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

GSX400S - Rider View

GSX400S KatanaOK, here it is! I bought a 400 Kat from Bikes Direct (Bristol) last November. I loved its big Kat looks combined with HUGE tyres (140 width on the back) and monster brakes (4 pots each on the front, same as the GSXR 400 I think). Once the carbs had had months of gluey crap removed the bike went pretty well - up to 10000rpm. It tops out at 12k in theory, but mine feels like it's hit a steep hill at 10k. I'm told this is because the restriction is built into the CDI and gearing, so it can't be derestricted. Six closely-spaced gears means that you constantly try unsuccessfully to boot it up one. Top pulls OK to about 95 mph, then runs out of steam; 110mph is possible, but it takes a while to get there. Changing the sprocket sizes might help, but would of course knacker the acceleration, which isn't that hot in the first place. Someone must have a solution? A GSX(R) CDI perhaps? The engine is a tarted-up version of the ubiquitous Bandit / GSXR mill, so it must be possible to do summit. BAT and Bikes Direct have tried to be helpful, but without success.
GSX400S KatanaOn the other hand, it is a scorcher to look at; the well-hidden rad gives the game away in case you missed the lack of huge crankcase ends and generally vast engine of the big boys, but wheels, seat, contra-rotating clocks etc. are just the same. The tyres are actually larger than the 1100, and the brakes are in a different league. Battlax tyres give amazing grip and Ferodo SS pads at the front make your brain want to fling itself out through your eye sockets. The front forks are enormous, and the swinging arm likewise butch giving excellent handling. OE piggyback shocks leak (mine fixed under warranty) and rear discs warp (like all Suzi's with the same set-up). Pillions love the big comfy seat and low-set rubber-covered pegs, but the rider suffers from a hands-down, feet-forward crucifixion relieved only by a powerful sense of riding the best-looking machine on the road! The long wheelbase and tall-ish wheels make for a slow steerer with solid handling, making A-road sweepers an ideal habitat. Obviously it's a lot lighter than Granpappy Kat, so it's easy to hoick around. Town is OK in short bursts, and motorways likewise - the windblast laughs at the tiny fairing and keeps the weight off your wrists. It's been totally reliable other than when I tried to fit an alarm. Don't even think it - the Jap sealed batteries won't take it, can't easily be recharged and cost a lot to replace.
GSX400S Katana ClocksIt has a 4-2 exhaust like the 1100, which costs about 700 to replace; a Yoshi carbon 4-1 looks brilliant but apparently does little for the power (less heavy of course) and costs 900+! My exhaust is looking pretty brown but will have to last. In short, it handles and stops like a dream and looks superb, but is hampered by a heavily-restricted engine made to be difficult to set free. Give me the power output of a Bandit 400, and I'd love it forever. As it is, I'm considering selling it because it's just too slow.

 

Greg Garrard, Bath Spa University College (lecturer, 28)

PS Fuel consumption is around 45 mpg unless you cane it. Reserve is very poor, however, and I've run out of fuel twice!

GSX400S - Tester Verdict

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