Gladius Not Cutting it? How About a Sharper Katana?

Oberdan Bezzi Design

You'll rarely hear "classic" in the same sentence as "'80s Japanese motorcycle" when you're sitting around the Sunday morning breakfast table with your riding buddies, but that's a shame, as some iconic shapes rolled out of the Home Islands in that period. The Honda Interceptor, Suzuki GSX-R and Honda Magna stand out as some serious eye-candy, and although some of the metric cruiser designs from the days of Reagan and Iacocca make me want to throw up in my mouth a little, they demonstrated the Japanese factories had original thoughts and ideas and weren't just in the business of making cheap, bland copies of "real" motorcycles.

The Old Katana

But we forget that Suzuki was one of the first companies to hire an outside design firm to style its motorcycles, ushering in an era of stylish mass-market machines. In 1980, Suzuki showed off the ED-2, styled by German firm Target Design (according to the Wikipedia entry, there is still debate as to who actually penned the original sketch). Hans Muth, who also designed the BMW R90S and R65LS is usually credited, but Hans Fellstrom, who did other work for Suzuki, also had a hand in the pot as one of Target's founders).

Based on the existing GS1100 superbike platform, the simple, aggressive styling set the stage for the sportbike revolution that still rages today. It had a small fairing that flowed into a modern tank shape, topped off with compact instruments and a tiny windscreen. It looked great, but perhaps the true appeal of this bike is the idea of elegant design married to brutal power and speed. The production machines, the GSX series, was sold under the "Katana" name. A katana is the deadly sharp sword carried by Japan's Samurai warriors, sparking a trend of naming other Suzuki models for edged weapons like the Madura cruisers (Madura being a traditional knife carried by natives of the Madura islands) and the new Gladius standard (the sword carried by Roman soldiers).

The original Katana's sleek looks must have struck a chord with MD's friend in Italy, designer Oberdan Bezzi. This sketch is his concept of a modern-day SuperKatana 1000, based on Suzuki's latest GSX-R1000. With well over 150 hp at the back wheel, along with Suzuki's own B-King, this would be the most powerful and fastest naked on the market, but it would be light and nimble like the Ducati Streetfighter. Let's hope that the Ducati is successful enough to encourage a little craziness from Suzuki's product-planning department.