2008 Suzuki B-King Review: Fast with Radical Styling
The radical styling of the big new Suzuki certainly elicits an opinion from every onlooker. But, surprisingly, even most naysayers seem to quickly get used to the anime-inspired bodywork and, especially, exhaust pipes. The exposed engine makes the B-King an obvious candidate for some street-custom bling, and coupled with the large gas-tank side covers, wide riding stance and broad seat and cowl, the B-King has an aggressive, muscular appearance that people seem to like. Looks aside, the fact is, the B-King works extremely well on the road; no surprise given its direct Hayabusa heritage and Suzuki’s race-proven ability to create powerful motorcycles that are easy to ride fast.
The B-King originated as a concept vehicle exhibited at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show. Complete with supercharger, its title of “Boost-King” was clearly apropos. That the bike retained its moniker despite the loss of the blower is slightly bemusing, but as a conversation piece it makes for some interesting speculation as to what the “B” should now stand for: Big? Brutal? Bully-Boy? They all fit, because this broad, aggressive machine bellows out its powerful road presence and produces a shove in the back like you are being flung unceremoniously into a cage fight.
At traffic lights the menacing front face of the bike seems to have more lip curl than Billy Idol while it gazes around snarling like an angry pit bull—beware any lesser scoot that pulls alongside because the B-King is clearly ready to rumble. Sitting upright makes for a comfortable ride; the bars are nicely shoulder-width and create a slightly lean-forward posture. I was initially surprised by the sporting placement of the footpegs, but once I turned into the first corner I realized why—the bike handles superbly.
The seat is comfortable without being plush, and made for easy weight transfer into corners; the overall feel of the B-King reminded me of yesteryear’s gloried superbikes, including Suzuki’s own iconic GS1000S. The new Nissin radial four-piston brakes are notably powerful and have plenty of progressive feel. At 518 lbs dry, the B-King is not light, so it was a wise move by Suzuki to outfit this brute with some serious stopping power. Excellent Kayaba forks and shock deliver a firm, but not harsh ride, and are both fully adjustable.
Combined with Dunlop’s brilliantly predictable Qualifier tires—120 front and 200 rear—and an all-new cast aluminum chassis the B-King is a fast machine plenty capable of hanging with out-and-out sport bikes. Make no mistake, this is definitely a big, solid bike, but the bulk is somewhat of an illusion as it is mainly derived from the plastic covers fitted around the gas tank and the exhaust system.
Once rolling, the B-King is surprisingly flickable; the bike’s neutral handling is helped by good handlebar leverage. And, although the B-King turns in quickly, it resists flopping into corners. It is no lightweight fighter, so it doesn’t have the lightning quick speed of a Sugar Ray Leonard. But, as a heavyweight, the B-King is still quick on its feet—more Ali than Foreman. Even though it doesn’t quite float like a butterfly, it definitely stings like a bee. That sting in the tail is the raison d’etre for this machine—awesome power in a deft package.
The take-no-prisoners Hayabusa-sourced engine is changed only slightly due to the layout of the center-up exhaust system. With a slightly longer stroke, but smaller bore, the across-the-frame four still displaces 1340cc and packs the most powerful punch in class. With a heavier crankshaft and more flywheel effect than any GSX-R, the engine redlines at a relatively modest 10,500 rpm. Coupled with the longer stroke it revs deliberately without being slow.The B-King is as smooth as Ali’s lyrical voice, and what little vibration that does exist is isolated from the rider. But, when the throttle is blipped, there is a definite feeling of heft. The way the revs climb and fall is not as frenetic as the King’s track-ready cousins, but it is precisely that quality that makes it such a wonderful street motor. With huge (no, I mean really huge) amounts of mid-range torque, there is monstrous power available everywhere—any time, in any gear.
Lofting the front wheel in either first or second gear is a lazy, predictable affair—and there is no need to abuse the hydraulic clutch, either. Because the slower revving motor lofts the front wheel in a controllable way, the height of any wheelie is easy to modulate and a gentle landing is achievable, too. This addictive power is smoothly unleashed, thanks to an exemplary throttle connection of the 44mm double-barrel throttle bodies and two-stage dual butterflies. Off-to-on throttle transitions are fluid, and the S-DMS changeable fuel mapping system gives the rider a choice of a detuned “B” mode if the grip level calls for more restrained behavior.
Sure, the Suzuki B-King is a heavyweight; but it’s a Champ in the everyday world of street riding. It is actually more like an Evander Holyfield. It is the Real Deal.