After two decades of glory, the fastest production motorcycle of the 20th century is being discontinued. The 2019 Suzuki Hayabusa will be the legendary sports bike’s final model year with no immediate plans from Suzuki for a replacement.
The reason for the ‘Busa’s discontinuation is emissions standards. Motorcycles that do not comply with Euro 4 regulations cannot be sold in Europe or Japan after the last day of 2018. The Hayabusa would still be legal in the U.S., but Suzuki does not want to keep producing the already aging bike just for the U.S. market.
What’s special about the Suzuki Hayabusa is that it was the final word in the infamous “speed wars” that raged on for more than a century and really heated up in the 1990s. Ever since the first motorcycle was built, manufacturers raced to see who could build the fastest one. As motorcycles got faster and riders tested their limits on the street, some European officials were calling for an import ban on high-speed bikes in the ’90s.
Manufacturers didn’t want this to happen, especially the Japanese ones, so an unofficial “gentlemens’ agreement” was reached among the big motorcycle manufacturers agreeing to limit the top speeds of their bikes to avoid import bans. There’s no official number and there’s a lot of mystery around the gentlemen’s agreement, but Honda made an announcement back then saying it wouldn’t build motorcycles that exceed 300 km/h so that’s about where we think the number is. Suzuki and Kawasaki played their cards close to the chest and didn’t speak officially on the matter of limiting top speeds.
Before all of this went down, the fastest production bike in the world was the 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa with a top speed of 188–194 mph (303–312 km/h). It was named the Hayabusa not only because that means peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest bird, but because peregrine falcons eat blackbirds. The bike that the Hayabusa dethroned for the title of fastest production bike was the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. Get it?
Faster motorcycles have been built since the original ‘Busa like the Kawasaki H2, but the Hayabusa was truly the end of an era. It also had the distinction of being good at more than just going fast in a straight line, especially the second-gen model that came out in 2008. It was praised for its good handling, good fuel economy, and actually being affordable. It was a sports bike that many riders could afford and was easy to live with and just so happened to be the fastest motorcycle in the world.
The Suzuki Hayabusa will be fondly remembered as it rides into motorcycle heaven where it will be in good company. It’s a name that will forever be synonymous with speed. As crotch-rockets decline in popularity among the rise of the retro standard, we wonder if Suzuki will ever make another bike like the Hayabusa again.
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