2011 Suzuki Hayabusa GSX1300R test drive review
Cruiser vs. Sport bike vs. whatever: Motorcycles for dummies
You’re a newbie, and you want to get a motorcycle, but you’re not sure what kind to buy. Some friends say to get a cruiser, others say you should buy a sport bike. You’ve never had a bike before, so you want to know: What’s the difference between these machines? Which will suit you best?
Here’s a quick explanation of the different motorcycle genres, and what’s good and bad about each of them. Except for the dual-sport. There’s nothing bad about dual-sport motorcycles.
Scooters have a motor and two wheels, like other motorcycles, but typically have a “step-through” frame and are aimed more at practicality (underseat storage! good fuel economy!) than performance. Most come with some sort of automatic transmission that means you can just twist the throttle and ride off, with no gear shifting to figure out.
Broadly speaking, you could divide scooters into three sub-categories: entry-level scooters, usually in the 49 cc range and mostly sold to kids too young to have a full motorcycle or car licence; commuter scooters, in the 125-250 cc range, built for practical around-town riding and maybe the occasional backroad jaunt; and maxi-scooters, ranging from 250 cc to 650 cc, and built to haul long distances at highway-legal (maybe even illegal!) speeds. Styling ranges from classic (as seen in the title image) to modern and edgy.
Most scooters are viewed as kinda dorky by experienced motorcyclists, but if this is what works for you, go ahead and buy one. They’re affordable, practical, fun and if you buy a maxi-scooter, moderately fast.
You should buy a scooter if: If your mom makes you. If you’re an artsy college student who doesn’t want a macho image. If you’re a sensible urbanite who wants affordable, practical transportation. If you’re a stereotypical millennial motorist who gets all nervous and sweaty just thinking about shifting gears.
Sport bikes are styled to look like racing machines, with plastic fairings covering the body and low-mounted clip-on handlebars that put riders into a crouch. That sporty look doesn’t necessarily equal high performance, as many beginner bikes come in sport bike clothes (Yamaha R3, Kawasaki Ninja 400, etc.). The manufacturers like to dress up entry-level machines as faster bikes in order to sell more units. Unfortunately, the insurance companies sometimes use this as an excuse to charge extra cash, so a sport bike may turn out to be an expensive proposition, even if the purchase price is cheap.
Once you get into more powerful sport bikes, there’s an increasing level of danger for newbies (aka noobs). Despite what your friends say, a 600 cc sport bike is not beginner-friendly, as the combination of horsepower and strong brakes can get an inexperienced rider into trouble quickly. But once you know what you’re doing, a full-sized sport bike (ranging from 600 supersports to 1000 superbikes) offers performance that will blow the doors off any other vehicle in the same price range.
You should buy a sport bike if: If you want an entry-level bike that doesn’t look like a complete dorkmobile. If you live near a race track. If you want the look, the power or the handling, and you’ve got the skills to avoid crashing. If you want to be like Jacob Black, and spend your summer weekends in hospital getting X-rays after crashing into straw bales during races.
Performance Review. 2008 GSXR 1300 Hayabusa
Broadly speaking, a naked bike is a motorcycle with no fairing — but not a cruiser. They can be extremely powerful (BMW S1000R) or relatively noob-friendly (Honda CB300F).
Most of them offer a more comfortable riding position than cruisers or sport bikes, but still have pretty decent handling, no matter the engine size. If you drop them, there’s a lot less expensive bodywork to replace.
Naked bikes are typically more affordable than sport bikes, and cheaper to insure as well.
The only real downside is modern naked bikes are looking more and more like Transformers every year, and the lack of bodywork makes many of them unpleasant to ride long distances into the wind at speed.
You should buy a naked bike if: If you want power and handling, but want a bit more comfort than a sportbike. If you want performance, but don’t want to pay high insurance rates. If you’ve watched a few stunt rider videos on YouTube, and you’re pretty sure you can do better.
Professional riders on closed course. Model shown with optional accessories.
THE PINNACLE OF GSX-R PERFORMANCE
When the original Suzuki GSX-R750 arrived, the modern sportbike was born. It brought to the streets a bold, new riding experience that reshaped motorcycling into the pursuit of performance that it is today. Rightfully known as the King of Sportbikes, the GSX-R has won more AMA Superbike championships than any other model in the world. It redefined what it meant to ride and paved the way for future achievements like the Hayabusa. It’s no wonder why it attracts riders of all stripes, from track days and street nights to amateur and pro racing circuits.
