No worry, Tom, we're professionals; and that's just the foot pegs carving a little niche for themselves in the pavement while the front end sticks to the road and the Macadam 90X tires let us know pretty much everything but the half-life of the pebbles they're coming in contact with. Granted, this is no racebike - or even a real sport bike when you get down to it - but for a semi-faired standard, it does a remarkable impression from time to time, given a bit of impetus from, lets say, a photographer in close proximity with a loaded camera pointed your way?
What's so impressive about this Bandit compared to previous iterations is not so much what it does well, as much as what it doesn't do:
The mirrors don't turn your rearward view into something that resembles a kaleidescope at anything above idle; the minimalist-looking fairing doesn't buffet your helmet until the paint job starts flaking off; the motor doesn't buzz your hands to the point that you're willing to clamp them in a vice just to see if there's a chance of ever recovering some feeling in them; and the front end doesn't turn to junk after 600 miles of fun - which is what this bike delivers far more frequently and in much greater quantity than you'd ever suspect.
When we sampled Suzuki's Bandit 600S a few months ago we were please with the bike, but not overly impressed. It was a good commuter and could pull off mild sport duty pretty well, but the motor was a bit on the wheezy side and, paired with an obnoxious buzz, not all that fun to do the highway drone on should there be ample mileage between your chosen set of curves. We expected similar things from the 1200 but, once again Suzuki has surprised us with a bike that is, pardon the cliche, more than the sum of its parts.
Bandit 1200 sales started off at a rather lowly 18,160 units in 1996 only to surpass the 60,000 mark for 1999 which is a three-fold increase in only three years, but Suzuki doesn't plan on stopping there. Having done extensive market research, they found that the average Bandit buyer is 35 to 44 years of age, has over 15 years of riding experience and uses the bike as a secondary vehicle primarily for sport touring duty which goes a long way towards explaining the focus of the Bandit's changes. At a retail price of $7,399 (an increase of only $150 US Dollars), it's no surprise that 87 percent of buyers say their number one reason for choosing the Bandit is value. But, thankfully, a neutered price tag does not come at the expense of diminished fun.
The design goal for the new Bandit was to, "maintain the Bandit's originality and distinctive character while refining performance and features." There was a paradox created in the execution of these parameters in that the design team wanted not only sportier performance, but a comfortable ride as well; the two of which rarely, if ever, go hand in hand.
"Yeah, baaaby. This bike is all about me. I am this bike on so many levels it's scary."
Suzuki hopes that they addressed most of the complaints from earlier models with this Year 2001 Bandit 1200S, starting with the larger fuel tank capacity. The new model carries 20 liters which is a one liter increase over the previous model. While this is definitely a good thing in the long run, a few of us on the intro noted a slightly more top-heavy feel to the (fully fueled) bike when compared - seat of the pants - to the previous version. As for the other improvements, there were fewer side-effects than with the larger gas tank.
The main targets with the motor were to improve what was not only sluggish throttle response, but carburetion that was excessively lean and was sometimes surge-happy when cruising along at certain RPM. Along the way, Suzuki felt it wise to empower the old mill with a few more foot-pounds of torque as well as some more horsepower at low and mid-range speeds, and who are we to argue with a notion like that?
Again, a caveat in that Suzuki - while addressing the lean surging - would attempt to clean up emissions even further, seemingly leading to even worse surging. But Suzuki was able to attain their lower emissions goal while not only eliminating most - if not all - of the surging and what was previously a rather wicked flat spot in the power with the help a new throttle position sensor (TPS) on the Mikuni BSR36 carburetors. Mated with ignition timing maps which are different not only from the previous year's version, but from each other as well. The number two and three cylinders and the number one and four cylinders have different maps that vary dependent upon throttle opening as well as engine RPM.
