With warriors, one thing is certain, their time comes and their time goes. But in case of some legends, their time comes and it never really goes away. They just move aside to give the younger ones a chance. They are away, yes, but by choice. And when the need arises, they make a grand comeback to tell others what made them a legend and to… show others how it’s done. Even if the title did not reveal the warrior we are talking about, the above description might have given the true aficionados a good enough hint. The warrior is a motorcycle which went… and goes by the name Katana.
The original Katana is one of the most iconic and one of the most radical motorcycles ever made. It shook the motorcycling world to the core because of the unconventional design and because of the fact that Suzuki claimed it to be the most powerful and the fastest motorcycle of its time.
It was also a very interesting motorcycle and the reason is that it is a Suzuki motorcycle designed by a team called Target Design (Germany) and the members comprised of Jan Fellstrom, Hans-Georg Kasten, and Hans Muth ex-chief of styling for BMW! The Katana, when launched in 1981, was an instant hit. It broke the conventional norms of motorcycle styling and ushered sportbikes into a new era.
Despite the design, the power and the speed it possessed, the Katana was slowly sidelined by newer motorcycles which were a lot more focussed on the sporty intent. These motorcycles include Suzuki’s own GSX-series of motorcycles. The Katana became, from a sportbike to a comfortable sports-tourer. Time kept progressing and finally, the production was stopped in 2006.
There are many examples of even some of the most legendary vehicles being lost in oblivion with the passage of time. But then, as we mentioned, the Katana was a warrior like no other and while it did go on an exile, it never really vanished. Come 2018, Suzuki took motorcyclists the world over by surprise when they announced that a new Katana was coming.
They unveiled the motorcycle at INTERMOT 2018 and unlike the norm where the revived versions lose out on the original’s appeal, the new Suzuki Katana was a major throwback to the original with enough modern bits to make it match other models in the market blow-for-blow. So, the Katana is out of the scabbard again but is the blade still as sharp as it used to be? We found out as we got to ride it in Australia.
The moment you catch the first glimpse of the Suzuki Katana, the shot of nostalgia hits you like a ton of bricks. The motorcycle is such a stark reminder of the original 1981 motorcycle that it almost takes you back in time. This is one of the very few motorcycles in the world for which one can say, “This… is a throwback done right.” It is radical but it is beautiful.
It is not only a throwback though. It has enough modern elements to hang with the latest. The profile, while inspired by the original, is sleeker, sharper, and sporty. The front is kind-of semi-faired and the rear is minimalistic. The headlamp and the front positioning lamps are LED to emphasize the modern touch. The satellite rear fender extends from the swingarm which lends the motorcycle a unique rear. Another aspect of the motorcycle which has been executed very well is the upswept exhaust… sleek, suave and black. The red logo decals are a shout out to the 1981 Katana.
The fully-digital instrument cluster is also an ode to the thought-process behind the Katana where they did not want the bike devoid of modern amenities despite the inspiration from a motorcycle almost 4 decades old. Switch the motorcycle on and that’s when one starts to feel really acquainted with the motorcycle even if they have never met the original Katana.
The reason for that is the engine which is a 999cc unit from the K5 Suzuki GSX-R1000. It powered the Suzuki Superbikes (GSX-R) lineup from 2005-2008. The same engine was used on the Suzuki GSX-S1000 and since it was a part of the xBhp garage for quite some time, the Katana felt really familiar. The mill has been custom-tuned for the Katana and it churns out 150 bhp of power at 10,000 rpm and 108 Nm of torque at 9,500 rpm.
The numbers may not seem enough to go for an all-out battle with some other supernakeds out there, they are certainly enough to keep most people entertained. The Suzuki Katana is a wonderfully executed motorcycle and one starts to appreciate that right from the get-go. The clutch is not hydraulic and even then, the clutch pull is light and does not strain the rider. The throttle is not a ride-by-wire unit and yet, it is not jerky at any point in time and all you get from it is smoothness and responsiveness.
The engine builds revs quickly and the acceleration that comes as a result of that is swift. The progressiveness is noteworthy and despite the 150 horses ready to gallop, it is not intimidating at any point. Moving up or down the gearbox is typical Suzuki magic and one would not feel the need for a quickshifter unless they decide to take it to a racetrack. Traction control is not intrusive at all and it helps the motorcycle retain as much character as it can without compromising on the safety front should the rider feel more spirited than usual.
While most of the people get rid of the stock exhaust as soon as their bike is delivered, on the Katana, you may not feel the need to do so if you do it just for the note. The K5 mill delivers a soft inline-4 rumble at idle and things get really raspy when you really start to wring it. Character beats decibels any day when it comes to the exhaust note of a motorcycle.
The 2019 Suzuki Katana also boasts of a fantastic handling package. And it is not a surprise at all since the frame and swingarm are derived from the GSX-R1000. The feedback from the chassis is just perfect for road-riding and it does not leave a lot to be desired.
The suspension system comprises of inverted, 43mm KYB forks which are fully adjustable and a monoshock at the rear. The front forks are well set up right out of the factory and on the road, they feel right at home. The balance between the ability to absorb undulations and keeping things in line when riding hard is near perfect. The rear though is just a tad bit stiff for road riding.
What goes up, must come down and what goes fast, must slow down just as quick. Talking about the anchors, the Suzuki Katana is equipped with stellar units from Brembo. The brakes are progressive, offer ample bite and feel at the lever is also quite good. Under hard braking, the chassis shines again as the bike feels quite composed. In addition to that, ABS is present and it is of the non-switchable variety.
Suzuki Katana weighs 215 kg road-ready and fuelled. On paper, the number may seem a tad bit high, but out on the roads, it is more or less insignificant. The motorcycle has a powerful enough engine to alleviate the heft and not let it affect the responsiveness. The chassis and the overall geometry also helps to keep the 215 kg motorcycle composed as you chain corners on an isolated mountainous road.
And while most of the stuff on this motorcycle is pretty darn awesome, the ergonomics just make the deal that much sweeter. The riding stance is very well-balanced between sporty riding and touring purposes. No strain on the knees, no strain on the shoulders, and no strain on the back or wrists despite hours in the saddle.
We spent a lot of time with the 2019 Suzuki Katana and yet, we were left wanting more of it. So you see, sometimes when a motorcycle offers you something unique, it tends to run out of it after a while. But motorcycles like the Katana have their craft mastered and it is to provide the rider with a fun riding experience. To let a rider know what motorcycling is all about and why they started in the first place.
Not the best sports-tourer out there, not the best streetfighter out there, not the most powerful and nor the fastest and yet, it is probably one of the best motorcycles you will ever get to ride. Ah well, the Katana is sure out of the scabbard again and it is sharper than ever. But most importantly, the battles you take up with this one are going to be one of the most engaging kinds that exist.
Here’s a video of our rendezvous with Suzuki’s radical street weapon…
And since we are discussing nostalgia, here are a few pictures of our GSX-S1000…