The Suzuki Katana
Front WheelEngineKatana BodylineEngine Casing
"The product must have 'Art', if it is to be successful"

Custom Katanas

No matter how good a bike performs or handles, there will always be someone who tries to get that extra something out of it. For some reason, the special builders were drawn to the 1100 Kat. Of course the huge range of add-ons and tune-up gear available was nothing to do with it. The most obvious to go for was the big-bore kit, (Wiseco and Cosworth both made kits), Were's the Kat? add on on some largish smooth bore carbs, a stage what-have-you tune up of the cams, a loud exhaust, a welded crank so it all holds together, remove brain, and away you go - burnout's and doughnuts like you've never seen before! The handling improvements generally consisted of either some better after-market shocks or the running gear from later GSX's.
Anyway, just to prove the above is all true and much against their better judgement, Reach for the Sky Performance Bikes Magazine (PB) decided to run a Kat 'frenzy' on a disused airfield miles from anywhere, to separate the Kats from the Dogs. The idea seemed innocent enough - collect as many hot Kats together in various states of tune and trickness, take them to Bruntingthrope proving ground where collective wheelies, mass burn-outs and speed testing could be performed, to the delight of all concerned. It started well 'cause it wasn't raining, but the PB staff soon realised that trying to get 18 Katana owners to synchronise wrists and brains at the same time, so that the main snap shot could be taken was impossible. This impossibility also took a long time, due to the fact that no-one could resist the wide open space of Bruntingthorpe's 2 mile straight. So after every shoot, a major race followed to see who could get down the other end first. This unfortunately led to the next and final problem. Due to those free flowing exhaust pipes, a good proportion of the local residents thought the apocalypse had arrived and had complained to the Bruntingthrope officials. End of frenzy and down the pub for an early lunch!

Performance Bikes Katana Frenzy Facts

5 Doughnut's for a pound.Katanas rate along with Zed Ones and LCs as the most popular PB Reader's Specials. This is probably because the looks are pretty much timeless and the things look just as mean as they did when they first hit the streets in '81.
The motors are pretty much unburstable with loads of tuning goodies. A massive 'vote with your wallet' majority in tyre choice gave Metzeler 13 bikes shod with their rubber, Pirelli 2, Avon had 1.5 (i.e. one tyre of a mixed set), Conti had 1.5, Dunlop 0.5 and Dunlop cut slick 0.5. Most popular big bore was Wiseco's 1170 kit followed closely by the Cosworth 1170. Harris pipes were the most popular exhaust system (though obviously the locals didn't seem impressed by that!).
Other interesting fact was that the most popular lid was a Star Wars effort, which proves 3 things: Katana owners are poseurs, law breakers and sub-consciously desire to be Darth Vadar.

If you need tuning bits, require parts for your newly blown engine or have have spares to sell, then search our online Bikes & Spares pages.


Sean O'Brian Modified KatanaSean O’Brien gets into some serious lateral thinking and does it his way. A fateful trip down from Dubbo to Oran Park for the ’88 Aussie Championships set Sean  on the course of serious modifications to his trusty Katana. ”Yeah, I saw this YB4 Bimota with Ohlins upside-down forks,” he explained. “So I thought I might have a go at making some myself.”

Sean had owned the bike for about three years at that point and it was already reflecting its owner’s skill and imagination in motorcycle design. He’d paid $1000 initially. “It was rooted,” Sean told us succinctly. “But at least it was going and registered.”
The 1982 750 Katana scored a heart transplant to an 1100, Sean salvaging the big-inch motor from a wreck. The motor scored a quartet of forged pistons but little else internally, although Sean cleaned up the ports and valves while it was in bits. Carburettors are 36 mm flatslides of an early Slingshot GSX-R1100: “They bolted straight on, even the cables fitted.”
Sean made up the ram tubes himself. Exhaust headers are Tingate, while the muffler Sean made up from a photo copier roller! “I’ve done the whole bike as cheap as I could,” Sean explained, “Using whatever was laying around…”

And then there’s the alternator. In an effort to narrow the engine for cornering clearance and lighten the bottom end of the motor for better rev responses, Sean removed the flywheel and alternator. The ignition cover was lifted from a GSX1100EFF (with a Yoshimura emblem milled into it) which is about an in inch narrower than stock. An alternator from a Daihatsu Charade was then mounted on the swingarm, driven from the final chain! All it took was a bit of experimentation with alternator sprocket sizes to make it work, which it does from about 30 km/h on. Ingenious, simplicity carried to an ultimate extreme as a famous Italian motor engineer might have put it.

