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Suzuki’s Katana 1100, launched in 1981, was one of the landmark motorcycles in what was arguably motorcycling’s greatest decade.

The marketplace was dominated by overweight, overpowered and under-braked Japanese tourers-cum-sports bikes like the Yamaha XS1100, Kawasaki Z900, Honda CBX and Kawasaki 1300, all competing to be the fastest and most powerful on the planet.

Then came the Katana 1100, with styling devised from a bunch of renegade Germans who spent many hours in a wind-tunnel to ensure that the bike was stable at high speed. It was in reality a pretty ordinary GS1100 dressed up in funky futuristic streamlined bodywork and fitted with sporty clip-on racing handlebars, but on the positive side, the donor GS1100 was the best of the ill-handling Japanese heavyweights. 

The air-cooled 16-valve Suzuki engine was fettled to squeeze an extra five or so horsepower from it for the Katana, lifting the peak to 111hp (83kW) at 10,000rpm, and the front forks were Suzuki’s fashionable new anti-dive units.

The Katana was something you either loved or loathed at first sight, but it sold like hotcakes and was for a while the world’s fastest and most avant-garde motorcycle. Top speed was about 230km/h and the standing-start quarter mile could be dispensed with by a decent rider in under 12 seconds. The big thing was that it looked and felt like a race bike from the minute you rode it out of the shop.

Suzuki, at the Intermot show in Germany last month, unveiled the new Katana that will go into production next year. The designers have done a remarkable job of making the bike unmistakeably like its illustrious forefather.

The long silver petrol tank with chunky red lettering, the close-fitting side covers that join up with the tank and the seat, the saddle that you sit in rather than on, and the old-fashioned rectangular headlight all shout “Katana”, but underneath the plastics the bike is thoroughly modern.

The 1000cc liquid-cooled engine is a 150hp (110kW) version of that used in the 2005 – ’08 GSX-R1000 superbike, fettled for midrange and bottom-end grunt, while the twin-spar aluminium frame comes from the GSX-S1000 series, mated to 43mm fully-adjustable upside-down forks and a KYB rear monoshock adjustable for spring preload and damping. Brakes are twin Brembo Monobloc four-pot calipers gripping 310mm discs up front, with a single disc arrangement looking after the back end.

The biggest styling difference between the new Katana and the old lies in the taller handlebars and the neat tail end that keeps everything that would protrude tucked tidily away.

The new Katana 1000 will no doubt be one of Suzuki’s premium products. Although there’s not yet any indication of what it’ll cost or when it’ll arrive in South Africa, I’d hazard a guess at the second half of 2019 and, provided the government behaves itself fiscally, a price tag a little south of R200 000. For many it could be just what the doctor ordered.


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