Used Test: Suzuki Hayabusa GSX-1300R review

Fancy having your brain scrambled by speed? Not averse to a bit of time in chokey? If the answer to either is yes, then the 190mph Hayabusa is for you.

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Suzuki's Hayabusa was, until meddling bureaucrats got their way, THE fastest production bike money could buy. It's not actually that much slower now thanks to the political pressure that limited its top speed to 'just' 186mph. But because of the legislative interference, the Busa is no longer the quickest, now sharing the speed-topping title with a couple of others.

If owning the most-mph motorcycle ever really matters to you, then a used Busa is preferable to a new one simply because it won't be restricted. Wind on the throttle of a pre 2002-spec Hayabusa for long enough and you will be transported up to a stratospheric 194mph in an arm-wrenching blur of pace almost beyond belief.

Yet no matter how much you try to understand and appreciate the incredible performance statistics of the Hayabusa, nothing, but nothing, will prepare you for the actual experience of sampling its complete and utter gob-smacking performance from the seat. If you've never ridden one before prepare to have your brain scrambled by speed.

The superfast Suzuki is one of the quickest things out there in a straight line. In the right place you can see over 200mph on the clock, and getting up to 150mph takes literally just a few seconds. The fact is, any time you get aggressive with the Suzuki's throttle you run the risk of running at jail-baiting pace. And that's the controversial bit.

The grunt from the motor (and we're talking about a level of stomp that makes a GSX-R1000 seem peaky by comparison) thrusts the Suzuki along so effortlessly that many times you're completely shocked by the pace the speedo reveals you're actually running at. And if you have any sort of conscience you'll either want to chuck your licence in the shredder or go down the nearest cop-shop for a confessional.

The throttle works both ways of course, so there is the option of not going so mad. But not giving a Hayabusa some gyp is a bit like sharing a bed with Kylie and not getting thoroughly acquainted. It can be done - though only with masses of discipline.

Manage to do that, and you'll still be impressed with the engine. With self-imposed restrictions to twistgrip yanking, the Busa's beautifully delivered and very well mannered stomp can be appreciated. Even at slower speeds like those governed by town use and touring, or even when the roads are slippery due to rain.

Huge torque, which peaks at over 100ft/lbs, means you only really need to use the gearbox to get you rolling from a standstill. Once the Suzuki's doing over 15mph, top cog alone can provide all the acceleration you'll really need.

A mixture of a rigid alloy beam frame, well-controlled suspension and decent brakes provide well enough handling too. And though the Hayabusa isn't as light, agile or sharp-stopping as most pukka sportsbikes, it can still crack on a bit down back lanes. It can feel a bit of a handful on very tight and twisty backroads, and it pays not to ride at ten tenths under those circumstances. However, one major advantage the Busa does have is its rock-solid and totally dependable stability.

Thanks to front-end weight-bias and relaxed chassis geometry, stuff like wheelies and tankslappers just don't happen. And that gives you the confidence to push on hard even if the roads are undulating or bumpy. If it was allowed to compete in the production TT race (it can't because there's a 1000cc limit) a top rider would definitely manage a 120mph lap on it.

Comfort is another of the Suzuki's strong points. The relaxed riding position for both rider and pillion, plush seat and very protective fairing mean long stints are straightforward.

All in all, the Busa is a very fast sports-tourer that does a great job as an all-rounder. OK, its less than athletically-shaped bodywork won't please everyone. But to anyone who rides the highly impressive Hayabusa that fact will suddenly seem quite academic. It's a brilliant machine.

If you want a used one there are some well-looked after examples around, though their popularity means you'll need to move fast to snap one up. The immaculate used 1999 model we borrowed from Riverside Motorcycles in Northampton (01604 417010), with only 2000 miles on the clock, should go fast for just £4995. Performance has rarely been available for so few pounds.


1999: Hayabusa launched. Early models have problems with cam chain tensioners and seat sub-frames. Busas from 2002-on are speed restricted to 186mph.