Review: Triumph Street Triple 765RS vs Suzuki GSX-S1000
Two naked bikes with a reputation, two reviewers, two thousand miles (sort of) and many bendy hilly bits in the Vosges Mountains of France to test a bike’s personality. Quite a lot to talk about then, as we put the Triumph Street Triple 765 RS up against the similarly priced but completely different Suzuki GSX-S 1000. Seasoned tester Jock McJock and Biker & Bike Editor Ian Malone swear it will make sense why we’ve done this by the end…
£10k is the sort of figure that a lot of good bikes can be bought for these days (we know, what the fuck happened?). They’re neither the most universally affordable, nor by any stretch the most expensive. But this is the figure that a bucket load of bikes sit in.
So we got to thinking, if it were our £10k what would we buy? Our remit was a faster road bike that was designed as a faster road bike. It’s what people are buying around that price mark, so no expensive litre race reps, nor Chelsea Tractor equivalents (let’s not be shy, you know we’re talking about the GS).
It had to be new, which rules out the superbikes and adventure bikes on price anyway. So we went with naked bikes because these are so popular, one with a big engine, some spec compromises, versus a smaller engine with some special bits as standard. Enter the Suzuki GSX-S 1000 and the Triumph Street Triple 765 RS.
The Suzuki is listed at £9,999, the Triumph a little more at £10,200, so pretty close in real terms. Thanks to low rate finance, on PCP the Suzuki is around a tenner a month cheaper than the Triumph, but £10 is not going to sway you, it’s the bikes that will do the convincing.*
So let’s take them for a blat for a couple of thousand miles, to the Vosges Mountains on the border of France and Germany, to see how convincing these bikes are.
Jock and the Triumph
This is going to be a balanced, unbiased test, but it just so happens last year I bought my own Triumph Street Triple 765 RS. After a hyper fucking awesome extended test ride on the RS, like a soon to be crack addict’s first hit, I had to have more. I’m Scottish, so splashing out £10k is not taken lightly, but the Trumpet soon vindicated my decision and it very quickly became my motorised crack pipe. Just like crack, there are a lot of ups…
Engine. Man oh man, what a great engine. Yes, it’s a touch peaky if you compare it to a litre bike but that’s the appeal. Two stroke four stroke engine is how I like to describe it. Power is up high, this is a track based tune and for fast road riding it’s the perfect blend of effort and reward.
Suspension. Ohlins rear, Showa BPF up front, nuff said. They work well with the stiff chassis to give immediate but precise feedback. Coupled with the overall light weight of the bike it’s very responsive.
Brakes – Brembo M50’s. Track potent, one finger braking all day, adjustable and powerful.
Feel – This bike has oodles of feel. It’s like a rock climbers shoe next to many a bike’s steel toe cap boots. The throttle, clutch, brakes, gears all have a polite deftness to them which means you feel like the bike is chilled all the time, even when you’re putting in full effort at full gas.
Fuel economy – If you give the bike a good talking to, she’ll kick at you in the 20’s mpg. But if you road ride reasonably sensibly that leaps up to high 40’s, early 50’s mpg. At one point in Italy, chilling through a long valley on a hot day I managed around 66mpg. I have added some Faher engine additive, but all the same, that’s impressive.
Minor stuff really. The side stand is a bugger to sweep down as it doesn’t have a prong sticking out of the shaft. (snigger)
Headlight cluster on the bars can appear arse about face. The switch is up for LED running lights, down for dipped beam which is upside down to me. And trying to flash your headlight when in dipped is an arse ache. Trying to flick through the dash display often sets the indicators off, and vice versa, such is the proximity of the electronics joystick to the indicator switch.
Electronics. They’re very good, noticeable enough for each mode to be relevant and Rain mode is a great example of what a rain mode should be. But in Road and Sport the Traction Control / Anti Wheelie function is far too intrusive, especially on bumpy roads. Swift overtakes are often interrupted by a loss of power from the TC kicking in and a quickshifter upshift is often the easiest way to deal with that. Well, that and customising the Rider mode which lets you cherry pick the level of intrusion for each category. Select the level of intervention you want and then just crack on.
