Our bikes: 2003 Suzuki Hayabusa
Performance bikes have a tendency to go through lots of owners, but one has defied the odds…
It was a bit of a shock to wander past Hannibal the Hayabusa in the shed the other day and suddenly realize it’s a whole 10 years since I bought it. You see, big performance bikes traditionally go through a lot of owners and, by now, Hannibal should have had at least four of five.
Why? I suspect it has to do with fashion. Bikes like the Hayabusa start out as the biggest and fastest thing on the block and find themselves being used as a trade-in soon after something faster and newer lands in the showrooms. From there, they tend to go through owners every two or three years, each of which tends to be less well-funded than the previous, which means the bike ends up a somewhat tired example of its former self.
Spannerman depends on this trend, as he refuses to pay more than $1500 for a motorcycle, no matter how quick it is. Can you imagine what a $1500 Hayabusa would feel like? The brakes, steering and suspension would be clagged, but it would stil do well over 250km/h!
Hannibal has somehow defied the trend, though that’s been down to luck rather than good management. I’ve actually had it on the market several times until some potential buyer has irritated me to the point where they can’t have it at any price. In a couple of cases, I’ve even made the mistake of taking it for a ride and enjoyed it so much I’ve promptly withdrawn it from sale.
To recap for those who were busy at the time, the Hayabusa was launched as Suzuki’s hero muscle bike in 1999. Its claim to fame was a top speed in excess of 300km/h (around 310km/h was typical), matched to what was, at the time, somewhat shocking styling and a 175 horsepower figure.
We were assured the organic curves were the result of serious wind tunnel work, and it took a long time for many of us to get accustomed to the look. In any case, Suzuki successfully overshadowed the more civilised Honda Blackbird (it could ‘only’ manage 290km/h and 164 horses!) and had a big hit on its corporate hands. One that has gone on to qualify as a cult bike. The first-gen Hayabusa underwent some minor changes, including some early mods to the rear subframe. Most controversial was the 2001 model year agreement between the major bike makers that they would limit top speeds to 300km/h.
In the case of the Hayabusa, this meant an electronic limiter with the visual give-away that the speedo numbering stopped at 280km/h.
In 2003 we saw the installation of a higher-spec engine control unit that boasted 32-bit processing for more precise fuel metering, plus a lighter generator rotor.
It took until 2008 for Suzuki to launch a redesigned ’Busa, with updated styling, chassis and engine.
HANNIBAL THE HECTIC
As for Hannibal, it comes from a generation of bikes that was almost universally modified.
While many owners were content with a set of slip-on mufflers and a potential modest lift in performance, others went the whole hog with wild engines (300hp-plus turbo versions are surprisingly common), lengthened swingarms, you name it.
For me the rot started when Don Stafford popped under his shop counter and emerged proudly bearing a titanium header and collector set from an Over Racing four-into-one system. It was unbelievably light – what it weighed seemed to defy logic.
The paper-thin walls and welds were something to behold and it almost seemed a shame to hide them away under a fairing. Of course, before I knew what had happened, Muggins was wandering out the door with a shiny new system, including a carbon-fibre muffler. It and Hannibal found themselves in the workshop of Phil Tainton Racing, the kitchen that had for years been producing Suzuki Australia’s successful superbikes.
With the addition of a Dynotech tuner, Tainton managed to get the rear-wheel horsepower up from an already very-healthy 164.5 to 177.6. Add an estimated 15 horses for normal losses on a machine like this and you’re talking about more than 190hp at the crank. What’s more, it had a boost literally everywhere in the rev range with a significantly ‘fatter’ torque curve.
Now that’s where we probably should have left it alone, with enough grunt to conduct a moon launch, but where’s the fun in that? So I started making noises to Tainton about getting serious with the power and he was more than happy to take up the challenge.
With new pistons, one-off camshafts, a port and polish, plus a host of other sometimes very-subtle mods, the bike was now a monster with 208.8hp at the rear tyre, or over 220 at the crank. Tainton was actually annoyed, as he was shooting for 210 at the wheel, but his cause was probably held back a little because that Over Racing muffler was quiet enough to be near street legal. Something a little more open would have been enough to get the boost he wanted.
Still, we’re talking a fair effort – 220-odd horses was then a long way ahead of any stock road bike and remains so a decade later. The way it develops its power is entertaining. It lost some of the classic Hayabusa low-end grunt, though it would still match a contemporary GSX-R1000. Up top is where it got really interesting. At 8000rpm it was making as much as a stock ’Busa at full noise.
In the next 2000rpm, it was picking up an extra 45-ish horses. Those last couple of notches on the tacho are pretty entertaining! As for top-speed, Tainton reckoned it would be good for 330km/h so long as you fitted the right gearing.
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Hannibal has aged pretty well, though compared with more current machinery it succeeds with brute force rather than finesse. Though running good suspension, it’s a fairly long and heavy bike and can sometimes feel like it. The low profile counteracts that to some extent, so it’s far from being overwhelming.
The one thing that disappointed a little from day one was the front brakes. Six-piston calipers can’t help but look impressive, but these have more bark than bite. Though they rate as adequate, they’re nowhere near as sharp as current kit. Replacing the synthetic rubber brake hoses with braided steel ones made a significant improvement. Reliability has not been an issue, despite all the modifications – it’s an argument for making sure the work is professional. Admittedly, it’s only done around 15,000km, plus a lot of dyno time!
The only issue I’ve struck is an ongoing struggle to get the titanium headers to seal properly – an annoyance unique to this bike.
Servicing costs are the same as for any other Hayabusa, though this engine has a monster appetite for fuel.
Where a stock first-gen Hayabusa can be expected to get 16 kilometres per litre when ridden gently, this one struggles to get 12 and that can easily drop to 10, or less than 8km/litre if you get throttle happy!
The days when Hannibal would be put up for sale every time I needed cash have gone. It’s become part of the furniture of my life and we’re pretty well stuck with each other.
As a second-hand buy, you could do a whole lot worse than one of these things. In some ways they’re a victim of their own success, with lots of examples being offered. In turn that keeps the prices down. They seem to start at around $6000, which is a hell of a lot of motorcycle for the money.
– Loads of performance
– Lots of tuning potential
– Front brakes not sharp
Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa (1999-2007)
Type: Liquid-cooled in-line four with four valves per cylinder
Bore and stroke: 81 x 63mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Type: Six-speed constant mesh
Final drive: Chain
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:
Frame type: Twin-spar alloy
Front suspension: USD fork, full adjustment
Rear suspension: Monoshock, full adjustment
Front brakes: Twin six-piston Tokico 320mm twin discs
Rear brake: Single disc
Front tyre: 120/70-17
Rear tyre: 190/50-17
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:
Dry weight: 217kg
Seat height: 805mm
Fuel capacity: 21 litres
Power: 175hp at 9800rpm (stock at crank); 208.8hp at 10,400rpm (measured at rear wheel)
Torque: 141Nm at 7000rpm (stock at crank); 152Nm at 9300rpm (measured at rear wheel)