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Sunday, April 19, 2009

SUZUKI BANDIT 1250 S

The Suzuki Bandit has always been popular, something of an institution. It’s a working motorcycle with no airs or graces and no fancy shenanigans.
You get on it, it goes, job’s a good-un. But it’s more than 10 years old now and its age was beginning to show. The need for a total revamp was spurred on by new EU emission laws.

Jane Omorogbe and the Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © PA)

The existing carburettor-fed Bandits wouldn’t pass Euro 3 regulations so Suzuki has had to completely re-invent the range. The strange thing is, at a glance, the differences between the old and the new are incredibly hard to spot, bar the huge exhaust pipe (which incidentally now has a different coating so it shouldn’t look so tarnished after a few thousand miles). That 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.

Jane Omorogbe and the Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © PA)

Brand new engine

The engine isn’t a revised Gixer lump, or a tweaked 1200, it’s been designed from scratch, specifically to suit the 2007 Bandit and it’s very impressive indeed - not only the way it feels, but also its innovative 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 ponder over the smaller fuel tank. It holds one litre less than the ’06 model, but the reserve is a whopping 7 litres! Overkill perhaps?

Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © Suzuki)

However, you will be pleased to hear that the new engine needs fewer service visits because the ‘bucket and shim’ mechanism means valve clearances need to be checked less often. Yes, this new model’s £250 more expensive, but you’ll save cash on the servicing costs and anyway, what price would you put on a fun day’s biking? The fuel injection system is Suzuki smooth, but the real grin factor weighs in heavily in the low down grunt of this neat, liquid-cooled engine. And when I say low down, I mean right down at the very, very bottom.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © Suzuki)

Flexibility equals useability

Peak torque is a tractor chugging 79.6lb/ft at a lowly 3,700rpm. That’s an increase of 18% over the 2006 bike, which produced 67lb/ft much higher up the rev range at 6,500rpm. So of course, I had to see just how far the revs could drop in top gear before the spluttering began. I took it down to 1,000 rpm. That’s a snail-speed 16mph in the new found (perhaps not entirely necessary) sixth gear. You’ve guessed it - the bike still pulled contentedly when I wound the throttle back! So you can imagine just how useable this engine is with real world riding.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © Suzuki)

The launch route took us on a variety of roads: motorways, through villages and across mountainous twisties around Mojácar in southern Spain. On the really challenging roads, 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 dusty bends threw themselves relentlessly under the front wheel. Not only does this type of grunt make a spirited ride feel confidence inspiring, it also has benefits for inexperienced or lazy riders. You can slow down for junctions or unexpected hazards and get away with staying in a high gear to accelerate away. It’s a forgiving lump, and that’ll please a lot of folk.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © Suzuki)

Ride and handling

Riding around bend after bend, the improved handling became apparent too. The whole bike feels modernised, 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. Torsional rigidity’s up by 10 per cent and the new black fork legs hint subtly at the internal changes. Stiffer springs means the bike wallows less. And if you do feel the need to tweak, the front’s adjustable with preload, and the single rear shock, with preload and rebound.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S (image © Suzuki)

Talking of adjusting to suit, the seat height has two optional settings, 790mm or 810mm. This isn’t a five second job as you have to re-install mounting spacers between the frame and seat, but it may be the deciding factor for some potential owners. I had the opportunity to ride a 2006 model back to back with the new 1250S. Not only was the engine significantly punchier lower down, but the 2007 bike also has a less vibey nature, especially on the footpegs. It’s not something that’s immediately noticeable, but Suzuki confirmed that it has gone to a lot of effort to dial out the unwanted buzz. It is subtle, but it’s also apparent.

And so was my sore neck after the motorway blast! The screen’s non adjustable and perhaps more than adequate for shorter riders. But remember, my giraffe neck’s taken a few hefty beatings in my previous life as a Gladiator. So it doesn’t really take much before I’m leafing through an accessories catalogue searching for the tallest screen available!

World Superbikes winner MSMW2012