The third-generation Suzuki Hayabusa is back with a bang in its 2021 iteration. Here is our first impression following a rather exhilarating first ride.
Story: Adam Child ‘Chad’
Photography: Jason Critchell
Back in 1999, I was just starting out as a motorcycle journalist. I had hair, a thin waist, and no mortgage. At the same time, Suzuki launched their first-generation Hayabusa and I could not wait to get my hands on one. I was only 23, yet I had the key to a ’Busa and a private runway to myself. The Suzuki did not disappoint; it was fast. I remember the analogue speedo passing 320 km/h, the acceleration nearly ripping away my ill-fitting race leathers. I spent the next few months telling everyone about Suzuki’s 320-km/h ’Busa (this was before the advent of social media), even though the speedo turned out to be somewhat optimistic.
Yes, in 1999 the Hayabusa redefined the sports bike class, ripped up the rule book, and kicked sand in the face of other so-called fast bikes — it was a huge step forward. While conventional sports bikes such as Yamaha’s dominant R1 ruled the twisties and the tracks, the ’Busa had them all on toast in straight-line performance. In fact, it boasted of 30 hp more than the R1.
However, times have changed. Now, for 2021, Suzuki’s extensively modernised Hayabusa is down on peak power and torque, mainly due to the need to meet tight Euro-5 emission regulations, and even their own GSX-R1000 has greater power (and carries less weight) than the new ’Busa. There are even naked bikes such as Ducati’s Streetfighter with more power, but we could not have imagined that in 1999.
Before riding the new ’Busa, I was secretly wondering if the legend had had its day, whether this might be one revamp too far. Times have changed; 200 hp is normal. Is there really still a market for the big Suzuki or should it be ushered into the retirement home for a well-deserved rest and a chance to reminisce about the days before traction control and performance-strangling emission laws?
But guess what? I am pleased to inform you that I was wrong. The ’Busa has not had its day; in fact, it is better than ever and still accelerates with enough force to squash your internal organs against your spine!
The heart of the GSX-1300R Suzuki Hayabusa 2021 remains its legendary 1,340-cc motor, though those with a keen eye will have noticed a drop in on-paper output. Peak power is now 190 hp at 9,700 revolutions per minute (rpm), down from the 197 hp at 9,500 rpm from the generation-two model from 2008, when capacity went up from 1,298 to 1,340 cc. (For reference, the generation-one model was 175 hp at 9,800 rpm.) Peak torque is also down, from 155 Nm at 7,200 rpm to 150 Nm at 7,000 rpm. However, none of these figures tells the full story. Suzuki have made significant gains in the mid-range, facilitating faster acceleration and improved real-world performance on the road. And do not worry, the ’Busa will still hit the speed limiter of 300 km/h with ease.
Although I am slightly disappointed Suzuki did not add a turbo or increase capacity and push past the magical 200-hp mark, I can see why they did not. Why make a bike with even more peak power when it is already capable of hitting its speed limiter with ease? Like hearing the landlord calling time at the bar and ordering six-pints, it would just be a waste — and 99 per cent of the customers will never want anything more. Instead, Suzuki have given the ’Busa a kick up the mid-range with the factory claiming that the new bike is 0.1 seconds quicker to 100 km/h and is 0.1 seconds quicker over 200 metres than the generation-two model.
Bore and stroke remain the same and, at face value, the engine does not look dramatically different. But dig a little deeper and the internals are very different, including new pistons, rods, crankshaft, cams, transmission, and a new assist-slipper clutch. Some of these changes have been enforced to meet Euro-5, but Suzuki have also improved the longevity (improving oil flow, for example) of this admirable motorcycle which was already hugely reliable from the beginning back in 1999.
As I said, I was unsure what to expect of the big Suzuki, particularly because 200-hp bikes have become relatively commonplace, but within a few miles of slotting into the new Suzuki, I wound back the throttle and went supersonic — and an immature smile never left my face all day. Wow, the ’Busa has still got it. The mid-range acceleration in fifth and sixth gears is superb, but be brave, drop back to second or third and from 70 km/h it just wants to take off. It thrusts forward with such force you can feel your internal organs shifting. Yes, still got it… still ridiculously exciting.
