The 90s Superbike That Could Destroy Supercars


Summary

  • The 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa was the fastest motorcycle of the 20th century, reaching a top speed of 194 MPH.
  • The Hayabusa’s design was unconventional but optimized for speed, with a bulbous fairing that reduced drag.
  • Despite its speed, the Hayabusa was also versatile and reliable, making it a unique hyperbike that could be used for sports touring.


Suzuki called it the world’s first “Ultimate Sport” motorcycle, and today, we call it the world’s first hyperbike. But this specimen goes by many names in the wild: game changer, icon, legend, piss missile, and even a sports tourer. It’s none other than the 1999 Suzuki GSX-R1300R Hayabusa, the fastest motorcycle of the 20th century. Whether you hate it or love it, you can’t deny that this beast made an impression on you.

When it was launched, the Hayabusa immediately won acclaim and became the fastest motorcycle, topping out at 194 MPH, obliterating every other production motorcycle built before it. And unlike other superbikes, the Hayabusa wasn’t a race replica or a GP bike with license plates. This one was purpose-built to be not only the fastest production motorcycle but also versatile, comfortable, and reliable. The Hayabusa is an example where engineering and design can come together to create magic (and beat all superbikes and some supercars along the way).

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Suzuki and other authoritative sources, including Motorcycle Magazine, Motorcycle News, Cycle World, Zero to 60 Times, and Ultimate Specs.

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Performance: Over-Engineered Perfection On Two Wheels

Top Speed: 194 MPH

One look at Hayabusa’s spec sheet, and you’ll notice that it wasn’t anything remarkable, per se, even for the 90s. The motorcycle had a conventional transverse-mounted inline-four engine, a perimeter frame, and USD forks — things that were present on many other superbikes of the time. The design wasn’t even anything to write home about. Yet, it set a precedent so great, that it is easy to refer to the Busa as the world’s first hyperbike, and here’s why.

Engineering At Its Finest Without Any Innovations

Starting with the engine, the Busa featured a liquid-cooled inline-four engine with sixteen valves and DOHC. While this wasn’t anything special, it still produced record-breaking horsepower figures at the crankshaft. This was possible due to two reasons: RAM air intake that forced air into the engine and the largest displacement for sports motorcycles at the time. The Hayabusa is what you can use to show someone that there’s no replacement for displacement (although modern bikes like the H2 have disproved that!).

The power delivery was brutal, yet it felt familiar if you had ridden other Suzukis of the time. This halo motorcycle was as Suzuki as a Suzuki could get in the 90s. The power delivery was raw and linear, but the difference was how much horsepower it was delivering on the pavement. The Busa flew through its fifth gear like most other bikes did in third. Immaculate power.

The engine was also pretty over-engineered for the time. Despite being the fastest two-wheeled missile on the road, the engine was not too stressed, and you could always squeeze out more power. Slap a turbo or an ECU update, and you could push the Hayabusa to 300 to 500 horsepower. No wonder Turbo-Busas are so common these days — the engine just doesn’t want to break under stress.

When A Conventional Chassis Is Good Enough

The Hayabusa featured a conventional twin-beam frame with fully adjustable USD forks and specially-made Bridgestone tires. And since the engine was so smooth, thanks to a gear-driven counterbalancer, Suzuki could solidly mount it to the frame, adding more frame rigidity. The result was a hunky motorcycle that danced in the corners, albeit like a chubby dancer. The Hayabusa surprised everyone with its composed handling characteristics.

1999 Suzuki Hayabusa Engine And Chassis Specifications

Engine Type

Four-stroke, inline-four, liquid-cooled, DOHC

Displacement

1,298cc

Bore x Stroke

81.0 mm x 63.0 mm

Max Power

172.60 HP @ 9,800 RPM

Max Torque

101.93 LB-FT @ 7,000 RPM

Frame Type

Aluminum twin-spar

Curb Weight

474 pounds

Fuel Consumption

35 MPG

(Specs sourced from Suzuki and Motorcycle News)

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A Missile-Like Design That Divided People Just Like A Real Missile

1999 Suzuki Hayabusa
Mecum 

When it was launched, the Hayabusa drew flack for the design. It was ugly at first sight, but little did bikers know how beautiful the motorcycle performed on the road. And that’s the thing that bikers still overlook about the Busa. It’s not ugly, it’s supposed to look like that. The bulbous, curvy fairings made the motorcycle slice through the air like a bullet — no surprise here, the Busa was designed in a wind tunnel.

Koji Yoshiura, Hayabusa Designer

“To create a somewhat grotesque design and create a strong initial impact… The mission was to create a totally new styling that will not be out of date within a few years, and a styling that will be the Face of Suzuki.”

Fun Fact: Yoshiura also designed the Bandit 400, RF600R, TL1000S, and SV650.

