Don't look now but BMW is on the charge. Long known for building awkward boxer twins or comfortable inline fours that appeal to the more-ahem-older crowd, if you've purchased a BMW lately chances were likely an AARP membership was also on its way to your mailbox. Nobody wants to be known as that guy and now Bavarian Motor Works is doing something about it. For those who were paying attention, the HP2 line of performance-oriented boxer twins was the proverbial knock on the door to the younger demographic, but this year that door is being busted wide open with the introduction of the company's first superbike, the S 1000 RR, and the revamping of its flagship-the K1200S-into the more powerful K1300S. Both models aimed directly at its Japanese competition. So with the obvious challenge in plain sight, we decided to pit the German challenger against the Japanese king of the mountain-the Suzuki Hayabusa. At this point you've probably noticed a distinct member of the party is missing: Kawasaki's ZX-14. That's no mistake. Past showdowns between the 'Busa and 14 have resulted in the Suzuki edging the Kawasaki in our overall scores mainly because of its handling advantage. Power plants were mainly on par, with the Kawasaki getting a better jump off the line, but the Suzuki has the edge in peak horsepower. The Suzuki won, but by no means was it a blowout. So with one contender out of the way it was time for someone else to try and knock the Suzuki.
Means To An End
Both of these machines do one thing really well: go fast, really fast, especially in a straight line. But the methodologies by which each machine gets there are vastly different. We've covered both bikes in detail before, the Hayabusa last year in the April issue ("Big Numbers", April '08) and the K1300S in Kento's first ride piece in the June '09 issue ("Bavarian Brawn"). Both bikes were the benefactors of displacement increases during their major redesigns (the Suzuki's in 2007); the Suzuki up to 1340cc (from 1298cc) and the BMW 1293cc (from 1157cc). Beyond that, combustion chambers for both bikes have been revised to promote more swirl. For the Hayabusa, piston shape was slightly altered, resulting in a 12.5:1 compression ratio, rings received ion plating treatment to reduce friction, and titanium is the metal of choice for the intake and exhaust valves. Of course, this is old news by now as the bike has been out for three years.
On the BMW side of things, a 1mm larger bore and 5.3mm longer stroke (80 x 64.3mm, respectively) account for the displacement increase, with a number of changes to promote breathing for this larger engine. Though let's face it; the electronic gadgetry seen on most BMW models, both on two wheels or four, is what draws most people (well, those who are fans, anyway) to BMWs and the company takes pride in this. Even takes advantage of it, really. So what does the K13S have to offer? Well in the case of our test bike-everything: ABS, ASC (Anti-Spin Control), GSA (Gear Shift Assist), and ESA II, or Electronic Suspension Adjustment. At the push of a button, suspension settings (as well as spring rates) can be changed from three different options, Comfort, Normal, or Sport. To put these settings into perspective we'll equate each setting to its equivalent in the four-wheeled world, with the Comfort setting akin to your grandfather's Buick-plush, soft and, well, comfortable. Normal is more like mom's 5-series BMW-a little firmer, but it still rolls around corners. Sport meanwhile is your fancy M3 (to keep it in the family). The suspension's firm and you feel every jolt in the road. But that doesn't matter, because instead of wallowing through turns like in grandpa's Buick, now we're carving corners and shredding apexes. All with the push of a button.
Size Doesn't Matter
Since the ZX-14 failed to topple the 'Busa in a straight-up dogfight, BMW's only chance was to approach the attack from a completely different angle. From simply sitting on the bike it's clear BMW have done just that. Seating position has the bars higher up and the footpegs slightly forward, creating a rider triangle that's noticeably more comfortable than the Suzuki. The LCD gauge cluster of the K13 is easier to read and navigate than others we've tried, though most testers found the analog speedometer difficult to read on both bikes.
