2008 Suzuki Hayabusa First Ride

Ken Hutchison | October 1, 2007
2008 Suzuki Hayabusa
2008 Suzuki Hayabusa

If there’s one sportbike that polarizes opinions more than Suzuki‘s iconic Hayabusa, I would like to hear the argument for it. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the Hayabusa is insanely fast, but the bike’s styling is where the controversy begins. The long swooping lines, bulbous bodywork, pointed nose and distinctive tail provides it with an unmistakable identity. But that which makes it unique also makes it peculiar.

Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder. For street riders, the Hayabusa has always been a hit. This year, Suzuki has taken everything that was good about the previous model to the next level with the 2008 GSX1300R Hayabusa.

Throughout the past decade, the heavy-hitting Hayabusa has evolved from a quirky-looking beast that wasn’t exactly embraced by the masses into one of the most identifiable and seminal motorcycles ever created. During its reign as the super streetbike of choice, the Hayabusa has become a staple in Suzuki’s sportbike line-up, with over 10,000 new units sold in 2006 alone. That ever popularity may explain why it has been so long since the bike received any significant updates until now.

The 2008 Hayabusa’s Chief Engineer, Hiroshi Iio, didn’t stray too far from the original Busa design he presented us back in 1998. Instead Iio massaged the previous model to address a few key elements which needed improvement. The new Busa’s basic appearance was only altered slightly, with the motor receiving some performance-enhancing refinements. Handling was also improved with the addition of a new front fork, while radial-mount brakes complement minor changes to the frame and chassis. Exactly how these changes affect real-world performance is the question we wanted to answer at the Hayabusa’s press introduction. After a couple days on the street, strip and track, all you really need to know is this: The new Hayabusa is bigger, badder and better than ever before.

Suzuki has never had any qualms with the Busa being immortalized as the only production bike to break the 200mph barrier before the corporate suits put a voluntary 186-mph top speed limit for production bikes a while back. Although we didn’t get to make any passes on the Salt Flats, the first order of business was to find out how well its lightly-modified motor performs in the controlled environment of the drag strip. This would merely be the first opportunity to sample the goods and although it’s tough to make any judgments about a motorcycle after riding it for less than a half a minute, we did get a good long look at the bike in action and from what I observed, things are looking good.

2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa - Wallpaper
The 2008 Hayabusa may not have been intended to be a track bike but the fact is, the bike holds its own on the track and what it lacks in cornering prowess it makes up in stability and acceleration.

To counter the larger-displacement of the Hayabusa’s competition, a 2mm-longer stroke that bumps displacement to 1340cc from 1299cc was employed. Otherwise the basic motor configuration remains the same as before, with an emphasis on making the mill more efficient. Redesigned aluminum-alloy pistons are five grams lighter and feature a modified crown that increases compression from 11.0:1 to 12.5:1 while shot-peened connecting rods attach to the crankshaft at repositioned points to accommodate the longer stroke. Although the valve sizes are unchanged at 33mm intake and 27.5mm exhaust, they are now titanium with a 14.1-gram savings to each intake and 11.7 grams less on each exhaust. Suzuki claims these changes, along with a pair of dual 44mm double-barreled Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) throttle bodies that now incorporate two (rather than one) fine-spray 12-hole (up from four) fuel injectors for each cylinder, work with the new engine management system’s a fast 32-bit 1024 kb ROM processor to ensure all of these minute changes work in concert. The result of all this gram-saving effort on the part of Suzuki equates to a claimed 20-horsepower increase from 173 hp to 194 hp and a similarly impressive increase in torque from 102 lb-ft to 114 lb-ft.

Looking back at the dyno results from our 2006 Hayabusa vs. ZX-14 comparison reveals that the Suzuki churned-out 156 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque on our rear-wheel dyno. Through a bit of extrapolation comparing Suzuki’s claims to our own previous findings, we can assume that the new bike will register around 175hp and 105 lb-ft at the rear wheel. One company already managed to get the new Busa on a dyno they brought to the introduction and their results concur with our arithmetic. At the drag strip the bike backs up the big power numbers with editors able to post impressive times despite only two passes each due to time constraints.

