Running alongside its smaller 650 brother, as it has for all but a year, the bigger-capacity Bandit provides an even more versatile option – though it still very much shares the 650 version’s character and usefulness.
It typifies the style of the more traditional roadster of the 80s and 90s, with its strong and basic design. Masculine and muscular, the beefy-looking brute is a bike likely to please those who want their machines to have some substance and attitude. And though it features modern engineering and electronics like water-cooling, fuel-injection and digital instruments, there’s little doubt the 1250 Bandit aims to ape the style of bikes from a former era.
In saying that, there’s no way you could term the Suzuki as dated. As big-bore roadsters go it looks grand and imposing. Any link to its heritage would have to be complimentary. Classic is a term it’s arguably not that far from deserving.
Those more familiar with the way big naked bikes used to behave 15-20 years ago will have no doubt about the big Bandit’s contemporary feel once it’s being ridden. Compared to them, the 1250 is light years ahead in terms of how it performs.
There’s no doubting its weight is a little old school though. Not too much time has been spent shaving off every conceivable kilo as it has with models like the GSX-R sportsbikes. I’m not the tallest or strongest person, and though I found the 1250 manageable enough, I do think it could be a bit of a limiting factor for some at times. My suggestion is to try it on the showroom floor and throw it around a little to see how comfortable it feels. This isn’t a bike you’ll be able to save that easily if you ever wrong-foot it. Though having the option to drop the seat to its lowest setting will be good news for anyone who struggles to get both feet planted securely on terra-firma.
Should you feel confident enough to give it a try out on the roads however, then you’ll instantly forget about any reservations you might have had earlier. Once in motion this is a much lighter and nimble motorcycle than it feels at rest.
Instant impressions are dominated by the superb engine. It’s a little old school in design too, and has such useful real world manners you can’t fail to become a fan. The capacity of the in-line four is undoubtedly influential in the relaxed and smooth way power is produced. This is not an engine that needs to be revved to give a substantial level of drive. Even if you just short-shifted your way through the slick six-speed gearbox and stayed well clear of the 9000rpm redline, I’d wager you’d find the Suzuki could still meet over 90% of your speed demands. And unless you’re in a real hurry then just using the top two ratios will be all that’s needed. Well, out on the open road at least.
I have to say, I’m a fan of power units like this. They make motorcycle travel so much less stressful, with their potent yet undemanding nature often meaning the throttle is the only thing that needs to be worked to adjust speed. Isn’t it funny how tedious the ‘effort’ of judging which gear you might need, and then having to pull in the clutch and tap the gearlever to select it so you can swiftly execute a move can be sometimes? And, more to the point, just how much more relaxing and preferable it is to yank the throttle and feel the force with no further action being required? Okay, I know it’s nice to work the left hand and foot, judging revs and ratios to get the best out of an engine. But just like it is with the 1250’s, it’s all the better to have that as an option rather than a necessity.
Not quite as easy-going is the big Bandit’s handling. With its weight and bulk, the Suzuki can’t quite match the agility of more recently built roadsters. It’s not what I’d call a handful, and only when you’re presented with something unexpected like a tricky corner will it cause you anything of a challenge. Plan well ahead and things will very rarely prove too much.
The classic streetbike riding position gives you a chance to dominate the bike rather than the other way round. Taking charge of the 1250’s bulk may sound challenging with the spec sheet revealing a quite weighty 245kilo dry weight. But provided you stay on top of the game by reading the road ahead well and having plenty of anticipation for changes in circumstances, then it’s actually a pretty easy ride. Overall handling is best described as leisurely more than lightweight or reactive.
Stability is very much a strong point though, and the Suzuki’s weight loads the suspension well enough to make it feel planted and able to cope with bumps quite well. It is one part of the bike that might earn a ‘could do slightly better’ verdict on the report card, thanks to its slightly crude feel at times. But judged in the context of the Bandit’s price, and the class in which it sits then the action of the forks and shock don’t warrant any more disapproval than that. I’m sure with some different tyres to the OE Dunlops, the issue would be less noticeable as their feedback isn’t as communicative as it could be. But they are the only things I’d change.
Nor would I modify much else on the 1250. As a bike fit to tackle a wide variety of tasks the Bandit is a winning package. Its comfort is a major bonus with the riding position offering a chance to ride all day without suffering much in the way of strains and pains. The broad seat provides all the support you’ll need between tank refills, and though most will find its position and those of the bars to their liking, both can be adjusted to help you feel even more at home on the bike. Only if you end up travelling at high speeds for sustained periods would you become critical of the Bandit. Do that and the upper body strain starts to become a bit much unless you adopt more of a prone position to shelter from the ravages of the wind.
Should much of your journeying be of that nature though, the faired SA version of the 1250 will solve all your physical dilemmas. Its upper fairing is generously sized, allowing much greater distances to be tackled. Like the smaller higher spec Bandit, the 1250SA also comes with ABS. The extras will lighten your wallet by another ?500, but considering the extra versatility offered by that model it’s not really too much of a price to pay. Given the higher speeds the 1250 can so easily achieve I personally would go for this version for both the comfort and security of the ABS.
Two main things either version of the bigger Bandit offers though is value and practicality. You get a hell of a lot of bike for your buck, and with details such as the centre stand, grab-rail, luggage securing posts, clock etc., the riding experience for you and a pillion is quite a civilised affair. There’s no doubting the 1250 Bandit is a very competent machine – whatever you want to use it for.
SUZUKI BANDIT 1250
Type: liquid cooled, 16-valve, dohc, in line four
Bore x Stroke: 79 x 64mm
Power (claimed): 96bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque (claimed): 80lb/ft @ 3700rpm
Final drive: chain
CHASSIS / COMPONENTS
Frame: Steel-tubed double cradle
Front: 43mm telescopic forks, adjustable preload
Rear: rising-rate monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound damping
Front: twin 310mm discs with four-piston calipers
Rear: single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Seat height: 785-805mm
Wet weight: 247kg
Fuel capacity: 19litres
Contact: 0845 850 8800, www.suzuki-gb.co.uk
Value for money: 4