2012 Suzuki Hayabusa review

Three figures speeds are the norm on Suzuki's 1340cc bruiser but is it just for straight-liners?

Posted: 31 July 2012
by Ben Cope
One's been around a very long time. The other is a bunch of old stones.
Candy Indy Blue ... limited edition colourscheme
Glass Sparkle Black ... look like GhostRider
Spot the barometer on the left. Speedo on the right. You try working out your speed in a hurry..
The original bike from 13 years ago
The most purposeful front-end in the business?

As an average bloke, what's the most likely thing that'll land you in prison? That's right, it's the 2012 Suzuki Hayabusa.

After my first half-hour on the bike, I thought I'd be writing this review from a holding cell at a police station somewhere in Buckinghamshire, as it turns out - a week later - I got away with it.

I think.

I'm not afraid to admit; this bike terrifies me. Sure, the power numbers are big: 1340cc, 180bhp, 100ftlb of torque but the real clincher in the terrifying deal is the weight: at 260kg wet, the 'Busa is a big old boy.

Those swoopy aerodynamic fairings don't do much to help it look anything but heavy and - these days - slightly dated, but even when it was first launched in 1999, I'm not sure it ever looked cutting edge.

Our test model is in Candy Sonoma Red and it's a great colour. In the rare moments of bright sunlight we get during our two-week summer, it looks stunning but that colour is to fast what slippers are to cool. Burgundy is never in danger of saying 'I'm dangerous'. A bike this size can't be subtle, but if you're in the market for a near 200mph bike, in this colour, this is about as subtle as it gets.

What is subtle about the Hayabusa are the changes its been through. While the list of changes is long, what they amount to is very little - it's still incredibly similar to the original '99 version - most changes are tiny tweaks to the engine and management system to make the bike make more power through efficiency.

Aside from its classic looks, there are two aspects of this bike that are unacceptably classic, one you can see, the other you can't.

The dash, or should I call it the instrument panel, harks back to the 90s and could do with a freshen up. From left to right it features analogue gauges: fuel gauge, rev counter, speedo and water temperature. In the centre is a small digital dash with gear indicator, clocks and the power mode you're in. I feels so old, I thought I might find a barometer in there too. Maybe that's an optional extra.

I don't mind an analogue rev-counter but I can't deal with an analogue speedo, especially on a bike this fast. You work out fairly quickly that when the needle on the speedo is pointing straight up, you're into licence-losing territory. When it comes to scrubbing off speed for a 50mph limit, you have to brake, squint at the dash and watch the needle fall to the required number then get back to the road ahead. With a large digital speedo you can just glimpse downwards, see a number and that's enough. In this day and age with the amount of GATSOs and police lasers not to mention the decreasing social-acceptance of SPEED; a 1340cc engine and tiny speedo numbers don't mix. Not unless you like the feeling of paranoia.

Now you could say: 'stop breaking the speed limit and you'll have nothing to worry about' but it's not that easy. The 'Busa goes everywhere fast. Deceptively fast.

Yes, litre superbikes are starting to make more power than the Busa, but at least they put out a bit of a wheeze and bang and make you aware you're marching into dangerous territory. The 'Busa racks up speed with an alarming lack of effort and a eery lack of noise. Two short twists of the throttle and you're doing 120mph. Get busted by the Community Speed Liason Officer at that speed and you'll make him a local hero.

If I was designing the 'Busa's clocks - or any bike's for that matter- I'd make the speed readout the main focus, with digital numbers as tall as your middle-finger. You don't need to know what gear you're in or what revs you're doing. Just what speed you're doing and how much fuel you've got left. If you could set them, so they turn red at a certain number, then you'd have a bit more awareness of your speed. These days, one or two miles an hour can make all the difference.

Despite this being 2012 and basic household items like toasters and hairdryers having some form of electronic aid, the Hayabusa still doesn't feature traction control.

