It may be too distinct looking for a few of the combed-over (or soon to be combed-over), middle-aged white guys who comprise much of the motorcycle industry -- as well as a few consumers. But for the girls cruising the Sunset Strip, it's the bomb.
"What kind of bike is that?" shouted a hottie from the passenger side of her equally-as-hot friend's red Boxster while sitting at a stoplight on Los Angeles' Westside.
"It's a Suzuki," our editor answered, yelling through his half-opened full-faced lid. "It's the new Hayabusa."
"Hi-ah-boo-sah. It's a Japanese Falcon."
"How fast does it go?" Even the uninitiated understand that Suzuki created the Hayabusa with one overriding purpose in life.
"About 190 miles per hour, if you've got the $*&%# to do it."
"That's too fast!" The hotties squealed in unison and giggled in delight. Fast is dangerous, dangerous is thrilling, thrilling is powerful and powerful is sexy... or something like that.
When the light turned green, the girls flew away while we were temporarily grounded behind blue-haired tourists in a Chevy Geo. It was soon clear that we would not share a mad dash into the soft luminescence of the Hollywood twilight, and the hotties waved good-bye, flashing Ultra-Brite smiles and two thumbs up, Siskel and Eberts of the cognoscenti, only of the opposite sex and, of course, way, way hotter.
The Suzuki GSX-1300R, labeled the Haya-Bubba by a few of the Netizens who lurk around MO's BBS boards, is, to some, odd and bulbous, fat and ugly. In fact, in our recent survey, only much-maligned Monica Lewinsky beat out the 'Busa on the ugly scale. However, except for the R-series Yamahas and, to a lesser degree, the Honda VFR800, no Japanese sportbike we have ever ridden has so consistently aroused the primal desires among potential mating partners as the Hayabusa.
For that alone, we would hand over the Top Speed Crown without even upshifting from fourth gear. But it's more than that. The Hayabusa is a blast to ride. Of course it's not as light as the R1 or the ZX-9R, but for a 1300cc motorcycle, it's more than nimble enough. It's not as refined as the Blackbird, but it's certainly not primitive. And it's fast. Too fast.
1999 Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird
Pity the poor Blackbird. Until recently the Dos Equis was the fastest production motorcycle made, but this year, despite a few significant performance upgrades, the Blackbird has been relegated as the second-fastest motorcycle. Even so, the Blackbird offers much to an owner, including refinement, comfort and typical Honda reliability. Also, it's fast enough that if the Highway Patrol catches you, you'll run a good chance of losing the bike along with your driver's license. (Just ask Managing Editor Cool Hand Mark.) From the outside the only way to tell the difference between a 1998 and a 1999 XX is by looking at the redesigned tail light and the newly positioned ram-air duct screens.
Significant changes have been made to the XX, but they hide beneath the tasteful, yet somewhat bland, black bodywork. Power, particularly mid-range, has been improved by redesigning the ram-air intake ducts, adapting the VFR800's Digital Electronic Fuel Injection System (which also eliminated the need of a choke lever), differentiating the lengths of two of the four velocity stacks and using 3-D maps for throttle position, ignition timing and intake pressure.
Honda has also developed a "knock sensor" that adjusts spark advance while minimizing knock and improving mid-range, particularly in the 3000 - 6000 rpm zone where many riders reside, especially on the open road. This mid-range power boost is noticeable during long-distance sport touring.
"At 6000 rpm in sixth gear the XX cruises along at a registered 95 miles per hour, fast enough to ignite the ass hairs of your local jurisdiction's finest."
Slow down to a more modest 80 mph, still above the speed limits but slow enough to satisfy all but the I-have-to-get-my-quota patrol officers, and the XX pulls along comfortably. As a sport tourer the Blackbird excels in all areas except one -- comfort.
The linked braking system, adapted from the VFR800, is excellent, and although more experienced riders often prefer separate brake controls to a linked or ABS system, we thought XX's LBS provided better feel than the Suzuki's dual front six-pots. A dual-shift balancer -- the engine counterbalancer -- minimizes vibrations to almost undetectable levels. Honda, noted for smooth trannies, has equipped the XX with a hard-rubber transmission damper that makes downshifts into neutral even smoother.
"While it's not the most comfortable bike for long distance, highway-oriented sport touring, the XX is wonderful for long, holiday weekend sprints."
The seat is comfortable, particularly for stock, and the reach to the handlebars is civilized. The fairing provides excellent wind protection, although the windscreen could be a little higher. In short, the 'Bird is, by far, the smoother ride.
