Like Super Streetbike Editor Dave Sonsky, I wasn't what you'd call a big fan of the Suzuki Hayabusa when it debuted in late '98 at the Paris Motor Show. The bike was just so stylistically out there, and then there was that name-Ha-ya-bu-sa. I mean, it sounded almost silly at the time, and it became the butt of some jokes here in the office.
Of course, as soon as we got a testbike and started putting miles on the thing (some of those miles occurring at very, very high rates of speed along various deserted high-desert roads), we forgot all about the jokes and began taking the bike quite a bit more seriously. The Hayabusa wasn't just shockingly fast. It handled pretty well for a 550-pound sportbike; it was reasonably comfortable (unless you were tall like Tim Carrithers); it started easily and idled quiety, not hinting in the least of the yank-yer-arms-off/snap-yer-neck-back mayhem lurking within its engine cases; it proved to be bulletproof, as Suzukis are well-known for; and for some strange reason, the styling we thought so bulbous and funky began to grow on us-so much so that a couple of the guys admitted to actually liking the way it looked.
And that's probably a pretty accurate microcosm of what happened with the public regarding the 'Busa. Once a few thousand got out into the hands of real riders, and those riders began to see and feel what a good, solid motorcycle lived under all that swoopy plastic, the idea that there was something quite special going on with the bike began to spread. Suddenly Suzuki had a genuine sales hit on its hands, and without having to re-tool the bike every couple of years as it had to do with its GSX-Rs.
More interesting to me over and above the vast number of Hayabusas being spit from Suzuki showrooms, however, is the wide range of enthusiasts buying them. You've got your mainstream GT sportbike fans, folks looking for a proven and ultra-competent open-classer for a wide range of riding; you've got your hot-rod folks, many of whom put the bike on America's dragstrips and top-speed circuits; and then you've got a whole new type of rider/enthusiast, more of an urban/custom guy or gal, someone who values the look, the lifestyle, the attitude and the social aspect of sportbiking as much as they do the way a particular bike gets down the road. Luckily for these varied customers, Suzuki has done its homework regarding the new-generation Hayabusa. All of which means the new 'Busa is quite likely to enjoy another very long, very emotional run with the buying public.
Hope you enjoy this in-depth look at Hayabusas old and new.