Suzuki GSX 1100SX Katana


Make Model

Suzuki GSX 1100SX Katana




Four stroke, transverse four cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder.


1074 cc / 65.5 cu in
Bore x Stroke 72 x 66 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Air Cleaner Dual element (Paper and polyurethane)
Lubrication Wet sump
Oil Capacity 3.2 L / 3.4 US qt / 2.8 Imp qt


4 x Mikuni BS34SS


Ignition Timing 15º BTDC below 1500 rpm / 32º BTDC above 2350 rpm
Spark Plug NGK D8EA (in E-01,24,25,30,34), NGK DR8ES-L (the others) - gap 0.6-0.7 mm (0.024-0.028 in)
Battery  12V 50.4 kC (14 Ah)/10HR - type YB14L-A2
Generator Three-phase A.C. generator
Starting Electric

Max Power

83.9 kW / 111 hp / @ 9500 rpm

Max Torque

97.1 Nm / 9.9 kgf-m / 70.9 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm
Clutch Wet multi-plate


5 Speed 
Final Drive Chain, Daido D.I.D 630YL, 96 links
Primary Reduction 1.775:1 (87/49)
Final Reduction 2.800:1 (42/15)
Gear Ratio 1st 2.500 (35/15) / 2nd 1.777 (32/18) / 3rd 1.380 (29/21) / 4th 1.125 (27/24) / 5th 0.961 (25/26)
Frame Steel, double cradle frame

Front Suspension

Telescopic, oil damped, spring 4-way adjustable with anti-dive
Front Wheel Travel 150 mm / 5.91 in

Rear Suspension

Dual shock oil damped, damper 4-way, spring 5-way adjustable
Rear Wheel Travel 109 mm / 4.29 in

Front Brakes

2 x 275 mm Discs, 2 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 275 mm disc, 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre

3.50 - V19

Rear Tyre

4.50 - V17
Rake 30°
Trail 118 mm / 4.65 in
Dimensions Length: 2260 mm / 89.0 in
Width:     715 mm / 28.1 in
Height:  1195 mm / 47.0 in
Wheelbase 1520 mm / 59.8 in
Seat Height 775 mm / 30.5 in
Ground Clearance 175 mm / 6.9 in
Turning Radius 3.5 m / 11.5 ft
Dry Weight 232 kg / 511 lbs
Wet Weight 243 kg / 535 lbs
Fuel Capacity 22 L / 5.8 US gal / 4.8 Imp gal
Fuel Reserve 5 L / 1.3 US gal / 1.1 Imp gal
Consumption Average 6.4 L/100 km / 15.6 km/l / 36.6 US mpg / 44 Imp mpg
Standing ¼ Mile  11.9 sec / 191 km/h / 119 mph
Top Speed 220 km/h / 136.4 mph

Road Test


Cycle World 1981

Cycle World 1983


Road Test

LOOKING more like a 'Star Wars' interceptor than a motor bike, the GSX1100S took two-wheeler styling by the scruff of the neck and threw it bodily into the 1980s. Things will never be the same again.

Compared with the Big Kat, the 550 and 650 Katanas were mere toys, meek .harbingers of things to come, andonlyaclose encounter of the third kind will grant you a true insight into the future.

The gospel according to Suzuki reads: "Motor cycle riding is indeed enchanting. All riders seek the fulfilment of that fascinating dream full of excitement ..."

My own fascinating dream full of excitement has nothing at all to do with a motor cycle and, although I wouldn't mind a shot at fulfilling it, I don't think I've got the strength. But I know what Suzuki are getting at - at least, I think I do.

They see the Katana as the embodiment of their concept of the ultimate dream machine -tomorrow's bike, today. And a lot of people must agree for it was the motor cycle MCI\I readers voted 1981 Machine of the Year. It seems as though Suzuki have had something like the Big Kat in mind ever since they introduced the GS-series of four cylinder four strokes in 1975.

The first GSX appeared four years later in 1979, and Suzuki were well on the way to something special. They had the engine they needed, and were busy working on a unique, hydraulic anti-dive front fork which was to be fitted first to their racing machines, and ultimately to their new roadster.