Other than that
The mirrors work, the seat is comfy for day riding, TFT screen adjustable and readable (I still prefer old-school analogue dashes though) seat height accessible for my positively average 5’10”. It’s just a damn good bike. You can tell the Street has been around a while. It feels refined.
The 765 RS is a comprehensive evolution of the 675 and it shows in the detail found throughout the bike. The Triumph has all of the shiny parts – a big pull for many. Not just bling though, the Ohlins/Showa suspension set up is a masterstroke and combined with the Brembos make this one of the most considered setups money can buy.
And then came around the trip down to the Vosges region with about 2000 twisty miles planned. The sheer handling prowess of the RS was something to look forward to. The track focussed suspension on the more routine roads of northern France maybe less so. It goes down in the back of the van.
Ian and the Triumph
I completely get why he bought the RS. I’ve had nowhere near the time on the Street Triple Jock has, but enough to know the bike is nothing short of epic.
Yup, what an engine
The engine is a master class in producing usable everyday grunt in the low end then delivering a sizeable dollop of track-focused lunacy at higher revs. The gearbox and quickshifter are a joy and they need to be because you have to work that engine harder than a litre-bike. That’s no criticism – the idea here is to compare a lightweight street fighter with a chunkier bruiser – and the RS more than makes up for lower power output in the way it dances on its feet.
And boy, does it dance. It’s light, with razor-sharp steering that rewards minimal inputs. When you are urgent on the throttle the GSX-S lifts its head and shakes it around. Not so on the Triumph, which always feels planted, ready for the next instruction. Where you point it, it goes.
I’m not big on all this traction control malarkey so I nearly always switch the bastard thing off, preferring instead to find out what the actual components can do. Clearly, I’m a dick, as the trickery is there to help the rider and make riding even more enjoyable, but that’s just me. If you want to know about the electronics, re-read Jock’s bit. What I can tell you is, even with the TC set on its lowest setting, I’ve yet to find a corner that the bike’s suspension doesn’t seem specifically set up for.
The ride is fairly hard, much stiffer than the GSX-S, but with this much focus on handling that’s the price you pay. It is a price I would want to pay only if there were enough twisties (or a couple of tracks) near me to make it worth it. Or I had a second, more comfortable bike for longer days in the saddle.
It’s a fighter in the corners
Noticeably, the RS absolutely mullered the ‘Gixxess’ in the Vosges’ corners, the Triumph a waspish, buzzing welterweight to the Suzuki’s chunkier, planted middleweight. Obviously, as soon as roads open up, Golovkin’s extra muscle comes through and Pacquiao is on the floor.
As Jock says, the brakes are a wonder of one-finger braking. Actually, I use pretty much my middle finger only on all my bikes, but on my Triumph Tiger the wonder is whether you are actually going to stop at all. On the 765 RS, there is no doubt you’ll stop. Unlike the GSX-S 1000, where doubts do set in…
Clearly, this test is a slightly nuts comparison as the bikes are so different. Instead, it’s a look at the two routes you could look at in the naked-and-sporty category. But one area we should directly compare the two is in build quality, and here the Triumph erm, triumphs.
The brakes and suspension components are a much higher spec on the RS but everything about the Triumph says quality, from paint finish to switchgear. While I’m certainly no mechanic the Triumph has an air of screwed together properly about it that the Suzuki just doesn’t give off.
However, what we shouldn’t forget is that Suzuki has a well deserved reputation for reliability. While individual components might be of a higher standard on the ‘British bike built in Thailand’, ask me which of the two engines I’d be happiest thrashing all day long as an owner and it’s a very short and quick answer: The Japanese one. You instinctively know it’s going to soak up whatever you can throw at it without worrying about potential nasty bills.
