It’s possible to be too fast—that’s why the Dodge Demon was banned from drag racing, after all. But there’s car fast, and there’s motorcycle fast. In the 50s and 60s, café racers tried their best to do ‘the ton’: 100 mph. It’s hard enough, on very windy days, to stay on my relatively modern Street Triple R at 60 or 70 mph, let alone 100. But there’s a bike that can do almost twice that speed: the Suzuki Hayabusa.
From the Honda Super Blackbird to the Suzuki Hayabusa
By the 1980s, the title of ‘world’s fastest production motorcycle’ had belonged to the 150-mph Vincent Black Shadow for over 30 years. And Kawasaki, after developing powerful bikes like the KZ900 LTD, wanted to take Vincent’s record. This led to the 151-mph 1984 GPZ900R, aka the Ninja 900—the first in Kawasaki’s Ninja line. Which also upstaged the original Suzuki GSX1100 Katana.
Then, in 1996, another bike took the speed record, Cycle World reports. Said bike is the Honda CBR1100XX, aka the Honda Super Blackbird, after Lockheed’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, Cycle World reports. With a 133-hp 1137cc four-cylinder engine, the Honda Super Blackbird could reach a top speed of 177 mph. Unfortunately, even though it received fuel injection in 1999, the Honda Super Blackbird’s reign as the fastest production bike was short-lived.
That’s because 1999 also saw the release of the Suzuki GSX-1300R, aka the Suzuki Hayabusa. The name was intentional, RideApart reports; it means ‘peregrine falcon’ in Japanese. These birds dive at speeds up to 200 mph, and they often hunt blackbirds.
Why the Suzuki Hayabusa is an icon
The original Suzuki Hayabusa couldn’t quite reach 200 mph, Cycle World reports. But it got close. Its 1299cc four-cylinder engine put out 161 hp and 100 lb-ft at the rear wheel. That output was possible in part to functional ram-air front intakes. And with that power, the Suzuki Hayabusa could reach a top speed of 194 mph. Temporarily.
‘Temporarily’ as in, only for 1999, Robb Report explains. The Hayabusa was so fast, that Japanese and European bikemakers worried it would lead to a ban on large-capacity motorcycles. As a result, every post-1999 Suzuki Hayabusa is limited to 186 mph. Even in 2008, when it was updated with a 194-hp 1340cc four-cylinder engine, the top speed stayed the same. But then, even with over 200 hp, the supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 also tops out at 186 mph.
However, it wasn’t just the Suzuki Hayabusa’s straight-line speed that cemented it as an icon. The bike was extremely flexible when it came to modifications. Owners installed turbochargers and nitrous kits, both for drag-racing and for street riding. Extended-swingarm kits improve high-speed stability. And, just like the Honda Super Blackbird, it’s technically a sports-touring bike, with fairly comfortable suspension, Cycle World reports.
Plus, the Suzuki Hayabusa’s engine has lent itself to multiple non-motorcycle projects. It’s been used in kartcross racers, swapped into Miatas and Honda Beats, and even some light aircraft. Unfortunately, that engine is also why buying one is getting difficult—at least outside the US.
Getting one of your own
The problem, RideApart explains, is emissions standards. Not only does the Suzuki Hayabusa not pass the current Euro5 standards, but it also didn’t pass the previous Euro4 ones, either. As such, the Hayabusa is unavailable basically everywhere that isn’t the US.
A brand-new 2020 Hayabusa starts at $14,799. However, it’s possible to find used 2nd-gen models for about $10k, Motorcyclist reports. 2nd-gen models are recommended, as Suzuki addressed a few 1st-gen reliability issues.
And in terms of features, Suzuki hasn’t added much to the Hayabusa—though the latest model does have ABS and traction control, Ultimate Motorcycling reports. In contrast, a Honda Super Blackbird sold recently on Bring a Trailer for $5000.
As with any motorcycle purchase, new or used, ride before you buy. Especially when it comes to liter-bikes like the Hayabusa, which weighs 586 pounds. But, if you can genuinely handle it, you’ll have a bike that changed the rules of speed.
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