Image is everything in the superhero business. Doubt it? Take a look at Suzuki's B-King and try not to stare at those mufflers. We dare you. People have a hard time taking you seriously with a pair of oversized plastic rocket nozzles protruding from your behind, even if your good side bears a striking resemblance to Optimus Prime of planet Cybertron and you also happen to be sitting on 161 horsepower.
What ends up in your friendly neighborhood Suzuki showroom suffers from an identity crisis. Is it the defender of the universe and sworn enemy of the evil Decepticons? A naked Hayabusa? Just plain weird? All of the above, really. As delivered the B-King isn't quite perfect, but there's one excellent motorcycle in there, and all it takes is some minor surgery to let it out.
We weren't sure what sort of prosthesis it would take to restore the 'King's street cred, but as with most Suzuki-related subject matter, Yoshimura R&D was way ahead of us. The company's TRC slip-on exhaust ($999) inspired our royal makeover in the first place. Add a Fender Eliminator Kit ($225) that does away with the black plastic abomination afflicting the stock bike and you could stop right there. The carbon cans and their attendant plumbing are 8 pounds lighter than the stock muffler that lives under all that plastic, and the fender kit shaves nearly 15 more. Suzuki's standard EFI system can compensate for the relatively conservative change in exhaust tuning, nudging the curve upward from 3200 rpm to the peak, where it nets an extra 4 horses and 3 lb.-ft. of torque. That's leaving the standard catalytic converter intact, along with the standard Yosh muffler inserts that keep the beast reasonably quiet. You could stop there, but we didn't.
A 44-tooth Supersprox sprocket puts the phat part of the 'King's power within reach more o
The B-King is best suited to solo travel so we binned the stock passenger seat, pegs, bolt
Galfer Superbike rotors and matching ceramic pads add power, feel and, unlike the stock di
While it was on the dyno, we plugged in a couple of bright ideas from Bazzaz Performance to throw more fuel on the 1340cc fire. After earning a solid name for himself as Mat Mladin's crew chief, Ammar Bazzaz became known as The Man when it comes to telemetry and data acquisition in the AMA Superbike paddock, then went on to design a line of black boxes that enhance production sportbike command/control electronics. His basic Z-Fi box optimizes fuel/air mix, while the QS model adds a quick-shift function that kills revs between cogs for clutchless gear changes and the TC option factors in the miracle of traction control on top of all that. Three guesses which one we went for-and the first two don't count.
When it's time to put 160-something ponies to the pavement, we'll take all the digital assistance we can get, which is the simplest way to describe Bazzaz's top-shelf Z-Fi box. Plug it into the stock Suzuki wiring harness with nifty original-equipment-style connectors and you get a fuel map pre-programmed to the Yoshimura system, clutchless shifting beyond 3000 rpm and actual, adjustable traction control. Thus equipped, a handful of throttle generates the same net effect as 5000 volts to the rump of a rodeo bull, but with a lot less drama. The magnificently dialed-in crew at Hard Racing back in Mooresville, North Carolina, set us up with some Gilles Tooling rearsets ($550) when nobody else could. When these guys say they have something, they have it. The CNC-machined, hard-anodized, 7075 aluminum artistry from Luxembourg is almost too pretty to put on a motorcycle. But the extra cornering clearance and adjustment latitude let you put a comfortably sporty edge on the 'King's ergos. No more nasty grinding noises in the corners.
An optimized fuel/air mix flowing from the 44mm throttle bodies levitated power throughout the midrange on our dyno, going flat-line near peak. A little laptop-tuning session erased the prefab map's off-idle harshness with a bit of extra fuel. Adding fuel is something you'll do more often with digitally enhanced injection: 38 mpg average and around 33 while simulating carrier launches off of every corner.
The more you flex all that muscle, the less you like the standard suspension. Especially the relatively flaccid 10.1 kg/mm shock spring that lets the 'King squat under power and refuse to finish corners without flirting with the edge of the pavement. A trip to Race Tech netted a stiffer 14.1 kg/mm spring ($109.99) wrapped around a shock body with a Gold Valve shock kit ($169.95) installed. Standard .850 kg/mm fork springs are closer to the mark, but a pair of .979 kg/mm Race Tech coils, along with a G2R Next Generation Compression Kit ($179.99), strikes a better balance with the stiffer rear end. After a bit of fiddling to balance comfort with control, the big boy hews the prescribed cornering trajectory quite nicely. The non-adjustable standard steering damper still injects a vague, sluggish feel, but since we weren't able to Google up a viable alternative, the only choices are to a) live with it, b) bin it or c) wait for the aftermarket to come up with something. It's no disaster, but the bike deserves better.
Better brakes are welcome on anything with this much power and weight, so we ordered up a set of Galfer Superbike rotors ($970) with matching HH ceramic pads ($86.48) up front followed by a Galfer Wave Rotor ($139) and standard Galfer semi-metallic pads ($28.83) in the rear. Aside from taking an astoundingly long time to bed in and live up to their potential-about 125 miles of relative pottering for us-the Galfer hardware adds up to a seriously potent combination that's more than an even match for any velocity all that horsepower can conjure up. There's more power, no more issues with heat-induced fade and feel is excellent. What else do you want?
RaceTech mods firm up the stock suspension and sharpen steering response. The result can b
Gilles Tooling rearsets anchor a more sporting version of the standard 'King ergo package.
Always remember to switch off the traction control for the obligatory smoky burnout.
More realistic gearing would be nice, so we swapped the stock 43-tooth rear sprocket for a larger 44-tooth Supersprox ($89.95) to make that prodigious output more accessible under 100 mph. It worked, turning 4200 rpm into a smooth-as-glass 70 mph right on the cusp of the 'Busa-derived four's happy place. With teeth machined into a steel rim bonded to the aluminum-alloy hub, the Supersprox is about half the weight of a stock sprocket and capable of outlasting an all-aluminum one. Ours performed flawlessly over 2000-plus miles of use/abuse, and there's a lifetime guarantee to appease any skeptics in the audience. Plugging in a Speedo Healer ($109.99) is the least expensive, most effective way to correct for a gearing change and an optimistic stock speedometer at the same time. Accept no substitutes.
Since the original-equipment Dunlop Sportmax Qualifiers were thoroughly shagged at the start of these proceedings, we retired them and installed a fresh aftermarket set ($116.95 front, $198.95 rear), which deliver more grip than the OE version. Go figure. Some nifty Pro Bolt fork spring-preload adjusters ($45.50) came with a selection of titanium fasteners to add some subtle techno-bling. Add as much as your wallet and/or conscience will allow.
Now we have a B-King worthy of the title. Cooler, stronger, faster and, at 557 lbs. full of royal bodily fluids, 21 lbs. lighter than the stock version. Replacing the cartoon exhaust cans with Yoshimura carbon fiber is the key. Beyond that, let your budget be your guide.