Did we mention we were in the Vosges?
Jock and the Suzuki
This is a good time to mention the abundance of twisties that hug the mountainsides of the Vosges region. For those who haven’t been, it’s a maze of twisty forest and woodland roads that zig-zag in that little pocket of France with Germany to the North and East, Switzerland to the South.
From our Gite base, we had plenty of scope for all-day rides around the region and also day trips over to the Black Forest region and famous B500. This meant eight hour plus riding days at ‘spank me spank me’ speeds with no motorway to consider. Full on, some of the days riding consisted of more corners than a track day addict could manage in a year, even if they won the lottery.
My first introduction to riding the GSX-S was on a ride taking in Routes des Crétes towards Le Grand Ballon. A staple of the region this ride gives both open and closed views, twisty forest roads, with many a hairpin thrown in for good measure.
Another great engine
Straightaway you realise the engine is the most dominant feature of the bike. It has a brutish, substantial feel to it. It asks you, nah demands you to grab a fistful and give it some. It feels older than the number plate may say, but of course it’s a K5 donor engine, with some tickling from Suzuki to keep it fresh. So while it may not spin up with the delicate rush of the RS, it sure spins up quick all the same. My very next thought after ‘heavier throttle’ was ‘needs a quickshifter’. With the revs and power coming in strong you want to hold on to the slightly narrower bars than the RS provides. Yes, clutchless shifts work but are more effort. The gearbox is most definitely peaches and cream, but quickshifters are quicker, no surprise and sound much better. The slipper clutch does a grand job, letting you bash down the gears without too much drama. Coupled to that noisy but awesome induction roar the engine brought a smile to my face. More power than you really need on the road, not so much that you’d want less.
The one negative to this superbly brutish but effective mix of solid engine, creamy gearbox is the throttle. Delicate it is not. At slow speeds it feels rough like a pitlane limiter, chopping on and off, in and out. Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba as you try trickle along at a simple steady pace. I quite liked the image of being a GP star bumbling down the pitlane, limiter on, but it’s rough and sharp at slow speed, and I found it more noticeably abrupt when rolling off. It’s almost like the fuelling has a grumpy, ‘Closed throttle? Stuff em, they get no fuel whatsoever,’ response to you shutting the throttle. It gives a sharp and sudden end to the fuelling and rather than a smooth roll off, you get OFF! Getting back on the throttle caused me no issues, particularly when riding further up the rev range. At that point, it’s happy to respond predictably and efficiently.
Brakes for brown trouser moments
The brakes are made by Brembo, but this is where the similarity ends to what the RS wears. Suzuki seems to have raided the parts bin and fitted solid if not awe-inspiring Brembo callipers. The RS, on the other hand, has the M50’s which are simply one finger, all day superb. However, while the Suzuki Brembos may lack feel as I barrelled up to a hairpin, mistaking it for an opening road I very quickly discovered that the brakes work. As does the ABS, as does my washing machine. A squeaky bum moment had me somehow staying in my own lane and the smooth sweeping line I would usually attempt became a superbike, track inspired ‘V shape’. Hard on the brakes upright, ABS singing away, stop, turn, leave the scene of the crime upright at full speed. It was not a pretty sight. But from my initial concern of poor brakes, I was left with the notion that feel can be addressed with different pads perhaps, the power is already there.
Ian found the bike frisky and perhaps in need of a steering damper. I like my bikes lively, and in truth I’d not bother with one if it were my bike. Perhaps we get on the throttle differently, but I found the bike pretty dependable. Soft, sofa on acid dependable. You sit in the bike, rather than on top of it, unlike many a modern design places you. It gives anyone who has ridden bikes for more than 20 years a sense of the familiar. And if new to the category then it gives you a sense of comfort and control. Soft seat, forgiving suspension, even if at times the suspension feels as soft as the seat does.
