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Suzuki Katana ride review, and thoughts on classic biking

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by azi, May 3, 2008.

  1. I already own one (or more!)

  2. I am interested in buying one (or more!)

    0 vote(s)
  3. Classic bikes are for old farts in slippers and smoking jackets

    0 vote(s)
  4. Classic bikes are for masochists

    0 vote(s)
  1. I finally got the chance to work the cobwebs off my Katana this weekend, after enduring weeks of unusual wet and cold weather. I had just finished repairing some gremlins in the speedo gauge, unsticking the camchain tensioner, as well as resetting the suspension settings from the last decent ride in summer. Time to get to know the old girl again!

    The Katana is an odd bike. I still haven't figured out what I'm supposed to do with it. Hopefully a 300-ish kilometre ride up the Putty Road, then down to Windsor, then back home to the Blue Mountains will help reset my brain.

    My first sensation is one of inertia. It's a heavy thing in many respects. It was regarded as a rev-happy sportster in its heyday, but today it is feeling car-like in picking up its revs. Riding a Honda Hornet 600 last week only amplified the sensation that the Katana took its sweet time to build up power. Nevertheless, there is enough grunt to push me down the great Western Highway with the holiday traffic from 2000rpm onwards. The fun began from 4000rpm and up, with the whole bike vibrating like an electric toothbrush to its 8000rpm redline. The power wasn't so much a kick in the pants, but rather a gentle surge, more in common with a v-twin than a modern 4-cylinder screamer. I'm not left wanting for any more power (due to the strange handling, more on that later), but it does feel a bit dull after having ridden modern sportsbikes. Perhaps it's like watching episodes of Monkey or The Goodies - you remember them as awesome when you were a kid, but seeing the re-runs again makes you doubt the nostalgia after a decade of Simpsons and South Park.

    Next I tried to come to terms with the chassis again. I still had memories of being pummelled nearly to death by the rock hard suspension on my last Putty Road ride - I had set the rear preload to 'Sport" on the original shocks (as per the factory manual) - and therefore softened things up before I'd left. How can I sum up the chassis performance? It's like someone took a cruiser frame, then put rearset pegs and clip-on bars on it without changing anything else. I guess that's not too far from the truth. The rear suspension has minimal travel, and we're looking at a large 19" front wheel / 17" rear wheel - not much different to your average Harley Dyna. Throw on some tall and skinny Bridgestone crossplies, and we're instantly dealing with old school dynamics. Lots of heave-ho is required to pull the old Kat into a corner, and it kept its line without a hint of bar wiggle. Nevertheless there is the sensation that you're not quite in touch with what's going on - perhaps those tall tyre sidewalls are flexing? I'm rediscovering the meaning of 'muscle bike' as well - every corner needs commitment and body language.

    The seating ergonomics were controversial in 1982, but I think the torture rack reputation is undeserved. I didn't experience any numb bum at all. Perhaps the foetal crouch is just redistributing the pain evenly through the body!

    I decided about 20km out from the Halfway House that a motorcyclist can only go as fast as their vision, brakes and suspension lets them. Anything above 100km/h on the bumpy Putty Road surface turned the whole bike into a bucking bronco - it was like sitting on an imbalanced washing machine on spin dry. However, the bike would instantly revert to placid Hindu cow the moment I hit the smooth resurfaced parts of the road. There's a lot to be said for modern multilink swingarms and cartridge forks. I only have one word for the single piston, rigid disc, anti-dive braking system: pants. Yes, it will stop the bike, but in the same way that the pull start on your mower works - eventually something will happen, but you just don't know when.

    So why have I got one of these? And why is this my second one, despite the seemingly unfavourable comments I've just written? It's because I believe motorcycling, as a recreational activity, is about passion (and some degree of fantasy). It was one of my dream bikes when I was in primary school, flipping through the Tamiya plastic model catalogues and the leftover Two Wheels magazines in the library. It's about finally getting my hands on a real one, and then slowly discovering, and learning to love, the true nature of the bike. The only other analogy I can use is a relationship - you meet someone that for some reason is attractive to you, and then over time slowly discover their true personality and qualities. I'm trying very hard not to use the label 'character', but I think you know what I mean.

    I hope this little review may whet some of the youngsters' appetites to try out classic biking - there are rewards from a long term relationship that you just don't get from a one night stand! :)
  2. Great review :LOL:
  3. Great write up :LOL:

    Middle of last year, started the search for an older bike - everything from Katanas, Z1000/1300, CBX's, GPZ's, XS110's and 80's Dukes (Z900 and CB750's were too dear for what I wanted) with the aim being something to ride every week or so, a few hundred kilometres and able to do a few bigger trips.

