Ian Kerr rides Suzuki’s B-King and concludes that ‘more is more’
The production version of the Suzuki B-King is just as impressive as the original prototype was way back in 2001, despite the wait. Sure a lot has happened in those six years that it has taken to become a reality and maybe there are now other bikes that will attract the same sort of long lingering looks that this bike does, but this is now a living legend.
This is a bike that has never been far away from the news pages and has apparently caused some internal fighting in Suzuki between the marketing and engineering departments, but they are all friends now. Despite an original watered-down half-way house having been produced, they all eventually agreed to stick with the original radical looks and concept, realising that is what the buying public really wanted.
OK it now lacks the rear facing camera and the supercharger, but do you need more than 181 bhp with no fairing? After all you have to hang onto the thing and having had 160 mph on the clock, it was hard work holding on without any form of fairing to break up the wind blast. Much more might make it totally impossible without a bodybuilding course!
Suzuki have got a big first which ever way you want to play the figures game. The B-King is currently the worlds most powerful naked muscle bike and the first machine that truly mirrors an original concept bike.
Ironic I suppose that the B in the name stands for Boost and that is now actually missing, but the King part is still relevant, as the launch soon showed up! This is still a bike with presence, whether stationary or on the move, it has everything needed to take control of any bystander’s attention.
It certainly grips the rider’s attention, but not any brutish manner, more in the smooth sophisticated way it handles and delivers the power, despite the big figures surrounding its dimensions and engine capacity. ‘No bike of the size should be this good’, is what you keep telling yourself.
Your expectations of a fight to make it handle soon evaporate after a few miles of twists and turns. You soon realise that the power delivery is sublime and there really is no need for the tank mounted switch called the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS).
This rocker switch allows the rider to swap between two engine maps (A B) when in neutral to adjust the engine’s power output to suit riding conditions. The dashboard will display which setting is currently selected at any time.
The lower of the two settings (B) cuts the engines power delivery by 30% and will make it safer (sic) to ride in poor weather, or slippery road conditions when you do not need so much power on tap!
Yes I played with it, but promptly left it alone because it was just ruining my enjoyment of the bike. Even the nervous rider that Suzuki hope will be attracted because of this device, will soon realise that the bike is very controllable in standard A mode and will probably never activate it again, just like me!
For those of you that have read the hype and thought that this is just a stripped down Hayabusa with some extra funky styling, let me state from start this is a bike that has been designed as its own entity from the ground up. The excellent design and fit of all the panels and the general look shows that this has not been cobbled together to cover up things normally hidden from view. No, this is a quality product.
When you look at the complex shapes you can see why it has taken so long to come to the road. It has been crafted to be a thing of beauty (whether you love or hate the styling) and something to be looked at and admired.
The engine is from the new for 2008 Hayabusa and is relatively orthodox, in that it is a liquid cooled across-the-frame four-cylinder powerplant. The 1340cc engine has sixteen titanium valves, shot-peened con rods (for more strength) a 12:5 to 1 compression ratio (up from 11:5 to 1 on the old engine) and a gear driven balancer shaft.
This latter item is to save the need for rubber mounting the unit construction engine, not the done thing for a muscle bike. Besides it would increase the weight still further.
The always slick Suzuki six-speed transmission features a power assisted clutch along with new gear ratios compared to the old bike. The exhaust is a four-into-two-into-one chamber that then exits at the rear under the seat like a pair of Mr Spock’s ears, giving the very distinctive rear view. It’s just a pity they could not have incorporated the brake lights and indicators into the end of the tail pipes for the ultimate cool look!
Half way along this system is Suzuki’s SET valve, a computer operated butterfly that works in the same way as Yamaha’s EXUP valve allowing the exhaust to work in different ways throughout the rev range for better power and torque delivery.
On the other side of the engine, twin fuel injectors in double-barrel throttle bodies with two butterfly valves, put the fuel in, while their now established Pulsed Air system contributes to environmentally friendly emissions.
The engine is mounted in a frame, which like the swing-arm has been built from cast sections, unlike the fabricated sheet method normally used. This has been made possible by new casting techniques and allows lighter sections to be used without any loss of strength.
At the front inverted forks, designed specifically for the bike, with a full range of adjustment, keep the front end supported on its seventeen-inch wheel. These are matched by a single fully adjustable rear shock, again supporting a seventeen inch rear rim. This, like the front, is shod with Dunlop’s Sportmax Qualifier tyre, in this case specially developed for the bike.
Nissin radially mounted front brake callipers with differing piston sizes for more consistent feel, grip 310mm discs and do an excellent confidence-inspiring job. These are supported at the rear by a 260mm disc complete with a single piston calliper, which at times is a little wooden in feel. Still its only real use is to balance the bike against the clutch at walking speeds when filtering through traffic.
The neat dash that sits under the edge of the sloping cover of the front headlight combines a digital readout for the speed with an analogue rev counter as tends to be common these days. Various warning lights along with an onboard computer information system to give average speed, service intervals, running time etc all vie for the rest of the space in the rest of the unit.
This is all clearly visible when located in the rider’s seat, which is remarkably low (805mm) given the overall look and physical size of the B-King. In fact looking down you feel that you could lay the top of the tank for dinner, given the width, but the funny thing is the bike just feels right and not like a large lorry!
Certainly when you let the power roll the bike away from stationary it just feels like any other large capacity motorcycle without a fairing.
You really do have to look in shop windows to remind yourself this is a very different motorcycle in terms of style. Car drivers notice it though and the black silver colour scheme seems to work well in all respects.
It could be argued that the decision to keep the high engine power was more marketing than necessity, but the reality is that it just gives a good overall relaxed feeling for most riding situations. Just because it is there you don’t have to use it!
But, twist the throttle hard and feel it really start to take off above 4,000 rpm with a really powerful surge above 6,000 rpm. This is however, the sort of riding you only ever do occasionally to remind yourself that you can. For the rest of the time it is rapid enough to pick off any overtake you like without ever reaching the 10,500 rpm redline or having to play tunes with the gear lever.
Quite where top speed is, only a drag strip will tell, but wherever it is will be dictated to and limited by your arm and neck muscles. In the real world it is perfectly acceptable at the lower end of three figures, which should see most people right on the Autobahn.
Any higher and it may well be drinking petrol at a rate that makes it unpleasant on your wallet, as well as your physical well being. Besides with only a 16.5 litre tank, the need to constantly refill it may slow you down more than just throttling back a little and enjoying the ride!
Excessive use of the throttle can cause the laterally mounted non- adjustable steering damper to have to do some work. But, for normal riding it is just a fashion accessory as the bike is rock steady at all speeds.
Even pushed hard through some of the roads surrounding Mt Snowden, the bike was very easy to flick from one side to another without being anything other than stable. There is plenty of ground clearance and the tyres grip well and given the reasonably sporty steering geometry, it is not hard work either to maintain a fairly rapid pace, thanks to its very neutral feel.
It will not stay with a well ridden sports bike, that is true, but it will be a lot closer than some may think when just looking at it at rest. No doubt the ultra fussy rider may well want to fine tune the suspension, but for most the standard setting will be fine.
The reality is that the despite its futuristic looks and impressive engine size and all the hype that can and does go with big numbers, this is a very good, very competent motorcycle. It is certainly a quality product and it easily justifies the £9,000 price tag.
Some may say there are cheaper bikes of a similar ilk and that may be true, but the reality is that they are not in the B-Kings league. The normal saying is that ‘less is more’, in this case it is ‘more is more’ and the initial impressions are that now that the B-King is actually born, the legend tag is justified!
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