Like Batman, Suzuki’s B-King has a tortured soul and the question for innocent bystanders must be: will its powers be used for good or evil?
It comes at you looking like a cyborg on steroids and leaves looking like twin silos for a futuristic rocket launcher. That’s Suzuki’s B-King for you; the Hayabusa’s nasty, semi-naked brother. For a current pop culture reference let’s call the two machines Bruce Wayne and Batman. Where the Hayabusa oozes “millionaire playboy” sophistication and style, the B-King is all body armour and codpieces—and given its wide tank and splayed riding position, a codpiece might not be such a bad idea). Yet beneath those disparate personalities lie two very similar beings.
At its heart—the B-King’s Batcave, to extend the metaphor—resides a 1340cc engine wired a drive mode selector that allows the choice of two different engine settings, depending on riding conditions. The liquid-cooled mill is mated to a six-speed transmission, and hosted by a twin-spar aluminum alloy frame. For control over the road there’s the inverted fully adjustable KYB front suspension, and radial-mount four-piston brakes. An analogue tach integrated with a digital fuel gauge and speedometer, a chrome tank nacelle and three-piece front fender design complement the unsubtle street profile.
As Batman would have trouble buying groceries and paying his hydro bill in that suit, the B-King too has trouble fitting in with society. Everything about the bike shouts extrovert! and aggression! to a near cartoonish degree. But what can you expect when the skin is torn off the mighty Hayabusa then infused with anti-social tendencies?
In the B-King, one of motorcycling’s most powerful motors drives a streetfighter persona; a 518-pound (234.9-kg) 145-hp case of bad attitude. When the B-King first surfaced as a concept bike, it featured a massive supercharger—a performance enhancement accessory that now seems, to me, redundant. In keeping with the superhero theme the concept also had fingerprint recognition, but that bit of glitz has also been shuffled to the side in the production version.
While Batman can’t fly, the B-King can: acceleration is blinding. The wheelbase is longer than the ‘Busa and the steering quicker even with the built-in damper and wide bars.
On twisty roads the B-King belies its girth with surprising corner-carving prowess. But when the road opens up the challenges of the design become apparent. On the highway the bike is capable of rapidly ascending to triple-digit speeds but, in terms of actually hitting and holding the top-end, I’m no superhero. Due to an extremely upright riding position, anything over 100 kmh becomes a real workout. Maintain speeds over 120 kmh for a couple of hours and you are really being put through a wringer. The B-King with all its inner strength hasn’t even broken a sweat, the rider on the other hand is begging for mercy.
Of course it is not a touring bike, nor would you wish to make it so, but the B-King would benefit, more than any other bike, on the market from a small fairing. Make the fairing “mean”, heck give it a couple of dripping fangs, but get that wind off the rider. Only by pressing your chin to the tank and peeking over the speedo can the rider explore the B-King’s upper limits. The B-King would have been a fitting ride for legendary Bonneville Salt Flats racer Rollie Free, whose superhero uniform of bathing suit, shower cap and sneakers startled onlookers as he lay face-down, stretched out and prone along the length of his Vincent Lightning for his iconic record setting run in 1948. Ironically aside from the wind problem, the B-King should actually be comfortable for hours: it has a broad seat, an easy reach to the bars and enough legroom.
So, who and what is the target market for the B-King? Tough to say. It is an unusual bike, and odds are you won’t meet another at the local coffee shop or mysterious underground cave. Everyone one has a response to the bike—whether they love it or hate it. It has a top-drawer component list and performance, but if the sum of the parts truly add up to a desirable bike is a question of personal opinion – and stamina.
Certainly, it is a motorcycle that would knock your socks off a few times a week, but it probably wouldn’t be your only ride. Suzuki’s own product literature sums up the bike well: “A motorcycle with fine details a rider could spend hours appreciating, even when the B-King is parked in the garage after a day’s exciting ride.” Make that the Batgarage. Following a ride and with a couple of ibuprofen and a cold beer or two in hand, I might be able to spend hours staring at and trying to understand the B-King. It’s a conflicted soul but, then, most superheroes are.
In terms of “don’t know why they make them but they sure are cool” motorcycles, the B-King has few superhero brethren: the list might include the Yamaha’s MT-01 and the new V-Max. Perhaps, it’s just as well—put too many Caped Crusaders on the street and things could get complicated.
by John Molony, Canadian Biker #245