On a normal superbike, you struggle to use all its power; you are moving your weight forward trying to keep the front end down while relying on the electronics and aerodynamic wings to keep things in line, whereas the Suzuki is old-school. Weight distribution is stated at 50:50 but the ’Busa sits slightly on its relatively soft KYB rear shock and the bespoke rear Bridgestone S22 combines with a long wheelbase to find sensational mechanical grip and propel you forward at an alarming rate: 160 km/h in just over five seconds, about 11 seconds to 240 km/h… how fast do you want it? I could not stop kicking back a few gears on the (standard) up-and-down, super-smooth quick-shifter just to experience that acceleration again. 160 km/h is nothing, 200 km/h is attained in a flash. Yes, it is difficult not to speed on the Hayabusa, officer…
However, the new bike has not just been designed to tear up dragstrips or embarrass almost any bike from the lights; there is a practical side too. It is not a caged animal clawing at the bars; in fact, in a normal riding environment it is a usable and, dare I say, friendly motorcycle. Central to this is the fact that Suzuki have significantly improved and updated the electronic rider aids, with a new six-axis IMU now linked to three rider modes. The softer of the three modes noticeably restricts the power and torque, making the ’Busa feel docile in comparison to the full-power mode. Meanwhile, the quick-shifter works fluidly, even at low speeds, and the gearbox is light. So, you can ride the ’Busa “normally”, just.
Earlier, the rider controlled the power, now we have clever electronics to do it for us. Riders who think even bikes with this much torque do not need rider aids are, in my opinion, probably wrong. If ever a bike needed clever electronics, it is the Hayabusa. Early gen-one models, running on poor rubber, would light up the rear tyre with ease, while riding a ’Busa fast in the wet required surgical precision with the throttle — but not anymore. Now much of the thinking is handled by clever and lean-sensitive rider aids.
That new six-axis IMU enables lean-sensitive ABS braking, traction control, wheelie control (anti-wheelie), engine braking control, and those three power modes with varying levels of engine performance. There is even launch control, which limits the revs to 4,000 rpm, 6,000 rpm or 8,000 rpm. Add the quick-shifter (which, incidentally, is changeable) and anyone can now launch a ’Busa off the line with ease and in safety.
There are six modes to choose from: three being pre-set and three which you can personalize. Essentially, the three pre-set modes offer varying levels of control, from full power and minimal rider aids to reduced power and obtrusive rider aids. The three personal settings are just that and can be tailored to how and where you ride. You could, for example, opt for full power and no rider aids (ABS cannot be deactivated, though) or, alternatively, you may love the full power experience but want maximum traction control (rating from 0 to 10) and maximum anti-wheelie.
All this is accessible via new and simple switchgear and is clearly displayed on the TFT clocks, between the analogue speedo and rev-counter, which remain triumphantly old-school. Not only do I applaud Suzuki for keeping with traditional dials — watch those needles spin — I like the way they have also made the rider aids accessible, useful, and easy to navigate. Better still, you can flick from, say, low power with full rider aids to a personalized hooligan setting of no rider aids and full power whilst on the move. Once you have saved your setting, they remain saved, even when you switch off the ignition. You can even change the layout of the TFT to display various features such as lean angle, which, again, is very neat, clever, and easy to understand. Like all new bikes, the switchgear and dash take a little getting used to, but without reading the manual, I had it sussed by the end of the day’s ride.
Another welcome feature of the new package of electronic rider aids is their inherent smoothness. It does not feel as if someone is removing a spark-plug when the anti-wheelie kicks in, even in the most obtrusive settings. Thankfully, the ABS is not overly obtrusive and is a welcome aid when you are running out of runway at 290 km/h-plus.
All right, there are some who still do not like any rider aids. And, admittedly, for our high-speed testing on a runway, I did de-activate them to give me the freedom to explore the wilder side of the ’Busa. Nevertheless, given the choice, I would always prefer a bike this mighty to be with rider aids than without and this package of goodies is a huge leap forward for the big ’Busa. I remember that when you were tired or riding in the wet and cold on the older Hayabusa motorcycles, especially the original, it was always ready to snap when your concentration dropped. Now the dog has been put on a lead.