Now, Suzuki either truly believe you don't need it (worrying) or their marketing department are trying to make the best of what they've got in these austere times (most likely). When it comes to the GSX-R1000, Suzuki told us to channel our inner Simon Crafar and embrace the lack of electronic aids. Try as I might, I coudn't, so I opted for a ZX-10R instead and when the going gets tough, I let the calculator do the talking.

I'm not saying you need traction control to have a good motorcycle, you don't. In the same way your toaster doesn't need an auto-pop-up function to make the perfect bit of toast but as a bloke who's more than capable of turning a slice of bread into coal, if I was buying a 200-mph motorcycle, I'd want something in there to protect me from myself.

You might think traction control comes into its own to stop you having a 100mph highside down a country road - and seeing as you don't ride like a nob, you don't need it. Well, yes, I can see your point, but.. If you crash a bike like this it'll most likely be at 27mph off a greasy roundabout just down the road from your house and that's why I rate traction control.

Despite its long wheelbase and crisp fuelling, the 'Busa has the potential to catch you out. For those of you who like your biking raw and ungoverned, you could always switch it off. If it had it.

On the go the 'Busa feels every bit as heavy as its 260kg weight suggests but it's not all bad. It feels settled and doesn't react to the road in an animated way like a sportsbike. On a country road it's not a frantic ride, it feels docile and measured.

Once you get it north of the national speed limit, it feels like it starts to get into a groove. At sensible speeds the front end feels precise for a bike of this size and it'll tip into a corner without a protest, but go into that corner a bit hot and you can notice the weight pushing on the front. The rear at speed feels slightly soft and I daresay I'm lighter than the average Hayabusa owner too. If you're going to use your Hayabusa for Sunday blasts, a couple of clicks more rebound and compression both front and rear helps the bike feel more precise. For everyday road riding, I'd be happy with it as it is.

The bike doesn't feel over-braked, while the front brakes are strong, you're often scrubbing off more speed than you might normally carry due to the way the 'Busa racks it up with little effort. You can feel the weight of the bike when you initially get on the brakes but I'd have a little more confidence to grab a handful and really see what they're all about if I had ABS as a safety net. I wouldn't fancy my chances if I had to scrub off a load of speed on a damp road as it takes that initial bite to get the 'Busa's hefty weight over the front before you can really get to work and pile on he pressure.

I took the Hayabusa on a 150-mile round-trip to watch the sun go down over Stone Henge. While it is comfortable on longer trips, it's still got a sportsbike-like riding position and that screen could do with being taller to aid wind protection. It's roomy but surprisingly it's not as comfortable as a more upright bike like the Tiger 1200.

In top gear it'll happily cruise at 110mph without a fuss. Infact it's a challenge to keep it under three figures. Ironic then, that the easiest thing to read on the dash is the digital gear indicator and with an engine this good, you'll never be bothered about what gear you're in.

Although a good bike, the Hayabusa feels like it comes from an era that no longer applies. When it came out in 1999, if you wanted to do 190mph it was the only real choice. Today, if I was heading across borders every other week and I wanted a proper engine, I'd pick a GTR1400 which offers much better wind protection, a more comfortable riding position and panniers. If I wanted to do 180mph, I'd pick a litre-class superbike. If I needed to regularly shake-off a 150-miler with ease, the Hayabusa is a good choice but its formerly unique selling points are under threat; rivalled by a host of adventure tourers like the Crosstourer, big nakeds like the GSF1250 and sports-tourers like the K1300S.

Despite bikes like the ZZR-1400 being technologically more advanced and easier to live with day to day, the Hayabusa remains the cult bike in this class and one you owe it to yourself to ride.

Self control is evidently what you need if you're going to buy one. I've never thought so much about prison as I have during the week I've had the Hayabusa and feel lucky to be handing it back rather than having it confiscated from me.

It might come from a bygone era but it's still a different kind of fast.

Price: £10,935

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Discuss this story

the original bike looks a lot better than the new one

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 10:09

I just chopped in a 2009 for a tiger 1050 in March and by lord I miss that engine. It was the most epic bike I'm ever likely to ride, especially after the nice insurance company fitted a pair of titanium Akropovics after a low speed slide which wrote off both cans and a large part of the bodywork.

