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

GSX250S - Rider View ( Performance Bikes 1992)

The retro illusion of the Kat continues right until you turn the key. At first it sounds like the starter motor has failed to disengage. Then you blip the throttle and the engine note gets even higher. The black-painted 4-1 looks in keeping with the early '80s muscle bike ethos but the gases rushing through its core sound less like a fruity bellow than the motorcycling equivalent of a tin whistle. GSX250S KatanaThe Japanese after-market has already taken care of this character-sapping foible with a vast range of pipes. The hugely oversquare power delivery is almost linear. Poodling through the grid locked, suburban Tokyo traffic I found 1,500rpm was enough to get the bike rolling. Ten times that number of revs later there had been no great leaps or troughs, just a steady accumulation of momentum. Carburation from the 29mm Mikuni flat slides is completely smooth and glitch free. Having got that sussed I spent the next few miles tailgating the Suzuki mechanic en route to a place he said would be conducive to twisting an imaginary throttle, Half an hour later, sitting in an acrid cloud of exhaust fumes, I'd all but given up hope of reaching third gear. Then we made a right turn off the highway, the traffic evaporated and I was confronted with a strip of straight tarmac that disappeared, somewhere in the middle distance, into a 28 degree haze.  Time to go. A mile later I looked down from behind the minimalist screen blade just in time to catch the clock's pointers grinding to a halt at five to five. On closer (later) inspection this translated to around 170kmfh, or 106mph, at a gratifyingly shrill 14,000rpm. In the interest of science (and the rapid approach of an apparently irate park warden) I turned round and repeated the exercise with nigh identical results. Given another few hundred yards the Katana would probably have got even closer to its 15,500 redline. Not a patch on big brother, but about par for a 40bhp, 3521b 250. Maximum power comes at 13,500rpm, with torque - such as there is - topping out a few thousand revs earlier, so it should come as no great surprise to learn that five figures is the way to go. But despite this frenzied tune, you still get the feeling that a few more blip could be squeezed out of the super-smooth motor. Jap regs lock the stable door at 45bhp for 250cc bikes, so Suzuki is probably saving this margin for a later update. GSX250S Katana Or not. The chassis could certainly handle it. The braced, double cradle frame, conventional fork, and piggyback shocks are more than enough to cope with anything an upstart quarter Hire lump can dish out. Both ends are relatively firm and well damped, coping admirably with the rippled mess of lumps and overbanding that characterises Japanese tarmac. Relative to the Katana's forebears rather than any race rep tackle, that is. Frame geometry and handling, like the styling, evoke strong images of the past, but not strong enough to be off-putting. With nearly 26 degrees of castor and 99mm of trail the steering is in the slow and stable category. Three-spoke, 17in wheels and drilled, single discs (ample braking power) cut unsprung mass compared with old twin shock bikes but there's only so much you can do with an 11-year-old design; trying to steer the with the footrests is pretty pointless. The flip side to keeping as near as possible to the original design is the 250 Katana's (Kitten's?) excellent ergonomics. The gently-inclined riding position encouraged by the sculpted seat, low pegs and highish bars allows the rider, rather than the bike, to dictate the optimum perch. The screen keeps about 60% of wind blast at bay. And you can even carry a pillion without having your ears warmed by their knees. Having outsold all the other Jap market 250s with the quarter litre Katana perhaps Suzuki should start exporting the bike to Europe. The demand should be there, after all. Mint examples of the original 1100/1000 models are getting into silly money territory now (would you believe 7,000?), and that's when you find one that hasn't been utterly crucified. With insurance premiums going the same way a small motor starts to make sense. It might not be exactly like the real thing, but as the Japs have discovered, virtual reality is better than actual fiction.

GSX250S - Tester Verdict

Good Points Styling, ergonomics, pillion seat, fuel tank range
Bad Points Even the postman has one in Japan
Performance Pity the engine's not as good a copy as the styling.
Comfort Made for at least a 5ft 11in rider.
Braking As much as the fork and tyres can stand.
Handling Just like its daddy... ...slow and predictable

 

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