Suzuki TL1000R Bike Review
Was it Worth the Wait?
The all new Suzuki TL1000R was originally introduced to the motorcycling press at the Eastern Creek racing facility in Australia back in March of this year. The preliminary impressions of the bike were promising but, due to a few problems encountered in manufacturing the motorcycle, it took until Mid-June for it to reach our shores ready for the show room. We nabbed one from the nice folk at Suzuki, we put our butts on the seat, and we rode it. Power Plant
As everyone knows, the TL1000R engine is a slightly modified version of the 1000cc, 90 degree, twin cam, four valve, V-twin that first appeared in last year’s TL1000S. The modifications include throttle bodies with dual stage injection and two injectors per cylinder, a redesigned air box for improved flow, cams with higher lift and longer duration, and a high-volume exhaust, to name just a few. Taking a look inside the big twin, we find forged pistons for increased durability over cast ones. Forged pistons also have the advantage of allowing for thinner support walls for the wrist pins and the removal of nearly all of the side skirts of the pistons. The rods connecting the pistons to the crank are carburized for higher surface hardness, providing for light weight and high strength. Light weight is doubly important on moving parts because the weight savings is multiplied by the subsequently reduced inertia. It’s sort of like that movie with the giant cannon they were dragging across Europe and how, although it was difficult to drag the thing up the mountain side, it was even more difficult to control its speed on the way down. I can never remember the name of that movie.
So concerned were the engineers about throwing away horsepower when designing the TL1000R that even the splashing of oil in the crankcase is controlled to reduce power loss. To reduce agitation, the side case that carries the return oil from the heads has a fin cast into it to deflect the oil away from the crankshaft.
To ensure proper cooling while also maintaining the narrow profile of a V-twin, the TL-R’s radiator was split in two and mounted piggyback – one above the other. The two radiators are plumbed parallel with the upper radiator carrying two fans. And as if that weren’t enough, the bike also has a watercooled oil cooler. Horsepower means heat, and heat means melting engines, so this thing is way cooled.
Since this is a large twin made for sport riding, the clutch has a back torque limiter to help reduce rear wheel hop on those less-than-tidy downshifts, when engine speed isn’t quite matched with wheel speed. None of us would ever need such a thing but still, it’s nice when companies put in anti-idiot devices to help make us look smart. Just like Suzuki’s GSX-R1100, the clutch is hydraulically actuated and the feel is much better than some of the other hydraulic systems on the market. The TL1000R’s electronic fuel injection is about the smartest system ever to come on a bike from the Pacific Rim. Each of the four injectors is controlled by two independent maps from the ECM (electronic control module), which adds up to a total of eight separate maps.
Note the giant diameter of the steerig head with its external locking collar to allow for altering the bike’s rake and trail. The tach features a digital heat gauge that also shows malfunction codes should you have one.
To ensure that the efi has complete knowledge of the bodily functions of the bike, the system monitors crankshaft position, camshaft position, water temperature, intake air temperature, throttle position, intake manifold pressure, and atmospheric pressure. If judging from this information it thinks you’re too much of a wuss, it won’t allow you to close the throttle. Alright, that last one’s a lie. Actually, with this information, the dual stage efi system is able to compensate for altitude, cold starting, ambient temperature, and speed-induced ram air changes. If the bike’s diagnostics system detects a malfunction, it displays a code number on the gauge’s liquid crystal display located on the white-faced tachometer. The fuel injection system works sort of like the classic four barrel carburetors with only the primary injectors spraying fuel from low to middle rpms for economy and efficiency, and the secondary injectors kicking in at high rpms for full throttle acceleration. Which brings us to the obvious question – what about the secondary injectors working at full throttle at low rpms, huh? That’d be cool. “Yaaaaaaaah. . . !” is the sound of me going over backwards. If the performance of the TL1000R isn’t good enough for you, you might want to send piles of your disposable income to Yoshimura to purchase some of the really groovy race kit stuff like aluminum radiators, dry clutch, race pistons, hot cams, and so on and so on. Or you could buy a Porsche Boxter or put your kid through college. Either way, don’t call Yoshimura looking for this stuff unless money is no object to you. The radiators alone will set you back about $13,000.