The engine is a dream, the acceleration insane and the things it could do in six gear blow your mind, rather bizarrely, I also rather miss the fuel economy, it seems the yanks are right, big powerful engines at low revs really do sip in the fuel. Having said all that I commute round the M25 every day and the riding the Busa for long distances at low speeds was agonising (for low speeds see legal speeds) and I can now ride to work every day if I choose. The Tiger is a different type of gigglingly funny as after a GS for 4 years and a Busa for 3 everything feels small and light. It goes it leans and I'm finally remembering what a gearbox is for other than controlling the volume.

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 10:09

Sorry Ben (the journo' who wrote this test) but if you're not responsible enough to ride a powerful bike without such inane comments as: "After my first half-hour on the bike, I thought I'd be writing this review from a holding cell at a police station somewhere in Buckinghamshire, as it turns out - a week later - I got away with it" then you need to get another job.

This is exactly the sort of thing that feeds the anti-bike lobby. Ride it on the road within the law and do the fast stuff at Bruntingthorpe or on a track. You can report on both and still give the reader an impression of the bike.

When you're old enough you could even try a Kawasaki ZZR1400.

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 10:20

Wow 200Bob. How condescending and 'Holier than thou' are you?!

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 10:41

Obviously older and wiser than you Crownan. I been there, done it all and got the 200mph tee-shirt. Motorcycling does not need irresponsible journalism, we have enough enemies without giving them ammunition. Feel free to disagree.

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 10:46

200bob is correct its a kak review because its the sort of thing that will help enforce restrictions on you the biker get your fluorescent one piece ready and get on your legprotector airbag 30HP limited trike and ride lol

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 11:03

ForFuckSake. What a dull fucking read this would be if journos start writing reviews to please the 'anti-biking lobby' if such a thing exists.

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 14:46

The article mentions how speed has become socially unacceptable, and how this bike makes you socially unacceptable before you even realise it, and thus belongs to a bygone era. Yet people attack the reviewer for saying it how it is. I have to say that I loathe this political correctness trend - it's a faux version of respect. Why can't people learn to respect each other and speak the truth with respect and humility ? Instead it's all arrogance and insults dressed up in socially acceptable terms. there are too many nanny bikers these days who think older and wiser is somehow better than young and enthusiastic. Boring old farts. I'm 43 but I remember what it's like to go wild and I look back on such memories with fondness, not a "been there done it and now I've grown up" nonsense. So good for you Ben, and I hope you don't get that summons, but I do hope those naughty speeds were at an appropriate time and place ;-)

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 16:35

Self control is evidently what you need if you're going to buy one. I've never thought so much about prison as I have during the week I've had the Hayabusa and feel lucky to be handing it back rather than having it confiscated from me."...

...when I had a B-king on test all day that is exactly how I felt... 170mph+ on the speedo several times with ease... when you've going that fast you have to be prepared to keep it pinned if you get 'seen' if you catch my drift, you CAN get away as long as you do keep it pinned for a little while and don't slow to 70mph and hope you didn't get 'seen'!

THE ORIGINAL 'BUSA WILL ALWATS BE THE ONE TO HAVE (THE NEW MODEL IS UGLY AS HELL!)... my dream garage wuld have a RZ model with the black frame and black fairing and Dainese leathers just like a PF or GR

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 16:41

Have to agree thoppa.
Anyone reading this review obviously knows how easy it is to break a speed limit without driving recklessly endangering the lives men, women and babies. There are countless stretches of straight A-roads with 3 lanes that have a 40mph limit and then twisty, poor visibility, single lanes that have a 60 mph limit. We know its all about money making and you can easily drive dangerously at low speeds.

This week in London (where I don't recommend owning a bike) I was confronted by a dickhead on a main road who decided to blindly pull out and overtake a bus head-on in my lane.

These are the dangerous things that kill bikers, not doing 60 in a 50 zone on a clear piece of road.