Yes it moves around a little at (very) fast road speeds, this is not a Gixxer Thou after all, but personally I like the feedback that gives. Many bikes will say nothing until you’re at warp speed and before you know it you’re on your arse wondering what happened.
You’ll know when you’ve gone too far
The GSX-S most definitely talks to you. It ever so gently tells you you’re getting to the point where it doesn’t have much more. But by this point you’re dragging metal and kneesliders and giggling at the stupidity of taking a bike like this up and down a mountain as we were doing, just to drag a knee. There’s an honesty about this kind of feedback that reminds me of 90’s sports bikes. They worked, then they told you they weren’t happy with what was going on, then you’d crash. If you crash a GSX-S then unless you’re really unlucky – you’ll most likely have had some warning things were getting close to ‘A&E’ before you actually ended up testing your protective clothing.
Again if it were my bike I’d want more responsive damping, front and rear. Something that recovered quicker, was better balanced. In fairness, we didn’t twiddle with the suspension but having recently played around with the suspension settings on a few Suzuki bikes at this price point I kind of knew there’d be a brick wall before we solved the issue of floating up and down on bumpy or rolling roads. The bike has some quality money spent on it, but they seemed to have given the suspension choice a little less cash. This isn’t a crazy idea given so many people change their suspension to suit them better anyway. My bike, I’d invest in a rear shock by K-Tech or Nitron for example and seek out a front cartridge kit too.
The ageing OEM Dunlops D214 on the GSX-S were something you’d think would be an issue but in truth neither Ian nor I had any problems with them. Of course they’re nothing like the Diablo Rosso Corsa 2’s that the RS was wearing – they are fecking superb and as good a tyre as you can buy for sporty road riding, (the RS comes with the sublime SuperCorsa SP V2 as standard); but the Suzuki’s OEM’s were more than adequate and gave all the feedback and all-weather grip that we needed. Any tyre will spin in the wet but the simple Traction Control kept things in check. Which for the running in and getting to know you miles on a new bike isn’t a bad thing before you then sit down and try to fathom out what next to fit. (Diablo Corsa 3’s would be a great choice and likely last longer than the stickier Rosso 2’s).
Better than the sum of its parts
The GSX-S does feel like a bike of parts. It’s begged, borrowed or stolen bits from across the factory floor. Bits taken from many an older Gixxer, a cheap suspension bin, switchgear from the box labelled ‘Suzuki Standard Issue Switchgear’. But there is something about how well all this amalgam of parts does their job. Bar the low-speed throttle response there is clearly nothing else wrong with the bike. There is a Japanese collective efficiency which makes you stand back and just nod in acknowledgement that like the bike or not, it just does what they want it to do.
Ian rode this bike more than I did in France but I had two long days on the bike back home in Blighty. And that’s where the suspension made a little more sense. Without potholes and shit surfaces, in France and Germany the suspension is lacking. With UK road standards, i.e. shite, the suspension is a tad more forgiving than the Ohlins and Showa of the RS. On the same route the GSX-S was more comfortable. The softer nature of the GSX-S over the similarly priced RS means you get less harsh hits from the road in the UK. It’s not as balanced or able to take the neck wringing you can give the RS, but the GSX-S is what I’d class as ‘Comfy’. The windblast was perfectly fine into three figures, which really surprised me, and while the equally naked RS is as capable up to 90 ish, if it were a long day somewhere around legal speeds, on motorways and fast A-roads the GSX-S would be the less fatiguing bike.
But don’t let that last comment lead you to think this is a bland sports tourer, this naked bike is closer to SuperDuke than VFR. Whilst the GSX-S has that sofa on acid feeling from the floaty units front and rear, the stance and brutish nature of the whole package had me hopping off kerbs like a stupid yoof, pulling power wheelies, lobbing myself at bumpy corners with full gas misbehaviour, dragging a knee within three minutes of riding the thing on an Alpine mountain, all while the bike just talked and giggled with you.
