The beast is back – with better brakes

How strong is your will power? Personally, I have very little. I eat too much, I gamble too often and I ride too fast. So when the invite to ride the 2013 Suzuki Hayabusa popped into my inbox, I tried my best to palm it off on someone else in the office who might be more apt to resist the temptations that come with riding a machine whose horsepower numbers and top speed flirt with the double century mark. Alas, we are all weak-willed souls here at MotoUSA and not a single taker could be found. So I was it. “Moderation in all things” would be my mantra in the days leading up to the intro, but as soon as I thumbed the starter button on the Hayabusa, that all went out the window. It seems the little devil on my shoulder had other plans.

The Suzuki Hayabusa has reached legendary status since its introduction back in 1999. Over its decade and a half run as the motorcycle synonymous with top speed, the 'Busa has received updates and reboots. For 2013 the changes to the current version can be counted on your thumbs. Right thumb – ABS. Left thumb – Brembo Monbloc front brake calipers. That doesn’t seem like much when you consider the Kawasaki ZX-14R has had ABS, traction control and a 100cc displacement advantage for the past two years. However, the standard white or black 2013 Hayabusa will leave you with $600 more in your pocket in comparison to the non-ABS Ninja thanks to its $14,399 MSRP. The limited edition yellow paint scheme will leave your wallet $200 lighter, but the limited edition Kawasaki with ABS tops out $700 above that.

In the past we’ve been critical of the bike's stoppers, feeling they were vague and spongy, so the addition of the Brembo Monoblocs is welcome. Not only are the calipers more rigid and lighter, the piston diameter is larger, growing from the 32mm and 30mm of the former Tokico units to 32mm all around for increased initial bite and feel.

While the Brembos may shed some small amount of weight, the compact ABS control unit located under the airbox adds “a couple of pounds” in the words of the Suzuki PR reps. With a claimed wet weight of 586 pounds, adding a couple more is a non-issue. An overzealous lunch stop could move the scale’s needle more than the ABS unit.

Powering the Hayabusa is the tried and true 1340cc mill that cranked out 178.51 rear-wheel horsepower and 108 ft-lbs of torque on the MotoUSA dyno last year. Suzuki’s Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) gives the rider three power settings to suit the conditions or riding style by varying the delivery from the Busa’s monster motor. The default A setting brings forth all the fury on tap, while B and C lessen the sharpness and thrust incrementally.

“Moderation in all things” would suggest, perhaps, I should choose Mode B. My resolution to uphold that credo lasted all of about five minutes as we picked our way through traffic to the open highway. As soon as we made the turn onto the freeway on-ramp, the little devil screamed, “Mode A! Full Power! You know you want it!” From then on the S-DMS selector was set for full tilt boogie. Even so, the power delivery is controlled and smooth, almost easy to handle. However, unwitting newbies will find themselves arriving at the scene of their next ticket or accident in short order if they are misled by the Hayabusa’s seemingly linear power delivery. There is so much on tap and the Busa goes so willingly and without fuss that before you realize it you’ve entered the realm of serious consequences. Even when I thought I was being judicious with the right grip, I often found myself traveling 20mph faster than I thought I was. Sometimes even more, like, much more.

The bubble behind the windscreen is so quiet that once again it is not difficult to match the speed of the bird for which the Hayabusa was named. This is not an admission of any particular behavior … I’m just saying it is possible.

Not only does the engine of the Busa make for ease of speed, so does the chassis. The suspension and frame feels so planted and stable that it chews up the miles. When the asphalt follows nature’s chosen lines, the big beast handles admirably. It’s long and low, requiring minutely more of an effort to initiate a turn than a liter-bike or a supersport, as would be expected, but at the same time it is rock solid once leaned over. Only the tightest of mountain roads will be hard work on the Hayabusa. Long sweepers are nirvana.

Hauling the Hayabusa down from speed highlights the newly added Brembos and ABS. As a former hater of ABS, the manufacturers have finally got the systems calibrated as to not be too intrusive, and the Suzuki system is up there with the best of them. Grabbing a handful will not immediately result in a pulsating lever, and the ABS will only kick in during the direst situations. Only once did I get too deep into a corner while trailbraking where the front brakes were taken over by the Busa’s brain. It saved my ass. I may have been able to avoid washing-out the front on my own, but I’ll take certainty over the possibility of a crash any day.

The braking performance from the Monoblocs is much improved, but I was expecting more. It’s not night and day, but it is better. More bite is available initially, and the stopping power is amplified. But the feel becomes wooden when you really lean on the front binders. This could be due to the fact the master cylinder and rubber lines were not upgraded to support the Brembo calipers. Only hardcore canyon carvers are going to have any criticism.

As we returned to the hotel from our 190-mile loop, I was left highly impressed with the 2013 Suzuki Hayabusa. The addition of the Brembos and ABS has made it a better bike without question. It’s not a complete reboot, but with the rock solid handling and unbelievably friendly and powerful engine, it didn’t need one. Traction control would be nice, but to be honest I never was left wanting. What it could use is a mute button for that little devil.