|GS1100 vs CBX - page 6|
One of the nice things about living in Los Angeles is the fact that the city is bordered by mountains. This string of mountains is what makes L.A. a smog trap, but those geological wrinkles are also a great place to ride motorcycles. The hills and canyons are chock-full of little- used roads which seem to have been created especially for sporting bikes.
We're not advocates of white-knuckled, tight-lipped, bar-beveling, serious-as-a-heart-attack street racing. We figure that if you want to ride at ten-point-one tenths, then the best place to do it is the racetrack, where you can minimize the possibility of becoming dead, or arrested, while getting down to some all-out knee-dragging. On the other hand, we figure that some properly cautious peg-scraping with trusted companions on deserted back roads is an enjoyable way to spend the day. And what better way to straighten some of our favorite mountain-road kinks and explore new ones than on these two motorcycles.
We considered a racetrack outing, but not many people ever ride there, so what was the point? And the racetrack, though ideal for telling you how a bike corners at 120 mph, has certain drawbacks. You always know what's around the next turn, so you don't discover certain characteristics of the bike. For example, you never get caught by decreasing radius corners on a racetrack, but they are a normal part of country-road riding. Therefore you never find out how a bike works in corners that tighten up unexpectedly - or in unseen bumps, slippery white lines, unplanned panic stops, etc.
For optimum handling on these twisty back roads, we inflated the front forks to 13 psi on the CBX and 18 psi on the GS. We dialed in maximum damping (No. 4 position) on the GS fork, set both sets of shocks one level below maximum preload, dialed the Suzuki's shock damping to the No. 3 or 4 position and the Honda's shock damping to No. 2 or 3 on the top (rebound) setting and No. 2 on the bottom (compression) setting. We found that the Suzuki's fork preload adjusters were best left at their softest settings.
Even with the suspension set up this way, the CBX was not a particularly stable motorcycle when cornering briskly. It was easy to get the bike to wiggle when cornering at 60 or 70 mph, especially if it hit a bump in the road. This oscillation wasn't alarming or uncontrollable and in fact you could go much faster after it started without having it get any worse. However, you couldn't help but notice the wiggle in the bars.
The Honda's steering wasn't as accurate as the Suzuki's when rushing around a bend, although the CBX was quite acceptable until it began to wiggle. You also had to put more effort and concentration into steering the Six than you did into steering the Suzuki. You noticed the extra effort when braking into a closing radius turn, where the CBX tried to sit up more than the GS. The same high-center-of-gravity feeling contributed to the sluggish sensation in the handling when you were trying to make a rapid transition from turning one direction to turning the other, as in an S-bend. However, the handling isn't nearly as heavy as the appearance of that huge engine might lead you to expect. The Honda did have a couple of advantages, useful primarily in medium-speed corners. Its Japanese Dunlops seemed to stick a little better than the GS1100's Bridgestones, which was a good thing since the CBX has quite a bit of cornering clearance-significantly more than the GS1100.
The Suzuki steers with remarkable accuracy and ease at low and moderate speeds. However, it still requires a fair amount of effort to pull down into a corner that tightens up unexpectedly; you never forget that you're riding a big motorcycle. However, the bike does handle comparatively lightly-lighter than the CBX and perhaps even lighter than the GS1000E. Despite that lightness and despite having over half-an-inch less front wheel trail than the CBX, the Suzuki 1100E is more stable than the Six. The stability stays with it through some fairly fast corner-charging, but when we got down to going real fast, the GS1100 began to wallow around. The problem seemed to come from the rear suspension, which was just a little soft. Most people will never ride it that hard and it keeps its handling better controlled than the CBX's. However, it's easier to drag bits of the GS1100's underside, and if you don't inflate the forks enough, one of the first things that drags is the front of the outside pipes, which can be tricky.
Oddly enough, the CBX's engine asked to be ridden harder than the GS1100's. When carving through the canyons, the GS1100 gets uncomfortably buzzy at high rpm, which discourages you from winding it up frequently. The CBX actually seems smoothest when it's shrieking. Since the CBX is also a bit peakier and since it has an exceptionally smooth-shifting gearbox, it's quite comfortable when being revved like a road-racer. The GS1100 is more of a torquier so it can usually keep up with a little less revving and shifting. However, the GS must be wound up past the point of comfort to keep up with the CBX if the Honda's rider is using redline as his shift point.