2021 Suzuki Hayabusa review – a cutting-edge take on the original hyperbike
Join Mossy for a test on road and runway
Many thought it would never appear, but now Suzuki’s new Hayabusa is finally with us, plenty are sporting broad smiles.
I’m one of those contented souls, as the 'Busa has always been one of my favourites. After riding the latest version around the UK last week, I’m pleased to report the latest, third incarnation of the icon is the best one yet. It’s just made the biking world a little brighter.
Is it really new?
It’s not been changed quite as much as its more modernised appearance might suggest. Just like the vast majority of new bikes from Suzuki in recent years, the 2021 model is more of an evolution than anything of a more radical redesign. It’s even lost some peak power!
Reducing the maximum from 194bhp to 187bhp might sound like a heinous crime to some, in reality it’s academic and matters little. Still performing in a way quite unlike any other bike currently on the market, the Hayabusa retains its utterly staggering performance. Better still, it can produce it with absolute ease. What the engine’s lost at the top end of its rev range, it’s more than made up for by having some extra stomp shifted to where it matters, and where it can be used more, in the midrange.
Everything about the Hayabusa's shape is designed to cut through the air efficiently on the way to a 186mph (liimited) top speed
So strongly, reliably, and effortlessly can it thrust you forward, it’s arguable a gearbox isn’t required. When you want to go faster, just opening the throttle alone brings absolutely astonishing amounts of speed gain. Having to consider chores like what gear you’re in or how much the engine’s revving is unnecessary.
It's still fast then?
This thing just drives breathtakingly hard in any gear, surging onward on a seemingly never-ending tsunami of torque, blurring the view of everything you pass through. Even in top, once the wheels are rolling, the new clocks’ speedo needle sweeps round its face at an extraordinary pace when the motor’s fed more fuel and air. It’s thrilling, addictive and utterly fantastic to sample.
The 'Busa's chassis is largely unchanged – it's still a stable but surprisingly nimble bike
The fatter midrange has come courtesy of a combination of parts like a new airbox, revised inlet tracts, 1mm smaller throttle bodies, reprofiled cams, fuel injection mods, redesigned combustion chambers, and a new exhaust system. Given the constraints dictated by the manufacturers’ agreement to limit top speeds to 186mph, and environmental restrictions demanded by Euro-5 emissions legislation, Suzuki’s more realistic and economic decision to retune the engine via this route appears to be a wise move. Besides 187bhp is hardly likely to produce disappointing top end performance is it now? Only those who like to boast about big numbers down the pub are likely to feel put out.
Usefully, the 1,300cc inline-four is just as happy taking things easy and feels far, far safer than the big power and speed stats might lead to believe. It’s nothing like the crazy unmanageable beast it’s all too easy to think it might be. With one of the most linear deliveries possible, the engine is really easy to control. All you need is lots of discipline to avoid using too much of what it has, and putting your licence under real threat!
Is it still more of a sports tourer than a sports bike?
Also aiding overall safety is the very competent, largely unaltered chassis and new, easy to access, electronics package. Tipping the scales at a hefty 264kilos ready-to-ride, the 'Busa can hardly claim to be a lightweight. But thanks to the excellent balance the speedy sports tourer possesses, there’s a poised and composed feel to it from the off. Threading though congested traffic poses no extra challenge, with walking-pace manoeuvres being easy and secure to execute.
A low seat helps shorties like me when coming to a standstill, though whether longer-legged riders might deal with the higher footrests remains to be seen. No one on the launch complained, though as we only spent an hour in the saddle between numerous breaks, that wasn’t going to be likely. In saying that, with the riding positions of the new bike being very similar to the old, with the exception of the new bike’s bars being 12mm closer to the rider, the reputation of the Hayabusa as a comfy, effective mile-eater should hold true. If it was mine, I’d fit a taller aftermarket screen just for a bit more high-speed cruising comfort. Overall though, the bike feels like it would be happy to accommodate you all day in the saddle. Both the previous versions of the bike were.
How does the new 'Busa handle?
The big 1,300cc motor's a relaxed and hugely torquey engine on the road
Round tight junctions and mini-roundabouts you can sense the 1,300’s weight and length, but it’s hardly what you’d describe as a handicap and has a welcome trade-off. Whenever you start taking advantage of the marvellous motor and charge along tighter, twistier routes, the stability delivered by the largely unaltered frame’s geometry is really apparent, and very much welcome. No doubt about it, the 2021 Hayabusa feels solid and immovable, regardless of pace and road condition. Its reassuring behaviour helps build lots confidence. Along with a revised suspension package that offers commendable ride quality and control, bigger brakes that repeatedly do their job really well even when used hard, and lovely accurate neutral steering, you soon gain faith in pushing the envelope more and more.
I hear it has loads of electronics now…
Suzuki's kept with analogue dials – the speedo sweeps around the clock almost as quickly as the rev-counter
Helping you to feel even more at home is the manageability offered by the electronics package. Ride-by-wire throttle control, allied to a new Bosch six-axis IMU, manages the six rider modes (three pre-set, three tuneable to preference), cornering ABS, and 10-level traction control system. Also assisting governance are anti-wheelie, anti-stoppie, launch, and engine braking control systems. With cruise control, up/down quick shifter, hill-hold, and speed limiter, the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System has numerous benefits to help tune the bike to preferred riding styles and road conditions. You can have a 'Busa to suit your experience and mood at the touch of a button. It doesn’t always have to feel bonkers!
What's it like on a runway?
Some of those features definitely proved useful when dealing with the near flat-out speed runs Suzuki arranged for us at a Northamptonshire aircraft runway. Launching the powerful bike from a standstill was safely kept in check with the launch control and anti-wheelie systems engaged. Then after getting up to an indicated 170mph with stunning rapidity, the appreciably improved Brembo brakes hauled up the heavy 'Busa with impressive ease. Braking has been a weaker point on both previous versions of the Suzuki, but on this one there’s zero room for criticism.
Launch control helps you hove the front wheel for optimum acceleration
Still open to debate though are the bike’s looks. Shaped more to cut through the air at very high speed more than turn heads, there’s still a bulky, slightly oversized overall appearance to split opinion. However, the latest restyle has given it sharper, more aggressive look in key areas, making the Suzuki a lot more attractive than the previous model. Only the massive twin silencers spoil the aesthetics for me, though an aftermarket can would soon sort that. No doubt the shortened fuel range, courtesy of a 1-litre smaller tank and slightly higher Euro-5 dictated fuel consumption, could displease some too.
Should I buy one?
As I expected, riding the new Hayabusa turned out to be an emotional event for me. Overall, it’s more versatile and usable than you might expect, as my comfortable 150-mile journey through towns, along dual-carriageways, winding backroads and down the airstrip proved. Ridden harder, its ability to instantly and significantly raise the pace so easily is jaw-dropping. In this era of ever-tightening legislation, PC attitudes and moves to electrification, I’m sure it won’t be long before bikes like the 'Busa just won’t be allowed. Anyone who manages to get one before that final curtain falls should count themselves lucky.
There is, quite simply, nothing like the legendary Hayabusa.
It's still a classic