Having already struck a first-inning home run with the V-Strom 800DE earlier in the year, I was eagerly anticipating the street version of Suzuki’s new parallel-twin that powers both the Strom and the GSX-8S. Swinging a leg over the 8S, it was immediately apparent the motorcycle wasn’t going to disappoint.
In fact, it took all of riding the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S from the garage at Suzuki’s corporate headquarters in Brea, CA, to the end of the parking lot for me to begin liking the new naked.
The rider triangle was the first notable attribute of the GSX-8S. It has lots of legroom, a sporty but not extreme forward lean to reach the handlebar, and a nicely contoured seat with comfortably firm foam.
After many more miles, it was clear this was a motorcycle I could spend multiple hours on without complaint. There’s nothing in the way of wind protection, but as the owner of two unfaired motorcycles, I’m okay with that.
Suzuki offers a meter visor for $150, but its main function is to keep bugs from getting lodged into the back of the instrument cluster. I’m sure Puig or another aftermarket manufacturer will offer something with more wind protection for anyone desiring to clock some serious mileage on the GSX-8S.
Months ago, I poked fun at the word “slim” being used six times in the press release to describe the width of the then-unreleased GSX-8S. With the bike beneath me, I can now easily see it wasn’t hyperbole. The short distance between my knees adds to the bike’s overall comfort and increases my ability to move around when riding aggressively.
Suzuki’s new liquid-cooled, 776cc DOHC parallel-twin arrives at a time when every manufacturer seems to multiple models around a parallel-twin engine. For Suzuki, the V-Strom 800DE introduced earlier this year was the first model and now we get the GSX-8S.
As much as I liked this twin in the V-Strom, I like it even more in urbanized street fighter mode.
According to the specs, the twins of the 8S and V-Strom are identical. However, where the 8S punches out the same amount of torque (57.5 lb-ft at 6,800 rpm) as the Strom, due to tuning and exhaust volume differences, the latter produces 1.3 more horsepower than the 8S (83.1 vs. 81.8 at 8,500 rpm).
The 8S also has slightly taller gearing. Both motorcycles are outfitted with a 17-tooth countershaft sprocket, but whereas the 8S has 47 teeth on the rear sprocket, the Strom has 50.
So, why does the 8S feel so much spunkier than the V-Strom? It all comes down to the 62-pound weight advantage of the 8S, 445 claimed curb pounds vs. 507.
Each horsepower of the 8S is pushing around nearly one pound less weight, negating any power advantage the V-Strom may have..
But enough with the numbers. The fact is, Suzuki has created an engine with very user-friendly, easy-to-ride characteristics that any motorcyclist can enjoy. The 8S is torquey and fun without being intimidating on the backroads, while remaining smooth and quick enough to get around traffic on the freeway.
Much of the credit for this new engine belongs to the Suzuki cross balancer system. Using two balancers positioned at 90-degree angles relative to the crankshaft, with a 270-degree firing order, created a unique parallel-twin among a bevy of similar engines from competing manufacturers.
It’s a new engine, but once underway, you’d swear it performs as if it were a third-generation model that’s had all the rough spots smoothed over. I’ve had the opportunity to ride various parallel-twins recently and Suzuki’s new twin is definitely the best of that lot.
Room To Improve
The GSX-8S is reasonably priced at $8,849, being competitive against smaller-displacement models such as Yamaha MT-07 and Kawasaki Z650. Considering the technologies the GSX includes—three ride modes, traction control, slip/assist clutch, a bi-lateral quickshifter—the Suzuki could be considered a steal at that MSRP.
Of course, meeting that low price point has required some concessions, mainly with the suspension. While the non-adjustable KYB fork and preload-only adjustable KYB shock maintain their composure in most city and freeway environments, a particularly bumpy backroad overwhelmed the suspension. The 8S was moving and bending in ways that don’t inspire confidence.
Adjusting the preload on the shock may have helped some, but without a nifty twist knob to do so like the V-Strom has, I just didn’t have time to fiddle with it. A steering damper would also help quell some of the bike’s transitional nervousness.
Slowing down and not pushing the GSX-8S so hard may seem like an option, but it’s not, because this motorcycle is nimble and easy to slice and dice through a tight section of twisties. The rake, trail, and wheelbase numbers are slightly less extreme than the Yamaha XSR700’s but it sure likes to get into corners quickly.
Braking performance from the ABS-equipped dual 310mm front discs and four-piston radially-mounted Nissin calipers was substantial, if not a little grabby. But at least the front brake lever is adjustable. Throttle response felt very linear without any of the off/on light switch effect found on similar motorcycles.
I find the GSX-8S attractive, but then again, I see styling cues taken directly from my beloved KTM Super Duke R, especially in the headlight and forward-jutting side panels extending from the fuel tank. Those similarities aside, the matching blue wheels and subframe give the 8S an upscale look, as does the nicely packaged under-engine exhaust.
But then it all falls flat with the obnoxiously long rear fender. You have to imagine it’s there to meet some DOT legal obligations, but thankfully Yoshimura already has a fender eliminator kit that tidies up the bike’s rear. Forget everything else, that kit will be the best $199 you can spend on this motorcycle.
Keeping with its modern appeal, the GSX features a five-inch TFT instrument cluster that provides the rider with clear and easily readable information on ABS, traction control, gear position, and ride mode settings. You can adjust display brightness manually or let it switch automatically between dark and light modes.
The GSX-8S’ combination of power, weight, rake, trail, center of gravity, swingarm length, ergonomics, price, and various other factors have found the sweet spot. I’m not sure if it will eventually reach the original SV650’s cult status, but it’s off to a good start.
+engine performance, rider comfort, priced right
-bargain suspension, engine noise, rear fender
Distributor: Suzuki Motor USA
Engine: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin
Power: 81.8hp @8,500rpm; 57.5lb-ft @6,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, constant mesh, quickshifter, chain final drive
Weight (wet): 445lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 31.9in
Fuel Capacity: 3.7gal
Colors: Pearl Cosmic Blue, Pearl Tech White, Metallic Matte Black No. 2/Glass Sparkle Black