Suzuki and Kawasaki have been kicking sand at each other for the better part of a decade, looking to one up each other as master of the Hypersport class. Big, heavy, powerful – Suzuki’s Hayabusa set the standard in 1999, and held its ground against generation after generation of Kawasaki’s slightly quirky ZX-12R.
The introduction of the ZX-14 in 2006 arguably tipped the scales in Kawasaki’s favor – but it was to the dismay of many Kawasaki diehards – many felt that the new Kawi’s styling and design cues were lifted from the Hayabusa itself. The 14 still proved to be a showroom floor winner, edging out the aging ‘Busa in performance, the 14 sat at the top while Suzuki busily carved out its 2nd Generation machine.
I’ve been riding the 2nd Generation Suzuki Hayabusa for just over a season now. Below you’ll find general riding impressions that I’ve gathered over several thousand miles in the saddle, some comparisons to the ZX-14, a conversation between Brock Davidson and Bikeland about the two machines, as well as some video content along with some modifications you can make to get more power and performance out of your Busa.
Our Overall Riding Impression
The newest Busa isn’t a massive deviation from the old version. Taking the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” evolution process to heart, the refinements to the bike are not drastic, though some of the new machine’s styling – specifically its rear end – is questionable. That being said, consumers also questioned the style of the ZX-14, as well as the ZX-12R, and even the original Busa.
Styling of Japanese Sportbikes is hit and miss anyways, yet both brands and models still have a following that has propelled them and their companies to success, regardless of what plastic gets bolted to the outside.
Overall fit and finish of the newest ‘Busa is good. Body parts fit well, everything has its place – a nicely finished and anodized triple clamp completes this tight package, yet the bike, and even the triple clamp, are still peppered with little bits of chrome finishing that the designers apparently can’t resist including. In this day and age, the chrome flash looks even more out of place than a decade ago, when chrome looked totally out of place on a modern sportbike.
Heavy, and with a low center of gravity, the big bike brings itself to life with increased displacement – 1340 cc’s, and offers the rider the ability to trim down the power output to three different levels – a useful tool for the less skilled with the throttle to navigate the machine in dodgy weather conditions. Taller riders, like myself, fit this big bike considerably better than the old one. It’s comfortable, with a reasonably long reach to both the pegs and the clipons.
The handling is much improved over the Busa’s previous incarnation, as is the power output of the engine. Our stock, retail unit Hayabusa churned out an impressive 170.8 HP SAE and made 101.2 ft/lbs of torque at about 7000 rpm… certainly more power than any ZX-12R or 1st Gen Busa owner would have been able to pull down out of a bone stock motorcycle.
One of the biggest differences between the new ‘Busa and the ZX-14 is how well the ‘Busa manages and distributes engine heat. After thousands of miles of riding, our ‘Busa never showed a hint of overheating, the needle rarely climbing past the center of the temperature gauge. There is little to no heat dissipated onto the pilot. You can easily ride the ‘Busa wearing a pair of jeans and still feel no heat on your legs. The same can’t be said for the ZX-14.
When hard on the gas, the Busa pulls like a freight train. You can feel every one of the 170 hp driving you forward in a torque filled frenzy. This bike is FAST.
Ease on the gas and flagship Suzuki takes on a new personality. Smooth, seamless shifting, perfect handling, linear power – the Busa transforms itself into an absolutely wonderful sport touring machine. As a tourer, a commuter, or as an everyday rider, the Suzuki swallows up miles with comfort with not as much as a complaint. The same goes for two up riding. In fact its ease of use is almost disarming.
You tend to forget just how much power’s on hand until you consider cracking the throttle wide open – or you notice that you’ve left the bike in a single gear, say 2nd or 3rd for a long stretch. Now you’ve spent the bulk of your commute driving the bike like it’s a great big automatic.
The only real let down for us with this bike are the front brakes, which are (in our opinion) atrocious. They claim to have been redesigned, but they are truly dismal. You’d do better stopping a bike with bars of soap strapped to the rotors than you would with the stock units – clearly the ZX-14 and its astonishing front brakes take the Busa hands down in this category.
Other than that, it’s a toss up and you’re splitting hairs everywhere you look. The Busa turns quickly, but not as quickly as the 14, however neither object when thrown through the twisties. The 14 seems to burn more fuel when you’re beating on it. Both bikes are comfortable to ride long distances, and both excel on the dragstip, within hundredths of a second of each other in performance.
