Bore x stroke:
Front tyre dimensions:
Rear tyre dimensions:
Reserve fuel capacity:
In the 1980's there was a fairly forgettable comedy, Roxanne, loosely based on the celebrated Cyrano de Bergerac written a hundred years previously. The hero of the piece is an intelligent, witty, erudite people's champion (you know this is a bike website? - Ed) hampered only through an incredible nose for trouble i.e. a honker that no one can take their eyes off as the olfactory instrument is not only a foot long, but is almost hypnotic to the unprepared eye. Someone within Japan had clearly been monitoring events. I give you the Suzuki Katana - that beak! (I've cancelled your Netflix - Ed).
In late 1980 when the GSX1100S Katana hit the street, it was claimed by Suzuki to be the fastest mass-production motorcycle in the world. And yet it's the variants on top of this production bike that make the Katana interesting, and there are many that spanned its 26 year lifetime. It's like Suzuki just had a split personality disorder: GSX1100, GS1100S, GSX1000SZ, GSX1100SZ, GSX1100SXZ, E27 SXZ is just a start.
The Suzuki Katana GS1000SZ, produced in 1982 was an air-cooled, in-line 4 cylinder machine with a wet weight of over 250kg. About the weight of a lion or rather less aggressively, a contented plump piggy. Oink! A quarter of a tonne isn't a world beater by any standard, but it was a design that caught the attention of the masses. In fact, it caught so much attention for being wayward and 'out there', that it was too far 'out there' for the mainstream media out there, and there in lies the prophecy that it would flop out there in the marketplace. And yet even now, sites like Shepsters recognise the bike as a one of a kind, heralding the bike for its artistry even 35 years on.
A quote from Cycle Guide in December 1981 helps a great deal to provide the necessary imagery: "With the arrival of the new Katana, other motorcycles suddenly seem stuck with earthbound styling. The sharply-angled fairing with its mini-shield looks like it can propel the Katana to light-speed velocities all on its own.”
In fact, the more I look at the bike, the more the beak becomes smaller, a snub nose as opposed to the beak of the BMW R1100GS. It's rare that a design team get an airing when talking about motorcycles, but since Suzuki went and hired a specialist in the shape of the legendry Hans Muth from BMW for the Katana, it's certainly worth mentioning. As with the famed German architect Dieter Rams that urged simplicity and efficiency, the design team clearly took it to heart. The dials on the instrument panel overlap to make the cluster itself smaller; they offset the petrol filler to make for continuous weld on the tank; merged seat and fuel tank tried to integrate together rather than butt against one another.
The Katana lived on in one guise or another until 2006 with the GSXF-K6, with pop-up headlights, a range of engines and shaft drives in its various guises and outings. Some of these were done purely for competing against Honda Racing - there is a rule in that to be classed as a 'production' motorcycle, you have to have a set number of them built. And therefore someone at Suzuki dove into their pockets for wire wheels, performance camshafts, better braking system, improved carburettors and mufflers, anything that could tip the balance in their favour. And where did they send a score of these lust-machines? New Zealand. Bloody New Zealand! And as if to rub it in, South Africa got a shipment too. The specialist E27 SXZ, an upgraded version of the production GSX1100SXZ, was crowned the overall 1981/1982 NZ National Production Champion, rewarding the faith that Suzuki had poured into the Pacific Island. Not to be outdone, New Zealand's poorer cousin, Australia, got it's variant in the E24 SXZ with cool wire-wheels, but without any of the paraphernalia that would make the bike a threat on the circuit. Awesome. It's the mechanical equivalent of promising your kids a puppy for Christmas, but sending its legs to your spiteful brother.
What does the future hold for the Katana, the namesake of the traditional Japanese sword? Well, like anything worth doing once, like a rueful zombie Lazarus, it'll rise again. Last year some concept bikes were released of the new Katana, again with an arrow like nose and minimalist design. It is undoubtedly another beautiful machine and even now, echoes the 1980 design of a bike made for the future.
Thanks to Terry Carter for providing images of his 1983 GSX 1000 SD