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The Suzuki GSX-8S is a middleweight that’s as mild or wild as you want it to be

A highly enjoyable ride

The insectoid look takes some getting used to. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Suzuki Philippines probably has one of (if not) the biggest motorcycle selections in the market for both big and small bikes. It has adventure bikes, sport bikes, and street fighters for both liter and middleweight classes, and it recently launched its new middleweight platform under the V-Strom 800DE and this GSX-8S.

The new engine is a parallel-twin displacing 776cc, sporting two valves per cylinder and a 270° crank for a V-twin-like rumble. It makes 83hp (at 8,500rpm) and 78Nm (at 6,800rpm), and the six-speed comes with a standard up/down quickshifter.

On a clear day, a street fighter is a great bike to play with. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Form follows function in the motorcycle world, and the naked GSX-8S cuts a profile similar to a prime rival like the KTM 790 Duke, even down to the insectoid headlamp enclosure. The Suzuki does look a touch more refined with the inclusion of LED position lights, while the brand’s corporate blue on the body panels and the wheels isn’t as garish as KTM’s orange.

Stacked lights look anime-ish, but they provide excellent illumination. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Saddling up to the Suzuki is a familiar experience. All the switches and buttons are logically placed, the tank is shaped nicely for hugging in the corners, and the seat padding is thick with a modest swale to hold you in place.

Typical of Suzuki, the motor fires up quickly even on a cold morning, and thoughtful features like a Low RPM Assist help prevent stalling the motor. A slip-and-assist clutch further makes operating the transmission a breeze.

The parallel-twin has a sexy rumble and is practically impossible to stall with its Low RPM Assist feature. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

My first outing with the bike was a basic commute to Makati for a meeting—a good opportunity to see how it handled in traffic. At 202kg, it’s slightly heavier than the KTM, but about the same as a Honda CB650R. Out on the road, the bike feels nimble and composed even over choppy pavement.

The nonadjustable suspension is firm, but not unbearably so, quick lane changes and low-speed turns are nonissues. At long traffic stops, the heat from the twin heads isn’t excessive, although I still turned off the engine for anything longer than 30 seconds.

A narrow waist with a supportive seat for comfort and flickability. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

For a longer day out, I opted to go for a loop along Taal Lake and Tagaytay.

Plenty of highways going out and back, and lots of tight, twisty back roads for a good workout. With three ride modes—‘A’ (track-focused), ‘B’ (sporty street), and ‘C’ (rain or heavy traffic)—to choose from, I started with B while cruising on the highway, enjoying the motor’s rich torque spread and feeling quite comfortable in the cockpit.

The TFT dash is easy to navigate with the left switch-pod buttons. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

There’s enough torque that short-shifting at just 3,000rpm is enough to get you going at highway speeds, but pin the throttle and the bike’s demeanor changes from mild to wild as fast as you can shift. You can set the level of traction control intervention, too.

In riding mode A, the throttle response is razor-sharp as even a millimeter difference in throttle position changes the engine speed. Mode B is a Goldilocks setting as there’s enough responsiveness to match an urgent twist of the wrist without getting too jumpy on a public road. Conservative riding with occasional moments of lunacy will get you a thrifty 2325km/L, which means it’s a good choice for a weekday expressway commuter.

Throttle sensitivity will depend on your selected riding mode. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

The Nissin brakes deliver plenty of smooth stopping power, and between the quality of the components and the stellar ergonomics, I couldn’t find anything to fault. The rider triangle for my 5’8” frame was just about perfect, with just enough bend to the knees without cramping up, although taller riders will feel that the bike is small.

The TFT dash is easy to read and gimmick-free. There aren’t any multiple windows to flip through, so all the functions are easily read at a glance. It’s bright and has great contrast even under harsh daylight, making it even better than the one on the GSX-R1000 I rode previously.

ABS-equipped Nissin brakes deliver plenty of stopping power. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

I rode the bike for the better part of an afternoon until early evening over some quiet roads, enjoying the overall competence of the bike while savoring the spirited rumble of the p-twin. It feels agile without feeling flighty, great fun to lean into corners, but also supple enough that it doesn’t chatter over pavement ripples and take you out of your line.

The parallel-twin does get buzzy past 5,000rpm to the point that the side mirrors become useless, but by then you’ll be going fast enough to warrant your full attention to what’s ahead of you rather than what’s behind you. The Dunlop Roadsport 2 tires are a good choice, too. Grippy enough for most conditions on the road, but you’ll need something stickier for dedicated track use.

A bike that feels great whether you're just tootling along or sending it in the curves. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

On the trek home, the only thing I was missing was cruise control to make the highway slog a little less tiresome. I ended my trip with around 300km on the odometer for around five hours of riding with three quick stops. Currently priced at P585,000, it’s a fair amount for a bike that has got contemporary tech and is still made in Japan.

Suzuki has a solid reputation for reliability, too, which makes it a solid choice for enthusiasts who want a bike that can function as a daily commuter and weekend fun machine.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.