Suzuki’s Bandit has been around longer than the Labour government and in that time it has evolved from a hooligan toy into a rather sedate all-rounder.
But for 2007 Suzuki have taken the Bandit 1250 back to its roots, given it an all new water-cooled engine, a brand new chassis, plus a sharper edge to its styling.
Has the Bandit been re-incarnated as the top value factory Streetfighter, or is it still a big fat softie? Alastair Walker spent a weekend razzing around the roads of North Wales trying to find the answers.
I can still recall the buzz of excitement I got when I rode the first Bandit 1200 way back in 1996. It seemed amazing to me that such a potent combination of speed, rough-arsed handling and funky styling could retail for a mere £5000. That seemed cheap back in the days when Honda were sticking a £9600 price tag on a Fireblade, but compared to this latest Bandit 1250 I reckon the original 1200 was a bit overpriced. Fact is, this latest incarnation of the beefy Bandit – which costs just £5500 brand new – is one of the very best value motorbikes that Suzuki have made.
Why you ask? Well I’ll tell you. It has that very desirable quality in a motorcycle; balance. The engine has plenty of power, and evenly spread power at that, plus the Bandit 1250 has a respectable chassis which allows the rider to use most of that poke in 90% of real world riding scenarios. Stuck in traffic? The Bandit threads its way through lines of cars with a meaty lunge of acceleration, even in the higher gears. Ready to overtake a truck on an A road? The Suzuki can rocket from 40mph to 70mph within a few seconds, even in top gear. It also has outstanding ABS enhanced disc brakes, which have a beautiful finesse in their operation, a real precision.
On top of all this, the Suzuki Bandit 1250 is just so damn easy to ride. The gearbox is a concise masterpiece of engineering, deft and accurate, with a neutral so easy to find that the gear selector mechanism should be nailed to the wall in many other motorcycle factories.
The Bandit has a good riding position, plus a low seat height, so you can get your feet firmly on the deck. The combination of comfort, fluid power and minimal gear-shifting made the Suzuki so easy to ride in town – better than some 250cc-650cc all rounder/commuter bikes in fact. The only downside as regards commuting is the Bandit 1250’s thirst for fuel – it emptied about £13 worth of unleaded in about 100-110 miles, which is probably about 35mpg on average. Not brilliant, especially when you consider that 30 years ago a Suzuki GS1000 could equal that mpg figure – where’s the progress?
But apart from its greed for fuel, the Bandit 1250 is an ace bike to ride in traffic, which is handy, as 33 million vehicles struggle to navigate their way around the UK’s crumbling roads these days. The Bandit still has a tendency to funnel’ the rider towards the gas tank, as it has a tiny forward slope to its seat, but it’s no big deal on long trips. The pillion perch is roomy and Anne reported no aches or pains when we travelled over to Abersoch for a weekend.
We mounted Oxford Sport panniers on the Bandit 1250 for this trip by the way, which tied on securely to the grabrail, plus the pillion footpeg mounts. Once the panniers were set back as far as they would go against the rear indicator mounts (which are of the bendy variety) there was plenty of room for the pillion passengers’ legs too. The panniers come with a handy piece of rubberised cloth which helps protect the bodywork from any scratches, due to the panniers moving slightly at speed, or under braking.
Another thing I noticed on the touring trip was how good the mirrors were on the 1250 Bandit. The view was excellent and the range of adjustment was superb too. I know this sounds like basic stuff, but you would be surprised at how many motorcycles still feature mirrors which give a pleasant view of your elbows, with an annoying lack of adjustment.