Truly, the gap between the bikes and the manufacturers has narrowed such that the purchase decision is yours – based on your emotion, your connection with the bike, or your brand loyalty. You’re not going to be substantially faster or slower on either machine. Neither look any better or worse than the other, and neither out-handle nor out-ride their counterpart.
You can find out more about Suzuki’s latest Hayabusa by visiting what remains Bikeland’s most popular topic to date (with almost 200,000 downloads) by clicking here where you can download the features and specs for the 2nd Gen Busa.
EBC XC Rotors – Let’s do something about those brakes…
To say the brakes on the new Busa suck is an understatement. With so many motorcycles coming equipped with stunning brakes right from the factory, it’s easy to see why a customer would get miffed if after riding a ZX-14 they hopped on their 2nd Gen Busa, arrived at the first stop sign, grabbed the front brakes and rolled half way into the intersection – expecting ZX-14 like braking, but getting… well.. nothing.
There’s nothing there. What’s worse is that the ZX-14’s brakes are so damn fantastic – it’s a hard pill for any Busa owner to swallow.
With a few phone calls, we set straight to work to make things better. A week later, a nice set of EBC XC rotors and EBC’s new Extreme Pro pads arrived on our doorstep.
EBC claims the rotors weigh less than the stockers, improve handling, and of course stop better. Since we’re not dealing dope out the back of our shop, we didn’t have a scale accurate enough to measure the minute differences between a stock rotor and an EBC rotor – but we knew someone who did – the local Post Office. Obsessed with weighing pieces of paper, the post office scale told us just how much weight we were carving off our Busa by installing the rotors.
According to the Postal Service, a single stock Busa rotor weighs in at 1.577kg and the EBC XC rotor weighs in at 1.426kg… that’s a difference of 151 grams per rotor, for a total weight savings of 302 grams, which converts to a substantial 0.6658 pounds.
Cutting over half a pound of rotating mass off your front wheel is nothing to sneeze at!
Installation was straight forward. With the correct torque specs in hand, along with some loctite, we had the new rotors and pads in place.
After some miles to allow the new gear to bed in, we found that the braking was substantially improved. As heavy and big as this bike is, it needs all the brake it can get, and the EBC XC setup – though still nowhere near the braking of a featherweight stocker 1098, gave me the confidence I needed to be able to live with the Hayabusa and not hang my head low.
You can find out more about EBC’s XC Rotors by clicking here
You can find out more about EBC’s Extreme Pro pads by clicking here
You can click here to see Bikeland chat with Andy Freeman, EBC’s CEO, about the new EBC XC Rotors.
Powercommander PC3 & LCD Unit
Though there are some choices on the fuel modification side, Dynojet and their Powercommander have the North American market next to sewn up. From their Las Vegas facility ships a daunting number of Power Commanders to feed the entire powersports industry. After a $1,000,000 court settlement with CARB, Powercommander began producing “CARB” compliant units that prevent a user from making changes to the lower end of their fueling – just in case that might harm the environment.
For the purposes of our test, we used an off-road/track only Powercommander PCIII USB (49 state, non CARB complaint unit), along with the Ignition Module, and brought everything to British Columbia, Canada where the Republicans are still in power, you can own a two stroke, a chain saw, and there’s no pesky environmental rules to get in the way of your power gains.
In addition to the Power Commander we hooked up Dynojet’s LCD unit. This palm-sized gadget allows you to flip back and forth between two maps, and with the multi-function hub in place you can log vehicle data Ducati owner style. Unfortunately, the Dynojet data logging setup isn’t quite as slick as Ducati’s stock execution – the overwhelming number of wires required to install the additional features detracted from our installation of the hub, so we opted to use the sleek LCD unit on its own.
We loved the LCD unit, for everything it allows you to do, as well as for the “cool factor”. Using it eliminates those irritating “Powercommander Not Found” error messages you get with your laptop. The only thing we would have preferred would have been a short interface cord packaged with the unit. The LCD unit comes with a bulky cable long enough to weave from the back of your bike to the front, if you have the unit mounted on something like a Techmount, but if you just want to keep the LCD unit on hand to plug in every now and then, the cable it ships with is simply far too long to be practical.