STAY IN THE LOOP
For your safety, always wear a helmet, eye protection, and protective clothing when riding any motorcycle or ATV. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Study your owner’s manual and always inspect your Suzuki before riding. Take a riding skills course. For the MSF street course nearest you, call 1-800-446-9227. Off-road riders can enroll in the DirtBike SchoolSM by calling 1-877-288-7093. ATV riders can call the SVIA at 1-800-852-5344 and we’ll even pay for the training. Suzuki engineered the GSX-Rs™, Hayabusa, and the QuadSport Z400 for experienced riders.
Specifications, appearances, equipment, color, features, materials and other items of “SUZUKI” products shown are subject to change by manufacturer at any time without notice.
Suzuki, the “S” logo, and Suzuki model and product names are Suzuki Trademarks or ®. © 2023 Suzuki Motor USA, LLC.
2nd Place – Yamaha YZF-R6
This is the bike that belongs in a pure track shoot out. The new R6 is one of the best handling bikes we have ever ridden, and just about all of our testers felt fast on it. Комментарии и мнения владельцев included “You think it and the R6 does it”; “The best handling 600 I have ever ridden — it almost does what you want it to do before you know what you want to do.” It changes direction easily, but holds the line you want. What more could you ask?
As you might expect, the R6 has very well sorted suspension to go along with the fine handling. It is firm, but supple enough to absorb sharp edge bumps. You sit very much over the front end of this bike, but the suspension and chassis make it a joy to ride aggressively.
The trade-off is less street comfort than some of the competition, including very low bars. This feels like a race bike, and is not the best companion for a long groan on the freeway. Instrumentation is thorough and legible, although one of our testers complained about the orange back lighting at night.
The brakes were good, but not class leading. From a performance perspective, this is one area that could do with some slight improvement. The engine is another. Although the R6 clearly has better midrange than last year (due to the changes we discussed in our first test), it still lacks some low-end and midrange power compared to the Honda and the new Suzuki. Nevertheless, the R6 rips on top like no other 600, and the motor is much more usable on the street than it was last year.
3rd Place – Suzuki GSX-R600
The Suzuki is all new this year, and it has an excellent motor. In fact, the motor is almost as good as the Honda, and seems to have more beef than the other two bikes just about everywhere (although the R6 beats it up top). The fuel injection and throttle response is generally good, although there was a bit of a flat spot around 5,000 RPM.
The stock suspension is pretty soft, and can get a bit overwhelmed when we pushed hard. Adding preload and damping adjustments helped things, but it never reached the handling level of the Yamaha. Feedback from the tires was not at the level offered by the R6 or the Kawasaki, either. Simply put, this was probably the least confidence inspiring bike in the twisties for our group of testers. Some aftermarket suspension tweaks might solve that, however.
Ergonomics is where the Suzuki shines for the street rider. In fact, this was considered the most comfortable bike for most of our testers (even more comfortable than the Honda). The reach to the bars is easy, and the windscreen high enough to provide meaningful protection. The foot peg position is adjustable, as well. The only negative here is the seat, which has some edges that can create hot spots on longer rides.
The brakes are very good, and probably only beaten by the binders found on the Kawasaki. Good feel and power.
In the end, the Suzuki might have been our favorite freeway bike, but that is not what this class is about. The strong motor and the comfortable ergonomics make for a good commuter, but the suspension and handling need some sorting before it will shine in the corners.
4th Place – Kawasaki ZX-6R
The Kawasaki will be replaced next year, but the ZX-6R is still a very competent machine. In fact, this bike has the best brakes in the class, and was easy to ride at a quick pace. The handling in the canyons was hard to fault … only a tick behind the spectacular R6.
In the supersport category, however, engine power is a very big deal. The Kawasaki feels soft compared to the competition this year. The Honda and the Suzuki have more power just about everywhere, and the R6 destroys it at high rpm. Throttle response was smooth and the fuel injection near perfect above 4,000 RPM, but engine response was fluffy below that.
The ergonomics are fairly aggressive, and the bars are fairly low, but most of our riders found the bike more comfortable than the R6 in stock trim. The foot pegs angle up, and really should be flat for more comfort and control.
Instrumentation is hard to fault, and we like the gear position indicator. A progressive fuel gauge would be nice, as well.
