Suzuki GSX1100 Katana

Suzuki GSX1100 Katana

Suzuki Katana specialTigger the Katana

The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things……..

A standard Suzuki Katana is an exciting machine, both to ride and to look at. The engine is the raw product of the early 80’s and the chassis, although lengthy and sluggish feeling, does give a fast and furious ride. Some people are never happy however, and one such spanner thrower is Gary Hurd from Peterborough. What looks nothing more than a gaudily painted, streetfigher styled, Katana, upon closer inspection, actually turns out to be a well thought out and vastly improved machine. Subtle touches are mixed with the radical to make a high performing bike that is near on perfect from a riders point of view, the result being both top fun and practical on a daily basis too.

Gary has taken the breed on to far greater things, by adding a gas flowed GSX1150EFE engine and then looking hard at, and then disposing of, the old the bouncy bits, he has made a real improvement over and above the original concept. Power is up by around 10bhp and the feel is that of a large and yet much lighter machine as the front wheel is rarely in contact with the road. The front tyre does have some affection for the tarmac, as the two are often caught kissing, but rarely are they so intertwined as to cause real friction.

Suzuki Katana GSX1100 engineAs Katana’s go, this feels to be a very lively and lithe one, maybe it the extra power, or the wider bars, but it really does feel to be a stripped down and slimmer version even though few parts appear missing. The addition of the easy to fit 1150 EFE engine is aided by the other performance parts that Gary has chosen to bolt on. Throttle response is instant, the ported, but otherwise standard, 1135cc engine breathing heavily through the 38mm flatslide Mikuni’s to great effect, lifting the wheel in the first three gears at will. Midrange torque is impressive in its large amount; due to this and the upright seating position the bike surges forward with a suddenness rarely felt even by today’s high standards. Small inputs of throttle yield huge leaps forward, the engine is keen to move on and the carbs willing to help out in this desire. Four open filters “Hockle” to clear their collective throats, before spitting huge amounts of fuel and air into the large inlet tracts, the result is an arm tugging acceleration that few modern machines could hold a candle to.

Gary’s home grown gas-flowing certainly works, with both power and torque up by a healthy amount, the larger diameter Harris header pipes also help this process, allowing the gases to flow more freely on their way to the large collector box area and then on to the free flowing Yoshimura end can originally intended for a CBR600. The noise this combination makes is highly addictive growling its way through the mid range with real intent; no mistake can be made of the bikes intentions once the taps are opened. Th sound gets even better once this process has ended with a real cats growl taking over on the overrun with that real staccato popping joining in on the down shifts. It’s not the highest revving engine ever, the EFE series never was, but in the midrange little else can move like the big bore Suzook mill. It should come as no surprise to find that so many of the drag machines still use this power plant in one form or another. The roller bearing crank is both tough and free spinning, while the top end does appear to have plenty of room left for further improvements, and the removal of more metal.

Suzuki Katana GSX1100EFEAlthough reckoned to be heavier than conventional front forks, the 41mm upside downers, borrowed from a GSX-R750WP model, don’t go out of their way to nail the front end down. The desire for the Kat to aviate is also aided by the forks being 50mm longer overall, which makes the bike sit up and beg, like a cat chasing a dangled piece of string. Gary has lengthened the sliders at the damper end to make the legs reach the floor without dropping the front end too much, this keeps the original Target design looks, incidentally initially intended for the MV Agusta and not the Suzuki.

