Words: Jeff Ware Photography: Alexandra Cooper
When Suzuki released the GSXR750 in 1985, it blew minds. The square aluminium tube-framed Suzuki was the starting point for a run of bikes that continues to this very day. Following the splash of the 750, Suzuki created more noise in 1986 with the release of the GSXR1100.
The frame differed from the 750 but only because it received extra bracing. Steering head rake and front-end trail figures at 26-degrees and 116mm were slightly more relaxed than the 750 and combined with the longer swingarm fitted to the 1100s, the 1460mm wheelbase made for a nicer bike on the road.
With horsepower figure claimed to be as high as 128 at 9500rpm and torque peaking at 74.5ft/lb at 8000rpm, the 1986 1100 should have felt like a GSXR750 on steroids. The reality was that the first GSXR1100s struggled to register much more than 105 rear wheel horsepower but weighed in at just 197kg (dry).
On the dragstrip, a good rider managed to click off 10.8 second ETs at 127mph on a completely stock ’86 G-model, proof that Suzuki had worked out the power-to-weight equation pretty well. Top speed was reported as being 155mph [249.44km/h] when tested in early 1986.
The 1052cc engine featured the same oil/air cooling and Twin Swirl Combustion Chambers as the base model 750. A set of 34mm Mikuni BST CV carburettors was standard equipment on the 1100 with a familiar-appearing four-into-one exhaust on the other side of the DOHC-equipped cylinder head.
One interesting departure from the specification of the 750 was the fitment of a five-speed transmission. The 750’s carried six-speeds but according to popular myth and rumour, it has been claimed that Suzuki engineers felt that the extra torque of the 1100 negated the need for the extra ratio and they decided to add width to the five pairs instead.
As mentioned, the double cradle chassis was 750-derived. Continuing the commonality of parts were the 41mm conventional front forks with four-way preload and three-way compression adjustment. The rear shock had preload and four-way compression adjustments. The 18-in wheels fitted to the GSXR1100 was a deliberate move on Suzuki’s part to enable larger brake rotors. At the time, the 110/80-18 and 150/70-18 tyres were fairly fat.
The original G and H-series GSXR1100s were groundbreaking machines that allowed Suzuki to offer a bike suitable for the Isle of Man Unlimited TT and also capable of covering the big distance rides that Aussie rallygoers felt the need to cover at high speed in a weekend-long frenzy of speed. I forgot to mention the early-morning desperates on legendary Aussie roads like the OPH or Reefton Spur. The later J-models were slightly improved versions of the original and considered by many to be better but they’re not the original, are they?
The Skoal Bandit model was a re-painted GSXR750 with only 50 produced in the UK to celebrate the (Aussie) Paul Lewis-ridden Heron Suzuki race bikes that were sponsored by Skoal Bandit. All 50 were sold with certificates of authenticity and a genuine article is worth a healthy house deposit these days. A former owner created a more powerful replica of that bike with this repainted GSXR1100. Expect to pay $15,000 to $20,000 for a mint non-import original. They were only $7,990 + ORC when new!
SPECIFICATIONS 1986 SUZUKI GSXR1100
Blue and white, red and black
1052cc, DOHC, air/oil-cooled, 16 valve, inline four-cylinder
101Nm [74.5ft/lb] at 8000rpm
Square-section aluminium tubing and aluminium castings
41mm conventional fork and Full Floater swingarm
Dual 300mm rotors and four piston calipers