Suzuki Hayabusa in detail: One of the best hyper bikes of all time

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The hyper bike motorcycle category was born out of an arms race between manufacturers to claim the accolade of highest top speed through the nineties.

Bikes like the Suzuki Hayabusa, Honda Super Blackbird and Kawasaki ZZR1100 (and later Kawasaki ZZR1400) were so big and powerful that they led to talk of imposed speed limiters by governments and a gentleman’s agreement between manufacturers to stick to a top speed of 300kmph (around 187mph).

But with constant performance improvements and capacity increases in the superbike category and a shift in focus away from sportsbikes and towards adventure bikes through the ’00s and ’10s, demand for hyper bikes waned.

Suzuki Hayabusa on the road

By 2023, the last remaining machine in the hyper bike market is the Suzuki Hayabusa, which took a brief hiatus from the market to update for Euro5 before returning for 2021.

2021 Suzuki Hayabusa vs original Suzuki Hayabusa

We took the 2021 Suzuki Hayabusa around the UK’s toughest test route, the MCN 250, with a beautiful example of the original hyper bike to find out what had changed.

Great power requires great control and there is one motorcycle that has always demanded an unbelievable amount of restraint: Suzuki’s Hayabusa. Launched in 1999, the Busa was designed to go fast, very fast.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa hyper bike and original on the road

Thanks to its unique styling, monster motor and ability to more than fulfil on its promise, the Busa soon became a cult bike, loved by speed-freaks the world over. And remarkably, considering the outcry it created, the Hayabusa has managed to outlast not only all its hyperbike rivals but also those in authority who attempted to kill it off.

And now, in its 22nd year of production, Suzuki have released a third generation. But do modern electronics and refinements such as cruise and even hill hold control detract from the raw surging-power thrills that have always been at the heart of the hyper bike?

With a fine 1999 example and the latest 2021 model, we took to the MCN250 to decide if the latest generation can still deliver the kind of ride that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck while also slotting more comfortably into 21st century motoring habits.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa and original at a junction

I should confess that I love the Hayabusa and I’m one of those souls who has seen bonkers speeds displayed on its analogue speedo – on a closed road, naturally.

But it has to be said, over the years Suzuki have failed to deliver on technology and where the likes of the ZZR evolved, the Busa just stayed the same. Thankfully, this wrong has now been righted because the 2021 bike has all the bells and whistles – yet it still is unmistakably a Busa.

Due to its dedication to speed the Busa has always sat long and low and that’s exactly how the new bike feels. You know instantly it is a Hayabusa as the oddly sporty riding position, soft seat, high pegs and bulbous tank remain. Blindfolded, you would struggle to tell if you were sat on the 1999 or 2021 model, which is something fans will love.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa and original rear

If you are riding the fastest bike on the road you want to know it and although lacking the 220mph number (target…) that the 1999 bike has on its speedo, I love the fact the 2021 instruments are so similar in their design and layout. This can have its drawbacks as the analogue speedo packs a lot of numbers into a small space but just looking down and seeing 180mph on a dial makes me smile. Although not as much as when you get that motor spinning.

Aboard the 1999 bike, the sheer drive when you give it any gas remains remarkable and, unlike some modern litre bikes that boast higher peak power, there is no need to go searching for the thrust. You can just stick it in top and wind the throttle on to dispatch any vehicle in your way, or even drop to 40mph and cruise through a restricted limit. It’s like a massive twist-and-go – albeit one that can go three times the national speed limit.

Despite packing all that same instant thrust, the 2021 Busa’s engine feels far more refined. It still has that bonkers instant drive, even more so due to its increased capacity, but it lacks the raw edge of the original, and this actually works in its favour. It feels fresher, more eager and overall a motor far better suited to zipping past cars, cruising at national speed limits and generally life in the modern, and far more congested, world thanks to its lighter clutch action, slicker gearbox and modern riding assists.

2022 Suzuki Hayabusa vs original

As the Busa is quite an old-school brute I can see a few owners questioning the number of gadgets on the new bike. Don’t worry, aside from the hill hold, which can be a touch annoying, they all enhance the ride without detracting from the character. Will many owners ever use launch control? I doubt it.

Will they play with the power modes? Again, probably not aside from maybe in town to smooth the slightly snatchy throttle. But cruise control is a real bonus for straight-line riding and the traction control is welcome, simply because of the state of the roads. Or is that me?