On the move the Kat does feel familiar albeit thankfully less wrist heavy than a standard Katana. Manoeuvring at low speed is a doddle compared to the original donor machine too with those wide bars enabling ducking and diving in and around traffic a breeze. Changing direction has never been easier with the pert and willing chassis flicking from left to right and back again almost by thought control, such is the little effort is required to get the Kat moving. Every area of the bikes performance has been improved, the brakes now not only haul the bike up but, threaten to bend those beefy front forks too, one finger braking is all that is required for normal spirited riding and a full handful grab would most likely see you over the bars even at full chat. Once settled and ready to be tipped into a bend, the front end proves to be very responsive, a combination of the up-rated forks, smaller 17-inch front wheel and modern rubber, such a vast improvement over the spindly 19-inch version that was fitted originally, providing a keen turn in rate and high speed line changing mid corner should the chosen line not prove to be the correct one. The rear end settles in nicely too, especially under power, the 1200 Bandit suspension handling all that the big engine and high angles of lean can throw at it especially with that big fat rear tyre gripping the tarmac for all it is worth. Once up and out of a corner the bike digs in and accelerates away alarmingly quickly, that big engine growling away below you eating up the five gears with ease and crying out for a sixth if you let it get away from you. Once flat out the bike stays as well composed as at lower speeds, the mismatch of chassis components serving to work well together as if they started off life on the same production line at the same time, you would be hard pressed indeed to spot the age differences between the various parts. Social graces are few and not really needed a single rear view mirrors sits high up on the right hand bar but it is of little use as few things are ever going to pass you, it does make for an interesting distraction while accelerating though watching things get small very quickly as the Kat takes off.

Suzuki GSX1100EFETarget designs development of the Katana concept is a well-documented affair; the Bavarian team not only went for a futuristic, and aesthetically pleasing, design but, also placed great emphasis on rider ergonomics. The tank and seat are designed for maximum rider comfort and on the standard machine this is easy to sample and prove correct. On Gary’s Katana the same is true only more so, the higher position that the bars create still works very well with the flat out racer style set and tank. The riding position is now more Bandit than Kat that, in turn makes the machine a good deal easier to control and very comfortable to spend some time on. Gary has employed a more forward footrest arrangement than usual, by around four inches, and once again this serves to make the seating position very comfy, placing the feet more squarely under the rider and taking the pressure off the arms by just the right amount.

The only Katana bits left over from the project are the tube work of the frame and the instantly recognisable clock console, seat and tank, every thing else has been borrowed permanently from other machines to create the super Kat. The rear end is a mix of machines, the suspension is from a 1200 Bandit, with the centre stand mounts being used for the rising rate linkage to sing on while a tube has been added just above the rear upper engine mounts to facilitate the mounting of the shock absorber. The rear wheel is taken from a GSX-R 1100 L which then sits in the hefty box section aluminium swing arm once again from a 1200 Bandit. None of these more modern parts look at all out of place in this machine and he overall look is more factory produced than back yard special.

GSX1100EFEThis is no big budget project and costs have been kept as low as possible mainly by calling in favours from the extensive network of Kat enthusiasts and admirers. Gary’s many GSX projects over the years have usually ended up being painted black but this time his wife, Jacki, had her say and suggested something a little more garish. If the shade of orange looks familiar then it should, it is the exact same shade as used on the Arrows F1 cars, the body work was painted by the same guy who also liveried the teams trucks so a litre or two of paint from that project found its way onto Gary’s Kat, the black Tiger stripes were then applied using vinyl and the result is the very striking and feline like job seen here.

Gary is quick to point out that non of it would have been possible without the considerable help and enthusiasm of Scott from Reservoirs Cogs ( and also Straightline racing ( for their considerable help in getting the set up spot on. Wife Jacki is also to be thanked for not complaining too much about having a garage full of high performance Suzuki’s.

Suzuki Katana special Specifications

  • Engine: GSX1100EFE, air-cooled, inline-four, 16 valve, DOHC
  • Capacity: 1135cc
  • Bore & stroke: 74 x 66mm
  • Carburetion: 38mm flatslide Mikunis
  • Max Power: 125bhp @ 8000rpm
  • Torque: 76 ft-lb @ 6500rpm
  • Ignition: Dyna coil
  • Transmission: 5 speed chain final drive
  • Frame: steel tube double cradle
  • Suspension: 41mm upside down telescopic forks, 1200 Bandit swing arm and suspension linkage
  • Wheels: 120/70 x 17 180/55 x 17
  • Brakes: 320mm disc four piston calipers, 220mm wavey disc twin piston caliper
  • Wheelbase: 1550mm
  • Weight: not known
  • Fuel capacity: 22 ltrs ( inc 5ltr reserve)
  • Top speed: 150mph plus

Suzuki Katana Gallery

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