It was so ahead of its time when it appeared at the 1986 Tokyo Motor Show and that was before you looked underneath the futuristic starship styling of the Suzuki Nuda. Swooping, aerodynamic lines graced the Nuda’s smooth silver bodywork and it seemed like the more you looked the more your eyeballs were rewarded with technology. Think cornering lights are new? The Nuda had them 36 years ago. Get this: the seat shifts sideways a few inches to help the rider hang off when cornering.
The all-encompassing monocoque bodywork was made of carbonfibre, as were the six-spoke wheels. Unusually, both wheels were attached directly to plates on the front and rear of the engine via single-sided arms – even in an even more unusual twist the Nuda featured a 2-wheel drive system. While Suzuki claimed the system used hydraulics to drive the wheels (like the Falcorustyco concept showcased the year before) the patent drawing clearly shows shafts going to the front and rear wheels. Either way, the prototype was definitely a running model, the proof of which can be seen in the promo video below. While the benefits of a 2WD might be stability and corner speed, the heavy steering was a downside which Suzuki addressed using power steering.
Tucked away inside was a powerplant based on the 749cc air/oil-cooled engine from the first generation GSX-R750 released just a year previous in 1985. Modified to use shaft drive the engine was also fuel injected and used a single oil cooler mounted externally on the right-hand side of the bike. Suzuki’s chief engineer at the time Etsuo Yokouchi (who also worked on the original Katana project) told Cycle World magazine in 1988 that the Nuda was “the concept of a future motorcycle. The most important thing is that a clear concept is there—the required technologies are born after the concept. From the NUDA, our engineers will get Suzuki’s future technology.”
Sadly, we’re still waiting for 2WD bikes with Robocop styling to hit the market, and it certainly looks like they won’t be coming out of the Suzuki factory either with recent news of them pulling out of MotoGP and a GSX-R1000 that will no longer be on sale in Europe by the end of 2022 thanks to Suzuki’s biggest GSXR failing to meet Euro 5 regulations.
The Kardesign koncept
The Nuda is in my eyes one of the greatest-looking bikes never to have been built. The aesthetics have aged so beautifully in so much as they have barely aged at all. While some of the styling cues have been passed onto the modern day Hayabusa, the purity and focus of the Nuda remains unique, undiluted by the contraints of high volume prouction.
I wondered what a road-legal version of the bike might look like today if Suzuki had decided to build the thing.
It’s a bike I’ve revisited a few times in an attempt to show what a production Nuda might look like. In fact I’ve been trying to come up with a concept since 2017 and spectacularly failed to visualise anything that does the bike justice – it’s often the way with an iconic design. In the end I pretty much gave up and kept it 90% as is with just minor tweaks and additions to make it look like something you might find on a showroom floor.
Did I do it justice? Let me know on my Instagram or Facebook pages, linked below.