200Bob has comments would be better suited for the daily mail readers If he wants to encourage more safety on the roads, I would suggest targeting car drivers who don't use their mirrors and indicators while making sharp turns.

The piece was very well written. I think, if anything the journalist has OVER-emphasized the dangers/impracticality's of owning a bike like this. I also find it very difficult to believe that any one would buy a Kawasaki ZZR1400 to stick strictly to the speed limits.

Otherwise you would just buy a track bike to race, surely?

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 19:26

thoppa - Spot on.

"an appropriate time and place"

Though some think even this is unacceptable. Like you I hate this creeping PC anti-speed-at-all-costs-and-at-all-times bollox becoming the accepted norm.

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 19:29

Leon Trotsky. Eh? What do you mean? Nobody understands your post.

Posted: 01/08/2012 at 21:02

By telling us that he I thought he'd be writing this review from a holding cell at a police station the writer says more about himself and his inability to control the bike than he does about the bike. In spite of the other comments he IS giving fodder to the anti-bike lobby. If he simply wanted to say that this is one big powerful bike which could get the rider into trouble then there are better ways of saying it.

As for "What a dull fucking read this would be if journos start writing reviews to please the 'anti-biking lobby" as written above; that's exactly what he's done!

A bike doesn't become "socially unacceptable" either, it's the rider and the way he rides which is socially unacceptable. Do the flat out and knee down stuff by all means but do it in the right place and don't write ill-judged comments about insane speeds on the public highway which reflect on the rest of the biking community.

...and yes I do own a ZZR1400 and I have also owned a Hayabusa. I use my bikes on our roads as a pleasurable means of getting from A to B and save my quicker riding for the track or runway. In 1996 I was one of the first riders in the world to take a ZZR over 200mph, so I think I know a bit about speed. I value the freedom to ride which we have in this country and don't want to ride a bike restricted to 100bhp and wear a hi-viz vest, as in France, unless I choose to. Thank you.

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 10:08

Bikes break all national speed limits in 1st gear! You think the authorities don't know that? You think they don't know there's another 5 gears to go through? A bit of creative journalism doesn't change a thing. Its the idiots that ride like dicks that will ruin it for everyone else.

And 200Bob, congrats on being a condescending, pretentious wanker.

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 10:10

You can usually tell when someone is losing an argument, they stop using reason and start hurling insults. Why don't you grow up!

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 11:10

I want to wear hi-viz. A nice 100% hi-viz 2 piece outfit, with a furry pink belt, lots of useless zips and a logo that says "Honk if you think I'm sexy". I might get on the Caption That page....

And I'd love to ride a 100hp bike because my current most powerful bike is 70 or so hp, so it'd be an upgrade. Although I expect the missus would have me sell it for something more sensible.

So, in the vain hope that 200Bob is right, and we are all "doomed" because of Ben's "irresponsible" article, let me tell you about the time I took a gram of meth-amphetamine and rode at 180mph on the autobahn in Germany. Now that's what I call speeding ! Woah. I was concentrating so hard I forgot to stop and ended up in Poland ! True story !

Come on anti-bikers out there... bring it on.... oh, but no-one's reading. Poor me. Back to the 70hp bike and boring MPS waterproof one-piece. SIGH.

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 11:53

200Bob. I'll apologise about the wanker part then. But condescending and pretentious are not insult, just fact. I'll add pompous and arrogant into the mix too. All fact. Maybe you should learn a bit of decorum or tact? For an old boy, one would've thought you might've learnt that in your many years of experience.

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 12:33

Great review Ben, but it seems this site has attracted some refugee's from the MCN forums!Its certainly worse for it.

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 16:50

Yes, keep it up Ben. Don't listen to them. There's always people who want to tell others how to live. Why is it some people like to make up rules for thers to adhere to ... it beats me. (Murder and a couple of the other 10 commandments excepted!)

Just don't whine if you get caught! (Fortunately, I met a friendly policeman on the most excessive indiscretion I've been caught at.)