As much for function as for looks, the nose of the TL1000R is the raddest, longest, farthest forward reaching fairing of those found on any sport bike.
Where the TL1000R is the most different from the TL1000S is in its chassis. The aluminum, oval, trellis frame has been replaced with a twin-spar box section unit that incorporates adjustability for the steering head and swing arm pivot. The TL-R has a most humongous cast steering head to provide room for the race kit parts needed to alter the bike’s rake and trail. The rake or trail is changed by installing inserts – that carry both upper and lower bearing races – within the steering head. If you pester the guys at Yoshimura you might be able to buy yourself these parts, too. But be forewarned, if you don’t know what changes cause what results, don’t do it. The Suzuki engineers delivered the bikes to the showroom with the steering they thought best for you, and it’s safe to assume that they’re not a bunch of idiots.
You can get yourself into the same trouble with the swingarm, too. Little plates are available to move the swing arm pivot around within the cast aluminum mounting plates but again, don’t play with it if you don’t fully understand what you’re doing.
The exhaust system is tight against the machine and points inward to maintain the lowest coefficient of drag possible.
Any owner of a TL1000R can have enough fun just by playing with the fully adjustable suspension at each end. A screwdriver and one wrench are all it takes. Forks and rear shock include compression and rebound adjustments as well as preload. The rear radial damper offers the added feature of an automatic temperature compensating system that provides unchanged damping as the shock oil becomes hot and thinner. If you’re absolutely determined to drive yourself nuts, you could order up linkages for the separately mounted damper and shock and start creating combinations of spring and damping ratios that even a factory racing team would have difficulty sorting out. Again, the adjustments provided on the machine are quite enough. Have fun with those and don’t look for aditional ways to create a monster out of a very nice motorcycle.
As stated earlier, the design of the chassis was intended to maintain the smallest possible profile allowing the TL1000R to have wind-cheating performance. To this end, the radiators are stacked and the battery has been squeezed into the left side of the fairing next to the front cylinder head and is accessible through a small door. Also to provide a low coefficient of drag, the exhaust canisters have been tucked in tightly to the bike, and the front nose of the fairing juts out way past the front axle like no other sportbike since the days of superbike “dust bin” fairings of the ’60s. It makes what is actually a very short bike look longer than a ’74 Ducati 750SS which was often referred to as “long legs”. This thing actually has short legs, it just wears a long dress.
The bike comes with a rear tail section cover and a rear seat pad, one of which has to stay at home. Under the cover – or pad – is enough room to carry two quart bottles of refreshments and some bread and cheese. Or a sandwich, a handgun, a yo-yo, and a 5 x 7 framed picture of your loved ones. Or a large bottle of baby oil, four feet of rubber hose, a small paddle, and a vibrator. Or. . . well you get the picture.
The TL-R, like Suzuki’s GSX-Rs, is designed as a take-no-prisoners sportbike and its ergonomics are exactly that. The bars are low, the pegs are high, and the riding position is full race radical. As usual, around town it’s a little tiring, but in the twisties it’s just right. The bike we tested had been used by Kevin Schwantz for a Suzuki-sponsored event and it featured a fabric-covered gel seat from Suzuki’s accessory catalog. The seat at first felt as hard as any other sportbike pad, but the weird thing about it was that, after an hour in the saddle, the butt pain my skinny ass usually suffers was absent. This was better than having a soft seat because the stiffness of the pad allows complete rider movement for fast riding on tight roads yet the magic inside the seat nicely relieves cheek fatigue.
The other less than wonderful feature about the TL-R in around town riding is that it doesn’t like low revs at all. It chugs below 1,500 rpms. Because of this the rider has to sort of slip the clutch every time the bike is launched from a stop. You get used to it, but considering that so many bikes just launch off idle, it seems unnecessary.
