often go head-to-head, I thought I’d report back a little about them both.
Now I’m far from a professional bike reviewer – hell, I’ve only been riding for six months, but my views might be useful for other riders of around my experience level who are looking at these two bikes.
Suzuki GSR-750 2016 ABS
Also known as the Suzuki GSX-S750 (US Markets)
The Suzuki GSR-750 looks like something from a Michael Bay movie. It’s angular aggressive headlight with minimal fairing front the wide fuel-tank with swept forward fairings that extend either side of the front fork.The headlight has its single main / high beam in the middle, and two position lights on the top left and right. These are tinted blue from the housing, and are accented by the headlight fairing which angles down in points toward the front of the bike. It all looks pretty futuristic, but this angular semi-naked style might not be for everybody. The front fairing does provide a little wind-screen, but you can opt for a larger one that attaches to it, which makes a big difference. Adding the Belly-pan to this bike really adds to the semi-naked look, though purchasers of the MotoGP variant may struggle to get the bellypan in the matching blue color.
As soon as you get on the GSR-750 you realize how well made the bike is, feeling solid yet light at the same time. The tank has a very wide almost hour glass shape to it, and it feels wider and larger than it actually is. Adopting the riding position, you quickly notice that the pegs are further back than on other street bikes. This leans you forward over the tank in a more aggressive seating position. it’s not race-bike positioning, but it certainly feels like a nice hybrid between the two, with not too much pressure going through your wrists. This hybrid position allows you to sit more upright or get down over the tank for those blasts down the motorway. Even though you’re leaning, your gentleman’s region is kept nicely clear of the tank thanks to an adequately sized and comfortable seat with enough room to move closer to the tank, or further away against the back of the riders seat.
Looking ahead and you’re met by Suzuki’s half digital, half analog clocks. The analog half gives you a rev counter, while the digital readout gives you speed, engine temperature, time, odometer, fuel and current gear. Control ergonomics are fine, but the horn is possibly placed a little too close to the indicator. Occasionally I found myself beeping other drivers but that is more about my unfamiliarity with the Suzuki layout than with anything else. Looking at a Suzuki VanVan, the control layout seems pretty standard. And that’s about it really. There aren’t any traction control modes, any rider modes, or any bells and whistles, and It might seem a little sparse, but let’s see how it rides before we say that.
When you start the engine on the GSR-750, you’re met with the sound of the 750cc four-cylinder engine. It sounds smooth and pleasant, and has that stereotypical motorcycle sound to it. It’s nothing to write home about, but it sounds nice enough. Twisting the throttle certainly improves things, but this isn’t a shouty bike. My first ride on the GSR-750 shocked me with how easy it was to ride and handle. It really is so stable and straight forward to ride. Getting out onto a straight road, you quickly realize that even without all the fancy gimmicks of other bikes, it is still damn’d fun to ride. A twist of the throttle accelerates you quickly and smoothly, without the neck-snapping surge of power you get from the MT-09. The fun is not in the feeling of the sudden jolty acceleration, but instead in the feel of controlled speed that lets you ride, and ride well. Gear changes are buttery smooth, and throttle action is equally as beautiful. Around town, the GSR-750 is smooth and easy to handle. its low overall weight makes it fast enough to respond in corners. Other reviewers have stated that its not the fastest bike when going between left and right corner, and while I can’t attest to cornering to its max to find this, I can say that the bike handles plenty well. It almost feels like the bike just gets out of the way, letting the rider really work on their ride. If you’re looking for a ride that will suit you for commuting to and from work, but also let you get out on the weekends and push yourself, then this might be the bike for you.
The GSR-750 comes in at £7499, close to the price of the MT-09, but doesn’t necessarily feel like as good of a deal, as the MT-09 comes with Traction Control modes and Rider Modes. What you do get for the money is a very well refined bike with plenty of character, that actually could be a fantastic road bike for almost every occasion. The standard thing to replace would be the exhaust, but Suzuki have you covered for that with a Suzuki-branded Yoshimura R11 exhaust available as an add-on, although buying the MotoGP variant of the bike (available at £7999) will include this as part of the package. Other recommended options would be the wind screen and belly pan. Suzuki offer packages of accessories which save you a fair amount of money if you’re buying a full set of accessories.
Yamaha MT-09 2016 ABS
Also known as the Yamaha FZ-09 (US Markets)
I have to say that the looks of the MT-09 don’t thrill me as much as the GSR-750. I do remember that when I first started riding my lil’ YBR-125, I looked at the MT-03, MT-07 and MT-09 with envy, saying ‘Those are the bikes I want’. Six months later, and I’m not so sure any more. The MT-09 is a very aggressive looking naked street bike. The complete lack of any faring on the off-the-shelf model is quite a stark contrast against the semi-fared GSR-750. That said, you can opt for an after-market wind-screen and belly-pan for the MT-09. In my opinion, the wind-screen is a must, and actually gives the bike an even more aggressive look at the front.
