The old bike goes like the clappers. There is simply gob-loads of torque for tooling around town or touring two-up; and if you want to get the front-end all light and hairy, well that's OK too. And for this era of machine, the handling is fairly good, with neutral steering and a degree of frame-rigidity that won't do anything too scary. But you must remember that it is early-80s technology, and it has its limits: respect them!
The paintjob and most of the engine work had been done before I bought the bike. However, in many ways the Katana was mechanically neglected (eg. stock-standard jetting on a very modified engine) so there have been plenty of things to put right. Not the least of which was the top-end rebuild in 2004. This was followed by a total dismantling and renovation in 2012.
28 Apr. 2013
Sean the previous owner dropped by this afternoon for a gawk and a ride of the machine. Recently he found the old compliance plate amongst his stuff... it had been removed when he'd had the frame powder-coated years ago, and then subsequently mislaid. As you can see, this Katana is one of the very early ones...
What's so crash-hot about the GS and GSX series Suzukis? Well, there is THAT ENGINE. Bullet-proof, robust, powerful, and brilliantly designed.
And what's so great about Suzuki Katanas in particular? Well, THAT ENGINE combined with THAT STYLING. "Iconic" has to be one of the most abused words of our time... but folks, the Katana's design is TRULY iconic. That screen with the top fairing has lines that have been incorporated into so many motorcycle designs: a lot of BMWs, for starters. You can see that excellent shape being stolen by many, many manufacturers since 1981, but know this: they all began with THIS BIKE. And the designers responsible? Hans Muth & Jan Fellstrom of Target Design. If you'd like to read a review, the one at Motorcycle Specifications is a good place to start.
On the mechanical side, the Achilles' Heel of the Katana (and indeed any GS- or GSX-engined machine) is the charging system.
A few specs...
- Wiseco 1170cc piston kit ... which is a nice step up from 1075cc ;-)
- Ported head because there's no point in having big lungs if you have a strangled wind-pipe
- Camshafts with a Yoshimura ST-1 grind. More power, and a luscious lumpy idle too. And here are some specs and recommended clearance data:
- Welded crank so that when the throttle is twisted, the crank isn't
- 'Lawson' 4-into-1 exhaust system with a throaty carbon-fibre muffler. Last I heard, Peter Lawson runs an outfit called 'Legends Exhausts' over here in Beechboro, Perth. All I can say is that he did a very good job on this exhaust system. It's easily removable thanks to the springs that hold the headers up to the engine (you need to pull it off to change the oil and oil filter), and that carbon fibre end-can is a light and rorty affair indeed
- 36mm '89/'90 GSX-R 'Slingshot' carburettors with K&N dual-pod filters, size 150 main jets, and Dynojet needles (clip at slot #4, with 0.5mm thick washer underneath). The difference over the standard carburettors is absolutely STUNNING... the power increase just blew me away
- Dyna ignition coils. The original coils were still working OK, but the spark plug leads were getting tattier with each passing year...
- Barnett kevlar clutch plates and heavy-duty clutch springs. I've also 'upgraded' the clutch from 9 friction + 9 driven plates (which is the SZ setup) to 10 friction + 11 driven plates (the later SD setup)
- Falicon clutch basket rebuild kit. This upgrade is essential if you've hotted up your engine, because the original clutch backing plates are very thin, and prone to bend, buckle and BREAK. The consequences don't bear thinking about. Clutch rebuild page here
- IKON heavier-duty fork springs. For a rundown of why and how, visit the antidive page...
- IKON rear shock absorbers (same as the old KONI 'dial-a-rides'). Being fully rebuildable means you can try different viscosities of oil. In fact to get enough rebound damping on the open road, I use 15W oil instead of the standard 10W. A noticeable improvement
- 'Micron' fork brace. The thing is a work of art
- Earl's full-width 10-row oil cooler, mate she just squeezes in there. Oil cooler page here
- Front brake master cylinder is Kawasaki GPz; beats the standard master cylinder with its stone-age brake light switch. Also 'Hel' braided brake lines front and rear. It all adds up to brakes with bite (err, relatively speaking... we are talking about ye olde single-pot calipers here)
- Paintwork is Ducati yellow, courtesy of the previous owner
- Napoleon/Baren bar-end mirrors. Look way better than anything top-mounted on the handlebars, in my opinion... and you don't get to see your elbows, for a change
- Front indicators are Kawasaki KR250, rear indicators are Oxford Mini Indicators.
- Solo seat is a 1-off item made by the previous owner. But I've also got a conventional dual seat with an added grabrail, so I can take the wife for a spin without her getting unduly panicky
So, want to give me some feedback, or pass on some comments or tips?