The ‘all-new’ 2021 Suzuki Hayabusa is here, and if you’ve been following my previous posts, you would know that I was super excited. I was excited about the bike, yes. But more so, I was excited about what Suzuki was about to unleash. Not in terms of metal and rubber, but rather, in terms of Suzuki’s philosophy and intentions going forward. Its mindset, its position in the broader motorcycling world.
And now we know.
THE NEWS ISN’T GREAT
The Hayabusa is all about magic. In Japanese, Hayabusa is the word for a Peregrine Falcon. The Hayabusa (bird type) is famed for being able to reach speeds over 180mph in a dive to catch prey. For this reason, the Hayabusa bird served as inspiration for the original creators of the Hayabusa (motorcycle type).
The keyword here is ‘inspiration’. The bike was more than a sum of its parts and it created awe, broke records and ignited the imagination like no other. It showed us tomorrow – today, and made us question what was possible. The Hayabusa, in its third iteration, no longer does any of those things.
Tragically, we are faced with something far worse. We are faced with the realisation that something is not right deep down in Suzuki’s soul. Something is happening to Suzuki, and it goes beyond rubber and metal. Much like the society that is draining the life-force of many, Suzuki has lost its mojo. Suzuki is sick.
A canary in a coal mine is an advanced warning of some danger. The metaphor originates from the times when miners used to carry caged canaries while at work; if there was any methane or carbon monoxide in the mine, the canary would die before the gas levels reached those hazardous to humans.
SOMEONE CALL A DOCTOR
The above quote is a perfect metaphor for what I am trying to explain. Substitute ‘canary’ with ‘peregrine falcon’. Substitute ‘humans’, with ‘Suzuki’.
In other words, the new Hayabusa represents a warning. What’s the danger? It’s not methane gas, but rather, the degradation of Suzuki’s spirit, which once stood for innovation, risk-taking and pushing paradigms.
After years of recycling the same old machines and failing to breath new life into their range, I thought maybe, just maybe, the turning point would come with their flagship. Alas, it did not.
THIS IS PERSONAL
Dream weaver – GSX-R750
My imagination has always taken flight and gravitated towards the magical when it comes to motorcycles. And this is what I believe motorcycle manufacturers should be doing; building magic at every opportunity.
Motorcycling has been one of the few portals that have allowed me to transition into the world of wonder and magic by the simple act of turning the ignition key. Suzuki’s have played a big part in this magic.
I have owned three Suzuki sportbikes over the years (three among many, much to my wife’s chagrin). I currently own what I consider to be my favourite bike of all, the original dream weaver; a Suzuki GSX-R750.
All of the motorcycles I have owned have lightened my soul to some degree. But none come close to giving me the sheer joy I feel when riding my 7-fiddy. So this is personal.
Motorcycle manufacturers should be building magic at every opportunity…
WHAT’S NEW IS OLD
But you see, the GSX-R750 is now a ten-year-old platform which itself has lineage back to 2006. After the Busa, the current 750 is the longest ever produced GSX-R series without any significant changes; ten years!
Name any current Suzuki motorcycle and chances are the design is seriously long in the tooth. SV650 or Boulevard anyone? It’s like a fight to see who can qualify for the pension first.
To rub salt into the wound, recent launches of ‘new’ machines have been little more than unimaginative updates (V-Strom anyone?) or underwhelming attempts to re-brand existing platforms (Katana, SV650X anyone?).
IT’S EVOLUTION BABY
There is nothing wrong with evolution. One could argue this has provided value and stability to the market; Suzuki is a value player after all. But is it the pursuit of value that drives Suzuki, or complacency?
What will happen when Suzuki’s entire range comes due for a Euro 5 refresh? Well, look no further than the Hayabusa for a form guide. Suzuki has chosen to take the easy path by maintaining the status quo and rehashing what has already been.
The result. An inferior motorcycle in many measurable respects when compared to its predecessor. Consider the facts; negligible weight loss, archaic suspension, less power and torque, inferior fuel consumption and a significant price increase. The new Hayabusa is 10k AUD more expensive in Australia and 4.5K US more costly in the USA.
The 2nd generation Busa was launched in 2007; are you going to defend the notion that the 3rd generation represents 14 years of progress? Is this seriously the best Suzuki can do? Are you willing to pay 10k more for a refreshed motorcycle?
The first Airbus A380 also entered service 14 years ago. Imagine for a moment if Airbus attempted to release a new generation A380 with worse fuel consumption, less power and shorter range. Sure, it would pack the latest electronics and a modern cockpit with fancy screens. Still, airlines would not buy it because its competition is flying further, burning less fuel and carrying more passengers.
Ironically, the A380 has been axed and is ending production this year. The A380 was the canary in the coal mine for Airbus. It was the biggest and fastest. It burst onto the scene, dripping with innovation, amazing the world.