All it needed was a brave design team willing to forget everything they'd learnt about' traditional motor cycle styling, and who could design a machine immediately recognisable as a new concept. The brief given to Target design, the Anglo-German freelance men commissioned to do the artwork, was to 'Give it Italian flair'.

The result isn't to everybody's taste - but you've got to admit the Big Kat isn't an easy bike to overlook. Apart from making the bike look futuristic, the styling also had to be practical. And Suzuki subjected the final design to repeated wind-tunnel tests, constantly revising and altering details, until they arrived at what appeared to be the most satisfactory combination.

The most prominent feature is the nose cone fairing, tank and frame cover which are unitized into one. The total effect is a silhouette of the Japanese sword - and that's where the Katana name is derived from. Held only by top rank officials, the unchallenged authority of the Katana is clearly demonstrated in the ancient Japanese tradition.

It's typical styling has certainly had an effect on the Katana's handling and high speed stability. With the rider flat on the tank, his helmet and back form part of a smooth, sweeping line extending from the mud-guard, over the fairing, and through to the seat.

With the rider in this position, the Big Kat cuts through the air like a Katana sword through butter - ultra-stable and without a trace of a wobble. But when you're sitting up it's a different story. Instead of directing the air flow neatly over the bike, the fairing pushes it up on to the solid wall of a human chest, creating a disturbed airflow and lots of turbulence.

This turbulence completely upsets the bike's carefully balanced aerodynamics, and at over 130 mph, the Katana has to fight against the wind and begins to wobble. This is easily cured by dropping back on to the tank and, as it only happens near the machine's maximum speed, I can't see many road riders having any problems.

Another slight problem is the Katana's dislike of side winds which tend to force it off course if you're not careful. Again, I suspect this is a side-effect of the styling, so it's something you have to put up with. On the road, the Katana is extremely comfortable to ride, with the seating position just right, and the dropped 'bars allowing you to lean on the same wind which causes the problems at ultra high speed.

Obviously, how well the bike fits you depends on your size. But with my six-foot frame, I found my knees slotted neatly into the recesses at the side of the tank and I was totally comfortable at all speeds and over any distance.

As with the smaller Katanas, there's an incredible feeling of one-ness with your machine once astride the bike. Sitting inside, rather than on the bike instantly promotes confidence. It also keeps your groin warm.

The riding position is pure racer and, like the styling, won't be attractive to everybody. But it's well suited to the bike's capabilities. The engine is pure racer too. Suzuki's four stroke DOHC engine has built up quite a reputation over the years for reliability and smoothness. The GSX was the first engine to feature Suzuki's unique twin swirl combustion chamber. In the GSX-S series, the engine has been modified to give the original 99bhp lump even more warp drive- 111 bhp to be exact. Two or three years ago even the works 500 racers didn't produce as much power as that. Frightening, isn't it?

Inertial weight of each valve was kept low in the mill to allow larger volumes of intake and higher rpm. This, coupled with the TSCC for more effective combustion, has given the engine a remarkable spread of power and completely eradicated any trace of a power band. This lack of power band and the amount of power available make the Katana a sensational machine to ride. You just open the tap and hang on for dear life. Very few things pass this evil pussy on full chat.

Flat out the Kat will pull almost 142 mph, making it the second fastest stock production bike we've tested at MCN. The CBX was just a shade faster but had a slight tail wind to help her. Katy did it all alone. True Honda's CB1100R recorded an incredible 148mph. but that bike was purpose built for production racing. The Katana is an unveil the counter Superbike.

Actually. Suzuki were a little disappointed with the top speed figure, they quote 1 47 mph in their advertising. But, as far as I am concerned, 141.5 mph is quite fast enough for a road bike. Bloody hell, that's already twice the legal limit, and anybody who says they can make full use of 111 bhp on the road is either a liar or a contender for the world championship. The last GSX we tested ran through the timing lights at 134.5 mph. so that extra 12bhp has certainly made its presence felt.

High speed runs are my specialty but for the drag racing it was over to MCN's sprint supremo Terry Lee Spelling - I just stood at the side smirking. With 111 bhp on tap, standing-quarters are always interesting, and I had a great afternoon watching 'TLS' fighting the bike Sumo-style as it tried every trick in the book to avoid going in a straight line.

