The Suzuki Bandit 1200, or GSF1200 to give it its official name, is one of the most popular motorcycles of the past 20 years.
Mating a lusty GSX-R1100 derived motor with a no-frills chassis, and coming with a bargain price tag, the big Bandit found a cult following with blokes looking for a big horsepower on a budget.
The Bandit name first appeared in 1989, on a series of 250 and 400cc four-cylinder bikes for the Japanese market. Some of these made their way over to the UK in the grey import craze of the 1990s, but it was the officially-imported Bandit 600 that really kicked off the legend when it was launched in 1995.
The 600 featured the old air/oil cooled GSX600F engine in a simple steel cradle frame. With a bargain price tag, the Bandit sold extremely well to punters looking for a solid first big bike or a work-a-day set of wheels, but it was the 1200 that followed less than a year later which cemented the Bandit legend.
Suzuki lumped an enlarged GSX-R1100 motor in the Bandit’s chassis to create one of the great hooligan bikes of the era. With 100bhp (much more of which could be easily unlocked with the most basic of tuning) and a truck load of torque, the Suzuki had more than ample power for the humble chassis. Not many stayed standard though, with an end can and anodised parts being almost compulsory modifications for many owners. As a bike for slicing through corners it was hardly the weapon of choice, but for pulling wheelies it was pretty much standard fare for any amateur stunt rider.
As a result of owner abuse and less than stellar build quality (they were built to a budget, after all) there are not too many decent early Bandit 1200s left on the road. Later Bandits has the option of a half fairing (known as the GSF1200S) which was more practical but lost the bad boy style of the naked version.
Later examples became heavier and less aggressive. Second generation bikes gained fuel injection and optional ABS and ran through to 2006, when a watercooled, 1250cc, version was introduced.
The 1250 saw the GSF repositioned (eventually dropping the Bandit name) as a budget sports tourer. The Bandit may have departed the scene, but what a legacy it left.
For a budget bike that emerged from the Suzuki parts bin, the Bandit 1200 certainly punched above its weight. The fondness by which it is remembered by British bikers means that it most certainly deserves its status as an iconic bike. After all, what other motorcycle brought so much power to the people?
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