But Airbus neglected to listen to the screams from the market and failed to re-imagine its flagship. The A380 died. See any parallels? But unlike Suzuki, Airbus has doubled down on new models designed to please the market. There is no room for complacency in aviation. Is it not true for motorcycles too?
OH THE IRONY!
The irony of this whole story is Suzuki’s assertion that they considered entirely new engine configurations for the new Busa. They supposedly even built prototypes with larger displacements, six cylinders and turbochargers! Turbochargers! Bollocks!
Click video below and forward to 2min 22s for the ‘official’ justification for the choice of engine.
Who would go through that sort of prototyping only to turn around and release the same old engine! Imagine Kawasaki building the prototypes of the H2 and in the end ditching it for a refreshed ZX-14R? Suzuki chickened out, plain and simple.
LACK OF CORPORATE RISK-TAKING
Not only does Suzuki think we’re dumb, but they disrespect us with lies and propaganda. This is a reflection on Suzuki’s leadership and an indictment of their feebleness. The corporatocracy did not allow risk-taking and forward-thinking to prevail.
Suzuki has done nothing to advance the myth, add to the legend, extend the Hayabusa’s glory. This is about the soul of Suzuki, its culture, its identity. This is what happens when evolution turns into complacency.
Sooner or later, potential buyers will start seeing through it, especially when they realise there’s nothing new under the sun but are expected to pay through the nose for it.
IT’S ABOUT THE INTANGIBLE
Don’t get me wrong. The new Hayabusa will undoubtedly be an excellent motorcycle, and I would not blame anyone for wanting one. I am in no way saying the new Hayabusa is an engineering failure. I have enjoyed many thousands of reliable kilometres on my Suzuki’s.
This is not about the hard parts’ lack of quality, durability or some slight on the engineering’s integrity. I even like the styling. I don’t doubt that it will do its job of travelling very fast over a long period, reliably and efficiently. This is enough for many.
Suzuki’s plight is about the intangible. It’s about the spirit of the company and its ability to inspire new generations to ride. It’s about identity. It’s also about tradition; but whose?
It seems to be a case of, ‘let’s use the same chassis, suspension and engine, re-tune it for more mid-range to mask the platform’s inadequacies and then pin it to tradition’. It just doesn’t fly (pardon the pun).
With the new bike, Suzuki is saying the Hayabusa tradition is, ‘let’s recast the same mould’. The original Hayabusa was all about fresh thinking and risk-taking. Shouldn’t the new bike follow that tradition?
The original Hayabusa was all about fresh thinking and risk-taking. Shouldn’t the new bike follow that tradition?
TRADITION GETS OLD
You see traditionalism dies with the originator. Look at Harley Davidson. Harley is dying thanks in large part to tradition. Older riders relate to the image and style and have the money. But they are dying off, and the newer generations don’t care about the old rule; they can’t relate. They are creating their own traditions. Harley Davidson is not along on that ride, and neither is Suzuki.
Perhaps more than any other marque, Suzuki has provided me with the opportunity to experience magic with every ride. And as a company, they have set new standards and challenged paradigms. Think of the original GSXR-750, the original Hayabusa and the original GSX-R1000. And so the fate of Suzuki is very closely linked to my soul.
LINE IN THE SAND
Therefore, for me at least, the release of the 3rd generation Hayabusa marks a line in the sand in Suzuki history. As a motorcycle dreamer, Suzuki offers me nothing new that I can turn into my screen background. And that brings tears to my eyes.
Suzuki’s spark has been stolen, covered in chains and locked in a dark basement. And it’s the bean counters that are the hostage-takers. It’s the vanilla mentality of creating the same old cookie-cutter machines to pursue corporate profits that is extinguishing the flame of imagination.
IMAGINATION SEPARATES MAN FROM BEAST
Sadly, Suzuki has lost its imagination and is falling into the pit of mediocrity. And Suzuki is not alone; Honda is on the same path. Sure, both of them will continue to sell squillions of motorcycles. Just look to their involvement in Asian markets where millions of small and affordable bikes are sold each year for proof. But at what cost?
Perhaps this is Suzuki’s destiny. Maybe they are merely playing the role assigned to them by the universe. Be the ‘value’ player, conservative and predictable. Or perhaps they are in such financial straights that they are unwilling to take any risks. Regardless, the bigger problem is that Suzuki’s values no longer align with mine.
A LASTING HOPE
There is still hope, however. What would life be without it? We must applaud Suzuki for continuing to build the Hayabusa. Credit where credit is due. This proves that some within the company still have fight left in them, a backbone. It’s just that the forces of evil currently hold the ascendancy.
Suzuki’s victory in the 2020 MotoGP championship also proves that somewhere, deep down, a flame still burns. But we cannot buy a GSX-RR from our local dealership. We need the passion, innovation and spirit driving the MotoGP project to flood over their production bikes like the winds of change. Build it, and they will come.
Suzuki, your first opportunity at redemption lies with the GSX-R750. I would like it supercharged, please. Gauntlet thrown.