In the last few months Powercommander has released the PCV, however we haven’t tried this unit.
The PCIII USB retails for $349.99 and you can find out more about it, and the ignition unit and LCD unit by clicking here.
Make your bike faster, look better, and lose a bunch of weight: Brock’s Performance Shorty Generation 3 StreetSmart Exhaust
With every aftermarket manufacturer churning out product after product to tweak your riding experience, it can seem impossible for the consumer to make a purchase decision. For the most part, mid to high end aftermarket kit – specifically exhaust systems, are within spitting distance of each other in the performance, weight and build quality – so many folk turn to brand loyalty, OEM and manufacturer pairing and of course the Internet to figure out what combination they should pick for their ride.
Brock started Brock’s Performance in 2001. He told Bikeland, “Basically, I was burned out at my engineering job – I decided that my life would be a lot better if I had guys like me working for me. I was a dog-faithful loyal employee of somebody else’s for years and years. It was a good time for me to go do my own thing”
Many of the components Brock sells can be found at any dealership or supplier, and it can be argued that Brock doesn’t manufacture much on his own – most of his exhaust systems are built as a collaborative effort by exhaust veteran Hindle.
“I first met Lange Hindle in 1997. I was a factory supported Suzuki racer. I said – I have a problem here. I’m a dragracer – most of the systems are developed using road race technology and there are some items that could be changed that could really help us. He said, ‘like what?’ We got into a conversation and he said, ‘would you like to do this?’
He started changing his configurations and sending them to me to test. I’d spent 15 years in the special machine / building and test industry – I know how to test a part. So he would make modifications on my request, I would test the parts – on the dyno, and on the racetrack to see whether or not the information on the dyno correlated to the track, because you’d be amazed at how sometimes it doesn’t”
However, what Brock brings to the table that might set him apart from other similar establishments is his exceptional customer service. An impeccable online rapport with his customers and fans coupled with a well executed website and map download program gives Brock a unique niche in today’s performance exhaust market.
“The thing about it is, I’ve been in the business for a long time, and I raced motorcycles as a hobby, and one of the things that bothered me throughout the entire time of working with some of the people in the industry is that I didn’t think that they treated their customers right. There were certain aspects of the way the industry acted that I vowed not to duplicate.”
Towards the end of last season, we fitted our 2nd Gen Suzuki Hayabusa with a Brock’s Performance Shorty Generation 3 StreetSmart Exhaust System and stainless headers with black ceramic coating.
Build quality, fit and finish was excellent. Installation was straightforward, but the instructions supplied could have been clearer, and layed out more logically. Though slightly irritating to install, the header spring mounts served their purpose well by giving us easy and quick access to future exhaust system removal.
Weight savings over the OE system are substantial. The stocker tipped our incredibly accurate Sunbeam bathroom scales (purchased from our local Walmart) at a lardy 45 pounds. The entire Brock’s system tipped our scales at just about 9 pounds.
“You will notice that when you go to lower your chassis, our system actually has more ground clearance than a traditional road race system because usually what they do on the road race systems is they let the pipes hang down real low in the center because the bike’s real tall and that gives you a bunch more cornering clearance. Well, there’s not that many people out there dragging a knee on their ‘Busa, and even if they do, all we really did was change the ground clearance to allow someone to lower the bike to dragrace, but it doesn’t result in any reduced cornering clearance. We still have as much cornering clearance as anybody else. We make sure that if you’re going around the corner on your bike at the stock height, if you’re going to drag anything it came on the motorcycle before you put on our pipe.”
“One other thing that’s critical in the power department – one of the things that we noticed – was that when it came to exhaust system development is that when you’re on the dyno it’s a static application – the bike’s not moving, there’s no ram air effect. You can adjust the pipe and make good power but what happens when you’re going down the racetrack, or the street – I always make the comment that your bike doesn’t know where its wheels are rolling – we just happen to use the dragstrip as a very accurate measuring tool to measure the acceleration and to measure the performance. So what we found was, by altering the exhaust system design we can actually get more speed – more top end speed more peak power in a dynamic application with the pipes being developed the way we do it now (not by using the dyno only).”
According to Brock, the advantage to purchasing an exhaust system from Brock over any of his competitors, apart from the fact the he’s an all around good guy, is the access you gain to his database of maps.
