We’ve made a quick dash to the Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore for an action packed track-day riding Suzuki’s Gixxer SF race bike.
The Japanese giant Suzuki struggled for years to find firm footing in the Indian bike market, with no one to blame but themselves, due to lackluster models such as the Heat, Zeus and Slingshot. That’s all history now, for their Gixxer bikes are today quite the rage.
The GS 150R marked a step in the right direction, but it’s the naked Gixxer, followed quickly by the faired-in Gixxer SF that really hit the sweet spot, finally giving Suzuki a serious presence in the red-hot 150cc class. Turnaround models for Suzuki, the Gixxer rode away with every Bike of the Year award worth winning last year, while the Gixxer SF is building a formidable reputation, as a bike to beat in its segment. We tested the new 150 at Suzuki’s test track in Japan and came away impressed , and pitted it against Bajaj’s Pulsar AS 150 in a bloody battle as well.
The Gixxer SF’s already proved a comfortable, confident-handling motorcycle with a good balance of performance and economy — quite the 150cc-benchmark bike in India. Suzuki’s taking this yet another step forward, shaving off 20kg to pull kerb weight under 120kg, race-prepping the SF for use as a one-make circuit racing championship tool.
The Kari Motor Speedway at Coimbatore is India’s smallest racetrack, the perfect location to hammer the Gixxer SF around to test its racing prowess. Tight chicanes, a long straight and a couple of tight corners make for an entertaining ride on the nimble, 155cc, 14.6bhp SF race bike.Perhaps the best of all the new bits on the race Gixxer SF are its soft, race compound, radial tubeless tyres from MRF. I’m a couple of laps into the test, comfortable now in a tight tuck behind the bump of the SF’s dinky visor, belting down the straight with the bike nudging a true 135kph, struggling to sight the last of the brake markers, where I’ve been jumping on the brakes, these box-stock units just the same as on the street bike. I left braking to the very last fraction, even after the 50m marker on occasion, despite which the ultra-sticky MRF’s and race SF simply worked brilliantly as a package, doing nothing other than simply stopping, no drama, no wallowing, no shimmying at the rear, nothing! And this was no fluke, for I spent a good hour out on the track, and it stayed a constant lap-after-lap.
Apart from its new-found lightness thanks to losing flab in key areas, the SF’s riding position now suits a race bike, new alloy footpegs shifting backwards, and the bike front end dropping 20mm down on its forks, with true clip-on bars now in place. You can see the Gixxer SF has lost its headlight, and a new cowl covers the rear seat. The Gixxer Cup SF makes a reasonably attractive looking race machine, although there’s room for improvement when seen from the rear, where the tail fairing is much too bulbous.
A salute to the stock Gixxer SF, the race bike remains in pretty close to stock trim, the engine virtually untouched save for a new primary gear ratio, the front sprocket now one tooth up, a freer air-filter and free-flow exhaust bolted on, thanks to which there’s a loud, race typical tone.
Even suspension set-up is unchanged from the street bike. The Kari circuit has two tight chicanes that call for hard braking, before you muscle the SF into hard direction changes left, then immediately flick over in the other direction to carry as much speed into right handers. No matter how hard I punished the motorcycle through these multiple challenging sections, the SF stayed stable and well mannered, allowing me to concentrate on the best line for a good exit carrying maximum corner speed. There’s no side stand to hamper cornering now, but there were times the stand mount still on the bike was grounding, as was the rear brake pedal on the other side, both of which lost a couple of millimeters ground away on the asphalt.
Yes, as with most small-capacity bikes running on an able chassis at a race track, you quickly start wishing for more power at the wrist. The Gixxer SF race bike offers quicker performance, mainly thanks to significantly lower weight that makes it easier to tap into. The step-free power band has good mid-range performance, and you don’t need to rev overly hard or shift really late, as power tapers off once revving into the top end and closing in on the electronic limiter. Being new bikes, with some still to finish a reasonable running-in period (our first bike has 20km on the odometer), some of the 20 bikes at the track were still finding optimal tuning setup, and wheezing and losing performance at the top, although I spent half my session on one compromised bike, and the rest of it on a better run-in bike that performed flawlessly, with smooth, step-free power delivery.
There’s no doubt that Suzuki’s Gixxer Cup SF bike is going to provide aspiring racers a great stepping stone into racing. For no more than Rs 2,000 per event, you can buy yourself a ride at India’s tracks, Kari, the Madras Motor Race track at Sriperumbudur and Buddh International, Delhi. Tempting? You bet! It’s affordable, and includes bike and tuning for the weekend, riding gear, tyres and even fuel. The fine print; there are only 20 bikes in 2 classes — Novice and Open — so you’re perhaps already too late for a ride this year!