While the Busa and I were both born of the late nineties, it has taken more than 20 years for our paths to cross. Over this time, I had built it up to be some terrifying, out of reach entity but the reality couldn’t have been further. Despite being the one of the most powerful sportsbikes I’ve ever ridden it is also one of the most comfortable, wafting along on plush suspension and with an abundance of smooth acceleration on tap.
As I mentioned in the intro, this peak power is a whole 10PS (7kW) less than the predecessor, but thanks to the abundance of torque in the middle range, that loss is negatable. It revs all the way to a redline of 11,000rpm but it’s at its very best halfway there. The ‘Busa will still break the speed limit before you can say its full appellation, but a licence saviour comes in the form of the top speed restrictor, which you can easily set to suit.
Open the throttle and revel in the glorious induction roar of the inline-four and its low purr that rises to a tuneful hum, interrupted only by the gearshift pop. There is ample thrust in any gear at any speed, and you don’t have to play the gearbox to make the most of the torque. The quickshifter itself takes some coaxing down low but higher up it’s faultless, and once you’re hustling it’s hard to see why anyone would want to turn it off (it’s possible, mind). However, as is often the case, it can be a little tricky to drop from neutral into first gear at a standstill, with the springy lever only complying upon rolling the bike back and forth.
The inverted coil spring, oil damped fork is multi-faceted – smooth, plush and absorbent over potholes, becoming serious at high speeds, while the link type rear suspension is neutral, if slightly bouncy on rougher roads. It’s so planted, it’s hard to grasp quite how fast you’re going – again justifying the speed limiter’s existence. The Nissin single-pot caliper at the rear is surprisingly grabby, while up front Brembo Stylema four-pots on twin discs are sharp, and under heavy application activate the hazard lights and flash a brief warning to cars behind.
Measuring 2,180mm long and with a wheelbase of 1,480mm, the Hayabusa is nothing short of intimidating. However, the only time that you can really feel it’s length is when the rear loses traction – with the front remaining remarkably stable while the back end squirms. Otherwise, the long chassis sweeps through bends, with no urgency and a nature so forgiving that it’s easy to forget that you’re riding one of the fastest sportsbikes around. In reality, you don’t ride the Hayabusa in as much as it carries you along, responding deftly to everything from the most gentle to ham-fisted of rider inputs. It doesn’t change direction quite as instantaneously as say a GSX-R1000, but this doesn’t purport to be a world superbike. Instead it’s a powerful pleasure cruiser, offering high speed thrills in a comprehensive package.
So collected and composed is the Hayabusa, that it’s easy to underestimate the nature of the beast. It prowls through town like a bike of half its size, but let it loose and it will sprint to excessive speeds instantaneously. On launch, a 700 metre strip of empty runway presented itself, and seconds after a controlled launch (power on setting 1, traction control on 3, wheelie control on 3, launch control on 3, which I’ll discuss more in a moment), I glanced down to see the needle on the analogue clock tickling 170mph.
Alongside the abundance of rider aids there are a variety of modes – from the subdued C, to the edge-of-your-pants A. B is a happy medium for most riding, but three user defined modes allow you to further fettle the launch control, power, traction control and engine braking. The latter is certainly an interesting touch, offering levels of sensitivity which range from normal engine braking to a two-stroke feel – a 264kg, 175PS, four-cylinder two-stroke, that is…
Speaking of heavy, powerful sportsbikes – the Hayabusa surely can’t be very economical, right? That would appear not to be the case, with the Hayabusa returning an average of 41.7mpg (not far off the claimed 42.1mpg) on our very spirited 140-mile test route, with 35 miles left in the 20-litre tank.