On the first pass at the grippy Great Lakes Dragaway launch pad, I failed miserably and shifted into second gear about 4000 rpm early yet still managed a 10.715 at 139 mph. That errant shift cost me three-tenths of a second and 2 mph at the 1/8-mile mark compared to the second pass. With no margin for error the pressure to make a respectable final run resulted in a 10.371 at 141 mph. Although more notable than the first, there is still time to be gained with additional practice on the launch and keeping the bike accelerating at full stick the entire length of the track. The faster guys claim they started at just under 6000rpm, which has worked for me on these big bikes in the past, but it takes a few passes to get used to the power when you’re talking about results measured in thousandth-second increments. The GSX-1300R makes a lot of power right out of the gate, so it’s not easy to nail the launch and during those critical first 330-feet it tends to want to wheelie unless you slip the clutch. At that point it’s all about finding a happy medium between keeping the revs up and the wheel down and as much as I would like to claim that I’m the man, in this instance I’m merely a grommet. However, the seasoned drag queens of the group posted 10.05 and 10.02 passes on their first attempts, so the Busa obviously gets with the program. It should also be noted that one journo-weasel managed to sneak in a few extra runs, while the rest of us were prepping for the street ride, and he managed to post a 9.99 pass only to have Jordan Motorsports’ Aaron Yates best his effort with a 9.95 on the following run. With a few more passes under our belt, I am certain that many more riders would have been basking in the glory of a 9-second time slip. Do I sound a little salty? That’s because I am.

Warm it up Kenny! - 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
Hutch warms up the rear tire before making his first quarter-mile run on the 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa.

In case you missed it, the annual Speed Trials by BUB held at the Bonneville Salt Flats has become an increasingly popular venue for speed freaks around the world and Suzuki’s high-flying Hayabusa is often the common denominator among an elite group of motorcycle land-speed record holders. Look no further than the Ack Attack streamliner, driven by Rocky Robinson, which is powered by two Hayabusa motors that combine to produce 1000 horsepower. Robinson posted a record breaking 342.797 mph pass in 2006 with a top one-way pass of 349.031 mph. But the truly impressive feat was accomplished by Hayabusa enthusiast John Noonan a year earlier when he laid down a mind-boggling 259.393 mph record on his conventional ‘sit-on’ turbo charged Hayabusa. The records continue to pile up for this big bird of prey and to date, no manufacturer has managed to step up and seriously challenge the big Suzuki‘s domination in the Bonneville record books. According to many of the contenders at the Speed Trials, the Hayabusa is simply the best all around package for this application. The bodywork is efficient, the motor is bullet-proof and the aftermarket support is so vast that it just doesn’t make any sense to look elsewhere. On the salt the Hayabusa still is the apex predator.

There’s no disputing the ’08 Hayabusa is an animal on the salt or at the strip, but whether or not Busa loyalists will embrace the new look is one of the few concerns. The head-on view, with its dual ram-air intakes and stacked triangular headlight, is reminiscent of a new GSX-R. The more aggressive appearance of the 2008 Hayabusa represents the engineering team’s desire to come up with a natural evolution of the bike rather than reinventing it entirely. Accentuation to the previous models’ curves really works well for the new bike. There are hordes of owners who have embraced its distinctive appearance over the years, as anyone who has witnessed the extensive examples found at street bike hotspots, bike nights and custom bike shows across the nation can attest, so it was important for the new bike to retain its identity and hard earned street credibility.

The custom sportbike scene continues to grow in popularity and manufacturers are finally starting to embrace its allure and the Hayabusa is at the heart of the trend. This year at the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca the OEM showcased the fat-tire customs with their intricate paint jobs at the entrance to every display, placement typically reserved for historic race bikes and such. Magazine racks have rags dedicated to it with big-wheeled Busas and scantily clad babes gracing the covers month after month and there’s no reason to think it will lose popularity anytime soon. These bikes are outlandish with everything from 300-series rear tires, single-side swingarms, radical wheel designs, high-dollar motor mods that have them pushing the envelope from all angles. The Hayabusa, with its abundance of surface area available for painting, has been a prime candidate for intricate murals and even integrated lighting designs within the art on the bodywork panels. To say that the Hayabusa is an aftermarket manufacturer’s dream is a gross understatement.