Even more power was found by changing the cam profiles and a few changes were made to stand up to the added oomph as well as to ensure longevity. The new oil cooler has grown from 280 mm tall to 355 mm tall while maintaining the same width which should allow the engine to make incrementally more power and last a bit longer. There's also a clutch release cylinder which grew from 35.7 mm in diameter to 38.1 mm that, coupled with stronger clutch springs should make for a clutch assembly that will be able to stand up to a few aftermarket add-ons without much in the way of fanfare. Only a few whiny people commented on a perceived increase in the force required to pull in the clutch lever. But they're weak and you're not. Right? Aaargh.
Adopting a similar system to that of Yamaha's Air Induction System (AIS), Suzuki has been fitting its Pulsed Secondary Air Injection System (PAIR) to California-bound Bandits, Hayabusas and GSX-Rs, that will now be standard issue on all Bandits in all markets. The PAIR system does not effect power output but it does add a few extra pounds to a machine which could already stand to lose a few pounds.
In Suzuki's efforts to endow the latest Bandit with "better stability and cornering performance," a few key dimensions have been tweaked. Unfortunately, American Suzuki doesn't have all the details as to what has been changed with the chassis so we can only give you a glimpse into what is the catalyst for a noteworthy increase in sporting performance.
The wheelbase has been shortened by five millimeters and now measures 1,430 mm, helped by the reduction in trail by three millimeters to 104 mm. To quicken steering the caster has been decreased by 0.2 degrees, and to help keep rider weight and overall mass lower to the tarmac, the seat height was reduced by 45 mm to 790 mm. This seat provides not only wonderful support for burning through consecutive tanks of gas, but also enough firmness to allow mobility when shifting body weight in the twisties. Unfortunately, the seat cover looks like something off of a mid-eighties Volvo station wagon; but it goes well with the metallic silver paint on our bike whose enormous glitter flakes remind us of this girl who dances at this seedy little joint down the road from our offices.
All we know about the changes to the front suspension so far is that it received fork tube guards. As for the rear, there's now a movable gas/oil separator in the shock. The front end features only pre-load adjustment while the rear features pre-load as well as rebound adjustment. Though that doesn't seem like anything substantial, the new Bandit feels surprisingly planted on twisty roads when you chose to elevate the speeds to the point that the footpegs start dragging just before picking up the throttle and whooshing out of the apex of a turn. The cornering clearance is ample as long as you ride the bike like a sport-tourer even though, with a good rider aboard, El Bandito can catch a far sportier bike with its newfound cornering prowess and strengthened motor which is about as smooth as any inline motor of this size has a right to be. Above 85 mph this thing is turbine smooth and makes triple-digit cruising law-breakingly simple.
Page2The Bandit 1200S gets softer spring rates than the standard Bandit 1200, while the latter has a single halogen headlamp in place of the dual projector beams of the S model. Suzuki's reasoning is that the "naked" version is more likely to be used for activities which border on "hooligan" while the S, with its fairing, is more likely to be used for sport touring where stiff springs are more of a detriment than an enhancement. The brakes on both models got upgraded to six-piston Tokico calipers squeezing 310 mm dual discs in the front with a single two-piston caliper clamping down on a 240 mm disc mounted in the rear. The front brakes are wonderful, providing good feel and stopping power while the rear binder could use some more power as well as some more feel unless somebody re-soled our Alpinestars with some quarter inch plywood when we weren't looking.
The wind protection on the new Bandit's front end is a marked improvement from that of the previous version. The fairing is taller and, presumably because of the opening at the front, it distributes airflow evenly enough that the buffeting is significantly reduced. The handlebars are slightly lower than on the old bandit which helps put a bit more weight on the front wheel, but there's not a significantly increased amount of pressure on your wrists. The ergonomic package Suzuki has put together should be acceptable to both the commuting clan as well as those who desire something a little more aggressive out of their chosen mode of transportation.
Other niceties on the new Bandit include a new grab bar and bungee hooks as well as a larger storage compartment and a center stand which requires less effort when lifting the bike off the ground. All of which add up to a machine that has the potential to be the sleeper bike of the year. With still-subdued looks mated to performance enhancements and handling characteristics that will give many a crotch-rocket fits on a Sunday morning back road.
