Big-bore bash: Suzuki B-King and BMW K 1300 S
We take a pair of 1300cc bruisers and push them to the limits
There is something seriously intoxicating about riding motorcycles with exceptional mumbo – we’re talking 150hp plus. But with that comes a perception, especially from members of the non-motorcycling set, that these power-packed big-bores are simply renegades who want to throw curve balls at you from the moment you hit the starter until the bike is safely ensconced back into the garage.
Give then an inch and they’ll take a mile, they say.
But the reality is 180 degrees away from that, as my colleague Feann Torr and I found out when we recently took a Suzuki B-King and a BMW K 1300 S for a ride through the Black Saturday-ravaged mountains north of Melbourne – which was humbling enough in itself.
Sure, they’ll show some serious urge when the nod is given, but otherwise they are brilliant commuters, scratchers and tourers. What’s more, they are dependable and a lot of fun with controllable grunt. And they don’t need to go to obedience school either.
The bikes might not be direct competitors – the Beemer belongs in ‘hyperbike’ territory with the Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-14, while the B-King is a Streetfighter in the Yamaha V-Max mould, but they both share the most important DNA for the sake of our exercise – big power and big engines.
That was all we required for our seriously enjoyable big-bore day out.
The plan was simple – set out from the Bikesales Network’s Melbourne office and find as many corners and empty roads as we could.
At the end of the test it was clear that we both formed closer relationships with different bikes, which we’ll get to in due course. But first some background on the bikes.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
For several agonising years, the Suzuki B-King was hinted at, teased and idly dropped in conversation by the Suzuki suits after its debut as a supercharged concept bike at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show.
It looked tough, sporting a very aggressive aesthetic and it had big cojones to boot. But it took some six years to reach our shores, debuting at the Brisbane Motorcycle Expo in 2007, powered by a retuned version of the new-generation 1340cc Hayabusa engine. Still some serious gristle for the power mill, but no supercharger!
Thankfully, the engineers from Hamamatsu didn’t simply take large chunks of power from the retuned engine, and the B-King claims around 181hp, which is only about nine down on the new Busa, and translates to a hefty 165-plus at the rear wheel, or a little more than a first generation Busa. That’s very serious urge, especially coupled with nearly 150Nm of torque.
In case that wasn’t enough, the gearing is lower than for the Hayabusa, so up to near 200km/h it’s going to out-accelerate one, provided you can keep the front wheel somewhere near the deck!
The B-King, available in grey/silver or matte black, also has twin-spar alloy frame, an alloy swingarm welded from three pieces, high-end suspension with full adjustment, and a big set of four-piston radial-mount Nissin brakes up front. Fuel capacity is 16lt, and weight is a claimed 235kg dry.
And did I mention the ‘conservative’ (read: controversial) styling of the B-King? Massive plastic panels adorn the bike, both around the tank and the wild muffler ends.
It all adds up to what are very ‘substantial’ looks. That said, it doesn’t require an altering of ride position to feel comfortable, and with a seat height of just 805mm it’s very accommodating for most folk.
The B-King retails for $18,990, which is where it started in 2008 when it first went on sale in Australia. At the time it was more than the Hayabusa, which probably surprised some – but the B-King is way more than a cut down Busa, as we found out first-hand. There are unique parts galore, which cannot be amortised across other Suzuki models – some would say that’s a good thing!
Meanwhile, the 1293cc K 1300 S, a successor to the four-year-old K 1200 S, went on sale in Australia during the first quarter of this year, with the Bikesales Network attending the press launch at Phillip Island. where the new – and now award-winning – K 1300 R also made an appearance.
As you’d expect, the free-flowing grand prix race circuit gave us unfettered access to the vast reams of power from the new-generation K-series, with BMW claiming 175hp from the S, and 140Nm at 8250rpm. The dry weight of the S is 228kg, and kerbside it’s a claimed 254kg.
Standard equipment on the S includes integral ABS (switchable), but the press units were also fitted with a number of factory options, including a power shifter ($700), electronic suspension adjustment ($1300) and a ‘traction pack’ ($675) which includes automatic stability control and a tyre pressure control.
The additions took the S’s retail price out to $28,625 from a base of $25,750.
The S features maintenance-free shaft drive and Duolever front suspension. An electronic immobiliser is standard, and colours are Light Grey Metallic and Lava Orange Metallic with a multi-colour finish in Granite Grey Metallic/Light Grey Metallic.
The S has a new system of switches and manual controls, and there is no longer a separation of the right and left-hand blinker switches. It’s all been consolidated into one international standard button, while the ASC, ABS and ESA functions are all controlled from one switch, which makes for less dashboard clutter.
As you’d expect from BMW, the special equipment on offer for is S voluminous, with a large chunk of the items sourced from the company’s HP2 Boxer machine. On the other hand, the cupboard is nearly bare for the B-King, with Suzuki only offering a bike cover for $210.
ON THE ROAD
The weather was superb, the Draggin jeans were freshly washed (sadly we both sported exactly the same pair) and our visors cleaned in preparation for what was set to be an excellent day out.
