Blown Away

31st Mar 2009 7:00 am

Seven days spent aboard Suzuki’s iconic 2009 Hayabusa leave Kartikeya Singhee a little breathless. He recounts the week-long relationship with the temperamental diva.

Sunday: Hello Darlin’!
Usually I spend my Sundays trying to just take things easy; you know, slow things down a bit. After a week of frenetic activity my heart rate needs to come down from the weekly average of 130bps. But not this Sunday, as Suzuki’s Hayabusa has rolled into my garage. Just having it around gets my heart beat up, after all the Hayabusa has a formidable reputation. The story goes something like this. The Japanese were locked in an intense battle to develop the world’s fastest production motorcycle. In 1996, Honda laid claim to that title with its 1100XX Blackbird, ousting Kawasaki’s ZX-11 from the top perch. Suzuki too was working towards the same title. To topple Honda’s Blackbird, Suzuki ensured its upcoming motorcycle had everything it needed — a massive engine, a body shaped and blessed by the wind gods, and a most fitting name, the Hayabusa (Japanese for the peregrine falcon, the fastest bird in the world and capable of flying at 320kph). Odd coincidence it may be, but the Hayabusa also preys on blackbirds. The two-wheeled Hayabusa vanquished all its enemies, without exception. 
The second-generation 2009 model Busa standing before me looked more dynamic, bigger and even more imposing. My heart rate accelerated just looking at it.
I got the feeling that the Hayabusa thinks I’m a Blackbird too. Looking tough comes easy to the big Busa. I try my best to match up. Hello darlin’!

Monday: Holy Cow! Lighten up
I’m not unfamiliar with Monday morning blues. But this was bad. I know I should have been ecstatic. After all, I had the world’s most famous motorcycle in my garage. But, I wasn’t. I just couldn’t muster enough courage to actually ride the Busa as all these worst-case scenarios kept popping up inside my head. There were many – it’s easy when you have to ride a massive motorcycle weighing 260kg out onto the lawless Mumbai streets. However, a moment of madness saw me through. I had finally got myself to ride the Busa, and it was full of surprises.
As long as we kept moving, there was nothing to worry about. But crammed between taxis at the stop lights, I felt like leaving the Busa in the middle of the road until things cleared up.
I had to move the big Busa back and forth to make way for the shoals of two-wheelers as they wriggled to slip through any available gaps. It was frustrating. When I pulled over for a break, I realised that parking the Busa required a plan. Never park it in a position you can’t ride straight out from. You can also go blue in the face trying to pull the motorcycle backwards! It is a job for two people, unless you’re built like a tree. I almost didn’t manage it! Yelling “Holy Cow! Lighten up, will ya?” didn’t help.

Tuesday: Not a loose cannon
Time heals. Today I definitely felt that I was coming out of the Busa-induced shock. I got up feeling that the fear of the Hayabusa’s monstrous proportions had finally washed away. I went out for a ride relatively fearlessly and uncovered some great surprises. The Busa proved to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Or, it can be when it wants to. The ultimate super sport, thankfully, also ran around the city without complaint. Special modes called the Suzuki Mode Select for the 1340cc engine lets you control the Busa’s latent aggression. Of the three A, B and C modes, C mode is perfect for the city – the Busa moves around like a lamb. I even contemplated fetching veggies on it, but then decided against it.
The fuel-injected engine is incredibly flexible. At one point the bike was running around at a measly 50kph in sixth gear; a slight twist of the wrist and it accelerated with just a hint of fuss. My pulse raced, keeping pace with the Busa. An electronically limited 299kph in sixth gear is hardly commuter-like. While the Busa felt controllable, it was never tame. It leaps forward hungrily and without hesitation. The confines of the city, the constant upshifts, downshifts and half-clutching in the stop-start traffic caused the clutch plate to heat up and then it started slipping. There was another side effect. I’m going to have to work out. The heavy clutch action has left my forearm feeling quite numb . . .
I have to get in shape.