Braking was always a weak point of the Hayabusa. Even when they uprated the brakes to Brembo items from Tokicos in 2008 and added basic ABS, they still were not the best, especially by modern standards. The combination of a relatively heavy bike, a long wheelbase, and all that power meant the stoppers were always going to take a hammering. Suzuki have rectified this by spending some money on the latest Brembo Stylema radial items, larger 320-millimetre discs and, as mentioned, cornering ABS (in partnership with Bosch). The brakes are now also linked, front to back (but not back to front) and there is a three-stage engine braking strategy, plus slipper clutch as standard.
The result is stopping performance that is a significant step over the previous model and would thoroughly embarrass the original ’Busa from 160 km/h to zero. Even after heavy use on the runway, there was virtually no fade, despite some abuse. On the road, the introduction of corning ABS is a welcome addition.
The twin-spar frame remains essentially the same as in the previous model and, externally, the KYB 43-mm forks and KYB rear shock appear to be remarkably similar too. However, Suzuki assure us that the suspension has been reworked with new settings, spring, and valves. Front fork rigidity has also been improved. The result is quality. Stability, which has always been a strong point of the Hayabusa, is unquestionable. You could update your social media account whilst riding flat out, though I would not recommend it. Bumps, undulations, big handfuls of throttle … through it all it remains unfazed, like a well-disciplined soldier.
At 264 kilograms and with a long 1,480-mm wheelbase, the handling is not razor-sharp, but, for a big bike, it can take you pleasantly by surprise. It appears Suzuki have not thrown the R&D money at the handling as they have at the electronics and brakes, yet it somehow seems to work. The changes they have made, combined with excellent Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 rubber, specifically designed to work with the ’Busa, means it handles far better than I remember. It takes on bumps and imperfections with unruffled ease and will happily lay on its side to knee-down extremes, feeling planted and tracking accurately.
I do not remember the old bike being this easy and well-mannered in the bends. The Suzuki Hayabusa 2021 devours fast and sweeping corners like a child devours easter eggs. Sure, ride aggressively, dive for apexes, hit the power hard over bumps, and you will get some complaints, while pegs will start to scrape if you want to pick a fight. However, the ’Busa was never designed to be able to cut it on track; if you want that, opt for a lighter, more powerful GSX-R1000. However, after a few hundred miles of road riding, I know which bike I would prefer.
I shall probably receive a lot of hate mail on this, but I never found the old model particularly comfortable. I see a number of riders using the ’Busa for touring, fully loaded with panniers and pillion, and think, why? For me, and I am only five feet seven inches, the bars were too low, the screen too small, and the pegs too high. There, I have said it. But for 2021, Suzuki have rectified a few of my criticisms by moving the bars 12 mm closer to the rider. That may not appear to be much, but it makes a real difference, especially at low speeds when you have a lot of weight on your wrists.
The pegs are still relatively high. I presume Suzuki could not lower the pegs due to the already limited ground clearance and the new bodywork is an improvement, but the screen is still on the low side. As mentioned, I am below average height and I am sure taller riders will be adding a larger screen for touring (an optional extra is 38 mm higher).
Cruise control now comes as standard, which is a great addition, and there is even a speed limiter for those pain-in-the-arse average speed cameras. Easy start, low rpm assist, and hill control add to an already impressive list of standard equipment. And, as you would expect, Suzuki offer a range of accessories, but, luggage-wise, only offer a tank-bag (small or large) in their range of genuine products. But before you book your next ’Busa adventure, we have a small hiccup.
Euro-5 restrictions mean fuel consumption has increased, yet the fuel-tank size remains the same at 20 litres. Suzuki claim 14.9 km/l, as opposed to 17.7 km/l from the previous model, which signifies a significant drop. This means the theoretical range from the 20-litre tank has dropped from 354 km to 298 km. Obviously, we never run a bike until it is empty, but this does mean you are going to have to search for fuel sooner on the 2021 model. Interestingly, I managed 16.3 km/l during the test (before we let loose on the runway), which was down on the previous generation-two model, but not as poor as Suzuki’s claimed figures. It will be interesting to see how the new ’Busa performs when we can get some serious miles under our belts over a few days, rather than on a one-day test launch.
