It was during the 80s when cars and motorcycles started taking radical shapes with the aid of computer generated design. Automotive design was no longer a designer’s freehand imagination, but instead, they were heading towards becoming carefully studied structures and frames that were created by science, math and wind tunnel experiments that would make vehicles more aerodynamically efficient.
It is this era that brought us some of the most iconic motoring shapes of the entire century. The unforgettable DeLorean DMC-12 was one such creation during this era amongst other. Sticking to motorcycles, there was one particular bike that saw a sharp departure from repetitive and dull designs. From Japan, Suzuki had already established their reputation as makers of reliable, well-handling machines albeit a bit boring when it came to appearance (read- Universal Japanese Motorcycles). The Suzuki Katana that came out in 1982 was precisely aimed to change this very perception; which it did brilliantly while becoming a design inspiration for many other motorcycles to come.
35-Years forward to this day and the Katana’s legend still lives strong. The motorcycle designed by ex-chief of styling at BMW Motorcycles, Hans Muth is still a part of the “highly-desired motorcycle club” all across the world. In fact, the Katana’s design is so iconic it would make for the perfect bucket list machine if someone could upgrade the mechanical components to modern day standards; and that is exactly what you see here.
This is Aki Matsuyama’s Suzuki Katana GSX1200S. The strange nomenclature is the outcome of a certain Unicorn Japan, who specialise in fitting (relatively) modern engines from other Suzuki motorcycles to the Katana. Long before Unicorn Japan’s Takashi Ikeda became known as the global go-to Katana constructor, he was known as the best specialist for the motorcycle since 1985, when he first opened a shop for repairing, maintaining and servicing Katanas.
Over the years, Takashi started getting several requests to create an up-to-date version of the iconic motorcycle, something that would retain the design of the old motorcycle but have modern internals that would make the whole package perform and handle better, yet retain the old-school charm. In 2000, Takashi answered to those requests with the Katana GSX1200S, a machine that would leave the original motorcycle’s styling untouched, but honed a modern oil-cooled engine from an Inazuma 1200.
The modernised Suzuki Katana GSX1200S was exactly what the brand’s die-hard followers were looking for for all these years. The Inazuma engine not only increased the power from the original but also helped in giving the motorcycle a better balanced engine. As an outcome, the Katana GSX1200S handled even better than the original. Takashi Ikeda’s work was of such standards that Etsuo Yokouchi, the creator of the Suzuki Katana and deputy general manager of Suzuki overseas motorcycle engine design himself approved the quality of Takashi’s work. Takashi has created more than 200 GSX1200S Katanas till date.
Aki’s GSX1200S is one of the two Suzuki motorcycles that he owns, others one being a Katana GSX1400S that features the engine from the Suzuki GSX1400 that was manufactured between 2001 and 2008. His Katana GSX1200S was built in 2003 by Takashi Ikeda. While Aki is currently stationed in Milan, Italy, he remembers every experience the motorcycle has brought him over 17-years of ownership. For him, it’s the updated engine with a wide mid-range torque that spells perfection when riding around the twisty roads of Japan. The power delivery is linear throughout the rev range making it quite compliant with city riding even under damp conditions.
Apart from the nearby mountain roads and city commutes, Aki delights in taking his Katana 1200S on tour whenever he is back home in Yokohama. The Katana’s small, yet wind tunnel tested fairing still gracefully deflects wind when cruising at over 100 mph (160kmph) while the flat seat gives the desired comfort when munching down the miles.
With a motorcycle like the Suzuki Katana, it makes every sense in the world to upgrade components which make the faster, nimbler, more reliable and relatable to modern day without giving away its iconic old-school styling. While a newer Brembo braking system, magnesium wheels and a titanium exhaust is already in place, Aki’s Katana is on the verge of getting yet another heart transplant that would make it an even bigger hoot to ride.
As we write this out, the Katana 1200S is back in the garage to get some more upgrades. While a newer Brembo braking system, magnesium wheels and a titanium exhaust is already in place, the machine is getting fitted with a 145PS (143bhp) 1991 GSX-R1000 engine. It doesn’t get better than that now, does it?