If you cast your mind back over the motorcycles of the past there is one which ticks all the boxes for originality, forward-thinking and just genuine solid gold coolness - the Suzuki Katana.

It was a product of its time, but was undoubtedly one of the most original motorcycles to emerge from the early 80s design studios. It was a striking motorcycle and it looked like literally nothing else around at the time - it could have ridden straight into a Manga anime film and not been out of place.

During the 1970s, Suzuki had noted that motorcycle design appeared to be stagnating and decided to try a rethink to find something truly original. With this in mind, Suzuki Germany (then Suzuki's European HQ) enlisted the design skills of the newly formed German three-man design company, Target Design. This consisted of Hans Muth who had formerly been chief of styling for BMW, Jan Fellstrom and Hans-Georg Kasten.  Their pedigree was as the designers of the recently restyled MV Agusta - which in truth it did bear more than a passing resemblance to the Katanas which were to follow. The commission by Suzuki allowed Target Design free rein to run with their concept and their angle was to make the bike and rider a unit with small neat streamlined components and the rider sitting into the seat to improve the aerodynamics. The engine was 1074cc, 16v, four-cylinder beast tuned and tweaked somehow to gain extra bhp thus outstripping the competition of the time by a country mile. It offered a uniquely different riding position too, thanks to the low clip-on handlebars and footrests.

Starting as a concept bike - many of which never make it off the drawing board and onto the road - the Katana was a leap of faith whose remit was to be truly original with performance excellence to match.  First appearing at the Cologne Show in the Autumn of 1979, with its space-age good looks, blended in seat and bodywork and sharp angles, the GSX1100S Katana hit the ground running in 1980. It was claimed to be 'world's fastest production motorcycle' and from 1980 – 1985 it was the 'must-have' aspirational motorcycle. It is still one of the most striking motorcycles out there, sporting a wedge-shaped, frame-mounted fairing to help with balance and stability and fared inside panels.

One of our Wemoto staff  had one back in the day and he says:

β€œIt was just totally different from everything else with futuristic styling and a very long wheelbase which made it really stable on long runs if a bit weird on bends. It was so long you could fit a family of four on it! I wish I still had it!”

Top Speed: 135 mph
Engine: 1074cc air cooled
Power: 111bhp 9500rpm (claimed)
Torque:71 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
Transmission: Five speed , chain final drive
Frame: Steel cradle frame
Suspension:(F) 38mm forks with preload adjustment & anti dive
Brakes: (F) Twin 275 mm discs two piston calipers ; (R) 275mm disc twin piston caliper
Wheelbase: 1520mm
Seat Height: 775mm
Dry Weight: 232kg
Fuel Consumption: 30 mpg

Come again?

So Suzuki have frequently tried to re-create and update the Kat and have subsequently brought it out in various new forms including the modern-day Suzuki Katana 1000 2019 onwards. Do you have any experience of or an opinion on the new models? Are they up there with the original machine or are they like the second cup of tea - just never quite as delicious as the first? Get in touch with us at news@wemoto.com.

Posted by Lucy England
for Wemoto News on 01 April 2020 in Features



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