Hey, MO! That sounds great, so what's the beef? Well, the footpegs are set relatively high, cramping the legs of riders over 5' 10". In addition, the footpegs have ridiculously long feelers, something that seems to be becoming a Honda trademark. The footpegs should be a little lower since the vast majority of owners will use the XX as a high-speed, sport-touring weapon rather than a track or canyon-scratching bike. Our Managing Editor, on his fateful trip from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas, cursed the footpeg position on an almost hourly basis. At six feet tall and in his mid-thirties, he was good for about 100 miles before the leg cramps began to burn. However, the touring range of the XX is about 150 miles (at about 85 mph with little head wind) and the gas mileage on the open highway averaged 33.8 miles-per-gallon for the trip. Still, it all worked out because between 100 and 120 miles, depending on the severity of his leg cramps, the XX was ready for a refueling and Hammond's legs were ready for a good stretch.
While it's not the most comfortable bike for long distance, highway-oriented sport touring, the XX is wonderful for long, holiday weekend sprints. Its long seat and relatively low-set mufflers make it ideal for carrying a good set of soft luggage. It's also one of the best sportbikes made for two-up riding. The passenger feels comfortable and the driver feels confident, and, as a two-up blaster, the XX takes to the road with aplomb. It's also a terrific commuter, Marketing Manager Greg McClure time and time again chose the XX over other bikes in our stable, such as the YZF-R6, the Hayabusa and the Ducati ST4, for his daily 100-mile adventure on the I-405 from Newport Beach to Marina del Rey and back. Its excellent mid-range performance, neutral handling, and almost vibration-free power train makes the XX an almost ideal commuter.
The rigid, aluminum-alloy twin-spar chassis keeps everything tight and the stock suspension of the XX is great for most street riding situations. However, you are out of luck if you want to tweak the chassis because it's non-adjustable. Also, the XX is a little heavy for a sportbike, and while it was easier to ride in the twisties than we initially expected, it isn't exactly a 600 Supersport. Overall it's a little too heavy (despite the many weight-saving devices Honda has incorporated, such as lighter levers and footpegs and new aluminum cartridge rods for the front fork) if your primary milieu is the canyons.
The XX is a highly refined motorcycle, a bit like James Bond: well-mannered, well-groomed, slick yet willing to deliver a serious ass-kicking when asked, producing a whopping 139 horsepower and running a 10.38 quarter mile at 134.98 miles per hour in the high desert at Los Angeles County Raceway. For a bike this powerful the quarter-mile time might seem anemic, but we blame the harder-compound Dunlop street tires and the light, yet very grabby clutch for the XX's underwhelming performance.
Not every change or "upgrade" is necessarily an improvement and while it's strong, the grabby clutch was particularly noticeable at the dragstrip, where Graves Motorsports AMA Formula Xtreme and 600 Supersport rider Paul Harrell had difficulty maintaining smooth, progressive launches. Better tires and a more linear clutch engagement could have shaved, at the very least, 0.1 to 0.2 seconds from quarter-mile times.
When the CBR1100XX was first introduced, it established itself as the fastest production motorcycle made. Last year the YZF-R1 and the Kawasaki ZX-9R were timed at top speeds approaching the XX. At tire tests this year at Bridgestone's test facilities in Texas, Motorcycle Online's AMA Pro Thunder rider Dave Estok reported that the radar gun timed him on the Blackbird at 171 miles per hour on one pass and 169 mph the opposite way. By comparison, he was timed on the ZX-9R at 168 mph one way and 167 the other. Sure, the Blackbird is no longer the top-speed champ and the smaller, lighter liter-class sportbikes are catching up, but it does not seem as though Honda is particularly worried, yet. The CBR1100XX is a highly refined, highly sophisticated and versatile machine that will appeal to the sport rider who needs a blast of adrenaline yet does not want to sacrifice refinement and versatility. However, if sales suffer because the market demands brute speed, the calculus might change a bit.
Suzuki GSX-1300R Hayabusa
1. The GSX-1300R was developed with two main objectives:
(1) To build the most powerful production bike in the world, but at the same time have usable, rider-friendly performance.
(2) Develop a lightweight and compact design.
