If you look at the current market of 150-160cc commuter bikes, you'll find a plethora of naked bikes with "sporty" designs.
Squint your eyes a bit, or squeeze the throttle of one if you get the chance, and it becomes readily apparent that despite their appearance, most of them are mainly meant to take you to your destination, and look good while doing so.
Suzuki's Gixxer SF is the ultimate evolution of this design. A faired-up version of the standard Gixxer, the bike is designed to turn people's heads as you pass them by on your way to work.
Looking at the SF, the first thing one notices is the aerodynamic fairing. Suzuki did a much better job integrating the piece into the body as part of the 2019 refresh, making it look much less 'bolt-on' than the outgoing model. In addition to the better body lines, another new item in the new fairing is the headlamp cluster, featuring multiple LED lamps. Opinions among the Wheel's team are divided about how it looks, with some calling it futuristic and pleasant while others describe it as resembling a cockroach head.
The similarity with the standard Gixxer becomes more and more obvious as one gets past the fairing. Both bikes are virtually identical, sharing the same rims, led tail lamp, exhaust and the same blocky universal digital gauge cluster Suzuki's been using on most of their bikes for as long as anyone can remember. Another element both bikes share is the engine. The 155cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder air-cooled unit of the SF is identical to the one used by the naked variant.
However, being an air-cooled engine in an enclosed fairing, the engine is left with less room to radiate heat. Something that might be an issue in the gridlocked streets of cities. The fairing also adds some extra steps to basic servicing, though it can be argued the target segment of the SF is more than willing to live with such limitations.
Turning on the motor, one might notice the exhaust note that is somewhat quieter than the old model. Suzuki has reduced the torque figure of the new Gixxer, from 14.8Nm to 13.8Nm, perhaps to ensure better mileage. That said, performance was never the focus of this bike, and the engine, being the most refined of any 'commuter' bike I've ridden before, is now even smoother with only mild vibrations felt right before the redline.
The initial road test of the Gixxer SF was cut short by rain, but from my brief experience, it is still as exciting as one can expect a 155cc commuter bike to be.
One of the reasons the Gixxer is so popular among young bikers is for how easy it is to ride. Suzuki did a surreal job with the weight distribution, cornering the 148 kg bike is an exhilarating experience, to say the least. The 140mm rear tyre helps with this as well. Changing lanes at low speeds during peak Dhaka traffic isn't too enfeebling either as long as the rider is well above 5 and a half feet.
Getting to do a couple of laps around Hatirjheel right after the rain, I was naturally sceptical about the brakes and the grip of the tires. To my surprise, both passed the test with flying colours. The single-channel ABS was a very handy feature during rain. For the record, I do not remember a single time I ended up skidding when using the non-ABS rear brake on wet roads. One nitpick I have about the new SF is the reduced torque, as twisting the throttle in the nonexistent empty Dhaka roads is nearly not as fun as how it used to be anymore, especially at the mid and the top ends.
All in all, the Gixxer SF has great looks, is built well, comes with a well-tested reliable engine and ticks the boxes for all the basic yet necessary features like ABS and LED lights. Riding a Gixxer SF to work can be one of the best morning experiences, assuming your wallet can afford its over Tk3,00,000 sticker price.