Everything came together to make the Hayabusa the fastest motorcycle of the 20th century. But it wasn’t perfect. The brakes were spongy and faded quickly, and at full lean, the fairings and engine covers would scrape the tarmac. Yet, you’d be dumbfounded at the gracefulness of the bike.

Suzuki Hayabusa Design Highlights

  • The RAM air ducts and the drooping, rounded nose squeezed the front end for less drag
  • The narrow frontal area meant the headlight had to be stacked with a high beam behind a single lens
  • The low and long design opened up the rider triangle, ensuring better comfort
  • The pillion seat cowl was made like a hump to reduce drag produced by the rider under full tuck

Faster And Faster Until The Busa Overtakes Most Things With Wheels

When the motorcycle was first revealed, it didn’t win many hearts, but onlookers had no idea they were looking at the fastest motorcycle of the time. Once reviewers rode the bike, the Busa took the world by storm. In many ways, the 1999 Suzuki GSX-1300R Hayabusa was the world’s first hyperbike.

Here’s a fun fact: Hayabusa is Japanese for peregrine falcon, a bird that is known for its vertical dive of up to 202 MPH — it’s the fastest bird. And guess what the falcon preys on — blackbirds, like the Hayabusa preyed on the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. The Hayabusa beat the then-fastest motorcycle by a 10 MPH margin — no other production motorcycle had ever beaten the top speed record by such a margin.

The Bulbous Falcon Didn’t Spare Supercars Either

The Hayabusa was so fast that even some 90s supercars seemed slow in front of it. With its generous power delivery and acceleration, the Hayabusa in its stock form was capable of overtaking many supercars of the time, including Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Imagine spending six figures in the 90s only to be overtaken by someone wearing shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops.

Suzuki Hayabusa In Comparison With The Honda Blackbird And 1990s Supercars

Specs

Suzuki Hayabusa

Honda Super Blackbird

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion

Acura NSX

Engine

1,298cc inline-four

1,135cc inline-four

3,164cc boxer six

2,977cc/3,179cc V6

Max Power

172.60 HP @ 9,800 RPM

164 HP

536 HP @ 7,000 RPM

290 HP (3.2 L model)

Top Speed

194 MPH

180 MPH

193 MPH

168 MPH

0 to 60 MPH

2.47 seconds

2.77 seconds

3.5 seconds

4.8 seconds

1/4 Mile Acceleration

9.7 seconds

10.3 seconds

11 seconds

13.2 seconds

(Specs sourced from Suzuki, Motorcycle News, Cycle World, Zero to 60 Times, and Ultimate Specs)

But It Was A Hyperbike For The Streets And The Long Haul

First-gen Suzuki Hayabusa
Wikimedia Commons

Some people raise their eyebrows when we refer to the Hayabusa as a sports tourer, but it’s true. The Busa has always been a versatile motorcycle, despite being built for top speed. Unlike its rivals, the Busa didn’t feel like a superbike on steroids; it was a one-of-a-kind motorcycle. As Jay Koblenz of Motorcycle News Magazine put it, “The Hayabusa is Speed in all its glory. But speed is not all the Hayabusa is.”

The abundant power and a slick gearbox made the bike much easier to ride in your choice of gear for any speed without missing out on acceleration; the engine was also as reliable as any Suzuki of the time. Suzuki didn’t cheap out on practicality, either. The Hayabusa came with bungee cord hooks, under seat storage, a hinged fuel tank, and a massive windscreen. You could even purchase an optional center stand for it!

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A Legacy To Last As Long As Motorcycles Do

Suzuki Hayabusa GSX1300R
Mecum.com

With the Hayabusa came backlash from European regulators, who threatened an import ban on Japanese motorcycles. This led to an informal Gentlemen’s Agreement between European and Japanese manufacturers to speed lock their bikes at 186 MPH. The Speed Wars ended; even the post-2000 Hayabusa didn’t cross the 186 MPH mark. Even today, most motorcycles, except a few outliers like the MV Agusta F4 R 312, are capped at 186 MPH.

The Hayabusa was updated twice, and is now in its third generation. Both updated models retained the charm of the gen-one Busa. The design is still bulbous, and the power delivery is still linear yet searing at the top end. The Hayabusa may no longer be the fastest motorcycle on the road, but it’s easily the most influential motorcycle of modern times.

There’s only one problem with the Hayabusa, and that flaw is the time at which it was born. A world of regulations and emission norms — maybe, the world could never be ready for the Hayabusa. But the Hayabusa will always stand ready for you to swing your leg over and take it as fast as you can. And if you’re in the mood, even tour on it.

Modern Motorcycles Faster Than The Suzuki Hayabusa

  • Kawasaki Ninja H2R: 249 MPH
  • Ducati Panigale V4 R: 208 MPH
  • Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory: 199 MPH
  • BMW M 1000 RR: 195 MPH
  • MV Agusta F4 R 312: 194 MPH



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