(From the Suzuki Press Materials)
Did Suzuki meet these objectives? MO's grade on the Hayabusa: A minus. In answer to the first objective, the GSX-1300R is the most powerful production motorcycle in the world, bar none. In response to objective number two, it has a compact and lightweight design, relatively. The GSX-1300R replaces the old, out-dated GSX-R1100. Bore and stroke have been increased from the 1100's 75.5 x 60 mm to 81 x 63 mm. An EFI with 46 mm throttle bodies replace the carburetors. Displacement, valve diameter, piston size and just about everything is bigger and badder.
Suzuki redesigned the ram-air system by moving the ducts closer to the center of the bike where dynamic air pressure is higher, and by reshaping the intake ducts to allow straighter intake ports for improved intake flow. Lighter reciprocating parts minimize friction loss.
Clearly Suzuki placed an emphasis on producing maximum power, but tractable mid-range power is abundant as well. Twist the throttle and the Hayabusa pulls hard from the outset, increasing in strength as you climb through the rev range. The stereotypical Suzuki power band is that of a top-end screamer, but the Hayabusa is extremely muscular down low. Power is instantaneous and effortless at any speed. However, because it is so strong, the Hayabusa is not recommended for anyone with a faint heart. Ham-fisted riders might find their stomach in their throats if they're not smooth.
"Because of the engine's demands, Suzuki needed to design a chassis rigid and light enough to contain its power, yet at the same time offer handling."
Rake is 24.2°, trail is 98 mm and the wheelbase is 58.5 inches. Both the front and rear suspension is fully adjustable, and the aluminum-alloy twin-spar frame and swingarm are 15% more rigid compared to the GSX-R750.
With six-piston caliper front brakes, 320mm dual front discs and a two-piston rear brake/240mm disc, the brakes are strong, although we feel they are a little too soft up front. Like the XX, the Hayabusa also comes equipped with tallish, 70-series, Z-rated tires up front, but the Hayabusa's Bridgestone BT56Fs are stickier than the XX's Dunlop 205s.
The most unique feature of the Hayabusa is the fairing design. It's what makes the bike ugly to some and bitchin' to others, yet there is function behind the controversial form as the GSX-1300R boasts the lowest coefficient of drag of any motorcycle in its class. Along with engine power and frontal area, reducing drag is the most important factor in achieving high top speed. Factors such as mechanical loss are important as well, but its effect does not change much gear-to-gear as speed increases. In contrast, drag increases exponentially. At about 200 (124 mph) kilometers per hours, reducing CdA by about 0.01 adds about 1.0 k/hr to top speed. At 300 k/hr (186 mph), the same CdA reduction adds about 3 to 4 k/hr to top speed.
Suzuki left nothing unexamined in their quest for a low CdA. The use of a separate cover under the cowl body, designing that odd-looking front head lamp, extending the front fender forward while covering the front fork, extending the radiator as far forward as possible to increase air flow on the sides of the chassis and integrating the turn signals into the front cowl (by placing them just outside the air intakes they help guide air into them) all contribute to making the Hayabusa the most aerodynamic motorcycle made.
Okay MO, enough of the math and aerodynamics lesson. What does this all mean? Does it work?
Yes. Dave Estok reported that the GSX-1300R was so aerodynamic that while top-speed testing for Bridgestone they had trouble getting a radar reading from the front, they could only read times from the rear as the rider passed by. Estok reported that with a moderate tail wind he was timed at 197 miles per hour.
Without any wind Estok was officially timed at 189 mph one way and 187 the other. Michael Barnes, about three inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than Estok, was timed at 191 mph one way and 190 mph the other. In short, the unique fairing design isn't there just to look radical. It actually works. Both the XX and the 1300R have almost identical dimensions. At 58.5 inches, they have an identical wheelbase.
The difference in weight was not as great as we suspected: The XX weighed in at 550 pounds wet, the Hayabusa at 540 pounds wet. While we feel that both bikes are a little too heavy to be regular canyon carvers, the Hayabusa, with its fully-adjustable suspension, better ground clearance and racing-oriented seating position, had the clear edge on the twisties. We were surprised at how flickable the Hayabusa was, it felt much lighter than it looked. Kept at the stock settings the Hayabusa was a little too stiff up front and a bit too soft at the rear, but, unlike the XX, it can be easily corrected. Where the 1300R did fall behind the XX was at long-distance sport touring.
"Onthe street, where it counts, the Hayabusa repeatedly starts conversations, gets thumbs up and receives respect from most bikers."