Ian on the Suzuki
He’s right, the GSX-S brings out the hooligan in you from the get-go. Honestly, I’ve very seriously considered chopping in my ’09 R1 for the little supernaked, but I’d like to hang on to my licence. Whereas the R1 lets you know you can be a nutter if you so choose, the GSX-S practically demands that you become one whether you want to or not. The exhaust rasp is addictive. The K5 engine and that gearbox scream ‘fight’. It’s bonkers how caution is thrown to the wind more on this bike than on practically any other bike I’ve ever ridden. Riding this bike is addictive, and nearly two months after handing it back to Suzuki following the two-week loan, I’m still thinking almost daily how exceptional an all-rounder the Gixxess is, and shouldn’t I be owning one?
K5, nuff said
It’s mostly down to the engine. At one point my entire review was going to be a single line: ‘It’s got the K5 engine in it,’ and leave it at that. Job done. Nothing else to say, just go buy one.
I’m obliged to say a little bit more, naturally, so the full story is yes, it’s the legendary long-stroke K5 engine from the 2005 GSX-R1000 and yes that engine is over a decade old but, despite being detuned from its original use, it is still a stonker. Suzuki has fettled it a bit over previous years, so it now produces near 150 bhp and banging up through the gears you are conscious of just two things: This is the engine that just keeps on giving and the exhaust that plugs into it is the sweetest OEM can I think I’ve ever heard outside of Italy. Actually, there’s a third thing: ‘The front end is a bit wobbly,’ but that’s almost certainly me getting on the gas too hard. A nice problem to have.
Low down, the grunt is on tap – literally, just twist and whoosh. It carries on through the midrange, only really running out at revs that equate to nothing you should be doing on the road anyway. This is hugely usable power, still with a torque curve that was designed for GP riders, and as you’ve probably guessed by now, it gets used. Rude not to.
Unless you are in town. Or looking for really smooth throttle response. Then the notorious fuelling issue becomes a real ISSUE, even though Suzuki claimed to have resolved it. But I’ve now ridden three 2018 GSX-S’s and they all have the same issue – snatchy throttle syndrome and stuttering when you are trying to keep the bike at town speeds. Even in the Vosges, you have to spend a fair amount of time at 30-40mph in towns and villages and the fuelling is a pain. Out in the sticks, when you want to get on the gas out of a corner you really have to think carefully about how you roll on because that snatch can really bite. I got used to it, but on a Suzuki test day at Bruntingthorpe airfield I asked Suzuki BSB racer Richard Cooper what he thought about the bike and the first thing he brought up was, “The throttle is snatchy, isn’t it?”. Didn’t stop him nailing GSX-R1000 and Hayabusa riders out on the track though.
The comfortable supernaked
Jock’s ‘sofa on acid’ summary of the GSX-S is just about spot on. This bike is bloody comfy but also a bit mental. On the way down to the Vosges I put in a 15-hour riding day, and it really didn’t feel like it. Yet, plenty of times on that ride I was blatting without having to think about it too much. You do need to remind yourself continually not to go bonkers on it.
Yes, the suspension has its faults… actually, it doesn’t have faults, it’s just a different kind of set up to the RS. That’s no bad thing. If you haven’t noticed, the state of the UK’s roads is getting beyond shocking so this bike’s ‘accommodating’ treatment of lumps and bumps is very welcome. Yet I didn’t find it was at the cost of a loss of grip – there’s bags of it and the suspension is a good match for the standard Dunlops, possibly not by accident, as they are maybe of the same era. But clearly, it’s not as focused on cornering grip and overall stability in the same way the Triumph is.
I did find the front end was a bit on the spongy side but a friend with the faired version says different and, having had a quick ride on one, the GXS-S1000F is undoubtedly more taught up front. Apparently, the only difference is an extra 10ml fork oil in the faired bike, so that could be an easy fix. A dealer I spoke to about the difference says many of his owners have dropped the naked’s front slightly.