Think of it as a Japanese BMW R1100S, but without bags; or as an inline-four VFR. Maybe even a Kawasaki ZRX1100 with wind protection, or a Honda Blackbird Light?
Any way you look at it, the new Bandit 1200S is ready to do business, and for only $150 US Dollars more than last year's model it's an absolute steal. We'd say the motorcycling public has just been introduced to a new high-mileage, high-fun mount that is almost without equal; at least until Yamaha's S1 arrives on the scene - if it ever comes along.
Brent Avis, Managing Editor:
Yeah, baaaby. This bike is all about me. I am this bike on so many levels it's scary.
I'm subtle and subdued to the point that some people say I lack personality. Ditto for the Bandito as it's no VFR800 or even BMW R1100S and, upon first glance, puts some to sleep. Well, OK. Maybe my lack of certain features is a bit boring, but ... Hello?
But then you get a chance to know me, and we start to warm up to one another. I just showered. Like my new clothes, too?
We have things in common. I might not be as narrowly focused or as astute as you at some things, but at least I can hold my own to the point where you need to keep interrogating me just to find out what else I'm capable of. You're constantly probing to find out when I'll break and show you what you have suspected to be my true colors all along. But I'll keep you guessing - and smiling - all the way to the end of the ride.
These are my true colors, and the Bandit really is this capable. Now leave me alone will you? Always picking on the underdog ... Sheesh!
Calvin Kim, Associate Editor:
"I found the Bandit 1200 to be fast. Really fast."I found the Bandit 1200 to be fast. Really fast. Someone once told me that Standard type motorcycles were slower than sport bikes. Excuse me? My route home takes me through notoriously tight and twisty curves where the Bandits improved suspension gets noticed. Separating these curves are short lengths of road where the torque really shines. Not once did I think, "Hmmm, I could be going much faster on a race-rep sport bike." Although, I found the brakes to be initially mushy, after a quick bleed, they were more than adequate.My only complaints? The vibration and mileage. If you could go 180 till reserve, and toned down the vibes a bit, the B12 would rank as my number one do-it-all motorcycle. Till then, it'll just have to settle being my... oh wait, all the positives far out-weigh the negatives. The strong motor, super comfortable ergonomics (6'00" with a 33" inseam), and great wind protection all combine to make a spectacular package. Call me biased, I liked the 600 version alot and this 1200 version addressed my main qualm with the lil' 6. Power.
Manufacturer : Suzuki
Model : Bandit 1200S GSF1200S (Faired)
MSRP : $7,399 (1200S), $6,999 (1200)
Engine : 1157cc, DOHC, 16 valve, air/oil cooled,
Bore/Stroke : 79.0 mm x 59.0 mm
Compression Ratio : 9.5:1
Carburetor : 4x Mikuni BSR36
Ignition : Digital/Transistorized
Transmission : 5-speed
Overall Length : 2070 mm (81.5 in.)
Overall Width : 765 mm (30.1 in.)
Overall Height : 1220 mm (48.1 in.)
Seat Height : 790 mm (31.1 in.)
Ground Clearance : 130 mm (5.1 in.)
Wheelbase : 1430 mm (56.3 in.)
Dry Weight : 220 kg (485 lbs.)
Suspension, Front : 43 mm, telescopic, oil damped,
Suspension, Rear : Link-type, 4-way adjustable
7-way adjustable preload
Brakes, Front : Dual, 6-piston,
310 mm hydraulic discs
Brakes, Rear : Single 240 mm hydraulic disc
Tires, Front : 120/70-ZR17
Tires, Rear : 180/55-ZR17
Fuel Tank Capacity: 20.0 liter (5.3 gal.)
Color: Burgundy, Silver
110.5 HP @ 8800 RPM
75.8 ft/Lbs @ 6300 RPM