The footpegs are a little more rear set than the XX's, as well as 0.5 inches higher. Fairing protection was less and wind blast off the front cowl hit the rider's head full-on, as opposed to the XX, which did a better job of protecting the rider. The Hayabusa was a better commuter than we expected, but comparing the silky smooth power delivery of the XX versus the brutal left hook of the Hayabusa, as well as the fact that the Suzuki was almost an inch wider, the 1300R came up a little short. Don't even ask about two-up riding. Unless the pillion passenger has the legs of Mini-me, they won't be happy for very long on the Hayabusa.
Indeed, skimpy, 145 pound Editor Plummer had to enlist Hammond to sit on the rear seat of the bike while dyno testing -- the 'Busa, even tied down, kept skipping the rear wheel on the dyno's gnurled roller. Although the clutch is still a little grabby, it is not nearly as binding as the XX's and Paul slipped the clutch enough for a few respectable launches to record a 9.95 second quarter mile at 143.18 miles per hour on stock tires into a slight head wind at the high-altitude Los Angeles County Raceway.
For everyday street riding situations we preferred the Honda CBR1100XX to the Suzuki GSX-1300R. But again, when it comes to motorcycles we have the nasty habit of throwing caution and reason to the wind and nothing on the road cuts through the wind like the GSX-1300R Hayabusa.
Even if all other attributes between these motorcycles balanced out, the cool factor most definitely swings the pendulum over to the Hayabusa. The Blackbird tends to suffer from the UJM factor: It looks like a bigger, blacker version of what most Japanese sportbikes look like -- fast, functional, but bland. Complaints about the radical-looking Hayabusa emanated, according to our unscientific and anecdotal observations, from motojournalists and older guys alike (most of whom are one and the same) who take their fashion cues from K-Mart.
But on the street, where it counts, the Hayabusa repeatedly starts conversations, gets thumbs up and receives respect from most bikers -- both sport and Harley riders -- and non-bikers alike. And for a little more than $10,000 you can have the satisfaction that you are able, if you so choose, to blow the doors off the local player and his $50,000 Vette. And you don't actually have to ride that fast. When someone asks you how fast the Hayabusa is, shrug your shoulders and nonchalantly respond, "Um, 'bout 190, give or take a few." However, we suggest that you refrain from actually doing so, just fib here and there. They'll believe you. If they don't, tell 'em MO said so.
Honda CBR1100XX Specifications
Manufacturer: Honda Model: CBR1100XX Price: $10,999 (USD) Engine: Liquid-cooled, inline 4-cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC Displacement: 1137 cc Bore and Stroke: 79.0 x 58.0 mm Carburetion: Keihin EFI, 42 mm Throttle body Transmission: 6-speed, constant mesh, wet mulit-plate Wheelbase: 58.5 in (1485 mm) Seat Height: 31.9 in (810 mm) Rake/Trail: 25°/3.9 in (99 mm) Fuel Capacity: 6.3 gal (24 L) Oil Capacity; 4.9 qt (4.6 L) Front Tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop D205 Radial Rear Tire: 190/55ZR-17 Dunlop D205 Radial Claimed Peak Horspower: 152 hp Measured Peak Horsepower: 139.2 hp Claimed Peak Torque 90 ft-lbs Measured Peak Torque: N/A Claimed Dry Weight: 492 lbs (223 kg) Measured Wet Weight: 550 lbs (250 kg)
Suzuki GSX-1300R Hayabusa Specifications
Manufacturer: Suzuki Model: GSX-1300R Price: $10,499 (USD) Engine: Liquid-cooled, inline 4-cylinder, 4-stroke, DOHC Displacement: 1298 cc Bore and Stroke: 81.0 x 63.0 mm Carburetion: Keihin EFI, 46 mm Throttle body Transmission: 6-speed, constant mesh, wet mulit-plate Wheelbase: 58.5 in (1485 mm) Seat Height: 31.7 in (805 mm) Rake/Trail: 24°/3.8 in (97 mm) Fuel Capacity: 5.8 gal (22 L) Oil Capacity; 3.7 qt (3.5 L) Front Tire: 120/70ZR Bridgestone Battlax BT56 Radial Rear Tire: 190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax BT56 Radial Claimed Peak Horspower: 172.6 hp @ 9800 rpm Measured Peak Horsepower: 152.2 hp @ 9400 rpm Claimed Peak Torque 102 ft-lbs @ 7000 rpm Measured Peak Torque: N/A Claimed Dry Weight: 474 lbs (215 kg) Measured Wet Weight: 540 lbs (245 kg)