Launch control. Once a preserve of rockets and missiles, I find a screen offering three levels to me on a motorcycle. I select the middle of the options, not quite ready to tempt fate just yet with the highest rpm, and with enough hubris to ignore the lowest. The inline-four stutters at the launch rpm with a beautiful deep sound that reminds me of Scatman John. And once the clutch is out, a spaceship’s worth of electronics keep the motorcycle hooked up and pointing straight. Through the gears, it bellows with a primal hunger for life-altering speed and reminds me how and why this machine makes a mockery of time and space. But there’s more to the Suzuki Hayabusa than being a giant inline-four that goes fast. It always has been more than just a sum of its substantial parts.
What is the Hayabusa if not the fastest bike in the world? Was it not built for total domination? Why did Suzuki (shudder) reduce peak power on a fabled motorcycle with a 22-year love affair with Speed herself? Does that not violate the spirit of a motorcycle that is a symbol of high velocity? One look at the Hayabusa should answer those questions and any others rattling around in a similar vein, mostly on benches and keyboards frequented by brag racers. The Hayabusa has always done things its own way. For a motorcycle that’s become something of a tradition in itself, the Hayabusa is a fast bird that flies in the face of nearly every rule in the superbike book.
From 1999, when it was first launched on an unsuspecting world, it’s been through minimal development, and the latest one is only its third reincarnation. Also, traditionally, superbikes have lived through their evolutions abiding by a time-honored principle — there’s no such thing as too much horsepower. That’s probably why Suzuki’s reduction of the Hayabusa’s maximum power was met with the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. All online, of course — one ride on the Hayabusa will take any lamenter from step two to step five in 3.2 seconds, the time it takes to hit 100 kph.
Even though the mighty Hayabusa couldn’t outrun emission norms, because of which its completely reworked 1340cc inline-four makes slightly less peak power than before, it’s still the quickest ’Busa yet thanks to the addition of electronics and a lot more power and torque in the low and mid-range. Consequently, and obviously, acceleration is of the warp variety; after strangling the 100-kph run, the Hayabusa does 0-200 kph in 6.8 seconds, and 0-300 kph in, well, around the time it took you to read this sentence.
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