The Kawasaki is a good bike (it was the favorite of one of our test riders). It is easy to ride, reasonably comfortable, and has great brakes. Where it has fallen behind is in the engine department, and that makes all the difference this year.
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Key Terms To Understand When Buying A Sportbike
If you haven’t spent much time around superbikes or motorcycles in general, there are a handful of terms that are likely to appear quite a bit on manufacturers’ websites and in brochures that may be confusing. To help you fully wrap your head around some of the available genres and features prevalent in the sportbike sector, we’ve generated this condensed list of key terms.
ABS: Standing for “Anti-Lock Brakes,” this feature allows a rider to apply maximum brake pressure without ever locking up and skidding. This system works via a sensor that detects wheel speed, and then automatically decreases brake pressure if sensing the wheels are locking up. As numerous studies have shown, ABS-equipped models hugely decrease the chances of an accident by as much as almost 40%.
Clip-Ons: This term refers to the type of handlebars used on the vast majority of sportbikes. Rather than being a single-piece item like regular handlebars, clip-ons consist of two short individual bars that clip onto the fork uppers. While uncomfortable on the back, the low position at which clip-ons are mounted results in the rider being in a tucked-in, hunched-forward, race-ready riding position.
Curb Weight: In an effort to make their bikes look as svelte as possible, manufacturers often list/advertise a model’s “Dry Weight” which is how much a given motorcycle weighs without any fluids, oil, or fuel. A Curb Weight, on the other hand, denotes how much a bike weighs fully-topped off with fluids and fuel — aka in fully operational form and ready to ride. Curb weights are typically around 15% heavier than a model’s listed dry weight.
Fairing: A fairing is a piece of race-derived bodywork that covers the nose, belly, and most of the engine and mid-section of a motorcycle. These multi-piece items provide a major aerodynamic advantage, hugely mitigating drag and allowing for better fuel efficiency and higher top speeds. It is worth noting that fairings are particularly prone to damage if a bike tips over or is dropped, and are often fairly expensive to replace.
Homologation Special: In order to qualify for competition in production-based racing series like the World Superbike Championship. moto manufacturers are required to build a minimum number (usually just a few hundred) of what are called “homologation specials.” These are spare-no-expense, race-spec versions of the company’s flagship superbikes and are essentially full-on track weapons with headlights, indicators, and a license plate tacked on.
i4: There are other engine configurations utilized in the superbike and supersport sectors, the majority of full-size (600 and 1,000cc) race replica sportbikes are powered by inline-four-cylinder power plants. These high-revving four-bangers are often denoted or referred to simply as “i4s” or “i4 models.”
MotoGP WSBK: Manufacturers routinely advertise features on their sportbikes as being MotoGP and/or WSBK-derived. These names refer to the two highest levels of professional motorcycle racing, with MotoGP being the absolute pinnacle with the world’s best riders competing on ridiculously state-of-the-art prototype race bikes on the best race tracks on the planet, while WSBK — or “World Superbike” — is an elite level championship series that campaigns production-based homologation special motorbikes — not unlike Formula One and NASCAR only on two wheels.
Rearsets: Rear-sets are components that are comprised of the footpegs, brake/shift levers, and the accompanying brackets that hold them together. Often adjustable, rear-sets are mounted higher up, thereby making for a more aggressive riding position and affording more ground clearance and lean angle. Additionally, rear-sets are typically knurled, allowing them to offer better grip and provide a more stable base to plant your feet on when moving around or leaning off of the bike.
Supersport: This style of a sportbike is engineered primarily for use on the track, though production versions have been slightly watered down to make for more conducive road bikes. Typically the term “Supersport” refers to fully-faired models as large as 750cc’s, though most commonly between 250 and 600cc’s. This class is essentially no different from superbikes, albeit with slightly smaller displacement engines.
Superbike: Larger in displacement than 600 and 750cc supersport models, superbike motorcycles are approximately 1,000cc (or slightly larger) sportbikes and are typically the flagship offering of their respective manufacturers. As such, these bikes tend to feature the most advanced technology, mechanics, and amenities, as well as the most aggressively-designed bodywork. Superbikes are also commonly referred to as “Literbikes” due to their one-liter engine displacement.
