SUZUKI’S Hayabusa is no doubt one of the world’s most recognisable motorcycles – and for all the right reasons.
It’s one of the world’s premier sports-tourers, but its ability to give you a speed rush – something you need to experience to understand – is the standout feature of every Hayabusa since Suzuki launched the machine way back in 1999.
The design and style of the bike and sheer performance grabbed everyone’s attention back then – some thinking Suzuki took a gamble with the distinctive wind tunnel inspired shape – and it paid off.
Even today the styling is instantly recognisable and now synonymous with ultimate top speed performance. In the words of Suzuki, ‘the Hayabusa was designed to annihilate the opposition with extreme power…’ That’s a pretty bold statement, but you can get away with it when it’s true.
The GSX1300R Hayabusa has a fascinating history and is a model Suzuki is very proud of. Like a parent who keeps the first lock of hair from their child, when introducing the 2013 model Suzuki Australia General Manager Perry Morison wheeled out the very first production prototype from 1999. How’s that for history?
The prototype was never actually ridden and was in immaculate condition. A stunning reminder of where it all began. The 1999 model received rave reviews at a time when Japanese factories were competing hard for the crown of biggest, fastest and most agile. Actually most were just concerned with big and fast, agile is something Suzuki threw in to the mix. There have been a series of updates and refinements since then.
In 2003 the front forks, ECU and EFI systems were upgraded. Then in 2008 the first full model change occurred. The styling became more pronounced, the engine bore was slightly increased (from 1299cc to 1340cc), engine components were made lighter and stronger.
Technical advances saw the introduction of a slipper clutch (which was called the ‘Suzuki Clutch Assist System’). The ‘Suzuki Drive Mode Selector’ was also fitted which gave the rider three choices in engine mapping at the push of a button.
Part of the reason for the ongoing success of the Hayabusa lies in the passion surrounding the bike’s design and development. This is a bike Suzuki has held dear for 14 years, continuing a strong tradition of constant model upgrades without wholesale change.
The biggest change for this iteration of the ‘Busa is with the brakes. Brembo Monobloc radial-mount four-piston calipers are now used, with dual 310mm floating discs and ABS as standard. Being radially mounted means they are designed to give better feedback to the rider and the piston size is also increased, meaning more initial bite.
The Brembos are just better than the Tokicos fitted to the earlier model with improved feel and that initial bite, especially when hot. Suzuki describe the Hayabusa as a ‘heavyweight boxer’ and I felt a lot of that weight right behind the front wheel, so it needs good stopping power at the front. I couldn’t help thinking they could go even more extreme on the brakes, you can’t have enough on a bike like this.
No doubt the ABS will add a few extra kilograms to the bike, but I think it is a small price to pay for that piece of mind, and I doubt anyone will notice the extra weight anyway. On a road bike like the Hayabusa it’s no surprise it’s not switchable.
Suzuki has a knack of developing model ranges with cult appeal, from the older two-stroke RG and RGV machines to GSX-R sportsbikes an the V-strom adventure bikes… and Hayabusa.
That cult appeal encourages people to build incredible ’Busas. Just ask Phil Tainton, Suzuki Australia’s race engineer. Phil has put together what can only be described as a Hayabusa on steroids, an amazing machine we hope to feature in a future issue.
On the drag strip Suzuki’s 1999 Australian launch had a bunch of Aussie journos looking for the top speed of the unrestricted Hayabusa on the long strip of tarmac known as Avalon Airstrip outside Melbourne, where our Publisher Nigel Paterson managed 284km/h, despite a bitch of a crosswind and his knee scrapers hanging out in the breeze – the lanky bastard couldn’t tuck in as much as some of the little guys, and that impacts top speed.
For 2013, it was dragstrip times we chased. Everyone had their hiccups nailing the quarter mile, but it was ASBK rider Robbie Bugden (fresh from his first ever round win at Queensland Raceway the day before) who nailed the top run on Phil’s 280hp demon.
You can just imagine the heart-in-mouth wheelspin going on from that kind of power to the ground – Robbie clocked the quarter in 9.5 seconds at 161mph.
Some may remember the story we ran a few months ago about Ralph Nicholls’ Kawasaki ZX-14 breaking the production land speed record on the salt flat of Lake Gairdner in South Australia. Well Ralph, Phil is coming for your record in 2014 with his Hayabusa.
Gilesy’s Suzuki Hayabusa
One man who knows a little about the Hayabusa is three time Australian Superbike Champ Shawn Giles. At the launch of this year’s GSX1300R Giles spoke of his connection to the bike, telling how he went on to race the model in the Suzuka 8 Hour in 2000 for the Yoshimura team.
He and team-mate Osama Deguchi finished first in the Formula X class and sixth overall, no mean feat considering that the opposition ahead of him were on full-blown Superbike spec machines.
“It was such a memorable race,” Giles remembers, “I could pass any factory bike in a straight line. Izutsu was on the factory Kawasaki at the time, and I could come out of Spoon curve, be three bike lengths behind him then at the end of the back straight be three bike lengths in front of him. It was so much fun… as much as the race is serious, I could sit up, look over and think, I could pass you anywhere!”