The Katana did break one record that afternoon, the one for the longest tyre-smoking skid mark away from the line. It almost matched the length of the skid mark in Terry's leathers. Despite the hairy cams and uprated motor, the Katana doesn't really have much of a thirst by present day standards. During track testing it managed to drink a gallon of two star every 29 miles. But on the road it would run for anywhere between 35 and 40 miles on a gallon. As with all Japanese bikes, the oil consumption was negligible. As well as looking futuristic the Katana had the distinction of being the first production bike to be fitted with anti-dive forks. With conventional forks, the only way to At high speeds the rider has to dissolve into the tank to prevent wind pressure upsetting the handling. prevent them from taking a severe nose dive is by having the suspension set very hard. But this means the forks don't soak up the bumps all that well, so rider comfort suffers.

Suzuki's forks help solve the problem quite simply. As the inner fork leg slides down under braking oil from the lower part of the leg enters it. By regulating the flow of oil, the load imposed by the weight transference can be matched by a progressive increase in the oil pressure.

Thus the more load applied to the front end. the harder the forks become-and the less the front dips. Hit a bump, and a special valve releases the pressure just enough for the forks to absorb the shock before returning them to their firmer setting. Actually riding the bike, the only thing you notice is that the front end drops only slightly even under heavy braking, and that the back brake is more useful than usual.

Another advantage at night is that the headlight remains more or less at the same height, cutting out the need for any self-leveling device. The rear shocks have four-position damping adjustment and five positions of pre-load easily adjustable with a retched lever mounted on the bottom of each unit. Unfortunately, rear shocks have an incredible influence on a machine's handling, and here I think Suzuki have a bit of a problem.

Under most circumstances, the Katana handled very well, winging its way round corners like the racer it seemed destined to be. But round long, sweeping bends it would gradually begin to wallow, and on one occasion this got so bad I was getting ready to jump into my jet pod and bail out before it came out of the corner and righted itself.

Jacking the rear shocks up certainly helped but the problem was never completely eliminated, and I don't think it will be until Suzuki take a fresh look at the suspension. Apart from this disturbing trait round long bends, the craft handled as well as any big bike. You could feel the weight but it was never a real problem. On the subject of putting power on the tarmac, the GSX-S has an excellent gear-box. The change is immaculate and the ratios well spaced, making the box a joy to use.

Also impressive are the brakes. The twin discs up front are incredibly powerful and, although Ihe Katana won't exactly stop on a sixpence, they're certainly one of the best I've used on a 'megabike'. The front wheel will lock if you grab too big a handful but there should lie no reason for this to happen very often as the action is beautifully progressive, giving you absolute control.The rear brake is housed in an aluminium box-section swinging arm which was designed to help reduce the bike's unsprung weight. The frame itself is a double cradle loop built from high tensile steel pipe and finished in an attractive silver-grey. In keeping with the bike's futuristic styling, the instrument panel is distinctly Battlestar Galactica, with an unconventional speedo.

This takes a little getting used to but doesn't present any great problems- and like the rest of the machine, it sure is different. The choke control is fitted to the left-hand side panel and again, is of an unusual dial type. The motor requires quite a lot of warming up first thing in the morning but once the Kat has wiped the sleep out of its eyes, it'll usually start without any assistance. Like its feline namesake, the Kat is happy to go out at night, using its powerful halogen headlight to keep the road ahead well illuminated during the dark and gloomy hours. The dip is a little severe but once back on main beam it's possible to motor along just as fast as you want to go - or as fast as the police will let you, whichever is the faster.

To aid re-entry into the atmosphere, the pipes carry a black chrome finish to aid heat dispersion and add to the bike's inherent good looks. Well tucked up out of the way, you'd have to be going pretty hard to touch them down, Suzuki claim a 49-degree banking angle. If you are trying hard, the centre stand will go to the tarmac, but touching the engine down is definitely race track stuff. Fast though the Katana is, I suspect the majority of people will buy one more in an attempt to be different than anything else. The styling is a poseur's dream, and when riding through town it's hard to resist a crafty look at yourself as you pass by plateglass windows. The Katana is the shape of things to come. So, even if you don't like the styling, I've a feeling you'll have to get used to it-

 Source MCN, 1983