I get an odd satisfaction from just knowing that, even in 2020, just about anyone that dares can walk into a Suzuki dealership and leave a Hayabusa Rider. A giant amongst men. A warrior of fury road.
It reminds me of Dr Phil’s catchphrase: “this will be a changing day in your life”. Indeed, a person’s psyche must shift the day they decide to buy a Hayabusa. In an instant, you’re gifted the proverbial key to the city and the respect and admiration of your fellow man, but it’s no free ride.
Like Thor’s hammer, or Khaleesi’s dragons, the Hayabusa can sense the unworthy, and will soon teach you that with Great Power, comes Great Responsibility.
I was recently speaking to a car journalist friend of mine. I had picked up a 2020 GSX1300R Hayabusa press bike, and he was intrigued by its polarising design. “Fugly”, I think was the word he used.
Like any good motorcycling representative, I came to the bike’s defence. “It costs $18,990 rideaway,” I explained. “That’s about $6000 less than an entry-level Toyota Corolla, except this sends 195 horsepower and 155 newton metres to the rear wheel. No traction control, all manual. It’d do 300km/h standing on its head”.
And just like that, the bike’s bulbous styling no longer seemed relevant. It’s not ugly, it’s masculine.
The Suzuki GSX1300R was released in 1999, and was specifically designed to dethrone the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird as the world’s fastest production bike. In fact, the Suzuki gets its name from the Peregrine Falcon (called Hayabusa in Japan), a bird of prey that can fly at speeds of up to 390km/h. Even cheekier is the fact that the Peregrine Falcon is known to attack and kill Eurasian blackbirds: a smaller and slower avian species. Apply cold water to that burn, Honda.
It’s mighty impressive that more than two decades since its launch, the Suzuki Hayabusa remains largely unchanged. It’s still a rocketship, and a very capable tourer, however, the motorcycle industry has done a lot of growing up in recent years, and the Busa is starting to show its age.
It weighs in at 266 kilograms and you feel every bit of it. With no traction control it can be diabolical on a wet road, and the fairly primitive chassis and suspension setup makes for a wrestle in the twisties.
You do get three rider modes to adjust the engine mapping, but that’s about it on the tech front. No lean-angle sensitivity or wheelie control, or quick-shifter, or adaptive suspension. Forget niceties like cruise control or LED lighting, or smartphone connectivity. No, these features are not essential, but they are fast becoming standard equipment in the modern era.
Now, before you old-schoolers craft your angry comments, know that I’m on your side. The Suzuki Hayabusa is about as pure a motorcycling experience as you can get nowadays, and I still value the fear and the thrill, and the majesty of its performance. But in a time when tradesmen can barely wield a shovel without a hard-hat, and laundry detergent must be labelled ‘not for consumption’ to deter thirsty homeowners, for how much longer can such a monster live on?
The Hayabusa is a beautiful reminder of the wild times. It shows no mercy, but rewards respect and focus, much like real life. There’s no distractions, no screens, and certainly no safety net.
You might not be quickest rider on the mountain, but you’ll surely be the most present. If you haven’t the patience for meditation, buy yourself a Hayabusa while you still can. Better still, learn to tame it, and may you sit momentarily with the divine gods of the cosmos.
Spencer has a keen eye for hard news, and does some of his best living on deadline day. He loves more than anything to travel on his motorcycle, and is adamant that Melbourne Bitter is a world-class lager. He also knows how to operate the big computery thing in the office. By night, Spencer plays guitar with Melbourne punk outfit LOUTS.