Spied! 2008 Suzuki B-King

The new king of the naked bike category, in action at Phillip Island

Journalists attending the worldwide press test of the 2007 GSX-R1000 at Phillip Island in February were treated to a special surprise--the first peek at the Suzuki B-King prototypes in action. This mega-motored naked bike features the 1300cc inline four cylinder from the Hayabusa mounted in an all-new alloy frame with radical bodywork, an upright handlebar and top-shelf chassis components (including radial brakes, inverted fork and wide wheels with sticky rubber) that appear to be lifted straight from the GSX-R line. Expect to see the B-King in US dealerships as soon as the end of the year and, if what we saw at Phillip Island is any indication, expect the B-King to redefine the term "musclebike."

B-King tech specs are non-existent at this time. Suzuki staff did not take questions regarding the model, and we weren't allowed to view the prototypes up-close. After completing the second day of testing on the new GSX-R1000, Suzuki officials announced a "special surprise" for journalists and herded us onto a minibus. Someone suggested that maybe we were headed to Phillip Island's go-kart track for a few laps; instead, the minibus continued down hot pit lane and merged onto the racecourse. When we got to Doohan Corner a pair of riders dressed in black, (one was certainly Murata-san, Suzuki's lead test rider, judging from his blistering pace) emerged from the paddock on the B-King prototypes and lapped the bus twice each, allowing us four brief glimpses of the bike at speed without getting close enough to see any significant details or take any photos.

We do know this much: the B-King is powered by a naturally aspirated Hayabusa motor (there was no sign of a supercharger as on the first B-King prototype shown at the TK show). Judging from what we witnessed at Phillip Island, the prototypes at least are not detuned much from the Hayabusa's 160-horsepower state, if at all. Both bikes exhibited fearsome acceleration down the long Gardner Straight and authoritatively wheelied out of the tight MG corner, though they did appear to hunt for the line a bit under hard braking, suggesting the spring rates and damping circuits haven't been finalized yet.

One element that did make the transition from the first show bike was the futuristic bodywork, including the striking side cowls that cover the massive motor and give the bike a distinctly muscular, broad-shouldered appearance, as well as the comically massive muffler cones that dominate the view from behind. No doubt the B-King will make serious statement both with its performance and curb presence.

When pressed, American Suzuki officials indicated that the official announcement of B-king production will likely happen at the annual Suzuki dealer meeting this coming June, with the bike appearing in dealerships in late 2007 as an early-release 2008 model. The fact that there are already working prototypes circling racetracks at speed suggests that this is not an unreasonable timetable. We can't wait.**-MC