Search for bike reviews by selecting...
- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 19 June 2008
The bigger brother to the 600cc success story of 1995 in the UK market, the 1200 Bandit was regarded by many bikers as the better all rounder of the two.
With an oil/air cooled motor lifted form the GSXR1100 sports machine, slightly re-tuned for more midrange pull, the big Bandit also offered a more relaxed sort of riding experience, making a cheap tourer for many.
The bargain basement price of the 1200 Bandit was the icing on the cake, and help make the 1200 Bandit another best selling budget package for Suzuki. As a used buy, the Bandit still make an irresistible choice for those bikers looking for the proverbial bike that `does a bit of everything.´
Suzuki’s big bruiser musclebike, the Bandit 1200, has suited plenty of riders since its launch four years ago as a credible alternative to the sometimes too-serious race replicas and the iffy-image custom bike alternatives. Not a retro nor a niche machine, but an honest, in-yer-face ’proper’ motorbike.
As such, it’s been a competent all-rounder, having enough power for adrenalin-pumping Sunday afternoon blasts and the torque to cope with long distance, heavily loaded touring. Then of course it’d commute, and when the urge grabbed you, would pull some stonking wheelies too! All in a good looking package with a sharply competitive price.
Sensibly, although the 2000 model is just about all-new, Suzuki has stuck to this successful formula with the new version, interfering little with the look and improving the performance only incrementally - anything more would pitch it into an alternative arena, almost certainly taking the price with it. So it will sell well, and the first ride suggests it deserves to. It’s thanks to the engine - the most expensive component on any bike - that Suzuki has been able to keep the cost around the £6000 mark, as the four-cylinder, air and oil-cooled transverse four debuted back in 1986, when it powered the fearsome GSX-R1100, a machine which survived until the late 1990s with essentially the same engine. It’s long since paid off the development costs, so any new bike this drag racers’ motor of choice can be slotted into is effectively getting a free developmental ride.
In the Bandit the potential 140bhp plus output would be unhelpful, especially in the unfaired option, so the top end thrust is sacrificed in favour of low and medium rev torque - much more useful in real life, and much more fun too, as acceleration is immediate and demands no dancing on the gear lever. The claimed 116 changes to the engine for 2000 has cleaned up emissions as well as sharpening the throttle response in the process, and boosted mid-range torque to boot.
Mostly you wouldn’t notice the extra grunt except around the 4500rpm to 6500rpm level, where the new bike is perceptibly stronger. But that’s from a pretty impressive starting point - you really can just slot the Bandit up through its light and positive
gearbox into top and let the motor do the work. It pulls hard enough to dismiss slower traffic from not much more than tickover in the lower gears, while the highest ratio is all you need for medium and high speed touring.
But for the real meat of the power spin it a little harder. Anywhere between 6000rpm and 10,000rpm will do, and here the bike’s as fast as most riders will ever need. It’s obviously not going to match a Yamaha R1 at full chat, but as many supersports bikes spend only a tiny fraction of their time on full throttle, the Bandit will keep surprisingly close, and with all that torque it won’t take much effort either.
The handling suffers for the bike’s weight a little, but not as much as it ought to thanks to markedly better suspension on the new model, along with small changes to the geometry and wheelbase all designed to sharpen the bike’s response. Most impressive was the Bandit’s stability through one particular series of extremely bumpy, high speed corners on our test route, where it gave an impression of unflappable stability that Ducati would be proud of. Just as important, the higher quality of the running gear means both wheels stay in contact with the road more convincingly than the old bike’s would have, giving you increased grip and a tighter cornering line.
Popping wheelies is temptingly easy, but if you disapprove, be sensible and take the bike touring, as it’s accomplished at this sort of thing too. The seat is disappointingly uncomfortable after a relatively short time, but it doesn’t seem to get much worse even
many hours later, while the fuel range has increased thanks to an extra litre tank capacity and a more economical motor. Clearly the faired version (the Bandit 1200S) is better for consuming miles as it takes the effort out of hanging on to the bars at speed. The wind noise off the top of the screen irritated a couple of riders for being excessively loud, but this didn’t bother me so it’s probably dependant on your height - shorter riders should note this new model’s seat is a full 1.8 inches (45mm) lower than the old one’s.
Unusually, I reckon the faired version’s the more handsome of the two as well. In most cases where there’s an option like this, the naked one’s the prettiest while the half-clad version is the most practical, but for me the additional plastic is worth going for in either respect.
This is a thoroughly accomplished package, fast enough to exhilarate even an experienced rider, with capable handling and modern, stylish looks. It’s just a surprise that there aren’t more bikes like this about.
Get Suzuki motorbike insurance for the suzuki bandit 1200.
Engine 16 valve, air/oil cooled 1157cc, four stroke, four cylinder Compression ratio 9.5:1
Transmission 5 speed
Bore and stroke; 79mm X 59mm
Frame; steel tubular type
Suspension; 43mm front forks, non adjustable, single rear monoshock, multi-adjustable.
Brakes; Twin 310mm discs, four piston calipers, plus single 240mm rear disc.
Wheels; 17 inch front and rear.
Tyres; 120/70 ZR17 front, 180/55 ZR17 rear
Dry weight; 211kgs
Fuel capacity 19 litres