THE START OF SOMETHING NEW...
It's hard to begin this story with a comparison... like most articles would start... because there is really nothing in the same class to compare it to. Most of the magazines try to match the Hayabusa against a ZX-11 or a Blackbird... and that is a far stretch... and more like comparing a BB gun and a cruise missile.
To start.. we'll show the comparison. The Hayabusa's top speed is 20+ MPH over either, makes more horsepower... and is the first production bike to break into the nine's.. with an average rider. In all fairness.. the ZX-11 is a seven year old bike, the Blackbird three... and Hayabusa brand new... gee, guess who did their homework last?
Suzuki engineered the bike to be in the sport cruiser class... along side their Katana. This is not a GSXR race bike. It is in fact titled the GSX-1300R (note the R placement), and is built for really comfortable riding... and your pocketbook won't suffer much when you try to buy insurance.
"Is this world ready for 200 MPH
9 second - production bikes?"
So you start with the name.. Hayabusa... who the heck thought of this one? In Japanese it means Falcon... in the back of my mind, it reminds me of an ugly old Ford car made 20 years ago... and now that you mention it... this bike could be almost as ugly... to somebody who does not appreciate workmanship, engineering, and a whole bunch wind tunnel testing! My first sight of this bike was a pre-production rendering... and it looked like something out of Star Wars. When I saw the first one, honestly I hated it. It was too different... and I was not ready for it.. heck, I'm the guy who loves the old KZ's of yesteryear... what the heck is this fairing stuff all about anyway?
When my turn came to get one for a story... the bike came with some magical words of wisdom from the Suzuki representative who checked the bike out to me; "don't crash this one... it's the only one we've got for a while, and it's leaving the minute you bring it back".
Great I thought... Here I am with a bike that is capable of speeds over 190 MPH, times in the nine second zone, and a horsepower rating higher then the car I drove... and he's got to plant that thought in my head (thanks Matt). Well, I'll have to make the best of it I thought, and then I fired it up.. and boy, it's got an incredible sound... more like a small block-powered Corvette.
So as I pulled out of Suzuki's headquarters, which coincidentally is about four miles from my office, I kept hearing his magical words in the back of my head... and I rode the bike like somebody's grandmother. As I cruised over bumps in the road, bumps that I am on a first name basis with, I noticed how they were not as bad as I had been familiar with - because this bike rides like a Rolls Royce. As I entered my first swoopy turn, the bike responded like a Ferrari, and then I fell in love...
When I pulled into the driveway... my special project mechanic and lifetime friend, Todd Christopher, asked me "how cool is it?". I threw him the keys, and off down the street he went, popping a cool little second to third gear wheelie.
Oh... how dumb we can be with a little horsepower between our legs...
The next morning... I decided to take the bike for a long ride. My trip went from my house in the city, through the wine country of Temecula, across the areas most treacherous mountain road; Ortega Highway, and then finally up the beach for some leisure cruising.
As I entered the freeway on ramp, the Saturday morning traffic was ultra light... so I jumped on the gas, shifting into second gear when the speedo reached 10,000 RPM. Kawabunga I thought when realized that it was already going 80 MPH!
As the front tire danced, I short shifted through third into fourth, and found 150 MPH before I knew it... and I had two more gears to go! I guess I should have been more observant, because about a quarter mile back was a funny white motorcycle with red lights on... figuring it was for me, I pulled over and took off my gloves and helmet.
As the CHP officer pulled up on his new BMW cruiser, I figured that my escapade had won me a free, all expense paid, trip to the pokey for sure. As he approached, his words rang out loud and clear... "just tell me, was it as awesome as it looked?."
As he proceeded to explain that he had one on order... we continued talking about it for another 30 minutes. When another unit passed him by... he figured we'd better get a move on, and we both proceeded down the freeway together (at the 65 MPH speed limit) for ten or so miles. As he pulled off the freeway, I had to be cute, and I pulled in the clutch, revved up the engine, and let the clutch handle go. What I thought would be a short little tire hop, at best, turned into an eighteen inch wheelie. In amazement, I dropped it down in a panic, and continued down the road.
When I got to the wide open area of the highway, I played with roll on's, finding that the bike would take just over two seconds to go from 60 to 100, and from 120 to 160 it seemed equally as quick - though I could not find the courage to stare at the stopwatch taped to my left glove to get an exact reading.
