THE SAME - ONLY MORE SO !
I have fond memories of my first test of the Suzuki Bandit. That was in late 2006, and that’s the bike pictured below. It was the first of the bikes I rode for my comparison of sports-tourers. In fact it was what really started me on my quest to find what would be my pick of that type of bike. The bike was great to ride! And where I rode it was great. I rode it along an undulating country highway with gently flowing corners. It was an ideal environment! I marveled at the ease of it’s performance; the way it easily drifted up to 120kph when gently cruising, and on a half-decent straight 160kph was there at the twist of the throttle. Add to that it’s ease of handling, from U-turns to open-road sweepers, and it certainly impressed! It didn’t win that comparison of sports-tourers, but was only edged out by the Triumph Sprint (which did all the Bandit did, only better, and was more technically advanced), and the Honda VFR800. The Honda got the nod because it was, arguably, a better bike; but in terms of which bike I’d actually buy, the Suzuki would’ve been 2nd on my list. (I do try to be objective sometimes!). That model was a kind of “in-between” model in the Bandit’s history. It had up-dated styling, but still ran the old air /oil-cooled engine and 5-speed gearbox. Then in 2007 it received a mechanical up-grade to bring it into line with the competition. In went a new and slightly bigger liquid-cooled engine, and a 6-speed gearbox. Amazingly, though, the bargain-basement price of $11,990 remained the same! So I was very interested to see what the bike was like with it’s new mechanicals! It took until mid 2008 before I got the chance to take one for a decent ride. And in the meantime there’d been a few further tweaks to the frame and seat and so on. That bargain price remained the same, but now it came with the option of ABS, at just $500 extra. Another bargain! It was the non-ABS version that I rode though. I reckon the bike looks good! The fairing is only small, but I like semi-faired bikes; and I think it adds to the appearance and appeal of the bike. And it does the job of providing a screen to keep some of the wind off and a proper “dashboard” for the instruments. One of the bike’s competitors would be the Yamaha FZ1 (although in specification it’s much more equal with the XJR1300; but that’s another story), and it occurred to me that the bike looks very similar to the early model FZ1. Interesting! For 2008 the colour options are this new lighter shade of blue, which I reckon looks great, and black. If you go for the ABS model, you get silver. Sitting on the bike brought back one of the issues I had with the previous model; I felt the seat wasn’t as comfortable as I would’ve liked. But now it’s more so. It seems that, with each successive model from the pre-06 ones (which had a very comfortable seat), they’ve steadily progressed backwards in seat comfort. Even road-tests in the magazines have begun commenting on the firm seat. Part of the problem is that they’ve followed a current trend to make the leading-edge of the seat more narrow, so it’s easier for your legs to reach the ground. But that does detract from the comfort a bit. And for me, it’s taken it from “not as comfortable as I’d like” to “not acceptable; just not comfortable enough.” On the plus side, though, it is height-adjustable now. There are two settings, 785mm or 805mm. Apart from the seat, the ergonomics are great. You get an up-right riding-position with just about the perfect lean forward to the bars. (And very similar to the FZ1, in fact). It feels high, but the afore-mentioned shape of the seat does let you reach the ground easily. The instruments are clear and easy to read. There’s the usual analogue tacho, red-lined at 9,500rpm, and a digital speedo. Plus the usual buttons to push which bring up various other bits of information. Time for some nit-picking (yeah, the stuff they don’t tell you about in the other tests!). I don’t know why, but I hit the horn button a few times when using the blinkers. Also, the switch is mounted on an angle, and is harder to push right than it is to push left. (Now that is nit-picking! But it was something I noticed). Okay, time to start it up and ride! And the first thing you notice is that it’s very quiet. Once on the move there’s a healthy sound from the big can on the right, but it’s still pretty muffled. The motor is also exceptionally smooth; there aren’t any vibes at all. Apparently there’s a secondary balance-shaft to cut the vibes out. The engine is, of course, one of the Bandit’s new attractions. And it’s a great unit! Capacity is 1255cc, which is about 100cc up on the old one. Compression-ratio is 10.5:1. Suzuki notoriously (and frustratingly, for those of us who write about bikes!) don’t give output figures for their bikes, but I’ve seen power quoted at 73Kw at 7,500rpm, and torque at 108Nm at 3,750rpm. That power figure is actually less than the figure I had for the old motor. (Can we blame the Euro-3 anti-pollution requirements?). Suzuki don’t claim more power, but they do claim better throttle-response and better fuel-consumption, as well as lower emissions to meet the new standards. Whatever the claims, and whatever the figures really are, it doesn’t matter; because this engine is a beauty! It’s smooth and tractable and goes like a rocket! It pulls strongly from 2,000rpm, even in the higher gears. In fact you can drop it down to 1,500rpm and it’ll still pull away without complaint. So it’s easy to toddle around town at low revs and not have to worry about being in the wrong gear. But get it out on the open road, give the throttle a handful and it really starts to