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2022 Suzuki Hayabusa: Still Fast, Now Beautiful

Major upgrades have brought the 22-year old bruiser right up to date

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Suzuki’s Hayabusa has always been a bike of extremes: extreme performance, extreme looks, extreme dynamics. Many thought it was coming to the end of its life in 2018 but Suzuki knew when it was on to a good thing. The 2022 Hayabusa is still as fast as ever, but has grown from the ugly duckling into a graceful swan and received a huge upgrade, both mechanical and electronic, along the way.

Suzuki Hayabusa: Return of the King

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa: Still Fast, Now Beautiful
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2021 Hayabusa
New from top to bottom, but still ballistically fast

The Suzuki Hayabusa has always been one of those motorcycles that polarises opinion. Some think it spectacularly ugly while others think it is unnecessarily fast. On the other side of the fence, some love the bulbous appearance and revel in its staggering performance.

It was conceived in the 1990s and launched in 1999 as a direct response to the Honda CBR100XX Super Blackbird, which had been launched in 1996 to wrest the title of fastest production motorcycle from the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-11. It managed this with a top speed of 178.5mph. The Hayabusa then raised the top speed record to 194mph.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa: Still Fast, Now Beautiful
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Gone are the Curves
Sharper styling less distinctive, still imposing

This speed led to fears of a European regulatory backlash and legislation banning these ‘Hyperbikes’ from being imported, so an informal agreement was reached between Japanese and European manufacturers to limit top speeds to 186mph. It was clearly facetious that such a small reduction in top speed would make the motorcycles any safer but it at least enabled restrictive legislation to be avoided. It was one of the few times where manufacturers have pre-empted legislation by voluntary self-regulation.

Peregrine Falcon: It Eats Blackbirds!

The name ‘Hayabusa’ is Japanese for Peregrine Falcon, which in its vertical hunting dive can reach speeds of up to 200mph. Cheekily, the name was a direct dig at the Honda Super Blackbird as the Peregrine Falcom’s natural prey is actually blackbirds!

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Huge Silencers
Subdued sound at idle, screams like a banshee at speed

The swoopy and bulbous styling was controversial but necessary to aid stability at high speeds. No-one could deny that it wasn’t striking and unlike any motorcycle before or since. Over the next 20 years, the looks and speed remained the same, despite starting to look a bit outdated in the face of a move to sharp-edged styling on performance bikes.

Reports of the Hayabusa’s demise appeared often as the end of the second decade of the 2000s moved closer. As most other manufacturers had left the category, with the exception of Kawasaki, which produced the ZXR-14 up to 2020, and as such an excessive motorcycle was seen to be increasingly antisocial, it was unclear if Suzuki would continue to develop the ‘Busa, despite sales remaining buoyant of the existing model.

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Top of the range Brembo Stylema calipers, still slightly wooden feel

What is notable is that the informal speed limit imposed on these bikes was soon forgotten as a new breed of litre superbikes pushed power outputs and top speeds way past 186mph and on to 200mph and beyond.

Will They, Won’t They Give Us a New Hayabusa?

Into 2021 and one of the worst kept secrets in motorcycling was confirmed and we knew we were getting a brand new Hayabusa. Surely here would be the first 200bhp ‘Busa to bring it into line with current superbikes. Rumours suggested Suzuki might turbocharge or supercharge the engine, or perhaps they might fit a six-cylinder motor?

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa: Still Fast, Now Beautiful
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It’s Big!
Strap Yourself on and light the blue touchpaper

There was general dismay when it became known that the 2021 model would continue to be a naturally aspirated inline four and that horsepower would remain the same as the outgoing model, at 190bhp. What everyone was missing, however, was the fact that Suzuki has concentrated on boosting power and torque in the mid-range, which is where the motorcycle will be ridden for the majority of time. Thus, in real terms, the new Hayabusa would be faster than the old.

Dynamically, the Hayabusa was always a combination of mind-blowing straight line speed and surprising agility in the corners. With such a long wheelbase and relatively high weight, no-one would expect it to be as agile as a dedicated sports bike. But the fact was that while, yes, it was a big brute of a bike, it possessed handling characteristics that defied logic. Its natural habitat was long, fast sweepers but it could also be made to hustle through the tighter stuff, although with the speeds available care had to be taken to modify your approach speed. The bike gained a reputation for solid and predictable handling.

