2020 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa Review
The 2020 Suzuki Hayabusa may have a design that’s over 20 years old, but it holds a special place in motorcycling history. Launched in 1999 amid the ‘top speed wars’ that gripped the Japanese makers in particular at the time, the Hayabusa was created with one prime objective: to knock the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird from its perch, and assume the mantle of ‘world’s fastest production bike’.
A legend is born
That it did, adding around 16km/h on top of the Blackbird for a top speed in excess of 300km/h, straight off the showroom floor. At a time when equivalent four-wheeled performance spelled supercars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Hayabusa put truly blistering pace within reach of the average man (or woman) in the street,
I fondly remember a day in 1999 when the motorcycle magazine I was working for at the time held a top-speed trial to put the Hayabusa’s claims to the test. Held in conjunction with a car mag, we hired Victoria’s Avalon Airport for the day (yes, this was back when print media had a decent budget!), and put the Hayabusa up against a Blackbird, an HSV Commodore, a Porsche 911 Carrera, a Shelby Cobra replica and a Lamborghini Diablo.
Long story short, the stock-standard ‘Busa cracked 311km/h through the radar gun that day, followed by the Lambo (295km/h), Blackbird (287km/h), Porsche (263km/h), HSV (252km/h) and Cobra (236km/h).
I recall the Lamborghini distributor, who was driving the $400,000 Diablo that day, pleading for “just one more go” to try and crack 300km/h, but to no avail. His Italian masterpiece had been shown up by a Japanese bike worth roughly one twenty-third of the value of his car. Priceless, as they say…
Then, with Kawasaki’s ZX-12R looming, the Japanese manufacturers made a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ to limit top speed to 300km/h, thus halting the arms race before politicians and law makers stepped in to stop the silliness.
What’s changed with Suzuki’s Hayabusa?
Fast forward two decades, and the Suzuki Hayabusa (or GSX1300R, to get all formal about it) has kept on keeping on, years after the Super Blackbird signed off in 2007. And while other bikes have bid for the top-speed title in the years since, albeit in a more discreet manner, the Hayabusa remains as an iconic machine, and one that still very closely resembles the original model.
That’s because really very little has changed with the Suzuki Hayabusa over the years. Its biggest update came in 2008, with an engine capacity hike, more output, revised bodywork, and better brakes and suspension. Then in 2013 it received radial-mount Brembo stoppers and an ABS system. Since then, the changes have largely concerned colour choice.
So, how does the Suzuki Hayabusa stack up today? Well, it’s obvious the world has moved on, for one. We now live in an era where the roads are far busier, and those caught doing 30km/h over the speed limit are fodder for news headlines. So, keep your top-speed runs for the track, unless you have a hankering to check on the accuracy of all those prison reality TV shows…
With more modest riding ambitions, the Suzuki Hayabusa still performs remarkably well as a big-bore sportstourer, provided you don’t need to carry a heap of luggage (use a tank bag and a tail pack). It’s still an eye-poppingly fast point-to-point machine, and it goes without saying the sheer grunt that can propel this bike to and past 300km/h still packs an awesome wallop at road-legal speeds, in terms of acceleration.
2020 Suzuki Hayabusa performance and handling
That big 1349cc in-line four churns out 194hp (145kW) at 9500rpm and 155Nm at 7200rpm, and at 100km/h in sixth gear it’s ticking over at just 3500rpm. The rev-limiter, for those intent on finding it, cuts in at 12,000rpm.
The fuel injection is thoroughly sorted and there’s a choice of three ride modes – A, B, and C – with ‘A’ being full bottle and ‘C’ essentially serving as a rain mode. But that’s about it as far as the modern tech goes. There’s no traction control, no quickshifter, no TFT instruments (just a tiny LCD display in the middle of the bank of four analogue clocks), no cruise control, no LED lighting, no USB port, no Bluetooth and no accompanying smartphone app. This is motorcycling back to basics
So by today’s standards this is a no-frills machine, although that’s not perhaps such an issue given the performance focus. Mind you, even though the Suzuki Hayabusa still has enough grunt to spin the earth backwards, it’s not quite the brain-melting blaster it was 20 years ago.
With a wet weight of 266kg it’s no lightweight, so don’t expect quite the same level of performance provided by the current brace of litre-plus supersports models, with their time-warping power-to-weight ratios.
The Suzuki Hayabusa’s steering is on the slower side and it tips into corners with fairly docile deliberation. You have to give those clip-ons a little muscle to man-handle it through chicanes, but on the plus side its sorted chassis and suspension will see it hold a line with total conviction – it’s pretty much unflappable, even when powering on over less-than-ideal surfaces.
Of course that inherent stability comes increasingly into play as speeds rise, and it’s backed by a reasonable braking package. The four-piston radial-mount front Brembos deliver adequate stopping power and feel, although there’s little in the way of initial bite. They’re not up to the standard of, say, Brembo’s latest Stylema stoppers, but they’re very progressive and they get the job done (no small job really, given the weight of the bike and the speeds it can attain).
The suspension is fully adjustable at either end but the set-up felt fine for my 95kg right from the get-go. It’s fully adjustable at each end (with manual adjustment, of course), but access to the rear shock is a bit fiddly.
The gearbox works nicely but the clutch is a little on the heavy side (though you’ll probably only notice it in stop-start traffic).
Amid all that wind-tunnel-honed bodywork lies some really pretty accommodating ergonomics. As mentioned, the seat height is quite low, and legroom is adequate for all bar those right up the taller end of the spectrum. It’s not a long stretch to reach for those clip-ons and the rider’s legs wrap around the Hayabusa’s flanks beautifully.
As for vibratiion, the power delivery is quite smooth – certainly it’s smoother than I remember of the early examples, if not quite matching the ultra-smooth turbine-like delivery of the Blackbird.
Fuel economy? Well the Suzuki Hayabusa was never built with saving the planet in mind, and over the course of a week I achieved an average figure of 7.0lt/100km. That spells a safe range of around 280km from the 21-litre tank.
And as for faults and annoyances, there’s really not much to speak of provided you’re happy to forego all the aforementioned mod-cons. The biggest issue lies with keeping that devil on your shoulder in check (you know, the one telling you to wind on that throttle), while taller riders – myself included – will find that the screen obscures the top half of the instruments. And if you’ve entered motorcycling since, say, 2010, you might baulk at the lack of traction control on a bike pushing out close to 200hp…
Will the Suzuki Hayabusa continue?
As for the Suzuki Hayabusa’s future, there’s still no official word on whether the model will be updated or discontinued. It’s no longer sold in Europe, where it hasn’t met emissions legislation for some time, but it is still sold in the US – and here. Twenty years is a long production run for any model, so watch this space.