Kevin sat here. Suzuki provided us with a bike that had been ridden by Kevin Schwantz during the Rock & Roll Suzuki Marathon in San Diego. The embossed tank bra is also a Suzuki option.
Although the first reports from the bike’s intro stated that the TL-R was down on mid-range, it’s doubtful any street rider will ever complain of that. Additionally, with remapping and installation of a pipe, that problem can be cured instantly. The bike we tested was maybe down a tad on low end but the mid-range was plenty healthy, thank you. For great wheelies, all you have to do is run the bike up to 5,000 rpms in first gear, whack the throttle off and then back on hard, and the front’s coming up. We suspect that since its intro this bike’s been re-brained. Either way, once you reach the higher end of the rev range the bike has a big hit of power usually reserved for multi-cylindered machines. And the power builds all the way to the top with only a slightly noticeable drop off before you reach the rev limiter.
The nicest thing about the TL1000R’s power is that it is available instantly. And I mean instantly. The efi delivers with every little movement of the throttle. And it delivers without the hesitation that we’ve all grown used to from CV carburetors. The GSX-R 750′s efi was a bit of a nag coming from full off throttle, because the machine would lurch. The efi of the TL-R is absolutely spot on. No lurching, no stumbling, no waiting, no nothing but smooth climbing power. Suzuki got this system right. It’s such a nice system that some of you will be a little surprised by how well it works. It’ll get you to loosen your death grip on the bars, because every little bump you hit and transmit to the bars can jiggle the throttle. Lighten up and enjoy.
On the curvy country roads the bike is in its element, and we soon realized that our suspension set-up needed a little attention. The bike was way stiff which might have been due to that Schwantz guy who’d ridden the bike before us. What’s he know about setting up a bike anyway? For squids, that is.
We softened both ends a tad with the exception of dialing in a little more rebound up front. This pleased us although it pleased me more than Blake, who carries a bit more weight in his boots than I do. With our changed settings, the bike was much more compliant over sharp bumps, held its line better through fast sweepers, and gave great feedback from the rear end when hard on the gas out of turns. And if that wasn’t good enough, we had plenty of other directions to adjust the suspension to.
Being a twin the TL1000R has loads more mid-range than any four banger in its class, and out on roads that are twistie enough it is sometimes most fun to leave the bike in one gear and just rip up and down through the rev range. Regarding top end, we haven’t yet been able to do a top speed test of the bike but we’re certain it’ll do well beyond an honest to God 160 mph. High speed is where its shape really comes into play.
The first thing we’d recommend is removing the steering damper and replacing it with an adjustable unit. It’s a good guess that the damper was put on the bike just to diminish any chance of easily excitable journalists cursing the motorcycle like some did with the TL1000S. An adjustable damper has you covered on both ends because it’ll be there if you think you need it, yet you can tune it out for around town cruising. It might also be that the bike doesn’t need a damper at all. But you’re on your own if you tread there.
It was somewhat ambiently hot during our test, but we were still surprised at the amount of engine heat that reached the rider. Not since riding Triumph’s T500s have we found a bike that heated us up like the TL-R. Don’t get me wrong, it’s noticeable but it’s not quite the convection oven of the Triumph. On cool days I’d be the first to complain about why don’t bikes produce more heat for the rider.
All told, the TL1000R is a clear standout among its competition. It has a look all its own – I’ll take mine in yellow, please – it has one of the two raddest chassis available, it has a honk’n big twin engine, it has efi, and it has all the latest race-bred goodies. And it’s all in a package that’s a blast to ride. Outside of the Ducati 916, the TL1000R is the best bad ass sporting twin.
Compression Rebound Preload
Front out 5 clicks out 3 clicks 5.5 lines from top
Rear out 17 clicks out 14 clicks 1.25″ of sag
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