Anyone as excited as I am about Suzuki reviving the Hayabusa? C’mon I know I’m not alone!
I remember seeing the first generation 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa up close and personal. It was love at first sight and I was barely as tall as the handlebars. It was the closest thing to a rocketship I’d ever seen and it captured my imagination for years to come right up until today.
When the opportunity came up to write about the original Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa I knew it wasn’t something I could pass on; having just written a love letter to the Yamaha R1 it was only right for me to do the same about the other love of my life.
We will head back to the lead up to the Hayabusa release in 1999, follow through its journey and then I’ve put a quick guide together to help if you plan on buying or restoring one of these Japanese legends.
Suzuki bosses made it clear what they expected from a new motorcycle: it was to enter the hypersport motorcycle market, destroy the competition and be the last bike standing.
Even the name for the Hayabusa was very clever and should have been a sure sign when rumors started to swirl about the new bike that no detail was going to be overlooked.
Hayabusa translates to ‘Peregrine Falcon’ which is a bird of prey that dives at speeds of 200mph. Perhaps the greatest point is that the Falcon preys on Blackbirds, which is a sly nod to Suzuki preparing to challenge the Honda Super Blackbird.
Yoshiura San when discussing the Hayabusa said “The concept of the first Suzuki Hayabusa was to create an original and dominating impact with superior aerodynamics, as well as being the most powerful sports motorcycle. I designed it with the intention of getting attention, using a unique motorcycle design. It needed to be the ultimate road legal motorcycle with the highest performance from mass produced bikes.”
Normally I focus on the engine first as it would make sense given the sure monster motor the Hayabusa was graced with. However, it’s not the engine that captures your attention first with this bike, it’s the physical presence.
Suzuki UK states “at the launch in Spain, every superlative imaginable was thrown in its direction, with the assembled press running out of ways to describe just how jaw-dropping it was.”
The aerodynamic bodywork was built to be aggressive, dominating, demanding of attention and it sure did just that. The motorcycle wasn’t just built for attention however, the technology behind the design meant the bike had superior aerodynamics compared to its counterparts. Each component had been carefully built for reduced drag and turbulence.
The most striking colorway of the Hayabusa 1999 model without a doubt was the Silver/Copper Brown, a complete step away from anything that a bike had seen before. It was futuristic and glorified the curves of the bodywork. The ‘99 model was also available in Black/Grey and Red/Black.
Underneath all that bodywork was a Liquid-Cooled, 1298cc, Four Stroke, Transverse Four-Cylinder, DOHC, 4 Valves-per cylinder engine with a 6 speed gearbox.
How Fast was a 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa?
The original Suzuki Hayabusa engine pumped out 175 horsepower and 138 Nm of torque, giving it a top speed of 190 mph (312 km/h) and a standing quarter mile completed in 10.3 seconds.
The inline-four engine was largely unremarkable for the time in terms of design but where the Hayabusa came out on top was by having the largest displacement ever in a sportbike and backed up by a ram air system which helped keep everything cool and working. The 175 horsepower is where the bike was indeed remarkable.
When first shown to the press at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain it was immediately lauded as the fastest production bike on the market and rightly so. The Hayabusa beat the top speed of the Honda Super Blackbird by a full 10mph. The falcon caught its prey and Suzuki had fulfilled their mission.
It wasn’t all speed however, the bike was totally usable on everyday roads and the abundance of torque is what made that possible. Power was on hand at any engine speed, giving riders greater options for gear selection for speed and acceleration.
The engine used a gear-driven counter-balancer which reduced vibration so much so that the engine could be solidly mounted to the frame, which increased the rigidity of the Aluminium twin spar frame. Fully-adjustable upside-down forks were used.
Bridgestone created a new set of tires especially for the Busa called the BT56J. These gave a greater contact patch to the ground which gave increased stability at high speeds.
The motorcycle weighed in at 215kg dry which was relatively light for a bike of this size and the handling was exceptionally nimble and excellent for its class.
Front Brakes were two 320mm discs, 6 piston calipers and on the rear a single 240mm, 2 piston caliper.
Initially the sub-frame was aluminium which kept the weight down, but after problems with it snapping largely down to overloaded luggage/passengers and/or an aftermarket exhaust system, the sub-frame was made of steel from 2001 onwards.
For the 2000 model year a Gentleman’s Agreement was reached between the Japanese and European manufacturers to limit the speed of their motorcycles to 186 mph.
This was on the back of rumors swirling of Kawasaki releasing a ZX-12R which was set to unseat the Hayabusa as the world’s fastest production motorcycle. The fear was that the race for the title of worlds fastest motorcycle would prove dangerous and ultimately lead to bikes not being allowed to be imported to Europe. And so an agreement was reached which for the time being put an end to the speed fight.
This meant the Hayabusa 1999 model would forever hold the title of fastest production motorcycle of the 20th century.
1999 Hayabusa Reception and Performance
The press lapped up the first generation Suzuki Hayabusa. Not everyone was enamoured with the styling as much as I am but a quick lap on the track and they soon changed their mind.
Superbike magazine’s introduction of the GSX1300R Hayabusa from 1999 pretty much summarises most people’s feelings at the time “Fast. Awesome. Wheelies. Mind-Bending. Faster. Stomping. Oh My God. Fastest. Exploding Kidneys…Help. Fastest Ever.”
