Third gear, 180kph, mid-sweeper, dead stable, planted to the point of over confidence, and engine still pulling – these are the pertinent facts of the 2008 Suzuki B-King, a 181hp, 108 lb-ft of torque sci-fi cannonball to which I’m currently clinging. The biggest question? Do I upshift?
Or back off?
A slight grin and I snick the 6-speed transmission into fourth coming out of the curve and onto the straight; good for some 230kph and counting it seems, as if that were necessary. “Necessary”, by the way, is not a word that sits comfortably in any sentence with “B-King”. This is a hyper-naked, a street going concept ripped from an anime frame.
From the front is an undiluted extract of the Japanese Manga meme. It’s as if Briareos from Appleseed were given bike form; the headlight array is a robotic faceplate and the massive tank shoulders flanked by the weaponry of turn signals. The look is a sci-fi mix of ultra-violence, neo-sex, cyber-punk dosed with politics, philosophy and mythology of which the western mind only has vague notions of.
A graphic literary tradition where cyborgs long for their human hearts and suffer their designer’s cruel jokes… which brings us to the rear end and the twin underseat megaphone exhausts as punchlines.
As always in the transition from the concept bike revealed in 2001 to the production version some of the flamboyance was lost. Like the supercharged engine… as if it were needed. Imbued with a slightly detuned version of the Hyabusa’s new 1340cc inline-four I doubt there will be much complaint.
Those numbers again; 181bhp at 9,500rpm, 108lb-ft of torque at 7,200rpm.
In theory there is a drive mode selector (DMS) to gentle the Brute-King’s disposition. B-mode reduces output by 30%, yet is feels like more – giving the B-King the sort of power you’d expect of a naked, and unfortunately a messing with the throttle’s linear feel creating a jerky hard on and off response. Even on damp roads with fresh tires I opted for the full power of the A mode and its predictable disposition.
The throttle’s connection is light, precise and predictable with the fueling feeling instinctive and natural. At low rpms the B-King reveals itself to be a big softie, the looks seemingly completely at odds with a gentle nature as it pulls lovely and smooth from 2000rpm seeming the most manageable of 180-plus horsepower bikes out there.
At 4000rpm it’s blissfully smooth in ride all day way complimented by the sensible ergonomics.
5,000 sees buzzing vibration encroaching through the bars… Then you hit 6000rpm.
Suddenly the B-King becomes a rugby thug riot trying to pull you through a plate glass window by your arms. First, second and third gears feel like the front end could come up with a moment’s inattention – so the stock steering damper is a good choice for the landings then.
Eye widening, mouth drying, shoulder wrenching mid-range grunt launches you towards the 10,500 red line as the growling-whir of engine and exhaust note ask you the question, “Do you dare reach sixth gear?”
For taller riders that will require a bit of fumbling as you snick upwards through the light and accurate gearbox. The leg cutaways, which keep the broad tank from splaying your legs like a transformer’s gynecological stirrups, aren’t high enough for those with long legs. My first 70kms were spent struggling to shift and use the rear brake as my thigh bumping the tank restricted my motion.
Smaller riders will have a better time of it.
Charging though the turns the tip-in is light, completely disregarding the B-King’s 240kg critical mass and the 200mm wide acreage of tire out back. Is it a surprise that the multi-adjustable suspension, a colossal set of KYB inverted front forks and rear shock, offer a compliant and planted feel? The B-King has a gravitational mass that could pull small moons out of orbit.
Yet, defying expectations the feel is refined and easy turning with the wide bars and upright seating position providing good leverage and the weight distribution giving the B-King an exceptional sense of balance.
Given the B-King’s mass you wouldn’t want anything less than its radially mounted front brakes clamping down on the 310mm twin disks out front and the 260mm one in back. Chop down a couple gears heading into a turn and the torque-limiting “slipper” clutch smooths out indiscreet downshifts, keeping with the B-King’s friendly menace.
The B-King doesn’t flit though the corners so much as gracefully flow. Still, the bike’s mass betrays it. The front end feels vague in downhill turns as the weight distribution changes, while in level and uphill turns the B-King is an XXL bag full of fun.
The strangest aspect of the B-King isn’t the bike’s looks. It’s that no matter how you choose to ride it, the B-King rises to the occasion. Through the twists it’s a football player pirouetting in a tu-tu, on the straights it’s a locomotive sprinting to a landspeed record, in town it’s well mannered pointing and squirting through traffic with ease defying its girth… If your idea of squirting is plasma-cannon blasts of acceleration that is.
Throw some softbags over the back and touring wouldn’t be out of the question.
Ok, ok, you’d never mistake it for a hooligan’s street fighter. There are limits.
There are a few problems betraying the road-going genesis of the B-King concept. The mirrors, apparently lifted from the Bandit 1250 budget bin, look completely out of place. Cable routing obscures the gear selection indicator. Cheap plastic chrome trims the gauges and the tank mounted controls. It was occasionally hard to shift from neutral to first, but then we received the bike with 30kms on the clock so the transmission may still be wearing in.
Likely riders with an overwhelming desire to wear leathers, throw a mirrored visor on the helmet, and look like an escapee from the latest Batman film will overlook these minor issues.
I get this bike more than I ever care to admit. The B-King is pure stylistic indulgence, a completely unnecessary thing, that yet somehow works exceptionally well as a road bike. It’s that sort of irony which gives the B-King’s Manga presence a truly a unique place in the real world.
2008 Suzuki B-King MSRP: $14,999.00
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