Katana : a long, single edged sword used by Japanese samurai.
That’s what Google defines for masses. However, for us motorcycle enthusiasts, it reverbs the name of a Japanese Motorcycling Icon that has it’s own chants. Let’s get a quick look into this nameplates iconic history.
In late 1970’s, Hans Muth, ex-chief of styling for BMW, was hired by the Suzuki to give substance to the definition of the aforementioned. It was Muth’s duty to make adhere to the Japanese legacy and ensure each and every element of Japanese enriching Samurai discipline is catered when designing the motorcycle. The cast for the (now) iconic Suzuki Katana was laid.
The Suzuki Katana was to become a family of motorcycles and not just one model, much on the lines of the Kawasaki Ninja. Thus it was imperative that the Suzuki Katana was created to further a whole new design ethos for the Hamamatsu brand. From the period of 1980 – 1985, the Suzuki Katana lived in all it’s glory. Enthusiast wanted one parked in the garage and if not, then a poster of the Katana parked inside the garage. Suzuki made sure to send shivers down the spine of anyone who glanced the bike for the first time. Katana in the motorcycling vicinity was considered to have been from extraterrestrial world.
Suzuki Katana Design:
The design worked through several variations, with the public getting to see the ED1 (Europe Design 1) and ED2 (Europe Design 2) versions. The original target was , understandably designed as a pre-production prototype. Gladly though, the prototype eventually was fairly similar to the subsequent production machine. After it was showcased throughout the international motorcycle shows of 1979, the target designed Suzuki GSX1100S Katana was officially launched in early 1980. The wedge shaped tank, raised rider’s portion of the seat above the pillion, the rear seat unit itself and all other details lend the Suzuki Katana an aura of a custom bike. It was a motorcycle design that was effectively from future, the pace age cuts and creases defined the design for generations.
Suzuki Katana Range:
The 1980 Suzuki Katana was not just a captivating design but it had specs that made it stand tall among its peers as well.
Quick Specs: 1980 Suzuki GSX1100SZ Katana
Bore & Stroke
3.50-19 Front 4.50-17 Rear
The Younger Suzuki Katana Siblings:
The year 1981, Katana family extended by the introduction of it’s younger sibling the GS650G Katana, while Europe market also got a chain drive GS550 version. However, for what is more interesting for real Katana loyalists, in late 1981 saw the release of the Superbike homologated Katana 1000S. Which participated in international racing series for bikes not exceeding 1000cc displacement capacity.
The year 1982 was the first hint of downfall in the sales of the Katana. The 1100cc variants disappeared from the US and European markets leaving the other giants to barge in. Then there was the fact that Suzuki’s other offering, the Bandit was prevailing in the market. The following year, in 1983 GSX750S Katana was introduced in the international market. It was based on a similar variant that was sighted in Japan an year earlier and a slightly tuned version was later launched globally. Thi new Katana sported aluminium one piece footrest hangers, new wheel spoke design to bring it into line with the EFE range of Suzuki models, and some adventurous paint jobs.
Quick Specs: 1983 Suzuki GSX750S Katana
Bore & Stroke
3.25-19 Front 4.00-18 Rear
The fall of 1984 brought all new GSX750S3 Katana, based on the GSX750EFE that was launched earlier in the Japanese market. This time around, Katana resorted to it’s original design with nose cowling replaced by a much bigger three quarter affair. This redesigned front fairing housed a motorized ‘flip up headlight’ or ‘pop up headlamp’. Combined with power increase, the S3 proved to be a popular motorcycle in Japan. Suzuki also offered the same model to Australian market as well. And, in span of twelve months only, a batch of 200 turned up in official Suzuki UK showrooms too.
The year 1985 marked the last hurrah for the big Katana’s era. Other manufacturers with newer models started showing up and chewing up the Katana’s territory. Once glorified samurai was marked and ambushed by the rivals. The company was reduced in numbers and started taking special orders for the bike to be manufactured. The year 1990 marked 70th Anniversary for the Suzuki and the manufactures took an unprecedented step by re-introducing a batch of 200 Katana 1100’s in totally original 1980 specification. These bikes were individually numbered, all silver, and all sold on the day of their release. The same trick was carried over for the company’s 71st anniversary in 1991.
1991 introduced budgeted and small capacity Katana range. The big 1100cc weapons were replaced by commuter 250cc and 400cc variants. The GSX250S Katana and GSX400S Katana shared engines with upscaling Bandits.
Quick Specs: 1991 Suzuki GSX250S Katana
1991 Suzuki GSX400S Katana
Bore & Stroke
110/70-17 Front 140/70-17 Rear
100/80-18 Front 140/70-17 Rear
The commuter Katana’s didn’t make the cut and after 2 years in production the smaller displacement variants of Katana were replaced by Suzuki Bandit and Impulse. The company reintroduced 1100cc variant in the year 1994. The company’s efforts to retune and relaunch the 1100 cc with various limited edition tags and paint schemes helped the benefactors to make the most out of Katana. But just like any war, the Katana’s 20 years battle came to an end. In the year 2001 special order 1100 Katana was built which was also the product’s last order.
Suzuki Katana – The rebirth?
The Katana’s are still tempting, striking and significant bikes. After all, without the Katana, the first Japanese bike to take bold design seriously, we would have never seen the drastic change in design language in our current motoring world.
The company has plans to reintroduce Katana to the millennials. The once enraged Samurai will be back with it’s all new weapon the 2019 Katana.