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Suzuki Hayabusa

Future collectible - Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Bird of Prey

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; Pics: Suzuki & Lou Martin

June 2020

Suzuki’s Hayabusa was unquestionably a top order predator

Suzuki celebrated a minor milestone last year – the 20th anniversary since the launch of its iconic sports-tourer, the GSX1300R Hayabusa. In some ways, it’s a little surprising more of a fuss wasn’t made - the international celebrations for the tenth anniversary were far more substantial – as the model had managed to become both iconic in the performance world and something of a cult classic.

While we may have become used to the bulging lines of the first edition across the years, at the time of the launch in Paris and then Spain back in 1999 they were truly shocking. It was the work of designer Koji Yoshiura, who told Autoevolution online in 1999, "We showed the head of marketing the final clay prototype, and he was stunned. Totally speechless! He didn't know what to say, which is a little like the reaction we got at the Paris show. The bike was a bit polarising - people didn't know quite what to think of it."

Amen to that. In fact, you could well imagine Suzuki wondering if it might have a potential sales disaster on its hands. Motorcyclists are notoriously conservative in their buying tastes and it was easy to imagine them walking away.

Three colour schemes were offered, including black, a red/black combo and the most famous of all, the two-tone copper scheme.
However it was what was under the paint that saved the design. Suzuki rightly claimed fastest production bike in the world status, immediately passing Honda’s Blackbird by a substantial margin with a top speed in excess of 300km/h. Production bikes managed anything up to 310, depending on the individual machine and conditions.

What powered this monster? It was a very conventional package underneath the radical (and aerodynamically efficient) bodywork. The liquid-cooled inline injected four ran four valves per cylinder, and displaced 1298cc. It was encased in a big twin-spar aluminium frame, with upside-down suspension at the sharp end and a monoshock on the rear.

Yup, that was it. Nothing radical. A set of six-piston brake calipers graced the front end, and that was about as exotic as things got.

However the numbers stacked up to something performance hounds could dream about 175 horses (130kW) – an industry-leading number at the time – with a claimed dry weight of 217kg, or closer to 240 wet. Drag strip times busting the 10 second barrier were part of the package.

The company’s media launch happened at the Catalunya GP track, though Suzuki staffers soon realised the track didn’t really allow the bike to properly stretch its legs. So journos were quietly cut loose on the nearby freeways, where they could enjoy the near-religious experience of a ’Busa at full flight.

And the name? Well, that was Suzuki’s little corporate joke. You see the Honda Blackbird was the performance leader that needed to be knocked off its perch. While Honda saw the name, and styling, as alluding to the ultra-fast Lockheed SR-71 spy plane, Suzuki took a different and more obvious interpretation. It named the rival after a peregrine falcon that was known for its ultra-fast dive speeds (300km/h, coincidentally) and had blackbirds (the feathered variety) for lunch. Ho, ho.

At an introductory price of $17,500, they walked out the door.

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki managed the launch just before a worldwide industry agreement that nailed top speeds at 299km/h (so much safer than 310…). That meant the second iteration of the Hayabusa (the K1 in 2001) arrived with a speed limiter and a speedo that showed increments but no numbers past 280km/h (above) . Previously, they’d been marked to 340.

In turn, that revelation started a mini-industry in aftermarket replacement speedo faces and plug-in speed limiter eliminators.

While there was an element of customer outrage at the lower speedo numbers, sales kept humming along nicely. Anyone who bought the slightly later models benefited from two significant mods. The first was replacement of the aluminum rear subframe with a stronger steel unit. It added around 4.5 kilos to the weight, but was no longer inclined to bend under the weight of a generously-proportioned pillion.

Far less publicised was the upgrade of the processor in the ECU to 64 bit from 32, which actually gave the bike a slight performance lift. We’re only talking a couple of horses, but it was there.

Unquestionably the Hayabusa was a damned good motorcycle. A serious performance weapon, obviously, though a little big and heavy to be a serious track bike. The broad spread of power made them a thoroughly entertaining road mount, pretty much regardless of the conditions.

There’s no question they out-performed the Blackbird, and sold far better than the soon-to-be-launched and surprisingly over-shadowed Kawasaki ZX-12R. However Blackbird sales continued to burble along nicely, and deserved to, as it was still a quick and very refined mount.

The Hayabusa works brilliantly as a road bike, even today. It handles and stops acceptably while proving to be a surprisingly good tourer.

One sub-culture that the Suzuki enjoyed was becoming the darling of the modifier crowd. Like the legendary air-cooled GSX platform of the 1980s, the engine package responded well to all sorts of wild tuning approaches and proved incredibly robust. Turbo kits were particularly popular, though often cobbled together with all sorts of plumbing poking out the side of the fairing.

