"OK," I thought as I shadowed Suzuki test rider Yuichi Nakashima through the 70-mph right-hander onto the Ryuyo test circuit's legendary 1.2-mile back straight for the first time, "let's see if this new Hayabusa really is steamier than the old one."
Seconds later, with Naka-san and me rocketing past 160 mph-he on the still-secret '08 'Busa and me on a current model-I had my answer. We were only halfway down the runway-like straight, but the gap between us-which seemed to grow exponentially as we worked our way to about a buck-eighty-five-told me what I needed to know: Suzuki had not only reworked its wildly successful flagship sportbike, but blessed it with significantly more horsepower, not an easy task when you're talking about a motorcycle that produced nearly 160 rear-wheel horsepower and was capable of 190-mph-plus top speeds when it was introduced eight years ago. Here's how we described it in our June 1999 road test:
"Cursing, of course, signifies a weak vocabulary and a traileresque upbringing, but maaaaaan this thing is fast! FREAKING &%$#*%!! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep, beeeeeeeeeeeep."
The thing really did freak us out. Remember, this was 1999; years before 160-bhp, 430 pound literbikes.
For a motorcycle manufacturer, redesigning a successful model is tricky business. Get one element wrong-styling, performance, price, whatever-and even the savviest plan can morph from rosy and upbeat to ugly and dire overnight. And the more successful the bike being replaced, the trickier the redesign, which meant Suzuki had plenty to be anxious about as it considered the makeup of its second-generation GSX1300R.
No doubt about it, Suzuki's Hayabusa (named for a peregrine falcon reputed to snack on blackbirds-take that, Honda!) is no ordinary motorcycle. With an almost cult-like following-especially in top-speed, drag-racing and urban-custom ranks-the bike is darn near an industry unto itself, a machine that still commands huge respect from most quarters and is regarded by half the planet as the best all-around big-bore on the planet. The bike has done more than become hugely popular and massively profitable; it has hammered out the type of priceless brand image and reputation most manufacturers can only dream of. The 'Busa is fast, edgy and cool, a bike that'll do just about anything you ask, and one that laid many of the foundational bricks for the custom sportbike scene so in vogue today.
Retail sales in the U.S. for 2006 were astonishing: more than 10,000 units, twice the number of Kawasaki ZX-14s sold last year (a brand-new model in '06, remember), and several times the number of GSX1300Rs peddled in Europe. Interestingly, Hayabusa sales in the U.S. have risen every year since the bike's '99 debut, a pattern at odds with the standard sales scenario of new, top-line sportbikes, which usually sell well initially and lose steam as the bike ages. That the Hayabusa has sold in greater numbers as the years clicked by shows there's a lot more going on between the bike and its fanatical customers than big power and swoopy bodywork.
With a machine this popular, and the effects of a design miscue almost too painful to consider, the key question for Suzuki R&D was obvious: How do you bump the Hayabusa's styling, power, cool factor and overall function while retaining the essence of what made the original bike so desirable to such a wide range of riders? Should 'Busa II be totally new, a slightly massaged version of the original, or some combination thereof?
The search for answers began in early '04, with R&D teams from the U.S. and Japan conducting market research in the States to determine what styling and design elements were likely to be embraced by customers who'd fallen so hard for the original. "What we found," design manager Koji Yoshishura told me during my weeklong trip to Suzuki Japan's Hamamatsu test center in March, "is that people loved the look of the old bike. So we knew right away we had to keep and strengthen the look."
Several styling sketches were produced to get a feel for what that aesthetic "strengthening" might look like, and these were shown to various Suzuki dealers. The sketch that generated the most excitement was improved and taken to a Philadelphia dealership with a heavy 'Busa clientele for some focus-group confirmation-which it received in spades. "It was very well received," said styling group member Yoshinori Kohinata. "We aimed for a powerful, sexy look, along with a strong family resemblance," added styling group manager Shinsuke Furuhashi.
With the new bike's basic look largely settled, the styling crew began spending more time with engineering to hammer out the myriad details of melding all the pieces together. While the early sketch work was being done, R&D brass had made a key decision regarding the new bike: to carry over the majority of the first-generation Hayabusa's engine and frame assemblies to the new bike, with a handful of key upgrades, of course. This would allow styling and engineering to work from a common mechanical platform.
The reasons for the carryover were many. For one, the current 'Busa's 1298cc inline-four already made plenty of power and had proven nearly bulletproof, Suzuki's engine development team saying it was capable of more "oomph" in noise- and emission-restricted production guise without affecting reliability. Also, the economics of using the same base engine were significant: Suzuki would save money because very little new tooling would need to be developed, purchased and amortized. Engines are, after all, the most expensive part of a motorcycle to design and build. Another key reason is that because the first-gen 'Busa had proven to be a capable handler, and because the new bike's category positioning and general concept-"Ultimate Sport" or Suzuki's "maximum two-wheeled statement"-weren't changing, there was no reason to develop and fund an entirely new frame.
