2008 Suzuki Hayabusa | Feature

The wide, bulbous bodywork flows across the bike like lava from a volcano. The long nose droops forward, almost over the front fender, and the sharp talon-like air-intakes stand ready to gulp huge lungfuls of air in order for this glowering bird to take flight. The newest edition of the Suzuki Hayabusa sits quietly for now, but for anyone daring enough to pull the hood from its eyes, this bird of prey is clearly ready to unleash its nigh-on 200 horsepower—and swoop down for the kill.

This styling was controversial when the Hayabusa was first released in 1999. The bike looked alien, but with time we have become accustomed to the iconic swooping lines, bulging biceps, and heavyweight road presence. When seen next to the 2008, the earlier Hayabusas look almost restrained by comparison.

Helmet: Shoei RF-1000 Diabolic 3 TC-5
Leathers: Kushitani
Gloves: Cortech Scarab R.R.
Boots: Sidi Vertigo Corsa (Click image to enlarge)

This bodywork, inspired by the peregrine falcon, is designed to help the Hayabusa comfortably reach its top speed. Of course, that has been voluntarily capped at 300 kph (186 mph), so actual terminal velocity is somewhat academic. Even so, with its powerhouse looks and thunderous thrust, the Hayabusa still remains the quintessential two-wheeled rocket; all one has to do is light the afterburners and hang on.

But the changes to the Hayabusa go deeper than just developing its fearsome looks. Already fitted into a lightweight GSX-R style chassis, the Hayabusa engine received a dramatic makeover. The stroke increased by 2mm, bringing displacement up to 1340cc; compression increased to 12.5:1; titanium replaced the steel valves, and internal cutouts were enlarged to reduce pumping losses. As a result, maximum power increased 21 hp to a whopping 194 ponies, and maximum torque was boosted to a monstrous 114 ft-lbs. (Click image to enlarge)

King of Straight-Line Stonk is a worthy title to bestow on the Hayabusa, and naturally most conversations about the bike eventually crystallize around its engine. The first part of our test took place at Great Lakes Dragaway in southeast Wisconsin. Rolling to the line and performing the requisite burnout to warm the rear tire was, as you can imagine, a laughably easy exercise.

Due to Suzuki’s Clutch Assist System—obviating the need for strong springs—the action of the back-torque limiting slipper clutch is light at the lever, and possesses plenty of feel. I held the front brake tight, wound up the motor and flipped the clutch. The track-worthy rear Bridgestone BT-015 tire (designed specifically for this machine) immediately surrendered, and the ensuing tire smoke began to asphyxiate our photographer nicely.

Moving to the line some 20 seconds later, I watched the lights. Optimum take-off is apparently achieved by revving the engine to around 5,000 rpm, then slipping the clutch for the first hundred yards or so. My mechanical sympathy restrains abusive tendencies, and that was apparent by my high ten-second run. However, Jordan Suzuki’s Aaron Yates is not overly burdened with such sensibilities. He clocked a 9.95-second ¼- mile, an incredibly impressive achievement for a showroom stock machine. (Click image to enlarge)

Moving on to Road America—one of the fastest racetracks in this country—further proved the Hayabusa’s mettle. As I hurtled up the hill on the front straightaway, the wailing Hayabusa (redlined at 11,000 rpm) crested over the rise, coinciding perfectly with a change up to fourth gear. Even though I was fully tucked in, as the gears meshed, the flooding torque from the liquid-smooth engine lofted the front wheel easily, carrying it lazily—at around 150 mph, mind you—for 100 yds or so, until it gracefully (and much to my relief) returned to tarmac. By the end of the straight, in fifth gear, the speedometer was buried at its maximum indicated 185 mph—with another gear to go!Reaching the end of the pit wall told me it was time to hit the brakes, and the new Tokico radial mount calipers bit reassuringly and firmly on the 310mm discs. The new brakes address the main weak point on the previous model, and they have excellent stopping power and great feel at the lever.

For such an obvious ballistic missile, the Hayabusa also concerns itself with handling. Increased chassis rigidity is coupled with the fully adjustable KYB suspension—the 43mm inverted fork is black DLC-coated to reduce stiction. A steering damper adds to the bike’s neutral handling, making it surprisingly capable around the track. Turn-in was predictable, and in the long 85 mph right-sweeping carousel, the Hayabusa remained solidly stable and on-line. On one lap, I entered a little wide and had to change my line mid-corner; but, impressively, the Hayabusa maintained its composure, completing the turn without difficulty or upset. (Click image to enlarge)

The analog instruments are clear and easy to read with a centered LCD information panel. A helpful readout is the status of the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector system, which enables you to select milder engine output on-the-fly to accommodate deteriorating track or street conditions.

With its committed looks and fearsomely capable motor, the Suzuki Hayabusa has muscled its street cred to boss-bike status, and appears regularly in stretched and customized form. Suzuki’s dominant Superbike racing genes have worked their way into this beautifully finessed package, and the Hayabusa’s reputation as the baddest bike on the block is well deserved.