“I’ve been building the database since 1998/99 – Anyone who purchases one of our exhaust systems, we supply the mapping for as long as they own their exhaust or their bike and we call it our “Street Smart Map Support System”. That is also transferable, so if they sell their bike or their pipe to someone, even used – we want the customer to have access to the information to allow their bike to go as fast as possible.”
“You know, the combinations (of bikes and aftermarket parts) are really endless. What we do is we perfect the combination at the dragstrip – or at Maxton if you’re landspeed racing. So we will perfect this combination, go as fast as we can possibly go, and then we provide our customers with this information so they can duplicate this and if they duplicate the combination exactly the way we suggest, we really expect them to get the same results we do. We actually have customers in different parts of the country that go faster than we do with our same combination.
We have some configurations that will make more peak power so you can get your bragging number, but if you compare that to a system that has more average power throughout the range of the dyno then it’s going to have more average power which is going to allow the bike to accelerate harder all the way through the run.
Let me explain this to you – this sometimes complicates the issue for some people. After we finish testing on the dyno in a static application, we’ll go to the track, we’ll put in an O2 sensor – we’ll measure the air/fuel – we’ll make repeated runs and we’ll adjust the air fuel so that the bike is absolutely as fast as we can make it. 9 times out of 10 once that map is created, you go back to the dyno with that exact same map and your power is lower.
There’s a specific air/fuel ratio that will make the most power on the dyno – well, that air/fuel ratio is typically leaner in most bikes – but the air/fuel ratio to make maximum power on the dyno is typically leaner than it would be on the dragstrip, so by perfection g the air/fuel ratio with the bike moving you’ve actually made it slightly unattractive on the dyno even though your bike is faster in the real world.”
With our Gen3 system and Powercommander installed, we signed in to the BrocksPerformance.com website where we logged in to the Maps Database where we were presented with a huge array of bike, engine, aftermarket and Brock’s pipe combinations. Once we finished selecting our combination (pretty easy, 08/09 Busa, Gen3 system, Powercommander, stock everything else) we submitted our request. A few minutes later, via email, we received two maps – a street and a track version.
With maps in hand, we downloaded them to the LCD unit and headed off to the dyno. For purposes of accurate comparison, we’re running the dyno on the SAE scale. You can find out more about SAE here.
Not everyone has access to a dyno, and a service like this is invaluable to any bike enthusiast.
Attention to detail, taking care of his customers, as well as actively participating online in several forums has allowed Brock to compete in a market usually dominated by larger manufacturers. Showing a positive attitude has proven that a small fish can swim in a big sea… And it’s you, the consumer, that benefits.
With the LCD unit and Brock’s maps installed, the bike ran 177.4HP.
With tuning to accommodate our Ignition module, as Brock does not provide ignition mapping, we got that up to 181.5 hp and 105.2 ft/lbs of torque.
You can find out more about Brock and his products by visiting Brocks’s Performance.com
A Conversation with Bikeland and Brock Davidson about the Busa vs ZX-14
Let me ask you about your personal opinions between the differences between the new Hayabusa and the new ZX-14. You and I have both spent a lot of time riding both of these bikes. I’ve obviously spent time riding them in a street and in a touring application where you’ve been working with them mechanically as well as in a dragracing application. We had a lot of people at Bikeland report that the newest ZX-14 was down on power compared to the older version.
We did not see that, one of the things that we saw – was that for whatever reason, it took our ’08 ZX-14 longer to break in, than the earlier models. Once the ’08 was broken in, it actually made 3 – 4 hp more than the previous model 14. Up until then it was down in power – everywhere.
What about the new Hayabusa?
The Hayabusas have proven – you know, Suzuki makes a Hell of an engine, these guys really know what they’re doing – and the new ‘Busas are perfect. Power wise, the Hayabusa makes slightly more horsepower. From a performance standpoint, the Hayabusa is a little bit faster – in the dragstip and in landspeed racing – but we’re really splitting hairs here. For the first time in, in the history of these Hyperbikes – these big, super powerful, super heavy motorcycles, they have gotten a lot closer to how the 1000’s have been for a long time.
You can basically pick your brand of 1000 and they’re going to be so close, that you don’t have to purchase a brand that you don’t like just because it’s so much faster than the brand that you do like.