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 19:18

I disagree.

Posted: 03/08/2012 at 14:14

It's only the first bit of the write up I object to. If Ben had bolted a GoPro to the bike and filmed himself riding like he described, then posted it on YouTube the Police would lock him up and we'd all agree he was an idiot.

Why is it acceptable to ride in that way and write about it then?

Posted: 03/08/2012 at 20:53

Only a total moron plans to go out speeding and makes a video of themselves committing the offence, and then makes that video available to the Police. So yes, you are right; we'd all call him an idiot if that's what he had done. Sadly there are people that stupid and they are the ones who do real harm to the image of biking.

However, the article doesn't say Ben was riding like an idiot; only that he was speeding at some point. We know very little of the circumstances. Try reading the whole article and learn to read for context and sub-context. Try to consider the message. You might discover this is not the article you think it is and you owe Ben an apology for over-reacting.

Posted: 04/08/2012 at 11:16

So while reading the comments, I got as far as Bob's second edition before I got irritated.

Bob - first comment you are berating the author, second comment you are bragging about having done it all and having a 200 mph T shirt.

REALLY? Double standard anyone?

Posted: 06/08/2012 at 18:25

Back to the point

I prefer the shape of the original - the new one looks like the rear end has been left too close to a blast furnace and melted.

And those exhausts (aftermarket wheelie-bins anybody ?)

But on a positive note, the figures still mean this bike will sell (bragging rights down the pub)

And I do like the new blue colour scheme

Finally, I will make a comment on the story itself. If you need a speedo to know you're going well in excess of the speed limit, it doesn't matter whether you've got analogue or digital, you need to be riding something a lot less powerful

Posted: 07/08/2012 at 20:46

i agree with 200bob

all bikes of larger than 600cc will get you into a lot of trouble with the law, i would argue that with busa ownersa averaging 45 years of age.
these bikes are the not the ones to be stopped.

Posted: 21/10/2012 at 18:23

As owner of a 2009 Hayabusa, (Gen 2) I have to say that if you approach this bike from the viewpoint of "Speed limits" and associated consequences, then this bike is not for you. Criticising "...bygone styled analogue clocks" also show that this writer is more used to looking at speedometers than the road. Trust me, Hayabusa riders do not need to read the speedo all that often! They are too busy reading the road conditions! Ok, there are a huge number of "Socially Responsible" drinkers, riders, husbands and even football players who carry around condoms in their wallets, but lets not forget what this bike, THE Hayabusa is all about. It has carried all before it for a decade and will, for admirers and owners of this bike, its Legendary Status will never be equalled. This bike is about riding on a road that will allow you to exploit it FULL attributes, which means relining every gear. If you are not in the position to do that, you may as well take the Train. That, is being socially responsible. I am 62 years old and this bike is simply supreme at any speed, in any road condition other than a race track, where lighter bikes will do better. However, on the Autobahn where there are no limits, for as long as there is petrol in the tank, not many will come into view in the rear vision mirror. If you are not willing to entertain that idea, you may as well review Supermarker Shopping Trollies instead. That, would be socially very responsible. Get this into your heads, the Hayabusa is out of this World!It will re-wire your brain.

Posted: 06/08/2013 at 15:17

Grow up 200bob and the rest. He has reviewed a bike that will hit a restricted 186mph. Just what exactly is he meant to say? I find it amusing that you, 200bob, can so quickly make all assumptions as to his riding ability from a single sentence. Have you seen him ride, then? No? Oh... 
He is a WRITER. It is his job, as a writer and bike journo, to make articles interesting. Of course he is going to jazz it up with remarks like that, you clown. Especially with the bike in question. It is not articles like these that spoil it for the rest of us - it is the actual idiots on the road who ride like assholes. Have a go at them - there are enough about. 
You have a pop at him for apparently riding it like a loon then writing about it. And yet, here you are bragging about getting the '200mph T-shirt'. So not only are you hypocrite, but you're also an idiot - you've gone faster than he has.