By early '05, Suzuki had pretty much settled on the look and makeup of its new 'Busa concept: a comprehensive redo of the current bike in place of a new-from-the-ground-up design. Numerous engine and chassis upgrades would allow the bike to keep pace with the competition and utilize any new-think technology that had become standard-issue since the original 'Busa debuted.
While the styling team worked up a clay model of the winning sketch to see how successfully it translated to actual curves, angles and shapes, several small engineering teams got busy. The engine group grabbed horsepower and durability research they'd done prior to the start of the 'Busa II project and put a finer point on the numbers via a fresh round of powerplant tweaks and dyno testing. The fuel-injection team began working on specific air/fuel settings the new engine would likely need in the differing markets in which it'd be sold. The chassis team investigated the firmer spring and damping settings the more powerful and better-handling machine would require. New wheels and brakes were sourced and analyzed, as were chassis bits such as the lower triple clamp, which would need to be more rigid if the braking guys opted for more powerful radial-mount calipers, which they eventually did. Each new component or upgrade affected another part of the whole, which forced the teams to work closely as they methodically put all the main pieces of the puzzle in place.
In the flesh, the new 'Busa is attractive and powerful-looking in a way many full-coverage, plastic-fantastic sportbikes aren't. My response to first laying eyes on the thing during our very first meeting was, "Whoa!" It's all Hayabusa, but stronger-looking, more muscular and even a bit retro-but also very similar in overall shape and concept to the original. Not yet knowing the customer research Suzuki had done and its plan regarding the second-gen bike's shape and overall design, I wondered if folks might want something more visually different. In time, however, the carryover-but-amplify strategy made sense, and my thoughts about a total redesign vanished.
Suzuki's performance goals for the new bike are similar to those on the sales side: more. More handling, comfort, cornering, braking and sprinting ability. The latter element-quickness via more power-comes from a thoroughly reworked engine. During a tour of the test facility's engine dyno rooms where a pre-production 'Busa engine was being flogged, I spied a three-digit number beginning with a "2" on the monitor. Suzuki isn't saying how much horsepower U.S.-spec GSX1300Rs will make. But considering the fact that the ZX-14 makes a buck seventy-five at the rear wheel, and that Suzuki has had 18 months to work on the new bike's output since the 14's debut, one can assume the 'Busa will make at least that, and likely more. Either way, it's going to be a very rapid ride.
The source of this newfound steam comes from several mods. The primary ones are a 2mm longer stroke via redesigned pistons and crankshaft for a displacement of 1340cc; a more compact and freer-flowing cylinder head filled with lightweight titanium valves; higher compression (12.5:1 vs. 11.0:1); GSX-R1000-spec 44mm fuel injectors; and a completely new 4-2-1-2 exhaust with cata-lyzer and oxygen sensor, which help the bike meet Euro 3 and Tier 2 emission requirements.
"Making more power while making the engine meet Euro 3 requirements is difficult," said LPL and Chief Engineer Hiroshi Iio. On hearing this, engine team member Chiaki Hirata laughed: "Sorry for the large, heavy muffler. It was necessary in order to meet regulations."
The counterbalancer was retained, so the engine remains relatively smooth. But the longer stroke introduced a slight bit more buzz into the proceedings, according to chief tester Nakashima. "Still, it's a very smooth machine overall," he said.
Hop into the 'Busa II's cockpit and you'll see and feel both similarities and differences. Ergonomics, for instance, are identical to the old bike's. The tank is similarly shaped, though the view ahead is different due to the redesigned dashboard (with analog gauges done in interlocking circles) and a slightly higher windscreen. The seat remains 31.7 inches above the pavement, and the wheelbase is same-same at 58.5 inches. At about 490 pounds dry-a few pounds heavier than the old bike due mostly to the larger, heavier exhaust system-the new bike still feels a touch long and heavy, though suspension at both ends feels a bit firmer, at least during a seat-of-the-pants bounce test.
Speaking of the new 'Busa's legs, both ends have been upgraded. The 43mm Kayaba inverted fork gets a DLC coating (Diamond Like Carbon in Suzuki-speak) for its sliders and revised (read: firmer) spring and damping settings, while out back there's a beefier Kayaba shock with, again, firmer settings and a piggyback reservoir. Both systems are fully adjustable.
The overall fit and finish of the pre-production bike I was exposed to seemed exceptionally high. Suzuki has clearly paid more attention here. "We thought a lot about the customer," product planning leader Norihiro Suzuki told me. "This is our flagship model, after all, and so it must have a luxury feel, must be top-of-the-line." A few items hint at this, most notably the hidden fairing fasteners on the main cowl (so fairing bolts don't interfere with custom paint), the retro instruments, the hot-rod, '60s custom tail section and the two-tone paint options.
