Updated: Jan 27
Written by: Hafiz Akbar, Edited by: Daniel Yi
To understand how the “Peregrine Falcon” came to be, we must take a big step back to the early 20th century, where the land speed record was just broken by a man named Glenn Curtiss riding a bike strapped with a V8 aircraft engine. He reached speeds upward of 136mph (218.8 km/h). Obviously ecstatic that he was currently the fastest man in the world, but little did he know, his actions sparked a chain reaction that set off the speed wars of the 90s.
(Glenn Curtiss, American Aviator, and his V8 motorbike. Source: americanmotorcyclist.com)
The beginning of the speed wars started when Japanese manufacturer, Kawasaki, felt a little bit jealous upon witnessing the dominance of the Vincent Black, which held the motorcycle land speed record at that moment. So in response, Kawasaki spent six years developing a motorbike in secret. Something that would pose a threat to the twenty odd years of domination by Vincent Black. They wanted to develop something that would shake the world of motorcycle speed as they knew it, and ended up starting the speed wars of the 90s.
Kawasaki unveiled their new bike, a sixteen-valve, four-cylinder, 900cc bike dubbed the GPZ900R, or what they call in the States as “the Ninja” because let’s face it, GPZ900R is too much of a mouthful.
(The Kawasaki GPZ900R Ninja. Source: bikeexif.com)
That monster of a bike managed to reach speeds once only dreamed of. It became the fastest bike at that time, reaching up to 151mph (243 km/h) (Wow!!!) and was also the first stock production bike to reach that speed. You heard that right. No aftermarket exhausts, fuel injection system, or aftermarket parts whatsoever.
The speed record changed hands a couple more times in the coming years with many iconic bikes born as a result. Suzuki, not one to miss out on the bragging rights, developed their own motorbike that would challenge the record holder at that time, Honda’s Super Blackbird.
After many many years of wind tunnel testing, going to biker bars and consulting bikers, Suzuki finally came up with this in 1999.
(Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa Gen 1. Source: motorcyclenews.com)
They called it the GSX1300R “Busa” Hayabusa, which means “Peregrine Falcon” in Japanese. Like the Super Blackbird, the name Hayabusa also had a strong significance and symbolism. Peregrine Falcons are the fastest flying creature in existence, able to reach speeds up to 242mph (389.4 km/h). They also eat other birds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, most notably, they hunt blackbirds. Suzuki clearly made their intent to fight for the record.
On the spec sheet, the Busa is fitted with a sixteen-valve, four-cylinder, 1300cc engine and is equipped with a 6-speed transmission as well as a RAM air intake which pressurizes the air as it goes into the inlet in the front portion of the fairing. With a maximum horsepower of 173hp, it can go to speeds up to 194mph (312.2 km/h). This made it the fastest bike in production at that time. It could do 0-60 in less than 3 seconds (!!!). In comparison to the fastest car at that time, the Dodge Hennessey Venom Viper was a full second slower and in the motorsport world, a difference of one second is massive.
The iconic big muscular design of the Busa was created by Japanese designer, Koji Yoshiura, with the purpose “to create a shape so grotesque and make a significant initial impact, while also creating a shape that will not be out of date within a few years”. As a result of the extensive wind tunnel testing, the Busa is highly aerodynamic. The fuel tank, for example, is curved inwards so that the rider’s knee can tuck into the bike a wee bit further to reduce drag. The rear seat cowling is shaped in such a way that also reduces drag. It even went an extra mile to hide your entire lower leg behind the front fairing to reduce drag. The result was sleek aerodynamics that would make the Italians appreciate its beauty and go “mamma mia”.
The Busa became a massive hit in the States and a lot of people went to buy it. And because a lot of people bought them, like the HD’s of the 60s, a lot of people modified them as well. What do you want? Longer swingarm? Single-sided swingarm? Trike style? Turbocharged? You got ‘em. Modifications became one with the Busa culture in the States and around the world till this day.
Suzuki later released a refreshed version of the Busa in 2008. They vowed to keep true to the Busa’s original design philosophy and altered it minimally, with the only changes being made to the paint job and headlight design. The stock exhaust was also shaped to reduce drag because when you have a bike that’s fast, you have to gain every aero point you can.
After years of dominance, the Busa was finally beaten when the MV Agusta released the F4R 312 in 2007. They saw no reason to abide by the gentleman’s agreement and therefore didn’t conform to it.
Although the Busa is no longer the fastest bike in the world, it certainly has left its mark in the global motorcycle culture and have stood by their determination to not let the Hayabusa die out by announcing the renewal of the Busa in 2021. Could this be a new beginning for the Busa, or is it the end of an era?