Controlling its bonkersness
It’s a very easy bike to ride quickly. Of course, I switched the Traction Control off. But then its orange light continually winks at you to the point where you have to give in and switch it on the lowest setting, one, of three available. Even on reasonably sharp hairpins taken at immoderate speed, the TC kept itself to itself. After a rain shower, I put it up to three to remind myself exactly why I’m not a fan of these aids: having the engine rug pulled from under you halfway through a corner is not my idea of fun. Luckily, you can adjust the Suzuki’s TC on the move, unlike the Triumph.
I’m used to a superbike seating position when it comes to getting the knee down so if you are considering switching from a litre sports bike to this supernaked then you’re going to have to adjust your body position to avoid scraping the pegs constantly – the bike needs to be more upright, and you’ll need to be hanging off it more. But this standard stuff for nakeds.
The gearbox is manic in the low numbers and leggy at the top. You don’t have to be as aggressive with it into corners or overtaking as with the RS. That said, the ease with which you can be lulled into sofa mode means you’ll often find yourself in the wrong gear for a swift exit, the easy revs and sweet exhaust note (even in sixth) mean you have to glance at the gear indicator more often than usual. Yeah, a quickshifter would be nice, but if you’ve never had one you won’t really miss it.
The brakes… Right, Jock and I have discussed this until the early hours, several times, and I’m still not sure we quite agree on what’s happening. As he proved with his trouser-browning moment on his first five minutes on the bike, the GSX-S 1000 does indeed have ABS brakes that work very, very well. But trying to find them is the bit that stumps me. No matter what adjustment I make to the lever, I can’t get the bite I need when I want it.
Oddly, the brakes on the smaller GSX-S 750 are much better, or at least they offer you more feel earlier on than its litre-bike big brother. Even more curiously, on the faired version of the S, the GSX-S1000F, which is meant to be the same bike with more plastic, the brakes have much more bite. Again, it’s not just the loaner bike I was on that had the issue, every naked version of the S thou I’ve tried is the same… I mean WTF? Of course, the brakes are ABS, and this does work, but they are a relatively basic version of anti-lock, not designed to work on corners like the fancy-dan ones from BMW.
I’m getting on, with a greying beard, high cholesterol (whatever that is) and dismounts accompanied by the odd groan. So I’m nearly ready to ‘trade down’ from the assassin that is a superbike to a street fighter from the supernaked class. This means I wouldn’t go for the lightness of the RS because I’m still a litre-dick (Jock also has a BMW S1000R so he can’t argue that point). Maybe, because of the overall competence of the Triumph, the Speed Triple 1050 is worth a look. But it will have to be quick, literally, because I’m tempted, seriously tempted by the slightly bonkers but highly likeable Suzuki GSX-S 1000.
So, is there a winner?
Ian says: “Stupid question really, although I noticed we’ve both written far more about the Suzuki than the Triumph, but that’s perhaps because people are already pretty familiar with the Speed Triple, whereas the ‘Gixxess’ is a rarer bike on the roads, a fact I like.
These are two entirely different bikes – the real question should be, do you want a refined, focused, stunningly accomplished street fighter also capable of demolishing the track or do you want a fantastic, arguably more liveable with all-rounder that, yes, can be a hooligan, but will reward any rider with a great ride every time, no matter what kind of ride it is? One of them makes you think, ‘My God!’ and the other, ‘I am God!’ Don’t tell anybody I said that.”
Jock summarises it thus: “On the road, the GSX-S is somewhat more substantial than the RS, but more than that it feels heavy duty compared to the delicate lightness of the RS, it feels like a BIKE, rather than a bike. The GSX-S is Gwendoline Christie’s ‘Brienne Tarth’ from Game of Thrones to the RS Uma Thurman’s ‘The Bride’ in Kill Bill.”
*Prices correct as of July 2018. PCP estimates based upon a £2,000 deposit, 37 rental months with 5,000 miles per annum. Suzuki quoted finance rate: 3%. Triumph quoted finance rate: 6.9%.