With the new 'Busa ostensibly able to go corner-to-corner (or stoplight-to-stoplight) more quickly, nastier brakes were a natural, and the new bike's binders are thoroughly modern: radial-mount Tokico calipers grabbing slightly smaller-diameter rotors for what Naka-san enthusiastically says results in "very strong, very controllable" braking power. After watching him rip around Suzuki's exceedingly fast and dangerous Ryuyo circuit for a few laps from the seat of a current-spec 'Busa, I get the feeling the guy isn't exaggerating. He tossed the big bike around like a middleweight, which tells me Suzuki has made a good-handling Open-Class GT an even better scratcher. That can't be a bad thing.
In fact, a lot of the team members I spoke to seemed exceptionally enthused about this motorcycle. "People inside Suzuki are very excited," Suzuki told me with a laugh, "especially the test riders. They want to buy the bike for themselves!" I got a confirming nod from Naka-san when I related the story a day later.
In the end, this is a key point. These testing and R&D folks know that a good many enthusiasts worldwide-and especially in the U.S.-might look at the new-generation Hayabusa and conclude from a glance that it's really not that much different than the old one. After all, the two look pretty similar, and as stated here, the engine and frame have been carried over from the old bike. But the men and women who actually designed, built and tested the new 'Busa-who know exactly what went into this project and how much better it is from a functional and design perspective-confirm this really is a thoroughly new motorcycle.
Suzuki is simply savvy enough to understand that its core Hayabusa customer-the thousands who've already voted for the bike with cold, hard cash-will appreciate the evolutionary approach and embrace the new bike just as they have the original.
Time will surely tell. But from what I learned in Japan, I'd put my money on the Suzuki folks getting this one right.
Speed spoken here
Suzuki designers weren't being subtle in the least when they named their upcoming Hayabusa hyperbike sometime in mid-1998. With a top speed of 240 mph during its vertical hunting dive (called 'the stoop'), the Hayabusa (a.k.a.peregrine falcon or Falco peregrinus) is more than a lethal hunter of birds and small mammals; it's also the fastest bird on the planet.
The subsequent agreement among the Japanese factories to limit top speeds to 186 mph rendered the hyperbike velocity race moot. But even if the 'Busa's recorded top speeds in the mid-190s end up being eclipsed by some rogue manufacturer (e.g., MV Agusta), the original Hayabusa will always remain at or near the top of that particular list.
Others have used the name for many of the same velocity-addled reasons. During WWII, Japanese aircraft manufacturer Nakajima named its Ki-43 fighter after this impressive animal. Although not nearly as well known as the A6M Zero, the Ki-43-capable of over 300 mph and offering an 800-mile range-was a formidable machine, especially with its dual 12.7mm machine guns blazing away. More than 5000 were built, though toward the end of the war the Allies' P38 Lightnings and P51 Mustangs proved overwhelming to both the Ki-43 and the Zero.
Japan also launched a high-tech space probe using loads of futuristic technologies to-get this-touch down on the Itokawa asteroid (198 million miles away) and bring back samples of its surface. Problems with the satellite's ion drive have, however, pushed its arrival back on earth to 2010.
It's still good to B-King
With 'Busa II power, this naked hyperbike is sure to exciteWe showed you pictures of Suzuki's radical B-King in our December 2006 issue. But my trip to Japan to assess the second-generation Hayabusa uncovered more details. For one, we know the B-King is scheduled to be introduced at Suzuki's annual dealer meeting on June 27-29 as an '08 model. Even better is the fact that it will be powered by the 'Busa II engine in-get this-full 'Busa tune, not some detuned-for-torque configuration. If you haven't read the main story, let's just say we're looking at rear-wheel numbers in the 175-plus range. Suddenly, we're not so bummed the proddie 'King lacks the original concept bike's supercharger. Look for the B-King at Suzuki dealers beginning in November.
Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
Better bits for Suzuki's bodacious new 'Busa
The new Hayabusa may look similar to the old one, but it's basically almost entirely new-sleeker, more powerful, electronically smarter, better braked and even better-looking than the original. Take a look...