When I first got on to the MT-09, I was surprised how light it was. It is only a little lighter than the GSR-750, but you feel it when standing still. The flip-side of this, is that the bike doesn’t feel quite as stable while stationary. The chassis and fuel-tank are slightly slimmer than the GSR-750, and the riding position is far more upright (close to that of my YBR-125). The seat on the MT-09 is a single-piece affair which does give you some bum-travel should you wish for it. I didn’t test this while riding, preferring to press closer to the tank. Perhaps looking for that slightly forward lean like on the GSR-750. The upright position is comfortable but still feels active enough to be able to maneuver the bike through the twisties, leaving no pressure on your wrists at all (the older generation will thank Yamaha for this). Unfortunately this is all undone by Yamaha’s fairly atrocious church pew that they felt necessary to use as a seat. For short journeys, its fine. for anything longer than about 45 minutes, your tush will start to ache, and you’ll wish you’d gone for the optional comfort seat when you ordered the bike.
Looking ahead and you’re greeted by Yamaha’s all-digital clock, slightly off-set to the right side of the bike. While I’m not entirely sure of the point of that, I can only guess it is to differentiate it from the centered MT-07 clock. The back lighting is white, and the display shows the rev counter along the top in the form of an increasing/decreasing bar, your fuel indicator, your traction control system settings, rider mode settings, clock, and of course speed. This brings us to the controls. The person who designed the layout really needs a talking to. While I understand that you need easy access to everything, the controls on the left hand are placed so ridiculously close to each other that if you move your thumb to select the turn indicator, you stand a good chance of hitting the horn. Yamaha clearly tried to cram as many controls as possible into a small area, which given the amount of technology and riding options are on the bike are clearly necessary, but it just feels cramped and designed for people with small hands. I’d hate to be a large guy wearing winter gloves and trying to use this bike.
Starting the engine fills your ears with that higher pitched hum of a 850cc triple cylinder engine. It sounds beautiful, and as you move up through the revs you’re met with that gorgeous whine that only triples can make. My first ride on the MT-09 was, if I’m honest, a little scary. The instant throttle response coupled with Yamaha’s quite excellent power-delivery means that a small twist of the throttle will have you past the posted speed limit in the blink of an eye, only for you to have an ‘oh shit’ moment when you realize that you were doing 90 in a 70 zone. Power is delivered quickly and efficiently, however like other reviews have noted on the previous years MT-09, it does have a fairly snatchy / jumpy throttle. It is not forgiving in any way, and you’ll spend your time trying to tame the gearbox, learning the exact window when you can slot in the next or previous gear to avoid any sort of lurch that makes your face come off.
It might sound like I’m being a little harsh on the MT-09, but let me finish. Its damn’d fun! Scary, but fun as hell! This is not a commuter bike. This is a weekender bike. The sort you pull out the garage when you want to blast down a main road in third gear on one wheel, with the other stuck defiantly up in the air as you shout ‘Woohoo’ at the top of your lungs, because you’re having a great time. It pushes that edge of control that you have as a rider, and if you can tame the beast, then it will give you hours of fun (well, 45 minutes until your arse starts complaining about the wooden plank that you’re sat on).
The MT-09 ABS is actually a fantastic bang for the buck, coming in at only £7349. You get a bike with ABS, Rider mode selection and traction control system settings, all on a bike which should cost you less than £10,000. That’s a pretty compelling package. I’m not going to discuss the different rider or traction control modes as I just didn’t have time to play with them, but I was asked not to while getting used to the bike. I was quite reliably informed that there is a mode that turns the bike into a ballistic missile… Best leave that one well alone for now…
Now I don’t know anything about after-market mods for bikes (yet), but I understand that to get the best out of the MT-09 you should really think about replacing a few bits here and there. Occasionally Yamaha will offering a free Akrapovic Titanium exhaust package with any new MT-09 purchase. This is at least one less thing you have to worry about. Apparently the next thing to replace is the front forks and rear suspension. It’s safe to say that (at least for experienced riders) the MT-09 is a platform for you to upgrade should you want the absolute best out of the bike, so budget accordingly.
So as the day drew to an end, I thought back over the two bikes. What at first seemed like two bikes that were in the same price range and similar engine sizes, now seemed worlds apart from each other. Both are excellent! Both are great value for money. Both have excellent styling.
To me, the GSR-750 looks better, much better, but that’s only to me. I’ve heard some call it a girly bike, and that might be true, but there’s something about it that really resonates with me. The riding position feels more natural to me, and that look ahead when you’re sat on the bike just feels amazing, with that wide tank sitting beneath your chest and the two air-intakes jutting forward each side of the fork. It feels like a more refined bike and a more complete and mature package. It does everything well, and has enough riding excitement for the likes of me, but doesn’t need taming. Instead it lets you ride it and just gets out of the way, which is what some of us like. That said, I would still enjoy the occasional weekend taming that beast of the MT-09.