Suzuki GSF1250 Bandit Review
The Bandit has always been a popular bike, you could call it an institution. It’s a working motorcycle. You get on it, it goes. But it’s more than 10 years old now and its age was beginning to show.
Enter the new and much improved 1250s Bandit. The strange thing is, at a glance, the differences between the old and the new are reasonably hard to spot. The huge exhaust pipe and the tall, blocky- looking engine give the game away. But while the bodywork and basic silhouette is so similar, the bike is actually brand spanking new.
A 1255cc machine that can be used for touring, scratching or as a genuine workhorse should be an expensive piece of kit as it's several bikes in one wheelbase. The new model is slightly more expensive at (RRP) $13,995, compared with the 2006 Bandit at (RRP) $12,500, but that extra $1500 is, in my opinion, well spent.
The engine isn't a revised Gixer, or a tweaked 1200, it has been designed from scratch, specifically to suit the 2007 Bandit and it's rather impressive - not only the way it feels, but also its creative design. The gearbox is semi-stacked, which basically means that the engine's more compact than before, aiding mass centralisation and allowing room for the swingarm to be extended, although the wheelbase is actually 5mm shorter than before. Owners may also ponder over the smaller fuel tank. It holds one litre less than the 2006 model at 19 litres, but the reserve is a whopping seven litres! It took me a while to trust that blinking fuel light, but you'll comfortably see out 300km before needing to fill up.
The fuel injection system is Suzuki smooth, but the real grin factor is in the low down torque of the neat, liquid-cooled engine. And when I say low down, I mean way down. Peak power is the same at 96bhp, although it arrives 1000rpm sooner at 7500rpm, but the torque is up a whopping 18 percent to 106.9Nm, and look at where the maximum occurs: 3700rpm rather than the old bike's 6500rpm. In other words, there's a huge increase in thrust at the lower end of the rev range, and thanks to the crisp throttle response, it's like the Bandit has grown a new leg.
So, like any good tester, I had to see just how far the revs could drop in top gear before the bike started coughing and spluttering. The big Bandit went down to 1000rpm. That's a turtle-speed 25km/h in the new found sixth gear. And you guessed it - the bike still pulled contentedly when I twisted the throttle back. You can just imagine just how useable this engine is with real world riding.
Along with the increased torque and a more compact engine is Suzuki's Dual Throttle Valve digital closed-loop fuel injection system for better throttle response, smoother power delivery and improved mileage. Also, the new Bandit comes with ISC (Idle Speed Control), which regulates the amount of air fed into the throttle body idle circuits, improving cold starting. Add to this a new catalyzer-equipped high volume muffler and Suzuki's PAIR (Pulsed AIR) system which further reduces emissions, which makes the 2007 GSF1250s the cleanest-running Bandit ever built. And that's something that should please all you greenies out there.
Enough techno-babble, what you really want to know is how does it handle? Onto the Solomon test track round Clevedon and time to put it through its paces. I took the bike out round several different roads in differing weather, pushing the bike as much as my experience allowed, and the Bandit didn't even break into a sweat. Second or third gear offered plenty of grunt and engine braking, allowing me to wind on and off the throttle as the bends threw themselves relentlessly under the front wheel.
Not only does this type of grunt inspire confidence in a spirited rider, it also has benefits for inexperienced or lazy riders. You can slow down for tight bends or unexpected hazards and get away with staying in a high gear to accelerate away. It's a really forgiving beastie, and that'll please a lot of folk. Riding through a goodly selection of tight and twisty corners, the improved handling became apparent too. The whole bike feels very modern, not to a super-sporty standard of course, but it's certainly fairly agile and it encourages you to have confidence in its ability. That's due to the completely redesigned chassis and improved suspension.
The 1250's frame rigidity is up by 10 percent and the new fork legs hint subtly at the internal changes. Stiffer springs means the bike wallows less. And if you do feel the need to fiddle, the front's adjustable with preload, and the single rear shock, with preload and rebound. It's also worth noting that the seat height is adjustable, albeit a time-consuming job which some riders might want to leave to their dealer. But it does open up 1250s ownership to shorter riders, the height adjustability being between 790mm and 810mm. After this, the dealer won't be seeing so much of the bike as the revised valve-gear service intervals have been increased from 12,000 to 25,000km, which should reduce costs substantially as this is one of the more time-consuming service items.
When it comes time to pull the Bandit up, there's full floating 310mm dual disc brakes with four piston calipers up front with a 240mm disc and single piston caliper on the back. Also, new for the 2007 model, anti-lock braking (ABS) are available and monitors wheel speed and matches braking power to available traction. Having them on the test bike gave me a bit more confidence going into fast corners harder than I would normally, but to be honest I never really noticed it working. The well-refined set-up of the ABS system leaves a lot of the braking up to the rider before cutting in.
Two models are available, the 1250S with a handy half fairing we tested, or, for you naked bike aficionados, the 1250A. Both versions are available now from your local Suzuki dealer. Big thanks have to go to Suzuki NZ for the loan of the test bike. I found the new GSF1250S a real pleasure to ride, whether blatting about the countryside or commuting through Auckland's traffic.
Words by Shane Solomon