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Mix of analogue and digital
Lovely mixture of old and new on the dashboard, matches the nature of the bike

The 2021 Hayabusa takes this benchmark and builds on it. The KYB suspension front and back might look outwardly similar but has been completely re-worked internally and gives an astonishingly supple and magic-carpet ride, while never feeling anything other than taught in the corners.

Brakes: Best Equipment, Still Have Wooden Feel

The brakes on the old bike were felt to be a bit wooden for the performance, even if they worked well enough. The 2021 model is fitted with Brembo Stylema calipers, as found on the Ducati Panigale V4 but still feel a bit wooden. It is assumed that this is down to the brake-by-wire system than the actual brakes themselves. In conjunction with the back brake, however, speed is washed away with ease and with no panic.

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1340cc Four Cylinder
190bhp and 110.6 lb ft

One area where the old ‘Busa was looking distinctly old-fashioned was in the electronics department. It might have been introduced at the dawn of such systems but Suzuki steadfastly kept it as analogue as possible for what some see as far too long. With the new model, this has been addressed very effectively.

The bike is now equipped with SDMS-a (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector Alpha) which gives three pre-set and three customisable riding modes. These offer variable power modes, traction control settings, anti-wheelie control, engine braking control and an up and down quick shifter. These can all be selected on the fly. Also fitted is cornering ABS, hill-cold control and cruise control, with an upper speed limit of 125mph.

Strap Yourself On

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Impressive Dynamics
Straight line speed prodigious, surprises in the twisties

You can’t sit on the Hayabusa without feeling as if you have just strapped yourself to a very large missile. There is nothing subtle about the bike and the size just reinforces that impression. Thumbing the starter button gives no idea that you are aboard such a missile. The engine note is subdued through the enormous exhaust mufflers and everything is smooth and unintrusive. That only flatters to deceive, however. Setting off, the relentless urge of that large-displacement (1340cc) is arm-snapping. It’s just as well that the riding position has you forward-prone as the natural instinct is to lean into the acceleration.

It just never seems to stop accelerating. It’s not manic, but so quickly you are travelling at warp speed. So stable is it, thanks to the aerodynamics, that you are fooled into thinking you are not going that fast, until you look at the attractive analogue speedometer and realise that your licence is at risk. It all seems so effortless and deeply impressive.

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Chassis Unchanged
It was good already, so why mess with it

The riding position, while we’re on about it, isn’t particularly comfortable, especially if you’re of tall stature. The ‘bars have been raised by a centimetre and pulled back around three centimetres so it’s not quite so much of a reach but there is still a lot of weight on the wrists. The seat-to-foot-peg dimension gives rise to a pretty cramped leg position that can get very uncomfortable after a while. Given that it is such a large bike, it is surprising that more room could not be found for the rider.

You get the impression that, unless you are Mr Universe, you’ll struggle to manhandle it through corners. But it is incredibly light on its feet. Yes, it needs
a firm push (or pull) on the ‘bars, but it tracks perfectly with no more effort than you would need on an adventure bike with its wide ‘bars. The aerodynamics might be tuned for straight line stability but they are just as effective in conjunction with the suspension in the corners.

Super Fast, But Super Docile

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KYB Suspension
Gives remarkable ride quality without sacrificing agility

In spite of the available performance, it never feels anything other than docile at any speed. It’s not a thoroughbred straining at the reins to be unleashed unless you want it to be. It handles low speeds as smoothly as it handles high speed and you get the impression it would be happy to potter around all day at quarter throttle, in fifth or sixth gear without snatching. Of course, to subject it to this treatment is to deny it its purpose but it’s good to know it can handle it without complaint.

I’ve let the subject of the looks until last because, for many, this is the most controversial aspect of the ‘Busa. While the outgoing model was all swoops and 1990s curves, the new bike is sharp and crisp and, to my mind, looks absolutely beautiful, especially in the black and gold colour scheme. It’s brought the concept right up to date and, while it hasn’t entirely disguised the bulk of the bike, it has made it less noticeable (unless you are sitting on it, of course).

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Yellow Metal
No substitute for cubic inches

In conclusion, the new Hayabusa is a continuation of the solid engineering that is a hallmark of any Suzuki, combined with deeply impressive performance and chassis dynamics, now with the electronics it deserves (and needs!). The golden age of the Hyperbike might be over, with Suzuki the only player left on the field, but thank goodness there is still one example left for us to play with. After a blast on a Hayabusa, life is never quite the same again. Long may it remain in production.

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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