Motorsports Network Road Test
1999 Suzuki 750FW Katana
Is This The Do-Everything Bike For You?
Lets face it, most of us can only afford to own one motorcycle. And that one motorcycle must serve all of our various riding needs. Sportbikes are good for carving canyons but often too uncomfortable for commuting or to take that summer vacation on. Standards, on the other hand, may not fulfill the visual styling you seek and most won't provide the back road competence you demand. Enter Suzuki's 1999 750 Katana. It's got sport bike looks, though it's clearly an exercise in styling, straight up seating and less cramped ergonomics.
Reading Suzuki's printed materials on the Katana 750 leaves you wondering exactly what type of rider the bike was meant for. It's kind of like they wanted riders to figure it out for themselves. The 749cc, 16 valve, 6-speed 4-cylinder DOHC engine is air/oil cooled like it's early GSXR stablemates. Past Suzuki's using this type of engine were notorious for making lots of mechanical noise, especially during warm up. Suzuki took action on the 98 Katana and changed to a silent-type cam chain to reduce mechanical noise, which has quieted things down considerably. Additional changes made for the 98 model year included a longer stroke for better low-end power, increased lubrication and strengthening of the connecting rods, new pistons to allow for better ring seal, and revised valve timing and lift for improved low and mid range power. The clutch was also revised a bit for a better feel and smoother engagement - all good stuff.
The sleek styling of the Katana is a love it or leave it affair. Even if your not attracted to the unusual styling, you'll notice there are some very nice styling lines, though some will argue they don't all work in concert. Our first inclination was to categorize the 750 as a sport touring class bike. The straight up seating, high bars, generous leg room, large seat and long uncramped ergonomics fit this mold. What doesn't fit this characterization, however, it the high revving engine which does nothing special below 7,000 RPM. For casual riding or that cross country trip, there isn't an abundant amount of roll on power. Rev it up some, and you'll also experience a fair amount of vibration through the tank and pegs. Above seven grand, however, the 750 wakes up and gets to business all the way to redline.
The large textured and roomy seat is firm yet quite comfortable and easy to move around on. The narrow bars are high and placed well forward, too much so for our liking. They tend to cause some discomfort due to the far reach and provide less steering feedback than if they were positioned closer to the rider. The smallish windscreen takes the blunt of the wind blast off the rider. The rest of the bodywork deflects some of the elements, but not as much as you might expect. Gauges are plain Jane though very easy to read at all times.
The stiff suspension works reasonably well while cruising the blacktop or covering your favorite back roads at speed. When you encounter sharp edged bumps or freeway expansion bumps joints, the 3/4 liter Suzuki can bounce you off the seat as the stiffly sprung suspension isn't very compliant. The forks offer 4-way adjustable rebound damping while the fully adjustable shock provides for preload and compression damping and 4-way rebound adjustment.
When you start factoring in the GSXR bred engine, perceptions of the 750 begin to get a little confusing. This is because low and mid-range performance is a bit lack luster for a 750. To wring the ponies out of the Katana you've got to raise the tach to 7 grand and beyond. Wick it up near redline and slam a few gears and Suzuki's race heritage shines through in a big way. Under full throttle acceleration the 750 covers ground quickly. The gearbox sings while the engine hums with no vibration, just mechanical precision. Simply stated, the engine performs best under full throttle acceleration. While this is fun, it isn't the best possible power delivery for all around riding use.
At slower speeds you'll feel some vibration through the pegs and tank. Steering is rather quick at slower speeds, and slows considerably as speeds increase. This trade-off provides a good amount of stability. Once you place the Katana in a corner it usually sticks like glue, even with it's moderately sized rubber.
When it's time to slow for the next corner you'll find an excellent rear binder and a confused yet powerful front brake. Our test unit had a spongy and confusing feel to it just as you began to apply the front brake. After you passed that point, you found a strong yet unprogressive front binder. It was just plain hard to take advantage of the available stopping power.
Our test bike worked best covering smooth back roads at a fast clip. Once you got a rhythm going it was fun to ride the Katana. Throw in some sharp bumps or sudden corners, however, and you'll have your work cut out for you - not that you can't make good time on the Katana on your favorite backroad..
If your needs call for a bike for commuting use, yet you have a taste for quick weekend jaunts through the twisties, the 1999 Katana 750 will step up to the plate. Just don't expect to chase down your buddies on their narrowly focused sport bikes. The Suzuki Katana just might fit the bill for many riders wanting to do lots of different things with one motorcycle.
|Suzuki: 1999 Katana 750 (GSX750FW)|
|Displacement: 749cc, DOHC 4-cylinder||Acceleration||7|
|Drive: 6-speed, 530 chain||Brakes||8|
|Fuel Capacity: 5.3 Gal. (1.3 reserve)||Carburetion||8|
|Fuel Mileage: 36 - 43 mpg||Comfort (overall)||8|
|Fuel Range: About 200 miles||Comfort (touring)||7|
|Susp. Front: Telescopic, adjustable rebound||Finish (quality)||7|
|Susp. Back: Link-type, Single Shock, adjustable preload & rebound||Handling (overall)||7|
|Tire Front: 120/70 - ZR17||Stability (handling)||9|
|Tire Back: 150/70 - ZR17||Suspension (overall)||6|
|Weight: Dry - 465 lbs.||
|Retail (US): $7,199||