Start rolling and the differences become apparent. All of our testers believed that since the Hayabusa had the displacement advantage that surely it would win out in any comparison that involved the application of power. Imagine our surprise when that wasn't the case. All were in agreement that the 'Busa felt slightly lackluster in the torque department (relatively speaking, of course) especially in the midrange. As a result, drive coming off corners suffered-the BMW seemingly driving better exiting turns. Its shorter gearing and lighter weight surely helps here. When the revs start to climb things start to even out, as seen in the sixth gear roll-on times. We did notice an odd anomaly with the K13's throttle application, as, when leaving from a stop, you need to twist the throttle more than usual in order not to stall. Some even noticed a slight lull in power when subtly applying throttle from cruising speeds. None of our testers complained about any kind of shaft-jacking, as used to be the case on shaft-driven BMW's of old. That said, the lag time from the Gear Shift Assist was a little long for our taste. To the Hayabusa's credit, power delivery and gear changes are still as silky smooth as they've always been.
The K1300S' gauge layout appears...
The K1300S' gauge layout appears nice and tidy, though speedometer numbers could be bigger. An LCD screen displays a myriad of functions and is surprisingly easy to navigate through.Bar controls are now more conventional, even down to the single-button turn-indicator switch. We thought the day would never come...
In contrast, the Hayabusa's...
In contrast, the Hayabusa's cockpit displays a number of analog gauges, with a speedometer that's also hard to read. A central LCD screen serves as clock, odometer/tripmeter, gear indicator and S-DMS indicator.
Thankfully, the K1300S does...
Thankfully, the K1300S does away with power-assist brakes, giving much better feedback to the already strong brakes. Note the wheel speed sensor for the ABS.
Brakes leave some to be desired...
Brakes leave some to be desired on the Hayabusa. Though the calipers are radially mounted, stock pads and 310mm rotors have no chance when ridden aggressively.
Though shaft-driven, shaft-jacking...
Though shaft-driven, shaft-jacking issues on the K1300S are virtually nonexistent. The optional Gear Shift Assist (the cylinder atop the shift rod), allows for full-throttle upshifts.
They may be meant for straight line speed, but there comes a time when the roads stop going straight. To this end both bikes work surprisingly well. Steering is slow and heavy for the Suzuki, but with a 58.3-inch wheelbase that's to be expected. Fully adjustable Showa components both front and rear help dial in the ride and once leaned over it's actually a stable machine capable of knee-dragging angles. Of course slowing for a turn is a hair-raising experience in itself, as "wooden" is far too nice a term to describe the 'Zook's braking power. The pads lack any sort of bite and glaze quickly under any sort of aggressive riding. Surely proper brake pads and steel lines would make a vast improvement.
Meanwhile, the K13S again surprised us. It's Duolever front suspension still lacks any sort of feedback for what the front is doing, but overall it feels more balanced in the tight stuff than the Suzuki. This despite having a 4.1-inch longer wheelbase. Once you adapt to riding the Duolever setup (in either Normal or Sport ESA mode) then exploiting the bike is a rewarding experience. In his notes Kento summed it up best, "The bike definitely has the handling traits you'd want in a bike of its genre; nice and stable, but quick-steering enough to allow mid-corner changes without having to call up the bridge and request a new heading.
Say It Ain't So, Batman!
If you're reading this in utter disbelief at the fact that the Hayabusa is getting trounced in almost every category, don't worry-we were equally as shocked. But at the end of the day the numbers speak for themselves. When it comes to the total package of speed, comfort and handling one bike stood out above the other. And if you're wondering why no attention was paid to top speed numbers the reason is simple: both bikes are limited to 186 mph anyway. And really, who needs to go that fast? In fairness, the knocks on the Hayabusa are pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things (well, except for the brake issue) and the extra two grand savings compared to the BMW is enough to make up for practically all its deficits.
Call us jaded, but the Hayabusa name used to instill fear and trepidation to those who dared throw a leg over it. Blame it on the fast-paced advancement of technology, but we came to expect a bit more from the all-out class king. Make no mistake-there's still enough punch to blast you into next Tuesday, but now there's a bike that's also blindingly fast, with a capable chassis and effective brakes. And it's from Germany. Remember earlier that bit about BMW taking the fight straight to the Japanese? We weren't kidding.
