You can’t have too much of a good thing

Published: 25 August 2000

FOR some people, enough is never enough. Mountaineers always want to climb higher mountains, athletes always want a quicker time and those strange people who try to set world records by eating gherkins will do so until they pass out.

The same can be said for bike tuners. It doesn’t matter how fast, light and powerful a bike is in standard trim, they’ll always want to go one better.

Take Suzuki’s Hayabusa, for example. With 163bhp on tap, 101ftlb of torque and a top speed of 194mph, it set new parameters for performance when it was launched last year. In fact, many thought Suzuki had gone too far in creating such a powerful road bike.

Most owners are never likely to see the 220mph that the Busa’s clock is capable of showing, and even fewer are going to get close to the bike’s limits on public roads. But for Northants-based tuning specialist TTS, the stock Suzuki simply wasn’t enough. They knew they could make the Hayabusa faster – and they knew that if they did, people would want to buy it.

They’ve taken the GSX1300R to another level. Just look at the figures: 178bhp at 9800rpm; 104ftlb of torque and a claimed top speed of 200mph. Then look at the titanium Force racing exhaust system, lightweight Dymag wheels, TTS camshafts, re-mapped ignition and raised compression and it all adds up to one very special Hayabusa indeed. And before you think this is another piece of exotica for the filthy rich, let us tell you that this very motorcycle could be yours tomorrow for a relatively realistic £11,300. Sound too good to be true? TTS gave us the chance to find out the day after the first bike was finished.

I arrived at the firm’s Northants HQ full of excitement. After all, I’ve ridden the standard Suzuki plenty of times, and I’ve been assured by TTS boss Richard Albans that his version is in a different league.

Before he’d let me have a go though he wanted to show me something else. I assumed it would be some new can or rearsets for a GSX-R, but he guided me towards what was obviously a bike hidden under a sheet: a flowery bed cover to be precise. He pulled it back to reveal a Yoshimura X1 Hayabusa, built as a showcase for the Japanese tuning firm’s British importer. Gulp. And I thought the TTS bike was special.

Beautiful hand-made bodywork, a sculpted alloy tank, a titanium Yoshi exhaust, hand-crafted footrests, PFM six pot brakes... the list of luscious parts is almost too long to print.

The bike had only just been finished, but I persuaded Albans to let me run it in on the road before taking it to Bruntingthorpe proving ground to see what it could do. I must have been a very good boy in a previous life.

You only have to sit on each bike to discover they’re very different indeed. The TTS Suzuki has that familiar comfortable, down-in-the-seat feel of a stock Hayabusa. You feel you could travel in comfort across Europe on it. Throw a leg over the X1 and you soon realise that riding round the block is going to be a major pain. The thin race-style seat offers no comfort or shock absorption whatsoever, and the riding position is high and forwards, pushing your weight over the front wheel. But then the X1 was never designed as a sports tourer.

Once the pair were fired up the differences were less noticeable. Each has a titanium exhaust system, and both sounded superb. Blipping the throttle in the car park couldn’t be helped, but it only gave the merest taste of what was on the day’s menu. The two-mile deserted runway at Leicestershire’s Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground was our destination, but first we wanted to put them through a few real world situations to see how they would cope if you rode them every day.

Surprisingly, given the performance figures, both were easy to ride. I was nervous, apprehensive, and expecting to be hanging on for dear life every time I opened the throttle. But I was pleasantly surprised. They’re only intimidating if you let them be. Treat them with the respect they deserve and it’s no different to riding a CBR600. Almost.

The TTS bike is best suited to back roads if a pleasant ride is what you’re after, but the X1 is more willing to steer quicker, partly thanks to the Yoshimura bodywork. It doesn’t have the same nose as the standard bike, and as well as making this bike look better, it reduces the weight at the front end and makes it easier to turn in.

The X1 also has a front fairing subframe to accommodate the new bodywork it and a bluey-white projector headlamp reminiscent of an endurance race bike. The rear subframe has been changed to turn the bike into a single seater.

The TTS Busa keeps its standard bodywork, but it looks so much better with its plain silver paintjob. Suzuki should take note and offer this on all Hayabusas next year. As well as being based on the same machine, each of these bikes has another thing in common – they both lull you into a false sense of security.