The high beam projector head lamp is lighter and more compact than the  07 and a high intensity 65w light is there to help brighten up the evenings - 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
The high beam projector head lamp is lighter and more compact than the ’07 and a high intensity 65w light is there to help brighten up the evenings – 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa

While watching the endless stream of Hayabusas stage at the strip and seeing them roll into motion, I found my eyes drawn down the bodywork side panels, with the sculpted pods housing the intake and blinker on either side of the front fairing. These new components make the bike look bulging and muscular and are sure to make an impact when the customizing aficionados get a hold of it. There is a definite reduction in the number of visible fasteners across the board, which really cleans up the exterior and should make more than a few painters giddy too. The revised ‘Busa hump’ tail section is sure to stir up a few debates outside the local Hess station though. It’s much more pronounced arch commands attention even more than the previous design. Word on the street is that the new shape can be attributed to a slight increase in aerodynamic efficiency. Sculpted pods below the hump, similar to those found on the front fairing, house the integrated rear blinkers and look like the flexed triceps on a roid-freak’s arms. A new triangular shaped taillight ties it into the similarly-designed headlight. Then there’s the new dash, which features four round analog instruments trimmed in chrome, mated to a tiny LED display with a clock and gear position indicator right in the middle.

On the street we were subjected to long, straight rural roads but our efforts to run wild were blocked by both commuter traffic and our Suzuki guides who were there to keep unruly behavior in check. Ironic isn’t it? We are on the motorcycle that represents all that is mischievous about the streetbike scene in the eyes of ‘The Man’ and here we are droning out at 65-75 mph. What this slow and laborious sojourn revealed is that the riding position is still pure Hayabusa. The seat is firm yet plush, relatively low at 31.7-inches and it allows for an easy reach to the ground at a stop. That goodness is offset by the low bars which still make the riders’ wrists ache after extended seat time. At normal speed, the wind buffeting is not bad at all, and the only noticeable buzz from the motor occurs in the neighborhood of five grand regardless of what gear. During stop and go traffic there’s a significant amount of heat coming out of the right side of the bike, but other than that the new Busa is quite at home on the street. The mirrors offer a decent view and didn’t appear to be blurry as the revs climbed. Anytime you’re discussing the Hayabusa the conversation always leads back to the motor and with all the torque on tap it still pulls strong in any gear. This has always been one of the highlights of the bike’s street prowess. It’s ready to get busy anywhere, any time. 

The Hayabusa has always been a fine streetbike and now, with the addition of the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS), there are three engine control maps which you can choose from to suit your riding needs. As with the 2007 GSX-R1000, the A mode is full power and the default setting whenever the bike is started. The B mode offers a more linear power curve and a slight reduction in overall power output. The C or (Chicken-mode as it has come to be known), alters the power curve to more of a gradual slope and reduces power output dramatically.

Why is this S-DMS even an option on a bike notorious for being a land-based ballistic missile? Why not, no one else has it? That’s Suzuki’s angle, and I see its point. No one else is doing it and the S-DMS works functionally if you care to use it.

It may not have been intended to be a track bike but the fact is  the Hayabusa holds its own on the track and what it lacks in cornering prowess it makes up in stability and acceleration - 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
It may not have been intended to be a track bike but the fact is, the Hayabusa holds its own on the track and what it lacks in cornering prowess it makes up in stability and acceleration – 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa

At the high-speed Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin there was no need for anything but A-mode because at 180mph, no one can hear you whine. With four-miles of clear pavement to work with on the final day, this circuit is one of the few places on the planet where we could ride a Hayabusa pinned in fifth gear without fear of incarceration or an untimely demise. Have you ever held a Busa pinned in fifth and then grabbed a handful of brakes and tried to bend it into a turn at triple digit speeds – on the stock tires? It’s an eye-opening experience to say the least. The good news is the Bridgestone BT-015 rubber, designed specifically for this bike, and the new radial-mount 4-piston Tokico calipers and 310mm rotors were up to the task the majority of the time.

Rocketing down Road America’s long front straight the Hayabusa buries the speedometer needle beyond its indicated 185 mph nomenclature at redline in fifth gear. From the secure confines of the cockpit, the concrete walls, fences, trees and brake-markers get really blurry about the time to get on the brakes for Turn 1 – essentially a flat 90-degree right hand turn that can be taken at over 100 mph. The trick is to get off the brakes, after scrubbing off nearly a hundred mph on the way in so you can focus on shifting to second or third- gear while carrying enough speed to get a decent drive through the short chute to Turn 3. Charging into these turns is the first of many opportunities to experience the new hydraulically-operated slipper clutch.

