1981 GSX1100 Katana review

by Stuart McChesney

Class: Sports. Class? Just lots of it...

Specifications: European, British version - text and figures nicked off Rob Bird's Katana Shrine... with his permission

GSX1100S Katana

Top Speed: 143 MPH
Standing 1/4 mile: 11.4 sec @ 117 MPH
Standing: mph
BHP: 110 BHP
Torque: 70.9 lb/ft @6500 RPM
Fuel Consumption: around 42 MPG
Redline: 9000 RPM
Dry Mass: 232kg (511 lbs)
Engine Type: 4-stroke, 4 cylinder, air cooled, DOHC, TSCC
Bore x Stoke: .72.0 mm x 66.0 mm (1075 cm3)
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Transmission: 5 speed constant mesh, 1-down 4-up
 Primary Reduction: 1.775
 Final Reduction: 2.800
 Gear Ratios, Low: 2.500
 Gear Ratios, 2nd: 1.777
 Gear Ratios, 3rd: 1.380
 Gear Ratios, 4th: 1.125
 Gear Ratios, Top: 0.961
Front Tire Size: .3.50-19 57V (life approx. 6000m)
Rear Tire Size: .4.50-17 67V (life approx. 4000m)
Ignition Timing: 12ยบ BTDC below 1100 RPM
Fuel Tank (total): .20.0 litres (5.2 gal)
Fuel Tank (reserve) 3.0 litres (.79 gal)
Engine Oil: 3.2 litres (3.3 qts) (400ml more if oil filter changed (.42 qts))
Front fork oil: .266 ml

Rider's Viewpoint

Thought I would send you details about my ...err ex-Kat; well that is it is still a Kat but it is now someone else's. Yes I have committed the cardinal sin and sold it. (Please to save the strife of you other owners, I recommend that they never sell.)

My KAT was an 1100 with an GSX1100EFE top-end fitted which was taken out to 1228. This was fitted after it was discovered that on the over-run, it spewed out smoke at anyone following (great indication that I was about to hit the brake) because the bores were shot. It also had a Harris pipe and EFE foot-peg hangers that I thought enhanced greatly to the appearance.

I always wanted to mod it to take modern suspension and wheels / tyres, but the starter clutch assembly kept on self destructing and eating my money (which is why I sold it in the end). I bought an FZR600 after that, reveled in the handling and the reliability, but it was clear that despite being superior in almost every arena it did not compare to the KAT. I am thinking of selling the FZR for another KAT (maybe a 750 this time and do the mods I have considered). Of course as soon as I considered this the FZR's gearbox went! [which sheds new light on your reliability and superiority statement just a few secs ago... ed.]

My most vivid memories are about the KAT. The way that what gear you were in, mattered not a jot about acceleration; the way the front lifted, the way it weaved around corners unless you got it all right (it taught me SO much about cornering), bump-starting it (flat batteries, starter clutch assembly shot, blown starter motor etc. etc.). I remember taking 'seven league steps' after remembering that I needed to open the throttle, after panting along 50 yards of flat road bumping it..... the next 50 yards took an instant. Terrifying an old granny in my street, as I knocked all the air out of myself with a particularly violent wheelie. She was still staring / glowering at the point where the KAT had disappeared when around 3 minutes later I walked back, straight into her "Paddington Hard Stare". The way it vibrated the battery connection loose every month. Riding it through Reading without a clutch cable after it broke somewhere on the M6, just North of Birmingham. Trying to wheelie it in Sainsbury's car park in the rain only to send plumes of water 6 feet in the air (and I thought the clutch was slipping). Hurtling down the M6 at 149mph and it refusing to gain that extra 1 mph. Collecting beer for a party in Wokingham, having reached the shop flat out, locking the back and sliding it round to park in perfect fluid motion, much to the terror / awe of the 16 year-olds sitting around smoking and drinking their beer at the shop front (sad I know, but it has to be done!). Sitting pillion on someone else's bike, returning from Scotland at about midnight, watching it glide past me and that tugging feeling in my gut when I thought "That's MY bike and it's beautiful", First Love.

Even on the days when I was committed to riding sensibly, I would get on the KAT and by the end of the road my best intentions were lying behind me stuck down by newly laid hot rubber. There was just something about the riding position that said "Whip me, Thrash me, Cane me." So I did!

I toured on it, commuted on it daily, went scratching on it, got pulled on it remarkably few times, considering how I rode it. It was my only form of transport and was suited to everything, and I loved it and I hope the new owner does to.