There’s never a feeling you’re going really quick because the bikes have got so much more to come, even when you think you’re on it. In reality though you’re probably riding as fast as you ever have before. You need to get in the habit of checking the speedo more than you normally would, or you might as well surrender your licence without a fight. I regularly caught myself going 30mph faster than I thought, and I frequently had to tip both the bikes hard into corners because I was rushing in far too quick.

The advantage of this is apparent when you want to squirt past cars in a hurry. On a few occasions, I slipped past traffic when I normally would have held back, but I just knew I had the power. Even in taller gears and down at the bottom end of the rev range, both bikes had enough torque and power to get me out of trouble.

The X1 actually has a bigger-bore 1400cc motor, but the extra capacity is not massively noticeable over the TTS bike because it also has power-boosting tweaks, like TTS’s own camshafts and a 12:1 compression ratio. Both bikes have re-mapped engine management systems.

Cosmetically, the X1 is the most impressive bike and the one most likely to turn heads wherever you go. From the PFM racing six-pot discs to the gorgeous alloy tank and Dymag wheels, it just oozes class – £20,000 worth of class to be precise. TTS put the bike together, but the firm won’t be making a run of them, so you’ll have to go through Phoenix Distribution – Yoshi’s UK importer – if you want one. And while it may be expensive, it’ll give you plenty to talk about whenever another rider strolls over.

The TTS bike is more about extra performance than radically different looks, but it still has nice cosmetic touches like Dymag wheels and a taller screen, which I was grateful for when the pace increased. Touches like this make the TTS Busa more manageable at high speeds, but you just can’t help yourself on either bike when you find a straight, open stretch of road. It’s a major challenge

to keep your right wrist in check when you ride any Hayabusa, let alone two of its most extreme incarnations, and I was quite relieved to turn off on to the back road to Bruntingthorpe, where I could open ’em to the stop without the need to constantly be looking out for Gatsos and white Volvos.

The road to the strip is undulating, often bumpy and fairly tight, so it was a good real world test of each bike’s ability to perform as an all-round motorcycle. Both proved surprisingly good. Again, the TTS bike gave the softer ride, but it was prone to wallowing into corners like the stock bike because of the weight up front. The X1 had no such problems, but it would give you a sharp kick in the butt over bumps thanks to its race seat and firmer suspension set-up. It also felt better to ride simply because it felt much more like a racer.

Fast cornering wasn’t a problem, but I couldn’t help looking forward to the straights to experience the shoulder-wrenching acceleration. And the mother of all straights was just a few minutes away.

I realised as I pulled into the test track that I was about to go a good deal faster than I’d ever been in my life. I’ve clocked an indicated 195mph down the strip on a stock Busa in the past, but I was expecting a lot more from these bikes and I was getting pretty excited by the idea. There was a slight headwind which could slow us down and the track was dirty, but I had to go for it.

I jumped on the TTS bike first. On your marks, get set... go. Hooking up into first, the rear wheel spun like mad, partly because of the outrageous power being put through it and partly because the Tarmac was dirty and scattered with growths of moss. " That’s going to cost a few mph at the end of the straight " I thought as I leaned over the bars in a futile bid to keep the front down.

Then it was time to move back in the seat and bury my chin on the tank. It struck me that I needed a sunroof in my lid because I was so tucked in that I could hardly see ahead. The Zero Gravity screen was a Godsend on the road for someone of my height, as it kept the windblast at bay much more than the low screen on the X1. It was also proving its worth on the test track as I could really bury myself in it.

Up another gear and my toe was getting sore. I had to force my body right back into the single seat hump and that meant I could only reach the gearchange lever with my toe, which was too far forward to be protected by the reinforced pad on my Alpinestars.

The speed was now becoming slightly alarming. The needle rushed past 170mph, 180mph, approached 190mph and then BANG! I lifted my body up from behind the screen to assist braking at the end of the runway and it felt like I’d been hit in the chest by a plank of wood. I knocked down the box and headed back round for another go. Despite the headwind, which must have cost around 10mph, I knew my technique could be better and there was more to come.

On the second run my brain was getting a bit more adjusted to this insane world of speed, where the surrounding fields are a green fuzz and the only sound is the road of the wind screaming over your lid.

This time I saw 200mph on the clock, but I knew the radar gun would probably only indicate a genuine 180mph. Speedos are well out at this rate of knots.

On my third run, eyeballs almost popping out of my head with concentration, I lifted my backside four inches or so off the seat to aid aerodynamics and made sure every other part of my anatomy was tucked in as tight as possible. The result was an indicated 212mph and a genuine 184mph. Could it do more?