Later on in the article the writer states “She pulls from nowhere, so hard that you have to be careful in first gear for fear of flipping it. Into the second and the effect is no different…This is hilarious because you can be sat at 80mph in the fast lane of the motorway, dip the clutch and wheelie past a quarter mile of cars in about 15 seconds.”
Perhaps the greatest compliment that Suzuki would have loved “Handling is in a different league to the Honda Super Blackbird.”
Cycle World was also enamoured and in a 2020 reflection on the 1999 Hayabusa release they state “The author kept his original paper invitation to the press launch because the experience in Spain was so profound.”
It is safe to say that the press and later on public had a new hypersport favourite and the Honda Super Blackbird and Kawasaki ZX-11 suddenly appeared irrelevant and for many bikers at the time, weren’t even worthy of being included in the conversation with the Suzuki Hayabusa.
Suzuki succeeded where other manufacturers hadn’t by creating a machine capable on the track and road in equal measure. Later in the Cycle World article they reflect “The Hayabusa had comfort and competence on the road with tractable power and refinement, and also remarkable agility and speed at the racetrack.”
During the launch in Spain test riders took the bike out on the circuit and then out “touring” on the Spanish roads. Suzuki had full faith in the Busa’s capabilities of impressing in both situations.
Perhaps this quote sums up the entire press experience from that weekend in Spain back in 1999 and it is safe to say that in 2021 there are quite a few people saying exactly the same thing after test-riding the new Suzuki Hayabusa this year.
“The only flaw with the Hayabusa wasn’t in the bike. It was that the bike was born into a world with laws. Its broad, deep, dense competence deserved a world without puny man-made limitations like traffic lights and speed limits. For two beautiful days in Spain, we rode like newly born gods searching for the end of sixth gear on freeways,”
It is said that 100,000 Hayabusa’s were sold from 1999-2007. Usually sales reduce after each model year the older the model gets. However, this was not the case with the Hayabusa which continued year on year to make greater sales numbers.
The very nature of the Hayabusa leant itself to become one of the greatest motorcycles for customisation. A cult following of Japanese and US owners began to create truly unique bikes with the Busa as their base. The tunability of the engine, unique bodywork and the ability to chop and change parts from other bikes in Suzuki’s line up made it a home builder’s dream.
The Hayabusa also attracted people from the drag-racing scene, top speed races and closed circuit racing which were all obvious activities that the bike was built to partake in.
How Much is a 1999 Hayabusa Worth?
Buying a 1st Generation GSX1300R Busa today is pretty straightforward with a fair view available and prices are far from extortionate. In the UK it is possible to pick one up from £2,500 all the way to £10,000. In the US prices run from $4,000 to $12,000.
The prices really are dependent on model year, paint work, condition and mileage.
Car and Classic still have an advert up for a 1999 Hayabusa in black and silver, with less than 2000 miles on it. The bike was in showroom condition and had been part of a private collection for many years, it sold for £9,500.
The example above proves that excellent condition models do still come up on the market and are affordable for those that seek them. At that price you are getting one of the best sports touring motorcycles ever produced; in that kind of condition it is basically a new bike and certainly one capable of keeping up with most modern bikes.
Another awesome example on News Now is priced at £4,000 with just over 20,000 miles on the clock and is in good working condition. Something like this would be ideal for buyers looking for a Busa that they can get on and ride.
Smart Cycle Guide is a good place to start looking in the US with several listings currently advertised varying across the price range.
The main thing when looking at purchasing a 1st Generation Busa is to be aware that main early models were heavily modified by owners in attempts to get maximum performance out of them and they were ridden hard. So, you need to be sure to check the bike over from head to toe, and ideally shoot for a model with good service history.
On the whole the early Hayabusa’s are known for their incredibly reliability which was one of their best selling points. Clutches and gears are the main things to check that they are in good working order and the best way to do this is by a test ride. It isn’t because the clutches and gears are no good on the Busa’s but because some owners undoubtedly will have thrashed them over the years.
Restoring a First Generation Suzuki Hayabusa
Restoring a Busa is not a particularly difficult project to take on in terms of finding parts or costs. Finding your donor bike is a pretty easy process and with prices starting on average from £2,500/$4,000 for a bike in working condition you would likely be able to find a bike for less than this making your initial outlay relatively low.
Parts are available in abundance as well as a healthy active replica parts market.
Busa part price examples
- $999.99 Complete Fairing Kit
- $150 Carbon Fibre Seat Cowl
- $357 Seat
- $500 Chassis
- $457 Tank and Seat
Is a 1st Generation Hayabusa a Good Investment?
It may seem strange but the 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa isn’t considered the best financial investment when it comes to motorcycles. Value isn’t shooting up and has remained steady over the last few years.
I would suggest that eventually the Hayabusa will be considered a classic but what the timeline is on that I couldn’t tell you, so it would be a gamble. Well a gamble if you are purely buying a Busa to keep it clean and hope to turn a profit in a few years. I wouldn’t really consider it a gamble if you planned to ride it because the smile on your face will be worth every penny.
Sign me up. I’ve loved the Hayabusa since I first laid my eyes on one and even more so now after diving into the details of it all.
My fiancé wants one too and it is looking like his next bike. Now I just need to persuade him that the Silver/Copper Brown from 1999 is the one to shoot for.