Wednesday: Stars of the Night
Now that I think about it, the Busa has embedded itself into my way of life. I’m turning into a creature of the night to suit the Suzuki; it is more at home on the empty streets and the massive 197bhp engine runs cooler too. A short, quick late night ride stretched into an early morning sortie. Everywhere we went, we were the centre of attention. After all those years of being pushed around in school, ostracised in college, it was my turn! I am now officially cool. Sure, it was all reflected limelight, but who cares. I got looks, smiles, casual conversations, you name it... every time, everywhere. Now, it’s terribly easy to develop a swagger and preen, but I have held myself firmly in check and even answered all the queries with a straight face. “How much is it for?”  — “13.6 lakh, on-road”; “Did you import it?” — “No, no, you can book it at just about any Suzuki Motorcycles showroom”; and of course the inescapable “Mileage kya hai?” — I just smiled at first, then said, “18kpl in the city and 22kpl on the highway – that means the Hayabusa (please note, I refrained from using “my Hayabusa”) gets better fuel efficiency than your Swift and it’s got an extra 112bhp.” I’d like to thank God for my unshakeable down-to-earth nature. He he.

Thursday: Happiest day of our lives
Well, well…today really was the day of reckoning. In the past few days I rode the Hayabusa in city traffic, I rode it on city roads at night but the truth is the Busa is not meant to be cooped up in the city. Its real diet is the highways and that’s where I went. The highways brought welcome relief and the Busa ran unfettered, giving me the experience of the limitless power.
On open stretches, I used the Busa in A-mode — here the throttle response is instantaneous and acceleration ferocious. I had to hold onto the handlebars for dear life as the Busa thundered ahead. It wanted to do a power wheelie every time I shifted from first to second; the long wheelbase, that proved to be a pain in the city, helped me stay planted. Amazingly, despite all its bulk, the Busa’s braking distance from 60kph to zero will put most lightweight Indian motorcycles to shame.

Friday: I never thought I’d say this
Tonight, hanging off an Armco barrier I realised I am now a changed man. Before the Busa, I never had much patience with extreme machines. The first-generation Busa wasn’t in my top five bikes list. But something akin to sincere respect has welled up inside me. The Busa’s suspension behaves as though it has grown up with rude and abrupt road conditions like ours. Then the 1340cc 197bhp engine has a 3.35sec blast from standstill to 100; that’s enough to shame a Rs 2 crore-plus car. And then it can canter around in the city without a fuss. But I also now know that I would never buy a Busa as my first superbike. It isn’t so difficult to figure that out. This night, like other nights before the paradox of the bike was highlighted every time, a wannabe racer whizzed past the Busa with inches to spare. Each time I calmly reminded myself that I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. You see, many people will hop onto the Busa and say to themselves, “This is the world’s best motorcycle, I can do anything now.”
Sure, it is arguably one of the best in the world, but it can’t do everything. Earlier in the day, I learnt first-hand that the Busa’s standard spec tyres don’t much care for water and they feel a bit skippy over concrete. And they absolutely, completely hate water on concrete. On our roads, it is hard to predict what turns up when. So I’m going to make the most of every moment I have with it.

Saturday:  Goodbye. Will you miss me? ermm . . .
I can’t believe that it’s already been a week. It felt too soon to return the Busa. But even then, the Busa managed to take over my life, completely. I turned nocturnal, just to get the best motorcycling minutes possible. During the day, I avoided going to non-Busa friendly places – like my sister’s. I wasn’t allowed to park inside the premises and therefore ended up begging the watchman to sit next to it. I also became a kinder person, at least to the bratty kids near where I live; this ensured that they wouldn’t touch the Busa. I made myself some friends at the fuel station – the Busa lives on a strict 97 octane diet and there aren’t many around. The bike can swallow Rs 1,200 bucks worth (a litre costs Rs 70) from the time the low-fuel warning comes on. But, I don’t mind, I would do that and more for the Busa life. So, when the time came to say bye to the Busa, surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult to hand the keys over.
Over the course of the week, I understood that you can’t throw the Busa into the deep end and expect it to pull through without a hitch, like a Hollywood action hero; the Busa is actually like a temperamental diva – it’s ballsy, but needs to be handled with extreme caution and adulation.
So when I finally bid adieu, it was almost like a weight lifting off my shoulders; it was the weight of not having to sweet-talk kids, about not worrying about u-turns, not worrying about parking properly, double-checking the side-stand, or hiring my own private army to stand guard while I wasn’t around. It was about not limiting my rides by a tankful of gas or the nearest 97 octane fuel station. Whew. But, right now I am swamped by a tide of despondency; a dull sense of foreboding has settled in — life will never be the same. Sigh.

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