This bike cruises very well at 80 MPH, which is faster then most of the speed limits. You will have to watch yourself, because it's more comfortable the faster you go. At 80, it's at 4000, in fourth gear, and your getting 35 MPH, with two speeds and all of the throttle left in it!
At 135 MPH, the wind evens out over your back... and then the ride is on. At 150 MPH, only your fear tells you that it's time to slow down... and even at 175 MPH it's a Sunday drive... UNTIL.... you get the hint of a cross wind, and then it's time to slow down, because you've quickly found the limits of the lane you are in... and your male ego shrinks back down to size. In a controlled environment, I can say from experience that the magazines are not lying about it's top speed... however, if you think you can do it whenever you want on any highway... you'd better think twice... because if the law does not catch you, the wind just might!
So... country roads are over with, and now comes the link between the beach and the desert, the shortcut across the mountain called Ortega Highway. I've traveled this road many times... so I know pretty much how to take it. After waiting for traffic to catch a low... I jumped back into the road and proceeded up the turns. The first major switch back, I found that the way I would normally take a 600cc bike, is not the correct method for this one. As I looked over the 1500' drop off, with my rear tire quickly coming around me in tire spin, I realized that I'd better take the throttle hand a bit less aggressively. After playing slowly through the next few sets of turns, the top soon came, and off into the canyon I went.
The best part of this bike in this type of riding, is the passing speed. Twist the throttle, and you go from 45 to 125, and the traffic you thought about passing one car at a time, is now behind you. This bike is a bit too heavy for serious road riding... but for a non-knee dragger like myself, big deal... it's off into the wild blue, and you have a great time doing it.
About an hour later, I reached the beach area, and proceeded to shuck myself from the leather jacket in which I found so comfortable in the turns. Every bike I passed or met up with, had some kind of weird expression on their face. Some loved it, others just sat and stared... trying to figure out what the heck it was. Not one single sole, told me he hated it.. not even the Harley guys... who always hate rice burners out here.
A while later, I reached the other end of the Southland, and jumped back onto California's busiest freeway, the I-10. As I rode through downtown Los Angeles, I came to bumper to bumper traffic, which seemed to go on for eternity. After wearing my hand out on the clutch, I decided to commit the one sin which I never like to do... white lining on the freeway in traffic hour.
At first, I took a 10 MPH crawl, trying to get a handle on how well this bike would do... as I weaved back and forth, it felt like a quarter horse, going exactly where I steered it, and being narrow enough to fit into the slightest crack - without stopping and touching down.
It was at the source of the bottleneck, there the I-5, I-60 and I-10 all spill into one big mess together, where I saw the most awesome billboard ever... it said in bit white letters, on a solid black background, "Keep saying my name in vein, and I'll make this drive longer", and it was signed "God". Grinning inside, I said to myself, "Thank God for Hayabusa's..", and rode down the highway.
How is it to ride the fastest and quickest production bike in the world?
It's hard to ride this bike anywhere, without at least one person stopping you, and asking what it's like to ride it. Everybody has seen the magazines by now... and the rumours are out. Still though, there's always one guy out there with a shiney R1, who wants to roll on with you, and they quickly find out that the rumours are true... this bike is bad.
After putting two thousand miles on my long-term project bike... I can say with sincere honesty, that I might have to check myself into the Betty Ford Clinic, for horsepower dependency. The torque that this bike carries, is intoxicating... and when you jump back on some smaller sized bike (even an 1100), you will rapidly learn (as I did, when I got back onto my ZX-6), that you can't live without it.
You can, and probably will, get yourself into trouble... when you leave every light, breaking the speed limit before third gear... and yes, using only about 1/16" of throttle, and shifting at only 4,000 RPM.
The huge brakes will stop you on demand, though the rears could be a bit more punchy for my liking. When you slow down from triple-digit speeds, the job is quick and easy.
The hydraulic clutch system is smooth, but for drag racing it's not one that is easily slipped. It does however absorb those high speed downshifts in the turns, and prevents the rear wheel from locking up and sliding... giving you a more stable ride.
People seem to have major hang-ups on the bikes weight... ok, it is 500-something pounds... but, big deal! The weight distribution is damn near perfect... the torque and horsepower have no problem overcomming it... and the thing is a blast to drive in any condition... The minute you pick your feet up off the ground, the weight factor is gone...