The swingarm itself has been braced, as has the 750 Kat frame: ‘mega’ bracing up the front also acts as cool air ducts to the carbies, which are protected by an owner-built heat shield. Dave Little, himself a owner of a very radical home-built Trident, lent a hand here, as did Sean’s mate Greg. The extra weight of the bracing is compensated by Sean removing a heap of unnecessary brackets.
Other mates to lend a hand include Jeff and the CBX-riding Stan. Brothers Max and Patrick got involved as well, as did Sean’s parents: Dad silver-soldered all the oil cooler fittings while mum made up a seat cover. Thanks go too, to Sean’s tech teacher Rick who let him loose in the college workshops.
Patrick was responsible for the first yellow paint job, which only lasted a week before Sean threw it down the road (“The bikes been down more times than Linda Lovelace,” he said). Bathurst-based Jeff did the repaint in acrylics, figuring Sean would fall off the bike again before the paint did…

Later, after another bloke in nearby Wellington sprayed his bike in similar colours, Sean commissioned Bridgewater Signs in Dubbo to add some graphics. Not that you’d mistake Sean’s bike for any other, not with those home-grown upside-downers gracing the front of the bike. The forks once suspended an RM125 Suzuki motor crosser, and are thicker and stiffer than the standard Kat forks, Sean says. Dave Little made a set of triple clamps from aluminium to take the inverted forks (which were conventionally mounted on the RM). Sean shortened the sliders to fit, and the pressed on the Katana bottoms to take the axle. Instead of stuffing about with internal spring and damper adjustments to account for the greater mass of the Kat, Sean once again put his lateral thinking cap on for another exercise in creative simplicity. A massive fork brace was constructed which would also act as a lower shock mount for a single centrally-mounted Fournales shock absorber. Easy!
Sean admitted that it was a bit of a headache constructing this and matching the whole shebang up to a pair of GSXR750 discs and calipers. But it was worth it all the same: “The forks are stiffer than a 13 year old watching a porno movie,” he reckons.

The front brakes run off a CBR1000 master cylinder and braided lines, while at rear a GSX-R caliper grips a Honda disc. Rear shocks are a pair of Ohlins piggy-backs. Front wheel is a mix of 16-inch Akront rim and Ducati hub, while the rear 18-inch Dymag is having trouble coping with the good ol’ country roads in Sean’s neck of the woods and so he’s currently modifying a few bits so than he can fit a pair of GSX-R1100 17-inch Marvic-copy wheels (together with a GSX-R1100 swingarm). Tyre choice alternates between Dunlop radials and Michelin slicks, dependent on mood.

Sean’s likely to continue to modify his budget test bed, with the focus turning to few more horses (and bigger balls) once he’s sorted out the wheels and swingarm. And then there’s the GSX-R750 dry clutch that he’s modifying to fit, which he intends to operate hydraulically. Maybe we’ll return to the Central West in a year or two to see what he’s been up to then.

Taken with permission, from

Lady in PinkWell, this is Spoon with her pink Kat 1100, which she's owned since '94. The Kat was her dream bike, but she wanted to personalise it, but not change those good lines. So paint was the obvious answer and in her favourite colours to. The colour scheme goes from a purplely shimmer (achieved by putting Blue over Apple red no less) from the top, to the brighter pink below. On the tank a mural of the Pink Panther (well, how many other Pink Kats do you know?) stands smugly.
The carbs needed to be set-up as the bike was a Japanese import, so a stage 3 Dynajet kit and K&N's were fitted, as well as lots of Goodridge and a rather sexy black Harris exhaust. Life and reality with the Kat hasn't marred the dream, so plans for the future include possible GSX-R wheels and forks and maybe even the GSX-R engine, although she thinks this step might just change the character just a bit to much.
Sex on Wheels!GSX1100EF in Katana chassis, home-made pipe, Kat 1000 slide carbs, K&Ns, GSX750EF mono-shock rear end, Martin rear wheel, Metzeler/Pirelli tyres, BGC fork brace.
Probably the most creative Katana from the PB frenzy bunch. This bike is based on an ex-proddie race Katana chassis after the owners original GSX1100EF got written off in the side of a Fiesta, with the complete swing arm and mono-shock from a GSX750 grafted on. Looks mean, clean and tidy.


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