Biting Off Than You Can Chew
Why New Riders High-Performance Superbikes DO NOT Mix
While motorcycles are objectively dangerous, we’d argue that bikes — especially sport and superbikes – get an unfairly bad wrap, as far too often, new, inexperienced riders begin their motorcycling careers aboard models that are too big and too powerful for their skill and experience level. In the same way that it would be an atrocious idea to learn how to drive behind the wheel of a Lamborghini, it’s just as ill-advised to commence your two-wheeled career on a full-size sportbike — and that very much includes 600cc i4 models.
Just because you can afford a used 200mph race replica superbike, doesn’t mean you should buy one. Even with the benefit of traction control and ABS, 600-1,000cc supersports are still incredibly sensitive, unforgiving machines that leave very little room for error. What’s more, learning to ride on a bike that’s too powerful will hinder your ability to learn and progress as a rider, as where a smaller, more manageable motorcycle lets you FOCUS on fundamentals like body positioning and throttle control instead of spending your time in the saddle trying to keep the thing in check.
The Best Used Superbikes For The Price
Now that you’re privy as to what to keep an eye out for when shopping, let’s turn our attention to our picks for more than a dozen of the best used superbikes currently available at dealerships and online.
Disclaimer: All used motorcycle shown reflect Kelley Blue Book values for “Good” condition examples for typical listing showing average mileage based on the model year. These figures are often slightly higher than the asking shown in classified ads.
1999 Honda CBR600 F4
The CBR600 F4 is a bonafide track-derived supersport that can also be had for next to nothing. It may look a little long in the tooth aesthetically, though underneath its dated bodywork is a thoroughly modern chassis and inline-four engine that allow the F4 to fire off 3.1 second 0-60mph runs and clock a top speed exceeding 155mph. As far as accessibly-priced supersports, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bike, dollar-for-dollar, than the F4.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 599cc Inline-Four Power: 110HP 49.5FT-LBS Top Speed: 159MPH New Price: 7,899 Used Price: 5000,600 Origin: Japan
1998 Honda VFR800
Considering its typical asking price on the used market, Big Red’s VFR800 is unquestionably one of the best bargains out there. For around 5000.5K, you can get a liquid-cooled V4-engined Japanese motorcycle with a full set of bodywork and a single-sided swingarm that’s genuinely good for everything from track days to commuting to long-distance touring. This exotic and wildly-affordable sport-tourer also features distinctive side-mounted radiators and a comfortable, upright riding position that still allows for spirited cornering.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 782cc 90° V4 Power: 108HP 61FT-LBS Top Speed: 143.5MPH New Price: 9,500 Used Price: 3,065 Origin: Japan
2012 Kawasaki Ninja 300
Thanks to the popularity and success of the Ninja 400, Kawasaki’s already affordable, older Ninja 300 and Ninja 250 models are now available for little more than a song and a dance. For new riders looking for a manageable bike to cut their supersport teeth on, the Ninja 300 is a stellar choice with its surprising potent twin engine. What’s more, on top of there being an absolutely enormous volume of aftermarket parts and upgrades available for the little Ninjas, there are also a decent number of race leagues that campaign the learner-friendly Kawasakis.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 296cc Parallel-Twin Power: 39HP 17.5FT-LBS Top Speed: 119MPH New Price: 4,799 Used Price: 3,195 Origin: Japan
1996 Suzuki GSX-R750
Though it may look a little dated to some, for those that appreciate the style of ‘80s and ’90s era endurance racers, the 1996 era Gixxer 750 is a stellar bike with an old-school appearance and a modern inline-four engine wrapped in a new-for-1996 GP-inspired twin-spar alloy frame. Commonly referred to as the “SRAD,” the 1996 GSX-R750 also sported Suzuki’s then cutting-edge “Suzuki Ram Air Direct” intake system. This pre-millennium Gixxer is also a stellar candidate for an affordable track day build.
Engine: Liquid-Cooled 749cc Inline Four Power: 128HP 59.3FT-LBS Top Speed: 172MPH New Price: 8,999 Used Price: 3,110 Origin: Japan
2017 KTM RC390
KTM’s RC390 offers a bit more power and displacement from your average quarter-liter supersport, thereby allowing riders more time to learn and progress before outgrowing the bike. And while you can’t go wrong with any model year RC390, the 2017 version received several key updates including redesigned bodywork, a slipper clutch, a race-style gear-shift light, and adjustable rear-sets that together make for a better-performing machine both on the streets or down at the local race track. If you only plan on tracking your RC390, you may want to consider trying to find a turnkey competition-spec variant previously used in MotoAmerica’s RC Cup, which originally sold for 10,000.