How many 'busa riders do you hear of binning it? Not nearly as many as your sunshine-only pillocks on their gixxer thou's etc, flying about doing 70 in a 30. Speed isn't the problem, it's the riders who don't know how to ride - and that holds true regardless of the bike being ridden, or indeed the speed at which they are ridden. 
A review of a 186mph motorcycle is not going to tarnish the biking world's reputation. It's the muppets who don't read the road, who are reckless, and who have zero common sense and who care nothing for those they share the road with. 
Of course, if you were the hardcore biker you say you are, you'd know all this.

Posted: 05/06/2014 at 16:42

I enjoyed reading those comments that gives me more idea about your blog. At first, I'm so amazed to the standard of your bike. The speed is so nice and so interesting. Have you tried it for racing? Can I ask how many liters of fuel did your bike consumed for the first road test?

Posted: 03/09/2014 at 05:16

Hmmmm, as a current "Busa" owner, 2014 model with the Brembo A.B.S brakes, I'm in two minds about what is written in this review? I agree that it is a comparatively heavy bike, and that the speedo is VERY HARD to read at a glance, and perhaps the weight does push the front wheel when cornering at speed? It seems to me that the writer was bagging the "Busa" from the first line, highlighting the "Negative" aspects of the bike, and downplaying the positive? While it is a blisteringly fast motorcycle, the "Busa" is also easy to ride at Legal speeds, and above 100kph the weight disappears off the wrists. Granted the bike has what is now "Old" technology, and perhaps traction control would be an advantage? I personally have never felt the need, but then I don't feel the need to be Valentino Rossi every time I go riding? No bike is perfect, and while the "Busa" has it's flaws, they are more than out weighed by the rewards I get from riding it.

Posted: 19/11/2014 at 10:59

I have just re-read Bens test on the 2012 Busa, and feel I need to add a bit more to what I have already written, in defence of what is an awesome machine. It seems that in Great Britain that you are supplied with a restricted version, as you quote it as having 180hp?, where-as the New Zealand model, which I own, makes 195.7hp at the crank. I have owned it since July this year, and it has taken me this long to begin to learn what it is really capable of? While I realise Ben that you test bikes for a living, spending a few days, or even a week or two with a bike, what-ever brand, isn't enough time to really get to grips with it, especially when it's such a big powerful machine? I am still getting to grips with what is an amazing, but not perfect motorcycle? I am 56 years old, 6ft 51/2 inches tall, and weigh 105 kilograms, or around 16 stone. For me, it's a reasonably comfortable bike, and once above 60mph, the weight disappears off my wrists. If anything, and likely because I have long legs, I do begin to feel a little bit cramped after 3 0r 4 hours riding?
The horsepower is VERY ADDICTIVE, as it accelerates like nothing else, but it also has both the brakes, Brembo A.B.S both ends, and handling to match. I cannot comment on it as a track day weapon, because, as yet, I haven't had the opportunity? I don't use it for commuting, nor have I toured on it, so cannot comment on how it would perform in either situation, although I think it would do either without problems?
If I have any "Complaints", I do get some buffeting around my helmet, but that is likely because of my height and my helmet, which is due for an update? As I said in my first write up, the speedometer is hard to read at a glance, but I know where the numbers are placed on the dial, so know when my licence is at risk?
Does it need traction control? Perhaps? I am aware of the power it has when scratching, and ride it accordingly. It has so much torque that there is no need to snap the throttle open to achieve rapid progress, and I personally have never felt the bike was close to high siding me? Perhaps if traction control was fitted I'd ride it harder, but that's conjecture? I should add at this time that I don't ride it like a pussy, with both front and rear tyres showing wear close to the edges.
I may well add more comments the longer I own the bike, as it only has 4800ks on the clock?
I'm very definitely interested to see what the next generation Busa will be like, as it is certainly due for an update/restyle, if for no other reason than technology has moved on a heap since 1999 when they first came out?

Posted: 01/12/2014 at 03:57

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