I cannot believe we have got this far without mentioning the looks. Are you a fan? From the response on my social media, the styling gives rise to divided opinion. Some love it, some hate it. I congratulate Suzuki for staying with that familiar ’Busa styling, it is immediately obvious this is a Hayabusa; even the silhouette screams ’Busa. I like the new look and, strangely, the bike looks better with a rider onboard than stationary on its side-stand. The rider finishes the lines and makes its sleek aerodynamic shape complete.
The integrated indicators and rear light neaten up the rear end and I even like the new exhaust. Onboard, the aforementioned dash is neat, clear, and easy to understand while, personally, I do not care that there is not any Bluetooth connectivity. The switchgear is simple and, thankfully, there are not more buttons than the Concorde. Everything feels solid, well thought out, and, without wishing to be too harsh, at a higher level than other recent Suzukis.
Some models in Suzuki’s range do not have the high-end feel of quality like their Japanese competition from Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha, but the same cannot be said of the Suzuki Hayabusa 2021. In terms of feel and quality, this is on a par with the very best of the competition and, like the old model, the engine should be bulletproof. The only slight negative is the price which has risen significantly since the generation-two bike was discontinued in 2018. It is also significantly more expensive than Kawasaki’s ZZR1400 and, price-wise, is now more on a par with Kawasaki’s supercharged Ninja H2 SX.
It is not often that I admit being wrong. But when I feared Suzuki’s legendary Hayabusa may have had its day, I was as wrong as a road tester can be. It has still got it and it still delivers — so much so that I did not want to give the key back. Suzuki have not gone chasing peak power, for doing so would be wasted given that it is restricted to 300 km/h. Instead, they have looked at how they can improve the experience without spoiling the essence of the ’Busa. They have added advanced rider aids, a sleek design, updated TFT clocks, much improved brakes, and increased comfort — ticked all the boxes we wanted ticked, yet it still looks and feels like the original legend. The engine may have lost some top-end power, but it has gained in the mid-range and takes your breath away every time you crack open the throttle. It is hard not to ride extremely fast on the ’Busa. You have been warned!
Some may not like the design, some will turn their noses up at the reduced fuel range, and a small percentage will not like the relative lack of more top-end power, even though it would only be good for impressing uneducated mates down the pub. But, for me, it is still a ’Busa, still one of the fastest and thrilling ways of getting from A to B in comfort, only now with more style, safety, and real-world grunt than before. The legend continues.
Suzuki Hayabusa 2021 Rider Aids
Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (SIRS) is Suzuki’s new rider aids package, which is linked to the six-axis IMU supplied by Bosch. This allows for greater and more complex rider aids than earlier. The rider aids are listed below:
- Suzuki Drive Mode Selector Alpha (SDMS-), three pre-set modes and three that you can personalize
- Motion Track Traction Control System (10 modes + OFF), lean-sensitive traction control
- Power Mode Selector (three modes), the two top modes are full power, mode three is restricted power
- Bi-directional Quick Shift System (two modes + OFF), up and down quick-shift which works perfectly
- Anti-lift Control System (10 modes + OFF): anti-wheelie in simple terms
- Engine Brake Control System (three modes + OFF)
- Active Speed Limiter
- Launch Control System (three modes). Each setting has a different rev limit: 4,000 rpm, 6,000 rpm, and 8,000 rpm
- Emergency Stop Signal, which flashes the hazard lights during heavy braking or when the ABS is activated
- Suzuki Easy Start System, which requires only one press of the starter button
- Low RPM Assist
- Cruise Control System, 30–200 km/h
- Combined Brake System, front activates the rear, but not vice-versa
- Motion Track Brake System: Suzuki’s name for cornering ABS
- Slope Dependent Control System: braking which monitors the angle of the bike, braking downhill for example
- Hill Hold Control System