I handed the bike over to Albans, who likes a bit of drag racing himself. His technique was better than mine and he managed to hit the rev limiter in sixth. His speedo showed 220mph and the radar gun recorded a genuine 189mph. The gearing and the headwind were clearly the only things stopping us hitting a genuine 200mph.

The X1 was next up, but this time it was MCN road tester and racer Kev Smith in control. He has tested along this strip hundreds of times and I knew that if anyone could get the best from the bike at Brunters, it was him.

As I watched him rocket past just five feet away I could hardly believe I’d just done the same thing. Now I know how racers feel when they’re barrelling along the back straight at super-fast circuits like Hockenheim or Mugello. The adrenaline was really pumping, and it would later keep me awake.

Smith clocked a genuine 186mph while seeing 200mph on the speedo. He knew he could be faster if he could run the wrong way down the strip to avoid the headwind, but we were losing light fast. He decided to go for one blast in the opposite direction and immediately clocked a genuine 191mph.

That meant it’s fair to add 5mph to the TTS bike if it had run in the wrong direction, taking it up to a genuine 194mph. Smith was on the limiter and needed to up the gearing to go any faster. We didn’t have the time or facilities to do that, so we had to leave knowing there we hadn’t seen either bike’s true potential.

If you think that’s lame, remember the conditions weren’t perfect and the stock Hayabusa we used as a control bike " only " made a genuine 176mph, when we know that in ideal conditions it’s capable of a real 194mph.

But figures at this level are academic. If you bought either of these bikes you could genuinely claim you have a 200mph machine. You can even test it for yourself as Bruntingthorpe holds occasional track days where you can ride the strip on your own bike. Call: 01162-478040 for details.

In the real world you’re unlikely to ever use the full power of either of these Busas, but then millionaires don’t use all their cash and Einstein never used all of his brain.

It’s not about using it all – it’s about knowing you have it, and it’s the same with these bikes.

They’ve got more power than you could ever want, but it’s still cool to know you’ve got it just for that instant when you have to teach an R1 rider a lesson or pass the occasional McLaren F1. In my opinion, too much is never enough.

TTS is building its Hayabusas to order, but there’s only a three-week wait. The Yoshi bike is a one-off showcase special, but if you won the Lottery on Saturday you could order one from the firm’s UK importer, Phoenix Distribution. You can also get many of the parts featured on the X1 from them separately.

TTS HAYABUSA

Cost: £11,300

Availability: TTS 01327-858212

SPECIFICATION

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 1298cc (81mm x 63mm) 16v dohc four-stroke in-line four. Fuel injection. 6 gears

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar

Front suspension: 43mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Single shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Tyres: Bridgestone BT56; 120/70 x 17 front, 190/50 x 17 rear

Brakes: Tokico; 2 x 320mm front discs with 6-piston calipers, 240mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper

PERFORMANCE

POWER:178bhp@9800rpm

TORQUE: 104ftlb@7000rpm

Weight/power-to-weight ratio: 199kg (437lb), 0.90bhp/kg

Standing 1/4-mile time/terminal speed: 9.98s, 132mph

Top speed: 189mph

Geometry (Rake/trail/wheelbase): 24.2°, 9.7cm, 148.5cm

Average mpg/tank capacity/range: 33.5mpg, 20 litres, 150 miles

YOSHIMURA X1

Cost: £20,000

Availability: Phoenix Distribution 01782-569820

SPECIFICATION

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 1399cc (84mm x 63mm) 16v dohc four-stroke in-line four. Fuel injection. 6 gears

Chassis: Aluminium twin-spar

Front suspension: 43mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Rear suspension: Single shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping

Tyres: Bridgestone BT56; 120/70 x 17 front, 190/50 x 17 rear

Brakes: PFM; 2 x 320mm front discs with 6-piston calipers, 240mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper

PERFORMANCE

POWER: 178bhp @ 9800rpm

TORQUE: 106ftIb @ 7000rpm

Weight/power-to-weight ratio: 193kg (424lb), 0.93bhp/kg

Standing 1/4-mile time/terminal speed: 9.68s, 135mph

Top speed: 191mph

Geometry (Rake/trail/wheelbase): 24.2°, 9.7cm, 148.5cm

Average mpg/tank capacity/range: 29mpg, 24 litres, 153 miles