Race Kat: Suzuki GSX1100 Katana Race Bike

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

Team Classic Suzuki builds an 1170cc Katana for Endurance Legends…

In 1980, Suzuki unveiled the original GSX1100S Katana — a 110-hp machine that would give the world a radical new vision of what a sports motorcycle could be:

“It is impossible to over-estimate the impact of the Katana on the motorcycling world — it may as well have been from another planet…” —GreyBike Magazine

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

Suzuki had hired legendary designer Hans Muth, the ex-BMW styling chief who’d already succeeded in modernizing the image of the BMW airhead. Though Suzuki’s motorcycles performed well on the street and track, earning a reputation as some of fastest, best machines in each class, they’d become a bit stale on the style front.

“Then as now, appearance was key when it came to motorcycle sales, so Suzuki decided it was time to make a bold change.” —Motorcycle Classics

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

So Suzuki enlisted Muth’s firm, Target Design, to create something the world had never seen. It would be the first time a major manufacturer hired a boutique design house to style an entire motorcycle.

“Basically, they told him to come up with something so outrageous that no one would be able to ignore it, hoping that somehow just one wild design would draw attention to their whole line.” —Motorcycle Classics

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

The production machine, based closely on the Muth prototypes, was highly polarizing from an aesthetic standpoint — too avant-garde for many riders and buyers at the time — but the Katana was destined to become one of the most influential and iconic motorcycles of the 1980s.

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

What’s more, no one could argue with the bike’s performance. It was the world’s fastest production bike at the time, hitting a top speed of 147 mph — an integral part of the Katana mystique.

“The sword first serves as a weapon, but a katana also has a mythological meaning in Japan. If you don’t treat it right, its sharpness can be lethal. The same is true for a motorcycle.” –Hans Muth

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

Recently, we featured the WSBK-spec “Katana” project of Team Classic Suzuki, a vintage racing team supported by the official Suzuki Vintage Parts Programme. That bike, while unarguably cool, was not based on a vintage Katana but a 2008 GSX-R1000 World Superbike. However, it was not Team Classic Suzuki’s first Katana…

A few years ago, Nathan Colombi and the Team Classic crew built a vintage Katana race bike at the Suzuki stand during Motorcycle Live, the UK’s largest motorcycle show held each year in Birmingham, England.

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

They took a standard Katana frame, measured it all out, then recreated a Katana chassis themselves, which allowed them to make a few adjustments they desired — mainly to move the headstock slightly and lower the swingarm pivot for better handling and ground clearance.

Suspension comes courtesy of K-Tech, with a K-Tech kit in the forks and K-Tech Razor shocks out back:

“Keeping the twin shocks on the bike to try and keep with the real essence of what the Katana was about….” –Nathan Colombi, Team Classic Suzuki

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

The bike is running magnesium wheels from Dymag, forged in the UK, and the swingarm is a custom unit from Sweet Fabrications in Silverstone.

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

As for the engine, the team bored out the GSX1100 mill to 1170cc, installed higher lift cams and stainless steel valves, and the rest of the engine was fully refreshed with genuine Suzuki components from Suzuki’s Vintage Parts Programme, including conrods, main bearings, and big end bearings on the rebuilt crank. The gearbox is from Nova Racing Transmissions.

Suzuki Katana Race Bike

Get the full story on the build from Nathan Colombi himself:

One Comment

  1. Great bike. I love it.

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