Although Suzuki decided early on it would carry over the old Hayabusa's engine to the new model, it also had an ambitious power target-"above 190 bhp" to be specific. To get there with an inline-four designed a decade earlier, engineers tweaked and massaged nearly the entire powerplant, first designing a more compact cylinder head filled with titanium valves in the same sizes as before (33mm intake, 27.5mm exhaust), single valve springs to save weight and a new hydraulic cam-chain tensioner. Below came redesigned (and lighter) pistons with a smaller pin diameter (18mm vs. 20mm) running with 2mm more stroke (65mm vs. 63mm) in SCEM-coated cylinders for 1340cc of displacement, 42cc more than before. Those pistons reach Top Dead Center with more compression force (12.5:1 vs. 11.0:1), while rings got an ion-plating treatment for better cylinder sealing, reduced friction, reduced oil consumption and improved reliability. The con-rods holding said pistons are shot-peened chromoly steel for additional strength. Down below is a reworked and stronger crankshaft driving a heavier-duty clutch and a transmission filled with heat-treated, shot-peened cogs with wider 5-6 and narrower 1-2 spacing. Final-drive gearing is now 43/18, a touch lower than before. Revised cylinder ventilation reduces pumping losses, while a gear-driven counterbalancer and back-torque limiter continue on as in the old bike. On the intake side, smaller throttle bodies with 44mm GSX-R1000-type injectors handle fuel atomization, while a reworked, GSX-R1000-type air cleaner and ram-air system help cram more clean atmosphere into the mixers. Out back, a redesigned 4-2-1-2 exhaust with catalyzer and oxygen sensor help the new 'Busa meet Euro 3 and Tier 2 environmental requirements, while massive, triangular dual mufflers offer increased volume and reduced noise. There's also a new, more curved radiator, a larger oil cooler and dual cooling fans controlled by an also-new ECU. Suzuki has also blessed the bike with its S-DMS system, which, like the GSX-R1000, allows the rider to choose from three different power settings-A (dry), B (mixed) or C (wet)-for varying conditions via a bar-mounted switch. Suzuki says engine size and weight are the same as before, while power is up roughly 10 percent. Hooooo!
Like the firmer front end, the Hayabusa's fully adjustable single-shock rear suspension features stiffer internal settings to handle the heartier cornering abilities resulting from additional power and grippier tires. The Kayaba shock is activated by a swingarm that's similar in shape and design to the old bike's but also more rigid, again due to the new bike's sportier handling and greater g-loading capability. In place of the old bike's torque-link rear brake assembly is a lighter and simpler Tokico slide-pin caliper squeezing a larger rotor-260mm vs. 240-from above rather than below. It's a much cleaner look from the right side. Suzuki says the newly styled wheels are lighter than before and thus offer less unsprung weight for better, quicker flickage.
The new 'Busa's alloy twin-spar frame is basically a direct carryover from the old bike (minus the centerstand and bracketry, so it's lighter), and there's not a thing wrong with this from a streetbike rider's point of view. This fact highlights how good the original cage is. Critical dimensions remain status quo on 'Busa II, including wheelbase (58.5 in.), rake and trail (24.2 degrees/3.85 in.) and seat height (31.7 in.), though a reworked subframe was needed to accommodate the redesigned-and far swoopier-tail section, which offers a slightly lower passenger saddle for increased comfort. Overall dry weight is 5 lbs. heavier at 490 lbs., which should put it at about the 550-lb. mark fully fueled, close to the old bike. The new Hayabusa's sleek bodywork (not shown here, obviously) is completely new, however, even though it's similar in shape and concept to the first-generation plastic. Aside from bestowing slightly better wind and weather protection, Suzuki stylists made an effort to take the vast 'Busa custom market into consideration when they designed and finalized the shape and makeup of the 'Busa's body. Thus the lack of exterior fasteners, the broad expanses of smooth, non-edged ABS (for paint), etc. New vertically stacked headlights with a smaller projector high-beam and halogen multi-reflector low-beam keep things brighter at night, while new floating mounts for the fuel tank help minimize the small bit of extra buzz the engine's longer stroke introduced. The new bike's overall length is 2 inches longer than the old bike's, while overall height-due to a tall windscreen)-is about half an inch taller.
An angular new fender makes the new 'Busa's front end look nastier than before, but there's plenty of trick hardware up front to back up the look. These include a fully adjustable 43mm inverted Kayaba fork with firmer settings than before to handle the new bike's increased horsepower and braking power, the latter thanks to radial-mount Tokico calipers grabbing rotors with more (now 10) heat-reducing mounting buttons. The increased braking power forced a sturdier lower triple clamp. Newly designed three-spoke cast aluminum 17-inch wheels in 3.5- and 6-inch widths mount Bridgestone BT-015 radials with the same tread pattern as the GSX-R1000 and are specifically designed for the 'Busa II. "They make a big difference in handling," says a chassis engineer, who adds, "Grip and stability are exceptional." There's also a new steering damper with external reservoir for better performance even when hot. In addition to circular analog clocks that look like they came from an AC Cobra, the all-new dash features dual tripmeters, a clock, gear-position indicator, adjustable shift light and more. A digital speedo is easier to read at a glance, but the new 'Busa's setup looks pretty cool.