The route wasn’t really set in stone, but the idea was to slice through as many apexes as possible after some urban commuting. We left the office and headed north-east along a freeway, where the acceleration from both machines was truly stunning, making the transport sections just that bit more tolerable.
The acceleration is definitely a highlight of both bikes, and they slingshot at a rapid rate of knots with every twist of the grip. That’s something you’d never grow weary with.
The B-King’s fuel injected power delivery is faultless, with an extremely smooth power train – on a par with the BMW’s shaft drive in my books.
The B-King has A (full power) and B (restricted) power modes, which can only be toggled between when the bike is at a standstill. I only used B a few times when the roads were a bit damp either side of the big day out, but if I was the owner I’d just leave it in A all the time, taking advantage of the B-King’s seamless power delivery from just past idle.
The K 1300’s also a powerhouse, with a hefty induction roar that really kicks in about 7000rpm, along with another bunch of vibes from the four-cylinder engine.
As we found during some top-gear roll-ons later in the day, the BMW has slightly more mid-range punch than the B-King, but there’s only a little bit in it. The BMW also has lower gearing than the B-King.
Along the freeway, the screen and fairing on the K 1300 S obviously puts it in another league compared to the B-King as far as protection goes, although the bare-chested B-King still cuts it as a comfortable tourer, courtesy of great ergonomics and a wide seat – partly to accommodate the massive scalloped panels.
The B-King’s seat is definitely more comfortable than the Beemer’s for 45-minute plus spells in the saddle, although it does have a few more vibes through the bars, which tends to numb the hands after really long stretches.
Pillion accommodation is way better on the K 1300 than the B-King, with a wider and plusher seat, a grabrail and lower set pegs.
But as far as commuting is concerned, both machines are exceptional, with light and progressive clutch actions, super strong and responsive brakes (with of course ABS on the BMW), upright riding positions, slick gearboxes, and of course those redoubtable torquey engines. The wheelbases are both quite rangy, but you won’t have any problems doing U-turns or changing direction at a snap.
If anything, the BMW feels a little bit more nimble through the ‘burbs than the B-King, but as the heat is really turned up along a snaking piece of open road, the signature BMW Duolever front-end doesn’t quite engender the same amount of confidence.
But generally, quality traits in the city are also calling cards when the traffic lights are left behind, and that’s what we found on our sojourn.
After swapping bikes at Healesville, I was on the K 1300 for the run through the legendary Black Spur, and I left it in top gear the whole time – just for fun. The only downside was that I couldn’t use the funky quickshifter, which I just love.
Quickshifters will be standard on all sportsbikes within five years, I reckon – and BMW is doing that with its S 1000 RR.
The bike didn’t protest once, and even pulled – albeit not on full throttle – from only a smidgeon above idle through some of the ultra-tight hairpins. That’s the sign of extremely well sorted fuel injection, as is a lack of dissent when pushing back through the gears at high revs.
Because I was taking it easy through the Black Spur, I’m not surprised it was more frugal on our ride, chewing through an average of 4.95lt/100km, compared to 5.6lt/100km for the B-King.
The K 1300 doesn’t have a slipper clutch, but that doesn’t seem to worry it, while the B-King has the technology.
The K 1300 is quite slim through the waist, so you can grab it by the knees and hurl it through corners with aplomb. Following me through the Black Spur was Feann on the B-King, a bike that he felt more comfortable on for his style of riding.
Feann felt the B-King tipped into corners a little more easily, and feedback through the forks was ‘cleaner’. However, he was taken with the power of the BMW – and no wonder, as he was in the saddle when we were performing the top gear roll-ons!
I’d have to agree the B-King does give a little bit more feedback at higher lean angles, and my seat-of-the-pants summation is that it has a little more weight bias at the front-end compared to the BMW.
But overall, for heavy bikes the handling of both was a real surprise. They are certainly not scalpels, but if you set up the corner – or even fling it in at the last minute if it’s all becoming a little frenetic – the chassis and suspension will get the job done, even if the road surface is a bit suspect.
The K1300 has three damping settings on its ESA — sport, comfort and normal. Through the hard stuff I switched to sport, but I’m sure normal would have got the job done as we started to push harder.
Overall, the bikes – particularly the B-King – aren’t nearly as intimidating as they look, and your sportsbike-riding mates won’t have to worry about their mirrors: you’ll be on their clackers the whole time.
That’s really an engineering triumph for both manufacturers, because it’s not really about how much a bike weighs: it’s where you place it.
There’s no ambiguity when it comes to the brakes on both bikes: they are awesome, even though they are hauling up around 370kg of person and machine. The radial Nissins on the B-King particularly pack a punch, and have more initial bite than the Brembos on the Beemer.
But after that there’s nothing in it, although I prefer the B-King’s brakes for slow on-off work in the city, as they are easier to ‘drag’. However, in the wet give me the K 13’s ABS set-up any day.
So there it was: the big-bore epic! Overall, they are a hell of a lot of fun in any type of playground, so surely everyone’s a winner.
To comment on this article click here Published. Friday, 4 December 2009
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