boogie! I took this bike over pretty much the same test-route as the Suzuki GSX650; including giving it a run along my favourite little 500m straight with the right-angle turn at each end. I turned in at not much more than walking-speed, and then opened it up. The acceleration was brutal! I hadn’t bothered to lean forward or take up the “racer’s-crouch” when I hit the throttle, and as the bike took off I had trouble holding on and keeping my head upright! Everything went a bit blurry (the glasses bouncing around on my nose!), but I saw the numbers on the speedo flick around to 145kph before I buttoned off. And that was only about one-third distance. Yep, this thing flies! Of course, to put it in perspective, there are many bikes with a lot more power than the Bandit (like the FZ1 I keep mentioning!); but there’s no denying that, especially for it’s intended purpose, the bike performs very well. The only criticism I could make was that occasionally there was a slight surge from the fuel-injection, but not enough to be a problem. The other new item is, of course, the gearbox; now sporting an extra cog over the old bike’s 5-speed. It doesn’t really need it, of course, but I reckon it’s always good to have. The change is smooth and easy, and even clutch-less changes are no problem. The bike is quite high-geared. That doesn’t matter, because the engine pulls so well from low revs. At the other end of the scale it provides effortless open-road cruising. Top gear runs 30kph per 1,000rpm; so at 120kph it’s loping along, totally relaxed, at just 4,000rpm. Big miles and high-speed cruising are there for the asking! On the subject of high-speed cruising, the small fairing does a pretty good job, but you do get a bit of wind at high speed. And if you need to stop all this go-stuff, the brakes are well up to the task. They’re excellent! If the engine-performance impressed right from around town, so did the handling. Right from the start you know it’s going to be good. It’s easy and accurate to steer, and goes exactly where you point it. And it’s no less so out on the open road, responding easily to counter-steering and giving a “running-on-rails” feeling in corners. It’s happy to adjust it’s line in corners too. On one occasion I needed to brake in a corner where the road surface looked like it might be a bit greasy, with dust and gunk from trucks etc. I instinctively leaned off the bike a bit and stood it up straighter, just to be on the safe side. The bike is totally happy to do this sort of thing. And it always feels totally stable; at anything from low speed around town, to back-road sweepers, to highway cruising. Weight is 225kg, which is 10kg up on the previous model. But it doesn’t feel heavy to ride. You’re well aware it’s no slimmed-down sportster, but it’s easily manageable. And for my style of riding, the weight probably helps the handling rather than hinders it. Suspension can obviously take some credit for the handling, but unfortunately it doesn’t score quite so well on ride. And that was another criticism I had of the 2006 model; describing the suspension as being “just a bit firmer than I’d prefer.” Well, like other aspects of the bike, this one’s the same; only more so. I mentioned that I used the same test-route as the GSX650, and so I also took it over my favourite ride-testing section of badly patched rough road. The suspension showed some compliance, but the ride was still quite firm, and not really comfortable over this section. The suspension is adjustable though, for pre-load at the front and pre-load and rebound at the back; so you should be able to tweak it a bit to suit your preference. When I got back from the ride my impressions could probably be summed up by, “Great bike; pity about the seat!” And, to a lesser extent, the ride. So the new Bandit is the same as the previous one; only more so! The things that were good with the previous model are still good; only more so! But, sadly, the things that weren’t so good are still not so good; only more so! Despite that though, it really is a great bike; and it’s terrific value! If you like this style of bike, and if comfort and ride quality aren’t the major issues for you as they are for me, you’ll love the Bandit! It’s certainly selling well. Trevor Jordan (no relation!) Motorcycles provided the bike for test, and the day I did the test-ride there was a customer taking delivery of his new Bandit and another one on the verge of buying. Both were middle-aged; the first one describing his purchase as his “mid-life crisis”, and the second coming from sports bikes to “something more sensible.” I reckon both will love it! (And they're probably typical of the sort of person who buys these). And the dealer said he’d sold another one earlier in the week. So it’s a popular bike! And it deserves to be; probably even more so!
There have been no real changes; only paint. The colour for 2010 is black. There are other versions available though. There is a naked, which was available in 2008, and more recently the fully-faired GSX1250FA. They don't call this a Bandit, but it is. Underneath the new clothes it's the same bike. The naked version is model-T Ford in colour ("Any colour you want, as long as it's black"), but the faired model comes in black or silver. Whatever version you choose, it's still a bargain!
The colour for this year is a kind of mid-blue. Or black. The engine is also black, not silver as it was on the test model. Otherwise, it’s the same bike.
A bit of cosmetic tweaking to the fairing for 2015 is about all there is. It does look better though, with the fairing extending down to cover the radiator.
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