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New mask hides the old Bandit

2011-11-08 11:09


Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer SUZUKI
Engine Fuel-injected, DOHC, transverse, 1255cc four-stroke
Power 70.5kW
Torque 108Nm
Transmission Six-speed constant mesh
Fuel Tank 19 litres
Weight 257kg
Steering Handlebars
Tyres F: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W), tubeless; R: 180/55ZR17M/C (73W), tubeless
Front Suspension Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped
Rear Suspension Link type, coil spring, oil damped
Price R105 000
When we recently reported on the introduction of the Suzuki GSX-1250FA in South Africa, we remarked on the almost cult following Suzuki’s Bandit series enjoyed in Europe and America. Although Suzuki pointedly steers clear of the Bandit name for the current iteration, the 1250FA is little more than a Bandit with a full fairing.

Suzuki kindly loaned us a 1250FA for review, giving me the opportunity to find out first-hand what it is about this bike that makes it so well-loved. On paper the FA, like the 1250S Bandit it is based on, appears extremely disappointing. With only 70.5kW being produced by the 1255cc mill for the purpose of hauling its 257 kg bulk, the bike appears woefully underpowered.

However, the 108Nm of torque on tap, most of it available practically from idle, changes the picture drastically. In is, in fact, the latter figure that totally defines the bike’s character.


Apart from the fairing, the most obvious changes to the FA are a new GSX-R-like instrument pod (complete with gear position indicator) and a headlight styled in keeping with the look of Suzuki’s sport bike range. The fairing endows the bike with a modern, attractive look that belies its retro DNA and moves it firmly from the hooligan category into the realm of sport touring. It also gives decent weather protection, the sine qua non of sport tourers.

Less obvious, but very evident on the road, is the new fuel mapping for the FA. With the top part of the torque curve almost as flat as Table Mountain, this has not only tamed the Bandit’s hooligan-ish character, but also placed maximum torque squarely in the 3000-6500 rpm range. Riders looking for a manic rush in the upper rev range need not apply – after 6500 rpm the bike’s urge all but disappears.

But before you write the Suzuki GSX-1250FA off as gutless, consider the fact that 100 km/h comes up after 2.9 seconds and that cruising at highway speed has the engine spinning a whisker under 4000rpm. In other words, at virtually any speed (even well over the national speed limit) you have the bulk of the bike’s torque available at a twist of your wrist.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: A new instrument pod on the Suzuki GSX-1250FA includes a gear position indicator and a programmable shift light.

The resulting roll-on acceleration is extremely satisfying, and makes open-road overtaking almost a non-event.

The FA handles surprisingly well, but the tube frame means that you would be well advised not to tangle with the lighter, nimbler sport bikes in the twisties. The bike’s considerable weight and softer suspension also play a role here, although much of the weight seems to disappear once the FA’s wheels start rolling. Competent enough in fast sweeps while touring the roads less travelled, this is not a bike I would want to use on a track day.

Thanks to the use of a secondary balance shaft, the FA’s engine is butter-smooth. This, combined with the not-overly-firm suspension, makes the bike feel much more refined than what you might expect in view of its price tag. At cruising speed there is very little vibration, which means less rider fatigue on long distance rides. The seat, though well-shaped, is a little too soft for my liking, but this could be down to personal taste.

STAND AND DELIVER: The Suzuki GSX-1250FA's centre-stand adds weight but makes maintenance easier.

What does mar the impression of refinement somewhat, though, is the fact that the gearbox is very clunky. I did get the hang of it after a few days, but I could never really get smooth gear changes.

In the final analysis, the Suzuki GSX-1250FA (like its Bandit predecessors) is a lot of bike for the money. It lacks some of the mod cons of more upmarket sport tourers, but the R105 000 price tag more than makes up for it. It's a refined and competent machine with an unstressed engine that should last just about forever. While it has a few draw-backs, the FA represents exceptional value for money.

Throw in an extra R10 000 for GSX-1250FA GT with factory panniers and a top-box, and you will have a bike that will not only happily take you to wherever the road may lead but also double up as a remarkably practical everyday mount.

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