Well balanced chassis
Heavier than it feels
We never expected the giant killer to come from BMW
Suggested Suspension Settings
Electronic Suspension Adjustment, with damping settings for Comfort, Normal and Sport; preload settings for single rider, rider with passenger, and rider and passenger with luggage.
Top end power is still outrageous
Drivetrain is silky smooth
Brakes need a major overhaul
Feels like it's missing some low-end torque
The Hayabusa is showing its age...
|SUGGESTED SUSPENSION SETTINGS
||Spring preload: 5.75 turns from full stiff;
rebound damping: 7 clicks out from full stiff;
compression damping: 8 clicks out from full stiff
||Spring preload: 10mm thread showing;
rebound damping: 10 clicks from full stiff;
compression damping: 8 clicks out from full stiff
||SUZUKI GSX1300R HAYABUSA
||$15,250 (base), $17,500 (as tested)
||Liquid-cooled, transverse 4-stroke four
||Liquid-cooled, transverse, 4-stroke four
|Bore x stroke
||80.0 x 64.3mm
||81.0 x 65.0mm
||BMS-K fuel injection, 46mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl
||SDTV EFI 44mm throttle bodies, two injectors/cyl.
||BMW Duolever, 4.5 in. travel
||43mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel
||BMW EVO Paralever, 5.3 inches travel
||Single shock absorber, 5.5 in. travel
||120/70ZR-17 Continental ContiSport Attack
||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-015F M
||180/55ZR-17 Continental ContiSport Attack
||190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-015F M
||29.6 deg./4.1 in. (104mm)
||23.4 deg./3.7 in. (93mm)
||62.4 in. (1585mm)
||58.3 in. (1480mm)
||569 lb. wet (258 kg); 531 lb. dry (240 kg) dry
||583 lb. wet (264kg); 550 lb. dry (249kg)
||40 to 42 mpg, 41.5 mpg avg.
||38 to 41 mpg, 39 mpg avg.
||10.46 sec. @ 137.6 mph
||9.96 sec. @ 145.8 mph
60-80 mph/2.71 sec.; 80-100 mph/2.82 sec.
60-80 mph/2.98 sec.; 80-100 mph/3.07 sec.
|Fun to ride
|Instruments and controls
|Chassis and handling
On the surface, a test like this seems pretty simple: which bike goes faster? But there's more to it than that. Sure speed is important with these two bikes, but you can't forget about comfort, handling, and-most importantly-stopping from those speeds. I can't believe I'm saying this, since I've never been a fan of the K-bikes, but my nod goes to the BMW on all those fronts. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the K1300S is different. I think the subtle changes to the Duolever front suspension was all it took, because I could never trust the setup on the K1200S. The Hayabusa's time was destined to come eventually. I just never thought it would come at the hands of BMW.
I'll admit I didn't understand why we were comparing these bikes at first as these two rippers are completely different platforms diverging to the same result: speed superiority. I kept an open mind anyway and came to the conclusion that both bikes matched up pretty damn well. As far as the BMW, I took issue with the masked feedback the K-13S provides. That said, I learned to love the in-line 4 engine and chassis (especially in sport mode), I just had to reset my brain every time we switched between the two. I still have a soft spot for the Suzuki as it's a purpose built machine that's equally as comfortable down a drag strip or in front of the local bike night, but the new K-bike covers almost all of the evaluation categories on my sheet and can match the big dogs everywhere except price.
Whether or not is was a conscious effort on the part of BMW to make a Busa-beater, it seems that this is exactly what they've done. Granted, the Hayabusa hasn't had a significant overhaul in a long time but if there was one motorcycle that exemplifies power and top speed, it's the Hayabusa.
Riding both motorcycles on the highway and in the mountains it was clear both motorcycles were longer and heavier than the bikes we're used to testing. However, both handled themselves well and while I'm not fan of additional electronics, the BMW's electronically adjustable suspension was just the trick for comfortable freeway riding and sporty canyon carving. The BMW buyer will pay dearly for those electronic brakes and suspension do-dads, but the alternative would be to buy a little "long-in-the-tooth" Hayabusa.