2008 Suzuki B-King

The Suzuki B-King first teased riders back in 2001 when it debuted at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show. After much speculation the naked hyper-streetfighter hit the road as a 2008 model, with a standard and ABS version available. We sampled the $13,499 ABS model in our comparison and the King soon had us addicted.

Okay, so the B-King only turns measly 158.6 horsepower at the rear wheel. Again, these are the bizarro-world conclusions required when conducting a VMAX vs B-King comparison. The King is also down 10 lb-ft of torque too, but the usability of the higher-revving Suzuki
Inline-Four has advantages with the distinctive edge in two major performance categories – quarter-mile and top speed.

In the quarter-mile by all rights the acceleration of the VMAX should have the Zook’s number. But the Max can’t get that power to the ground, with too much wheel spin and not enough traction to unseat the B-King on the drag strip. Our performance numbers show a clear edge, with the King getting the upper hand in each pass by almost a half-second. Corrected bests give the Suzuki a 0.43 second and 6.5 mph edge

“I just couldn’t get the V-Max to hook up,” performance test-pilot Atlas said after the runs. “It should have been quicker – it feels noticeably faster. Problem is, it just spins and spins and spins the rear tire. That’s fun, but it’s not fast. On the other hand, the Suzuki launched great and hooked up the entire way. And it’s still plenty fast!”

In top speed the B-King makes a bigger disparity. The B-King is geared much lower than its Star competitor, which reaches its limits below 140 mph. Geared higher than its Hayabusa kin, the King won’t reach the manufacturer gentlemen’s agreement of 186 mph, but it climbs well beyong the VMAX. We didn’t push it during performance testing, settling for the upper 150s registered on the dyno.

Credit the 1340cc Four ripped out of the iconic Hayabusa hyper-sportbike for the King’s performance edge. The Suzuki mill, with 81 x 65mm bore and stroke revs higher and feels more refined than the rawer Max. And while a rider loses the visceral wildness of the VMAX, the power from the King is such that it seems impossible to complain.

“The power on it is super different,” notes Adam. “The B-King it wants you to rev it up, to be higher in the rpm – that’s when the good, good massive power comes out.”

The feel at the throttle is less lively than the Max, but still a ferocious amount of power at the ready. Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve fuel injection is smooth and the B-King also features the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector, with A and B modes available. The B-mode further softens the power delivery, although riding a bike like the B-King, it’s difficult to imagine not having A-mode on you mind and at your right hand.

Transmitting the power to the rear wheel is a conventional chain drive with six-speed gearbox. The Suzuki’s slick-shifting transmission is precise, with no problems to report, although the well-sorted VMAX tranny is on par too. Also, similar to the Star competitor, is a slipper clutch for smooth downshifts.

The B-King is also the wheelie king. Where the Max spins the wheel, the B-King pulls wheelies in the lower three gears – making it BFF with our thrillbilly testing crew.

Oddly enough, the ABS on the Suzuki made burnouts impossible. The Suzuki’s ABS system is quite effective, less harsh than the Star’s, but it seems at cross purpose with the bike’s hooligan nature – fortunately it is available as an option on the Suzuki.

“Not a super big fan of the ABS system,” laments Adam. “With a bike like the B-King especially, you want to be able to slide the back end around, do endos and be able to have that kind of fun. But with the ABS you cannot. You can’t do any rolling burnouts. You can’t do any brakes slides. You can’t do anything… so it kind of contradicts the whole point of the B-King, for me at least.”

Overall the braking split our testers. I found the King’s dual 310mm rotor with radial-mount four-piston Nissin binders up front more refined and comfortable. Others preferred the Yamaha’s firm bite. Whatever the preference, the B-King’s front configuration in tandem with the rear single-piston and 260mm rotor bring the tank-full 577 lbs to an abrupt halt without drama.

“Where the two bikes get separated is in the handling department,” says Steve, summing up the Suzuki’s biggest edge. “The B-King is a lot more nimble, supple, turns better… just handles better all around.”

“The B-King is much more sporty,” agrees Adam, “it handles really quick, turns really sharp, it’s significantly more nimble than the V-Max.”

A quick glance at the spec sheet hints at the Suzuki’s obvious advantage. The five-foot wheelbase is almost seven inches shorter and there’s a huge weight differential of 115 lbs. And, yes, the difference is quite dramatic, with the B-King an effortless handler. The wide upright bar provides ample leverage and leaned over the ground clearance far exceeds the peg-dragging Star.

Aiding the B-King’s nimble nature is the cast aluminum frame chassis, with three-way adjustable 43mm KYB fork and rear shock bringing GSX-R performance to the naked streetfighter world. Suspension is reliable, feeling firm and planted in the corner. In fact, the B-King’s sleek handling capabilities are reminiscent its stable yet flickable Hayabusa cousin. And while sporting 1-inch smaller 17-inch wheels, some of the handling credit should be given to the Suzuki’s Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier rubber too, which exhibited more feel and stick than the higher-mileage Bridgestones adorning the VMAX.

Although the VMAX is wider (32.5 to 31.5 inches), the B-King feels wider in the saddle with the standard riding position exhibiting slight forward pitch. Handlebar placement and 31.7-inch seat height fit my 6’1” frame and while the Max’s riding position is more relaxed, the B-King’s is a great deal better than the merciless bar position on it Busa brother.

It’s hard to find fault with the B-King. The Suzuki does everything well and nothing bad. Even places where it falls short, a good argument can be made. For example in the looks department, while the VMAX gathered the most attention, the B-King wasn’t without its supporters – the make or break styling component being its 4-2-1-2 undertail exhaust. True, the obscene thrill of VMAX acceleration is impossible to compete with, but the King’s rapid velocity is still heart-pounding and, as shown on the drag strip, more effective. Fit and finish may not be on par with the hand-polished Yamaha either, but the B-King is a well-made mount to be sure.

And then there is the little question of price, where the ABS B-King rings in at $4500 less than its rival. Combined with its superior handling, the horsepower and smiles per dollar of the B-King will prove hard to beat.