Let me ask you – which is easier to work on mechanically?
Most definitely the Hayabusa
Is the just because of the chassis design overall?
Yes… Chassis design. The chassis design of the ‘Busa makes it easier to remove the engine from the frame. The ZX-14 has an integrated topcase and cylinder. The problem with that means that from a do-it-yourselfer standpoint it makes the bike pretty unattractive, whereas the Hayabusa – we literally right now – I have the parts in stock to take a stock Hayabusa and let it go from X amount of horsepower and let it go up 35 – 40 horsepower. I have it on my shelf. I can put it in a box and send it out right now. You cant do that with the ZX-14.
The ZX-14 – as soon as you get into the integrated topcase and cylinder, now it really requires an engine builder that knows what they’re doing. That engine builder can make close to the same power as long as you’re within a certain window, but basically the 14 – the way they did the engine configuration, it’s just not as attractive to the do-it-yourselfer or the hot-rodder as the Hayabusa would be.
It’s also a lot harder for anybody like me who doesn’t have Japanese sized hands to get in there and do anything. I find it almost next to impossible.
Suzuki has never asked me, Brock Davidson, anything about a motorcycle, never. Not a new one coming about, not “what do you think about this one” – never asked me anything.
Kawasaki on the other hand, they actually came and hunted me down at Myrtle Beach last year, with a team of engineers and said “look, we want to know what you think should be different on this bike” I was very flattered. I basically told them – imagine having a race car with the hood welded shut. That’s sort of what it’s like – you can’t work on it. It’s a pain in the ass.
To change that would require an entire redesign – a change in thinking
A complete redesign of the entire motorcycle – I’m excited that hopefully sometime here in the relatively near future they might have an entirely new model with some of the changes incorporated.
I think a lot of us have asked for some changes, but it looks like the die may be cast and they’re going in their own direction. In the mean time, I do agree with you that the two bikes are so close in performance that for the average consumer to purchase one of these vehicles out of the box and to be making 165- 175 SAE rear wheel horsepower is truly phenomenal.
If you’re going to leave the engine stock and bolt on components, they are so close. To give you an idea, at the drag strip we did same day testing between our ’08 Busa and our ’08 ZX-14, set up identically – everything exactly the same, and my ET was with 4/100’s of a second between the bikes, and the mile an hour was within 1 – 1.5
The Busa was a little bit quicker at the track, and the Busa is a little bit easier to drag strip because it has a slightly lower center of gravity than the ZX-14.
It’s interesting because when you take it on the road, from my perspective of dragging a knee – which I’ve done on both of these bikes – it’s interesting because you can definitely feel the lower center of gravity on the Busa and the ZX-14 is definitely more “Sporting” – if you can call it a sportbike – I mean, they’re both so heavy but the ZX-14 handles more like a sportbike. On the other hand, the Hayabusa is unbelievably comfortable in comparison for my body size and there’s a lot of things for rider comfort – heat on your legs, it’s almost non-existent on the Hayabusa.
If I had to complain about the Hayabusa – and there just aren’t very many – would be the brakes
The front brakes are absolutely horrendous. It’s funny that you mention that as well – that’s one of the first things we did – we threw away the front rotors, the front pads – put on EBC rotors and pads, even then, with that improvement and I’d say it’s about a 100% improvement in braking, still because the bike is so heavy – I’m just not sure what they’ve done to the brakes because it’s like trying to stop with bars of soap. The bike just does not stop.
It’s real obvious when you get off that bike and get on a ZX-14. In the braking department the ZX-14 has is beat, that’s for sure!
I personally find the ZX-14 more comfortable than the Hayabusa, but I’m short with short arms. One of the things that we have to do on the Hayabusas from a dragrace standpoint – we have to replace the top clamp so we can lower the front-end, but when you do that, it moves the bars like 2 inches forward, so stock for stock they’re forward, away from the rider, so somebody like me with short arms and the belly in the way – it’s not as nice to ride.
Well, I think you and I are pretty much the opposite in body types, riding styles and what we’re doing with the bikes, so it’s even more interesting that we have similar conclusions between the two vehicles.
2nd Gen Busa on the Dyno – Video…
MAS Dyno Services
In the USA, Bikeland uses AreaP for testing.
In Canada, Bikeland uses M.A.S. Dyno Services for testing