Generally, the design has proved ultra-tough and fuss-free. Taller riders will soon find themselves getting a bubble style windscreen, as the stock unit is low and cuts off the view of the top if the instruments.

They also run a marginal battery size, which can be an issue if the bike isn’t used regularly or the battery ages. The hot tip is to get a lithium unit, which makes all those issues go away.

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki got Yoshiura to revisit his design for the MkII version of the Hayabusa (above), giving it a significant rework. It kept much the same profile, but for a lighter look to the whole thing. Upgrades were extensive, including a slightly larger (now 1340cc) and more powerful (190hp/147kW) engine, new suspension and different brakes. The fronts now ran four-piston calipers that offered more power and feel. As an owner of a first-gen Hayabusa, I reckon the second-gen is a worthy upgrade.

There is talk of a third-gen Hayabusa being launched next year, with a 1440cc powerplant.

As a collectible, the first copper-coloured bikes are already very much on the radar and most of the survivors seemed to have been squirrelled away. Expect to pay high teens for a good one. I have a suspicion owners are biding their time with these things, hoping for further gain.

Any first model (1999-2000) is going to be a good bet for holding its value, though I’d be wary of planning your financial future around them as they were sold in substantial numbers.

Bikes from 2001-on are in plentiful supply and often great value for money. As little as $6000 will get you a decent one with 50-60,000km on the clock, while $9000 will get you something in great condition with minimal miles. In either case, you’re getting a huge amount of bang for your buck.

One day all of them will be worth something, but we’re talking a long way down the road. Regardless of those considerations, these first-gen models are rightly famous and always a talking point among riders, even today. That adds up as a pretty compelling package, if you’re in the market.


Suzuki Hayabusa

My Hayabusa, Hannibal, was originally a Suzuki demo used for the Ulysses Club AGM of that year (2003). Thanks to the Ulysses folk for running it in for me!

I subsequently went to Phil Tainton Racing (Suzuki’s Australian long-term race team workshop) to get it tuned. Initial work, with little modification - Power Commander and a full titanium 4-1 system from Over Racing via Don Stafford - took the rear wheel horsepower from 164 to 180.

Then we got serious. Phil had been developing tunes for these engines and, in this case, included a compression lift to 12:1, altered crankcase windage, cam profiles, the Over Racing pipes, plus a race-pattern air filter.

The Over Racing pipes, by the way, were a work of art. Paper-thin titanium headers and collector (with impossibly delicate welds) that weighed next to nothing, matched to a beautifully-made muffler constructed of carbon fibre with stainless steel end caps.

That resulted in 208.9hp at the back tyre. Low-end performance was compromised a little, though it still was as good as a later-model GSX-R1000.

Phil built a handful of these Hayabusas, one of which recorded 330km/h at Avalon in 2004. It was an earlier version of Hannibal, with a few less horsepower. He was therefore happy to guarantee that mine would exceed 330km/h, with the correct sprockets fitted.

Suzuki Hayabusa

Koji Yoshiura

Interviewed by Motor Cycle News UK for the tenth anniversary of the Hayabusa, designer Koji Yoshiura had this to say:

“The mission was to create a total new styling that will not be out of date within few years, and a styling that will be the ‘face’ of Suzuki.

“‘Fastest production motorcycle’ was never a concept nor a target of this bike (at the beginning of the project, the Hayabusa was not 1300cc but 900cc–1100cc, which was the main market in those days).

"As a consequence of, pursuing the best handling, acceleration, safety, power, riding ability, original styling, etcetera for the good of the customers, it became the fastest production motorcycle.

“My aim was to create a somewhat grotesque design and create a strong initial impact.

"By doing this, once the model was out in the market and the performance of it have been proven, I thought that people will start to show interest to the weird design, and then the design would be caked in peoples mind.”

Suzuki Hayabusa

Very quick
Capable road bike

Not so good
Not a track bike
May eat your licence

Suzuki GSX1300R first generation


TYPE: Liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, inline four
CAPACITY: 1298cc

BORE & STROKE: 81 x 63mm



TYPE: Six-speed, constant-mesh, 


FRAME TYPE: Aluminium twin-spar

FRONT SUSPENSION: USD telescopic fork, full adjustment
REAR SUSPENSION: Monoshock, full adjustment 

FRONT BRAKE: 320mm disc with six-piston calipers

REAR BRAKE: 240mm disc with two-piston caliper

WET/DRY WEIGHT: 240/217kg



FRONT: 120/70-17
REAR: 190/50-17


POWER: 130kW @ 9500rpm

TORQUE: 126Nm @ 6750rpm

PRICE $17,500 + ORC in 1999

See SuzukiCycles.org for a full model listing

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa


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