This led him to say that the ‘Busa’s look is a little deceiving – in his opinion the bike was far more sports capable than it appeared. Underneath the bulging fairing was a bike that could be ridden hard in the twisty sections and I believed him.
Hitting the highway
The first thing you notice when you throw a leg over this beast is the physical size of it. It feels wide and much heavier than a litre sports bike, but also well balanced. The wet weight of the previous model was some 260kg – the 2013 model will no doubt be a little heavier due to ABS – so it is no featherweight.
Personally I prefer a bit beefier bike riding over typical Australian roads. An unexpected pot hole on this bike won’t unsettle it. Lets face it, Aussie roads aren’t the best, so to have a bike that can handle a few deep pot holes without causing any grief is almost a necessity these days.
So, the bike felt big to sit on, but did it feel big to ride? When Nigel Paterson rode the very first model in 1999, he said ‘the Hayabusa feels smaller than you would expect once you are aboard and started rolling’. I feel the same way, it looks big and makes one massive statement with the styling and engine, but combined with the GSX-R inspired chassis and running gear you have a genuine all rounder.
The Drive Mode Selector (DMS), which alters the engine mapping provides three definite steps in performance. It still isn’t traction control, but is certainly handy to take the edge off a weapon of an engine. The obvious application is in the rain, traffic, or if you are newer to insanely powered motorcycles and want to feel your way in.
As with the previous model the Suzuki Clutch Assist is a welcome addition although with the torque available and spread of the six speed box, harsh downshifts aren’t common. At the end of the ride I felt like the guys at Suzuki had hit the design brief – here is a bike that has touring size, but sporting feel.
The Willowbank Drag Strip
Anyone can go to a ride day at the track… with the big Suzuki they decided on something a little special to entertain the journos. As you can imagine, any legal road use of this bike isn’t really stretching it’s capabilities, so it would be fair to say our road ride was relatively sedate.
This led to the idea of really testing the straight line speed of the Hayabusa – in stock trim – at Willowbank Raceway drag strip. The other motivation was to recreate the feeling from that very first media launch in 1999 at Avalon airport.
Like most of the other journos present, I hadn’t ridden on a drag strip before but we were all keen to unleash the beast. It was set up like a proper race – Suzuki even put on a challenge between all of us to fight it out for bragging rights over the quarter mile (it wasn’t going to be me I’m afraid – the best I could manage was 10.7 seconds).
By the end of the day we all had a new found appreciation for the art of drag racing! If you have ever watched drags on TV and thought, “Yeah that’s looks easy – I could do that”, think again.
There were so many intricacies I hadn’t considered… like getting the RPM for launch spot on and using the start lights as much to your advantage as possible.
We were told the first 60 feet were the key – that’s when you need great traction (set up by your burn out and launch RPM) and throttle control.
Wheelies aren’t good on the quarter mile.
To open the throttle in full anger with no restriction on a machine like this is an awesome feeling. There is this massive rush in the midrange and it feels even better to want more and more.
The feeling is quite different from a lighter sports bike in the top end – that crazy surge of power is there but in a heavier package… to me it adds stability
Yes, as crazy as it sounds, after a few runs you just want more. I think it is testament to the power delivery and electronics, it’s huge but you feel in control. Once this bike gets a head of steam up it just keeps pulling, an awesome feeling that you just have to try to fully appreciate.
I remembered Shawn Giles smiling the night before when we were discussing the day ahead and all he could say was, “Wait till you ride it!” You can play all the X-Box space invader games you like – there is nothing like this. I’ll take 194hp, thanks.
On the track
The very next day was a trip to Morgan Park race circuit in Warwick, about two hours drive from Brisbane. The occasion was to test the new Pirelli Angel GT sports touring tyres and one of the bikes on offer was the 2012 Hayabusa. This was great timing because I was curious to know how the big Suzuki would handle on a track, especially when it won’t have space to stretch it’s legs.
Before I even start on the bike, if you live in South East Queensland and have never visited Morgan Park, check out cycletorque.com.au/more for details on how to do it.
Hidden away out the back of Warwick, this track is freaking awesome and in complete contrast to the Queensland Raceway ‘paperclip’. It’s tighter layout made me think that maybe the Hayabusa wouldn’t be so much fun – but all it did was reassert the all rounder reputation of the GSX1300R.
The main difference I was noticing was the brakes but it just means riding the bike within tighter limits. Yes, the Brembos are more capable, but this is still a fun machine on a tight track.
Who’s it for?
Let me point out the obvious – the Hayabusa is for anyone who wants to stand out. Everyone notices this bike – and in a good way.
In reality there are not a lot of changes to the 2013 Hayabusa apart from the brakes, but the model still has plenty of relevance. If you are the kind of person drawn in by all out performance, this is for you.
If you want 300 km/h, you will get it. This is also the kind of bike that will handle long hauls on the highway and the occasional trip to a track day (or drag strip if you’re lucky). If you do a lot of two up touring then the Hayabusa will also appeal… I can’t imagine this engine struggling too much with any extra weight.
In short, if you like impressing your mates with how fast your bike is in a straight line as well as weekend rides through the mountains, check this one out.
The 2013 Hayabusa is in showrooms priced at $19,290 (plus on-roads).