A long and somewhat straight stretch of tarmac between Turns 3 and 5 is another place where the speedo snuggles up to 180. The downhill Moraine Sweep braking markers leading into another right-hander at Turn 5 come up quick. Initially the brakes are very powerful and offer up what seems like improved feel over the six-pot design they replace. The front end doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, initially, because the bike’s so heavy, but after a few laps you learn to trust the feedback you do get because it’s probably better to be oblivious to how close it is to the edge anyway. Through infield Turns 6, 7 and 8 is where the weight of the bike really is noticeable. Although it navigates the series of turns well for a bike this size, there’s no mistaking it for a repli-racer.

It accelerates so damn hard in second and third gears that after a while it wears you down if you’re trying to ride aggressive rather than smooth. Being smooth is the name of the game through the long sweeping Turn 9-10 carousel. Entering the turn under acceleration seems sketchy at first, but the bike remains very composed and is actually quite stable at the pace I was running once it’s bent in. The long peg feelers grind incessantly though. The kink between ten and eleven provides proof again that this is not a racing platform but it rewards the rider for riding smooth. There’s still plenty of compression braking to help slow the bike down when doling out power in moderation and that is a nice by-product of an uber-motor like this if you do plan to hit a few trackdays. Rolling off the gas and easing on the brakes, rather than attacking the entrance, helps keep the fork from chattering and makes the bike feel less intimidating than charging in hard on the brakes and muscling the bike around with lots of momentum working against it.

The blue and gold-trimmed version really looks good in person - 2008 Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
The blue and gold-trimmed version really looks good in person. It’s gold wheels look like more than just an OEM piece of kit and together with the subtle graphics it makes this one of the better-looking of the three ’08 Habusa color options.

Things get really interesting through Kettle Bottoms where the track shoots through a canopy of trees with walls on both side. The surface is a bit rough and the track snakes right and left leading to the approach of the infamous Canada Corner. This stretch makes use of the stock steering damper and really is a showcase for the chassis’ stability as the motor is wound to the nuts and up-shifting while maneuvering from side to side. The new fork still seemed to get overwhelmed as it took two sessions to dial-out some serious front-end chatter exhibited at the hard-braking zones at the entrance to Turns 5, the Kink and 12. Once the Suzuki support staff sorted it out for my third and final session, I was left with a good impression of the inverted DLC-treated 43mm KYB cartridge fork. An uphill section connecting Canada Corner to Turn 13 includes a blind rise before opening up for the final turn where the track surface is in pretty bad shape. Skipping across the braking bumps and multiple surfaces proves the front actually does stay the course.

If all goes well the bike is in second gear as you hurtle up the hill towards the start/finish line. The bike Gs-out heading under the bridge and when the view opens up at the top, the Hayabusa is going so freaking fast that that it’s important to stay tucked in safely out of the wind. Turn 1 is coming up fast again and it is always an unpleasant surprise when the brakes start to fade. With a claimed dry weight of 485 lbs and the associated momentum with that much mass moving at terminal velocity eventually wore the brakes down after four or five laps. As they definitely started to fade under repeated hard braking antics, it became important to take a smooth linear approach to each lap rather than the hard-charging theory I employed during my first session. The support team addressed the issue by changing fluid and pads. Unfortunately, I did not find out if they were the same compound as I started on, but they didn’t fade or falter during the final session of the day.

Check out the accompanying video for a look at what it’s like to motor through no less than three sections of Road America with the Hayabusa pinned to the stop.

In the end I was pleasantly surprised that the Hayabusa actually navigates this beautiful facility with surprising agility. It’s no GSX-R1000 but it proved its multi-purpose nature time and time again during our 20-minute sessions. This truly is a jack-of-all-trades streetbike that combines a just enough track prowess to compliment its easy-going street manners. Sure, those 175-ponies are always going to be chomping at the bit but its up to the rider to keep them reigned in. There’s no doubt in my mind that an experienced rider can have a great time with the Busa at a trackday and experience this bike at full tilt boogie. It truly is something to behold.

So whether you are a current Hayabusa owner looking to upgrade your ride or someone who has been waiting for a reason to step up and get the mother of all streetbikes, this is what you’ve been waiting for. We’ll say it again – this is the biggest, baddest and best Hayabusa to ever roll off a showroom floor.

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Ken Hutchison

Editor |Articles | The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.