Talking motorcycles and not talking Busa is a sin. That’s how it is… and has been since 1999… the year when the ‘Falcon’ made its first appearance. And now, as the final units of the Hayabusa in India have been sold, it is the end of an era as Suzuki does not have any plans to revise the 1,340cc heart of the Busa for BS-VI compliance. News like this makes grown men cry. We are… despite the mildly accurate doubts on our grown-up status.
But what is it that makes the Suzuki Hayabusa so special? What is it that makes it hurt to know that the last of the Busas are off the production line? Well, the answer to those questions is buried in the past and time travelling is paramount for answers. So let’s take a trip down the memory lane where our first stop, predictably, is going to be 1999.
Ever since the beginning of time, competition is what has driven humans to achieve monumental feats… both good and bad. So when motorcycles were invented and things progressed, competition found its way in this domain as well. And of course, when we talk mobility, competition is for speed. The Suzuki Hayabusa was a result of just that: the quest for speed… and then some.
The crown of the fastest production motorcycle was taken (by a small margin) from the Kawasaki ZX-11 (1990). The new conqueror was the furious Honda CBR 1100XX (1997). It is a fiercely contested world and no one is willing to sit idle revelling in one victory. Honda did the same with the CBR1100XX and it moved on from carburettors to PGM-Fi in 1999.
But the thing is… the Honda Super Blackbird did not know what was coming. After all, the one who flies the highest rarely looks up. But the Super Blackbird should have. Suzuki introduced the GSX1300R in 1999 and it… demolished the Super Blackbird. It did not beat the Super Blackbird in the top speed department by a margin of a few k’s an hour… it did so by more than 10!
The 1,299cc liquid-cooled, inline 4 of the GSX1300R had 16 valves and double-overhead camshafts. It even had a RAM air system! It was a technological marvel which made around 173 bhp! Accolades rained and records collapsed in front of the might of the Busa. Most powerful production motorcycle, largest displacement in a sportsbike and of course, the fastest of them all. Suzuki rightly (and cheekily) called the GSX1300R Hayabusa, a bird that can go over 300 km/h during a dive (fastest) and incidentally, preyed on Blackbirds… very clever from the Hamamatsu marquee!
Now, what was the philosophy behind making a motorcycle like that? We want one that is the fastest! Maybe… but what Suzuki claimed was just the opposite. The creator of the Hayabusa’s look, Suzuki’s Koji Yoshirua, said that the goal was not to achieve the status of the fastest production motorcycle. But that, “as a consequence of, pursuing the best handling, acceleration, safety, power, riding ability, original styling, etc., for the good of the customers, it became the ‘Fastest production motorcycle’. While that serves as Suzuki’s intent of customer satisfaction… we are sure that being the fastest was also a requisite… even if it was only at the back of their minds.
Talking about the ‘much talked about bulbous design’, that also came about as the result of another rather absurd but genius move. Mr Yoshirua had stated that their intent was to create a somewhat grotesque design and create a strong initial impact… The mission was to create a total new styling that will not be out of date within a few years and a styling that will be the ‘Face’ of Suzuki. And it worked wonders! The design of the Hayabusa was loved by some, hated by some, but noticed by everyone. It was polarizing and it achieved the goal of creating an iconic design that’d be etched in the minds of the spectators for years to come!
Much like it is the case with everything that the Japs do, the styling served another, and perhaps a more important purpose; aerodynamics. The design allowed the engineers to make the Hayabusa aerodynamically efficient and capable of reducing the extreme drag that is produced at speeds that the motorcycle was able to achieve. Suzuki understood that engine power alone won’t win the battle and also, that just didn’t sit right with their goal of creating an all-rounder.
After its introduction in 1999, the Suzuki Hayabusa remained largely unchanged except the changes brought about by ‘The Gentlemen’s agreement’. The agreement required the top speed of all production motorcycles is limited to 300 km/h and thus, ending the top speed war between different motorcycle manufacturers.
Time passed by and the Hayabusa was surely one of Suzuki’s bestsellers. But everything must evolve with time and the Busa needed to do the same. When researching for the new design, Suzuki realized that the original Busa was endearing to the customers and therefore, they could not make a lot of changes to the motorcycle’s overall look and feel. So they just built upon the strengths of the design making the motorcycle look more muscular and more efficient in the wind tunnel via the means of adjustment to the curves and lines and a higher windscreen for more comfort.
For the second generation Suzuki Hayabusa (the first one was from 1999 to 2007), more power was also on the cards. As a result, the displacement was raised to 1,340cc and the 2nd-gen Busa (2008) made 194 bhp. Other changes were subtle and revolved around making the Hayabusa easier to ride and meeting the more stringent emission norms. The current-gen and sadly, the outgoing Busa makes 197 bhp of power.
That’s the end of the history lesson and while it answers most of the questions regarding the iconic status of the ‘Falcon’, we have more to say to fortify our stand regarding the Busa. The speed, the engine, the looks, yada, yada, and yada is all good but according to us, it’s something else. So you see, every motorcycle has a certain character, a certain feel… a certain way of communicating with the rider. Those are the departments where the Falcon excels and that is why… it is perhaps the best performance motorcycle in the overall scheme of things.
It is so easy to ride and even easier to ride fast. It does not need you to be an Alien to get the best out of it. It makes do with what you have and fills the gap with its own prowess. You don’t have to be in the right gear all the time. The fat power/torque spread takes care of that. You don’t have to muscle it around to make it turn (despite the weight). You just point where to go and it obliges. If out for a long jaunt, it won’t ask for the ownership of your wrists, back, shoulders, butt and mess them up as it sees fit. It’ll caress you and take care of you all throughout the journey.
There isn’t a lot we can say about this motorcycle that isn’t already out there. But we have had one in our garage for quite a few years and it is still there… still going strong… still wooing the bystanders… and still evoking all the emotions that it did when we first laid our eyes on it and when we first took it out for a spin. And after all those years and tens of thousands of kilometres… this is the only thing that we can say:
‘We love you, Falcon. And while you may not be accessible to those who aren’t already graced by your presence, in our garage, you are there to stay’
P.S. The xBhp Falcon has been somewhat of a chameleon too… here are the various skins that it has donned during its stint with us! (This includes the picture on top which was taken during the #RoadTripUnited)