Suzuki's highly anticipated B-King is a two-wheeled version of Darth Vader. It's big. It's black. And the Force is definitely on its side.
Built around a minimally modified version of the newly overhauled 1,340 cc Hayabusa engine, the B-King handles nothing like its sporty older brother. It's a mean, but not so lean, naked bike that rides like an Abrams tank on nitrous.
FOR THE RECORD:
Motorcycle review: A review of the 2008 Suzuki B-King in the Highway 1 section on Dec. 12 stated that its Hayabusa engine's valve dimensions had been altered and that the bike's top speed was in the neighborhood of 180. In fact, the engine's valve dimensions have not changed (the only difference in the Suzuki's engine is the intake tract and exhaust routing), and the top speed is around 150 mph. —
That isn't a bad thing. It means Suzuki is thinking outside the box with a bike that doesn't just undermine expectations but blasts them into the stratosphere. The B-King may be naked, but it isn't a stripped-to-the-skivvies version of the Hayabusa, Suzuki's pioneering hyperbike. With sci-fi styling and ungodly speed, the B-King is its own beast.
Nakeds, by definition, are bikes that forfeit aerodynamics in favor of ergonomics and streetability, which is what Suzuki's done with the B-King. There's no windscreen. No full fairing. The seating position is more upright than fetal.
Lacking the excess body parts, the implication is that a naked bike is also lighter weight. Not so with the B-King, which tips the scales at a whopping 520 pounds dry. When
I first took possession of the B-King, I was more aware of the weight than I wanted to be, especially since the extra poundage felt like it was set forward in the bike. But as I spent more time with the B-King -- prowling streets and freeways, then tearing up the canyons -- I came to appreciate its heft.
It was like a fat man who can dance. The B-King's engine is counterbalanced, and it's set inside a rigid, twin-spar cast aluminum alloy frame. The swing arm -- also cast from aluminum alloy -- and a fully adjustable inverted front fork were both designed exclusively for this model. A steering damper is also standard equipment.
On Angeles Crest, that meant the bike felt stocky and stable but still quite flickable. On straightaways, it meant hold on and pray.
Riding the B-King is akin to hitching a ride on a cannonball. Like the Hayabusa, the B-King is capable of 180-ish mph, but I only got this six speed into third gear before the wind became a battering ram that threatened to pull off my helmet and pry my fingers from the grips. The only change to this ram-air in-line four was the valve dimensions, which were adjusted to increase bottom-end power -- and the likelihood that riders will indulge in burnouts.
Not that owners of this bike would need to call attention to themselves that way. There's plenty going on with the bike's over-the-top, intergalactic style to stop passing traffic, whatever direction they're coming from.
From the front end, the headlight looks like the face of a Hasbro robot. The turn signals blink from the outer edges of the tank. Travel down the bike's body to its curved radiator and finned oil cooler, and you're looking at what appears to be the Dark Knight's voice box.
From behind, the dual exhaust looks like the woofers on some sort of hi-fi speaker system. And, in a way, it sort of is. The note on this 4-2-1-2 catalyzed exhaust is more of a throaty yell than a high-pitched, sport bike scream -- one that says move or be trampled.
On a bike that's as black as sludge, that's important.
The B-King comes in two colors -- silver and black (with even more black), which is the flavor I was riding. With the exception of the foot pegs and mounts, the oil tank cover , the monstrous 310 mm and 260 mm disc brakes and a few nuts and bolts , almost everything on the bike was blacked out.
Perfect palette for a cannonball. Or a Dark Knight.
2008 Suzuki B-King Base price: $12,899 Powertrain: Fuel-injected, liquid- cooled DOHC four stroke, with four cylinders, four valves per cylinder; six-speed Displacement: 1,340 cc Torque: 108 pound-feet Seat height: 31.7 inches Dry weight: 520 pounds