Suzuki’s Hayabusa Is the Greatest Motorcycle Ever Made

·7 min read
Photo credit: Suzuki
Photo credit: Suzuki
  • When the Suzuki Hayabusa debuted in 1999, it was the fastest stock motorcycle ever made, with a top speed of 186 mph.

  • In order to meed strict Euro 5 emissions standards, Suzuki revised the engine, tuning for performance and clean exhaust but also removing excess weight in almost every component.

  • The Hayabusa also gets a suite of electronics, including an inertial measuring unit that measures pitch, yaw, dive, squat, slip, and lift.

There are many motorcycle enthusiasts who consider the Suzuki Hayabusa the best motorcycle ever made, and they may be right, depending on how you measure these things. It is quick, it is fast, and it is a thing of beauty to behold. But it has its own set of characterful quirks that may make it not the bike of choice for just everyone. You almost have to know all about it and endear yourself to its history and character before you can get in line to call it the best bike ever made.

The first Hayabusa came out in 1999 and pretty much immediately set the record for the fastest stock motorcycle ever made at 186 mph. Or maybe it was 194 mph. Sources differ. But it was fast. It also quickly became a favorite of drag racers, who used its long, long wheelbase for stable rocket launches down the strip. Again, sources disagree but several cite a quarter-mile time for that original first-gen Hiyabusa at under 10 seconds right out of the box. Cycle World recorded a 0-60 mph time of 2.47 seconds way back in 2002.

So with numbers to make bike enthusiasts swoon, the Hiyabusa almost immediately became a thing of legend and has stayed that way in the minds of many fans who grew up with it.

The second-gen came out in 2008 with a revised and even more powerful engine making 194 hp, up by four from the first-gen.

Photo credit: Suzuki
Photo credit: Suzuki

And now, behold, the third-generation Suzuki Hayabusa. We should be glad that it’s even here, as ever-stricter emissions regulations around the world almost killed it. To meet those regs—mostly Euro 5 but others around the world as well—engineers had to scramble to come up with a balance of engine performance with crystal clear exhaust gasses that would please government bureaucrats without losing the faith of the faithful. The compromise required going through the entire engine from top to bottom, tuning for performance and clean exhaust but also removing excess weight in almost every component. When all was said and done, the 1340-cc liquid-cooled transverse-four actually made less horsepower and torque, but it passed Euro 5. Hooray! Output of the new engine is 187 hp at 9750 rpm and 110 lb-ft at 7000 revs. That’s down from 194 hp and 114 lb-ft, but you’d only notice way up at the top of the tach. You would really notice if there was no Hayabusa at all. So I say it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

The more significant change is in the introduction of a whopping big suite of electronics that will save your leather-wrapped hide, or allow you to drift and wheelie your way down the road as much or as little as you want. For 2022, the ‘Busa gets an IMU, or inertial measuring unit, sort of an inner ear for the motorcycle that measures pitch, yaw, dive, squat, slip, lift, and lots of other things. The IMU works in concert with the ABS, traction control, and everything else in the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System, or SIRS. It’s a Forbin Project of electronics that does a lot of the thinking and acting for you—or that allows you to do it yourself. Your choice. There are adjustments available to address almost everything a motorcycle might try to do: 10-stage wheelie control, three-stage launch control, three pre-set and three customizable power modes, three-stage engine brake control, two-stage up-and-down (bidirectional) shift control, cornering ABS, cruise control, active speed limiter, hill-hold control, and slope descent control to keep the rear wheel on the ground as you brake coming down a hill.

If anything goes wrong during your ride, it won’t be the bike’s fault.

A lot of buyers might expect the Hayabusa to come with active chassis control. It does not. But the KYB setup on the bike feels just right almost all the time. Suzuki set it up right from the get-go.

Another thing that stands out is the wheelbase. It is long. At 58.3 inches, it’s actually a half-inch shorter than the previous two generations, but it still feels like you’re riding a log-carrying 18-wheeler sometimes, especially when you first try one out. As such, it never really feels like a true sport bike. The best words to describe it might be drag bike with sporty capabilities. The steering angle is revised to improve high-speed stability, but it never really feels like a (fill in the blank sport bike).

How does it feel, you ask? Like the best of most worlds.

Throw a leg over it and you’ll find it instantly comfortable. Pick it up off its kickstand and you’ll feel all its 586 pounds of curb weight (measured with a full tank, btw). That’s four pounds more than before but again, you won’t notice the difference between the second-gen ‘Busa and this. You will notice the difference between this and almost any pure sport bike. It’s a hundred or two pounds more than a more traditional sport bike.

Start it up with a single push of the start switch and it hums nicely to life.

The second you engage the clutch and ride off you should—if you’re anything like me or any number of riders who’ve ridden it—fall in love with the engine. It is the smoothest, most power-accessible engine I’ve ever twisted a throttle to. The clutch action, engagement, and smooth power and torque delivery across the tach is remarkable—anywhere you are in the rev range it seems to have just the right amount of power and torque. I asked Suzuki why they don’t put this engine in something else, anything else. There are no plans. Others have used the Hayabusa’s 1340ccs to power everything from Lotus Seven replicas to the Radical SR8 race car. Famous engineer-turned-racer Dave Coleman even put one in a Frankensteined Miata and used it for Lemons Racing, quite successfully. It’s great. The transmission shifts so easily and effortlessly you don’t even think about it. In a straight line the bike is unbeatable. It really makes you want to take it to an AMA Dragbike event and enter the bracket racing class.

On twisty mountain roads it does feel a little heavy and a lot long, but it remains manageable and powerfully fun throughout. You can definitely have a good time in the hills on a Hayabusa. Depending on how comfortable you feel pushing the bike’s limits, you can start messing around with all those electronic adjustments to find your settings, even program your own set of calibrations into the bike’s memory, one for twisties, one for streets, and one for drag racing.

The riding position itself is just a little more upright than a sport bike, but you still have to lean forward to grab the bars. Suzuki listed sport touring as one of the options available to Hayabusa owners and enthusiasts, but I think that may be optimistic. I say that, yet as I recall, whenever I take any motorcycle long distances I almost always wind up flat down on the gas tank tucked behind the windshield winding the throttle out on whatever bike I have anyway. So maybe sport touring, at ridiculous speeds, is a possibility.

Pricing starts at $18,599, which is on par with the better sport bikes. At the very least you owe it to yourself to try one out. It’s a unique experience, and one that will stay with you whether you end up buying one or not.