    After reading plenty about the above choices, and too often the never ending drama of lack of parts (which is why I voted for Masochist), bought a BMW Airhead, well the design has been the same since the 70's (so within your topic heading :wink: ) with a 20 year model run, and fits the bill of; simplicity, retro styling, comfortable at cruising speed, great Brembo brakes and with some handling to soak up the back roads that I enjoy riding.

    So whilst not quite "Vintage", suitable moniker - R100R Classic :cool:
  4. Cool pic, Alex :).

    Nothing reminds us of progress quicker than revisting the past. But most of us old enough to remember the seminal looks and impact of the Kat would have one in a heart-beat, even if only to look at.

    Great report, azi, enjoyed it immensely. You write well too!
  5. i don't yet ride a 'classic', but a 91' fzr 1K, young guys don't look at you, older riders talk fondly of their old fzr this, zxr that, but dealers laugh at you when you want to order anything, it's on back order, is the usual responce

    that said, i do love the challange of keeping my bike running well, and looking good

  6. Hawklord sits in the corner, talking fondly.

    Searching for parts and keeping the old girl running is the joy
    of ownership for me.

    I also own a 1984 Jaguar, glutton for punishment????

    Oh, and a 1977 Lincoln stretch limo, geez I must be mad.
  7. .. and just an hour ago I saw an immaculate deep red Yamaha R5 350 going the other way; I'd love to have one of them :(.
  8. Great OP and +1 stan.

    I own and regularly ride a 'classic', I ride with whoever, Jap or otherwise as well as being in a Brit-bike club, have have found the change from what I had to what I now have a challenge from time to time, but have found genuine 'ownership' now, whereas before I felt I just rode and that was it. Suits many riders to just ride their bike and service at recommended intervals, wash it and not much more, but not me. I have to do slightly - but not much - more maintenance, and that has added, not taken away, my experience of riding my Trumpy. And it doesn't get babied along when being ridden either :cool: Parts are heaps cheaper than other bikes I've owned and really easy to get.

    I've also done the opposite in recent years to mates my age and had a series of bikes i.e. GSX1100s, old Z1000s, before carefully considering purchasing what I have now.

    It's cool to turn up at the odd NR or similar group rides and people actually surprised it keeps up with the main group and doesn't (usually) embarrass me by breaking down!

    That's the view from my bridge, not everyone is the same.
  9. Ah, a real BMW :)
  10. We're nearly there, with two '85 Beemers in the garage tonight.

    Was a short ride today, but we both had a ball and pulled into the drive with smiles on our faces.

    One of the things that I have enjoyed with the K has been sorting out the handling. It's simple enough to work on myself, and it's been a process of small calculated steps. I've learned a heap and been able to show Shay how everything works with the rebuild of the R65.

    I reckon that's the essence of motorcycling for me - riding is fun, but really understanding how things work and nurturing a machine is satisfying.
  11. Re: Suzuki Katana ride review, and thoughts on classic bikin

    :LOL: Nice to know I wasn't the only one.
    Still got a couple more years to wait before mine is officially considered a classic.
  12. classic reg

    What changes are there, if any to the registration once it reaches "classic" age ? I've an 85 750 kat
  13. Re: classic reg

    What state are you in?

    NSW 30 years and Vic 25

    You get much cheaper rego and CTP - but bike is only able to be ridden on Club rides (or to and from repairs) and Log book completed by Club secretary
  14. classic

    I'm in Sydney. But we have option to register as a classic or not right ? I still want to be able to take it out at any time :)
  15. Re: classic

    Yes the option to, once 30 years old, but not to ride when you want
  16. I probably should have mentioned that one needs to consider a bike's handling and performance in the context of its era. My classic bike prior to the Katana was a 1977 Kawasaki Z1000A2. The Katana is a rock steady cornering monster if compared with that dinosaur. And this is even after fitting Progressive springs, Konis and braided brake lines to the old spaghetti-framed Kwak!

    Fond memories of riding the Z1000A2 include dragging a toe around a smooth corner, then hitting a bump and watching my life flash before my eyes. Repeatedly.

    Modern motorcycling barnstormed into the scene only 2 years after the Katana with the GPZ900R, quickly followed by the GSXR-750. How amazing that within 3 years the market had changed from a UJM round headlight snoozefest into the grand-daddies of modern supersports and sport tourers.
  17. ...and that not long after the likes of the early 80's UJMs such as CB1100s and GSX1100s, the equivalent performance figures i.e. 0-100 and 400m figures were available in 750s and eventually 600's. I can certainly relate to the Zed story, as could a few others about the place :)