This Sporting Life
Of course touring is fine and dandy, but occasionally, even on the helicopter patrolled A roads of Snowdonia, (we were all being filmed as we parked at Betws-y-Coed, pathetic isn’t it?) you get the chance to open up a bike like the Bandit 1250 and pass a convoy of dawdling 38mph Vauxhall Corsa drivers. The Bandit really comes alive once you use that impressive engine to its full potential, revving freely from 3000rpm to about 9,000rpm, which is just under the redline. It is such a stark contrast to mid sized all rounders like the GSR600 or Yamaha FZ6, which seem to require a sadistic thrashing to get them moving. Compared to older rivals like the GSX1400 Suzuki or the XJR1300 Yamaha the Bandit 1250 feels that touch smoother, a tad more responsive, but it lacks the visceral punch of those two big bruisers.
The Bandit 1250 still handles with a little bit of skittishness, but it has a nimble flickability compared to its 1200cc cousins. I loved skimming past the traffic on the A5, slipping the bike in the gaps between cars, then getting the chance to lean the thing over on a couple of corners before we caught up another gaggle of vehicles. It handles really well on A roads, occasionally upset by a big pothole or bump mid-corner, but generally tracking very true and feeling adroit, capable and safe. The Bandit 1250 weighs some 229kgs dry, which is quite hefty, but it carries that weight far better than any previous big Bandit. It also handles the more powerful brakes fitted onto the 1250 without the `squirming’ drama that used to sometimes happen on the older Bandit models.
The only area where the ghost of the original Bandit rears its head is on tight and twisty B roads, where the surface is extremely bumpy. Here, the new model’s monoshock seems to become overheated rapidly and get all loose, provoking some pitching and yawing about when you push the Bandit 1250 hard into corners. It can be forced around corners, with a serious bit of body lean and strong nerves – just like the original Bandit – but it does feel unsettled, a bit lively.
Of course, this isn’t a sportbike, plus it costs a mere £5500, so I can accept the limitations of the handling, in fact I think I quite like having a bike which needs some degree of skill, bravery even, to travel at daft speeds on twisty roads. Isn’t part of riding a motorcycle still about learning to push your limits, to feel in tune with the tyres, or the chassis as it responds to the road? I think so, otherwise we might as well as pack in biking and drone about in Meriva egg boxes on wheels, plugged into an iPod to forget our misery.
When you look around at what else you can buy with two wheels for £5500, you can soon see that the Bandit 1250 is an absolute bargain. The only serious rivals for me would include Honda’s dull looking, but amazingly capable CBF1000 (£6299), the BMW F800S (£5995) or perhaps the Hyosung GT650R (£3999), which isn’t as fast, and can’t tour two-up, but is some 1500 notes less. Handy.
If you start looking at rivals like the Yamaha Fazer 1000, Kawasaki Z1000, Aprilia Tuono 1000, or the KTM SuperDuke 990, suddenly you need to find another two grand or so to have more power and a classier chassis. The Bandit 1250 has real world 140mph performance, handles decently, offers ABS braking, adjustable seat height, a handy nose fairing and room for two people – plus some luggage if you want a weekend away at Donington.
I think the overall build quality looks OK, bit better than say the GSR600, but not quite up to the Honda CBF600/1000 models. Like many Suzukis the Bandit 1250 has a superb engine inside a chassis which has been assembled on a tight budget, but deep down this is a versatile bike; a great toy for two or three summers, a jack-the-lad machine, an old fashioned motorbike. It put a smile on my face each time I rode it and does the job of practical transport superbly to boot.
No other bike delivers so much kick-ass fun for so little cash. Go ride it
Get Suzuki motorbike insurance for the suzuki bandit 1250.
Engine four cylinder, liquid cooled, four stroke, DOHC
Bore and Stroke 79mm x 64mm
Peak Power N/A
Gears 6 speed
Claimed peak power 54bhp @ 7000rpm
Frame; Steel tubular cradle type
Forks; 43mm cartridge type, adjustable for preload
Rear suspension; Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Brakes; Twin front disc, single rear disc
Wheels/Tyres; 120/70 ZR 17 in front, 180/55 ZR 17 in rear
Dry weight 229kgs
Est. Top Speed 140mph120mph
Fuel Capacity 19 litres
Price £5549 (April 2007)