GS1100 vs CBX - page 10

The Suzuki was a bit easier to manage than the Honda in tight situations. The GS felt more nimble when making full-lock U-turns or while dodging through traffic. The CBX wasn't a handful, but the extra weight was noticeable.

Our day of intensified city riding concluded with a ride down Van Nuys Boulevard, L.A.'s prime profiling strip. Both bikes got a lot of attention. The GS1100 drew enthusiasts, who already knew it by reputation. But, even though the CBX has been around for two years, it usually drew the most attention. The uninitiated would look at the GS1100 and apparently see just another Japanese Four. On several occasions we pulled the GS1100 up at lights next to other riders, even riders of other big Suzukis, and got no reaction after they glanced at the bike. Nothing registered. But no one ever ignored or overlooked the CBX. The eye can't miss that huge engine with all those pipes and cylinders, and the CBX's quick-revving six-cylinder engine sounds unique. Even after two years, the Six still draws plenty of attention because of its unmistakable mechanical presence. Even uninitiated onlookers can't ignore that. The Suzuki relies on a budding performance reputation to turn heads, but that apparently doesn't work as well as mechanical pulchritude.

... And on the seventh day we put our heads together, compiled our notes, examined figures and started writing. Actually the riding and testing went on for about three weeks as we continued to monitor fuel consumption and reliability and double-check details of our findings. Surprisingly, no one felt any passionate desire to own either of these motorcycles. It wasn't that we were put off by any performance overkill, because all that power is very appealing to us. With a twist of the wrist, you can see an honest 130 mph. Or you can leave every stoplight in a cloud of rubber smoke. You want to wheelie? No problem. These superbikes can do all sorts of thrilling stuff without breathing hard and that's fun where we come from.

We weren't bothered by the complexity either, since many people look to technical trickery as much as sexy styling to make a statement about the bike. All those valves and cylinders would make an impression, even if they didn't do anything that simpler layouts couldn't do.

However, there's more to life than black streaks of burnt rubber and flashy ego-inflating rides. We were disappointed about the variety of niggling problems on the Suzuki and its vibration. Likewise the CBX's taut ride and not-so-taut handling were disappointments. We loved the CBX's engine, its feel and sound. We generally enjoyed the GS1100's handling and we were awed by the enormous power of this new beast from Hamamatsu. Still, we regretted that both bikes had drawbacks that you couldn't ignore.

If you must have one of these pavement-wrinklers, which one do you buy? Well, if straight-line tire-smoking performance is your only criteria, the GS1100 is your only choice. It is the fastest, meanest boulevard-burner ever. However, it you just want a superbike to turn heads, the CBX will probably do a better job with that big, wide, eye-grabbing engine and the prestige of six cylinders - and don't forget that Porsche-like sound. If touring is primary objective, there are a handful of better choices than either of these, although the GS1100 is more comfortable, torquey and economical than the CBX. The GS1100 has an edge-but not a big one-on winding roads.

Five staffers rode the bikes, and three voiced slight preference for the CBX. One chose the GS1100 and one was undecided. Neither bike fulfilled the requirements for our fantasy superbike, a bike which could fly at the dragstrip, glide on the interstates, cavort in the canyons and make eyeballs bulge on the boulevards - all with equal aplomb. We're still waiting for that perfect superbike .... the one that runs 11 seconds flat at 125 mph, that has a smooth, stylish engine in a comfortable, stable chassis, one that gets 55 mpg and ...



When you spend $3500 to $4000 for a motorcycle, it had better do more than provide you with basic transportation and a little weekend fun; it's got to massage your ego into silly putty every single minute you're aboard it. I was all pumped and primed for Suzuki's masseuses to do a brain-boggling tap dance on my head. I could just envision the effect that the exotic 16-valve head would have on those hip bimbos at the local burger drive-in -- they'd all be drooling with envy. I could just casually point down at the emblem on the side and all the waitresses would flock like bees to honey. And knowing I had the quickest, the fastest and the meanest motorcycle that money could buy, I could snicker, laugh and toy with anyone on the road.

Man, I was ready for the ultimate ego trip. But for some undetermined reason, the GS1100 never quite rang my bell; in fact it never even lit my fuse. Sure it's ungodly fast and a nice piece (if you're into weaponry), but take away the emblems and it looks - and sounds - like any other mass-produced four-cylinder. Once the initial horsepower high wore off, there really wasn't anything significant about the 1100 that heId me breathless. I don't care what all the pros and cons are; in my book the CBX supplies the ultimate high. In spite of being two years old, it always stole the show whenever the two bikes were parked side by side. There is something captivating about the CBX's configuration, something soothing about its mesmerizing smoothness and something absoIutely magical about that exhilarating whine from the engine; I swell with pride at every twist of the throttle and every flick of the gear lever. - Rich Cox

Like the rest of the staff, I wouldn't run out and buy either of these bikes if I was going to buy a big street bike today. I'd choose a GS1000E or a CB750 long before I'd buy one of these - even if the price was the same. If I had to choose? Well, for me the choice comes down to a nice engine or a nice chassis. Although the CBX doesn't make as much power as the GS1100, the six-cylinder mill is much smoother the way I ride and makes the most pleasant sound in motorcycling. That quick-revving zoop-zoop of its exhaust is worth the extra cost. It also has a bullet-proof clutch and brakes and is isn't troubled by the abrupt throttle response and annoying drivetrain lash which hassles you on the 1100.

The Suzuki's chassis is undoubtedly more comfortable and nimble, and normally that would persuade me to buy the GS. But there are too many little annoyances. I think I could set up the CBX chassis to my tastes, and I know that Ontario Moto Tech or somebody could install as much power as I thought I wanted in the CBX. Finally, I know that I'd only find use for the Suzuki's handling edge once or twice a week. I'd appreciate the civility of the CBX's engine every day. So I'd choose the CBX. - Art Friedman

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