The Suzuki Hayabusa was the fastest production motorcycle of the last century, but there’s much more to this road rocket than a 190mph plus top whack. Launched to take the fastest production bike crown from the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, which it did with ease. It wasn’t just a bit faster at the top end, but added a good 10mph on top. Suzuki dubbed their new model ‘The Ultimate Predator’ which was perfect when you realise that in Japanese the word Hayabusa translates to a name given to a peregrine falcon, a bird of prey that swoops at speed to capture blackbirds. It wasn’t just its speed that got motorcyclists talking. The ‘Busa’s wind tunnel developed shape weren’t to everyone’s tastes, nor was the bronze and silver colour scheme, but they were all perfect ingredients when launching a bold ground breaker.
Those who crave speed loved it, plus it was also pretty comfy. The engine is a peach, the 1299cc inline four motor is fed by fuel injection. The chassis let the whole package down for some. Soft suspension can make hustling the king of speed interesting if you push it too hard but it’s now well on its way to being a bona fide classic bike and the most sought after bikes are those early 1999 models finished in that distinctive bronze livery.
What’s it like to ride?
The Hayabusa’s sporty side is pretty evident, but there’s a sensible side to it as well. The seat height is 805mm, so it’s not exclusively a motorcycle for tall people. Indeed, if you are over six foot tall, you may even find it a bit too snug because the footrests sit quite high. On the move you might think riding this 175bhp bullet could be intimidating but, amazingly, it isn’t. The engine churns out super smooth power and responds instantly to any wants that you demand via the throttle. Some manufacturers struggled with perfecting fuel injection when it was in its infancy, but Suzuki nailed it from day one on the ‘Busa. There are further indications that the Hayabusa was more than a benchmark in the history of fast production bikes, the pillion gets a decent sized perch and there’s even a grab rail. On long rides the Hayabusa comes into its own, although making out the figures on the cramped analogue speedo is a bit of a pain. The first model bikes had a 220mph calibrated speedo. Around town its manners are polite enough, but it isn’t the natural habitat for the big Suzuki.
What to look for when buying one
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, a Suzuki main dealer in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. He said: “The first generation Hayabusa sold well. There’s no shortage of used bikes out there, the catch is many owners tend to keep them for the long haul and these are the best bikes to find when they do come to market. Corrosion is the biggest issue that faces you when looking at an old Hayabusa. Sensible extras will add value, but not every potential owner appreciates another owner’s interpretation of what’s a useful bolt on. Full luggage systems are common, but those who are buying a Hayabusa for its speed cred won’t see it that way. Likewise, a bike kitted out with posh brakes and a race exhaust system won’t appeal to those looking for a bike to go touring on. A bog standard Hayabusa is a rare thing, so if you do find one, don’t think too long about buying it because it won’t hang around for long.
Early bikes had a recall for a stronger subframe to be fitted and these are easy to spot because they are steel and not alloy. Don’t be put off by high mileage bikes, just check that there’s a service history to go with it.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260. They service and repair motorcycles at their Norfolk workshop. He added: “Standard and unmessed bikes are bulletproof, they are also very rare! There’s no end of tuning options to extract even more power from the engine, it all boils down to how deep your pockets are. We have customers who run everything from big bore kits to turbos on their road bikes. There’s no denying it, the Hayabusa is a cult bike. Engine work by reputable tuners is usually very reliable, so always get proof of who worked on any performance enhanced Hayabusa. We’ve broken up lots of perfectly good road bikes. This is because an engine with all of its running gear is very popular with kit car builders, they’ll happily pay just short of what an entire bike is worth for the convenience of buying a 175bhp power pack. This means that there’s plenty of used chassis parts and bodywork on the market, which keeps the prices of used spares very sensible.”
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