Super Special: Rob Bean's Suzuki XR69 rep
With Suzuki's XR69 being the four-stroke weapon of choice for classic TT racers, lust – and prices – at an all-time high for the brutal 'Xperimental Racer'. Which is why this Bandit-based replica is so inspiring.
his Suzuki XR69 replica isn’t what it might at first appear. It manages to combine disparate elements from the bike world yet still arrive at a finished machine looking like the work of a professional tuning shop. Owner Rob Bean, a 32-year-old aircraft engineer from Lincolnshire, spent five months over winter building this bike from an aftermarket cafe-racer frame, an 18,000-mile Bandit 1200 and a combination of eBay bargain finds.
There were also a few bits Rob had kept ‘just in case’ at the back of his lock-up garage. It’s an unusual pathway to a Suzuki XR69 replica – they normally take the form of air-cooled GS1000 motors in bespoke frames.
The unpainted steel tubular frame cost £900 and was sold by Hard Up Choppers. It was intended for use in a stripped-down cafe racer but Rob saw potential in it for an XR69 replica and realised he might be able to sort it within his £5000 budget.
Rob explains: “It’s the angle of the rear frame rail and the way it runs which looks similar to the XR69. I knew it could look right and I was very clear I didn’t want to just build a Bandit with a replica XR69 fairing. That was not what I wanted to do.”
A clean donor
Finding a clean donor Bandit 12 took a while but a ’98 model with just 18k appeared and it was also decked out with some high-end accessories including an extended swingarm, Öhlins shock, wavy discs and “all of the usual stuff you see on Bandits”. All of this was sold, clawing back all but £800 of the initial £2500 the Bandit donor bike cost.
The build started by stripping the engine, carbs, electrics and much of the running gear from the Bandit 1200 before a set of Suzuki GSX-R750 SRAD forks were grafted on and the whole lot was slotted into the frame once it was modified.
The chassis modifications included alterations to incorporate some underseat crossbeams which mount the ECU, battery and fusebox. A new set of mounting points for the Ragged Edge Racing fairing kit were welded on by a mate and the rearset mounting plates were fixed in place, as were brackets for the coils before another mate powdercoated the whole frame.
Rob added: “I ended up changing the 750 upside down forks for a pair from an SRAD 600 as they looked less modern. They were more in keeping with the look I was after for the bike. I wanted to maintain the spirit of the original XR69 for the replica because they just look so right.
“You don’t even have to be into bikes to see race machines from that era and recognise they look good. It’s the simplicity, the way those machines look so clean, single-minded and purposeful. I think they look stunning.”
The Hard Up Choppers frame is designed primarily for oil-cooled GSX-R750 motors, so getting the Bandit 1200 lump to fit wasn’t that much of a task for Rob. He told PS: “None of the engineering work was too difficult to get sorted. I did the entire wiring loom myself. I get bored very easily and I would rather learn how to do something than pay someone to do it for me. I just sit there in the evenings and learn how to do something and then get on with it.”
The swingarm called on the help of yet another friend who is part of Rob’s bartering network where a working trade of parts, work and favours are all part of the deal. Rob wanted a top-braced swingarm like the original XR69 TT-F1 bike he was replicating and spent hours working out how it was going to look. The slightly rough and ready finish to the welding was incorporated deliberately as that’s just how the factory Suzuki race bike looked.
Rattlecans & patience
Most of Rob’s winter build went smoothly, but when it came to spray painting the fairing kit it became much tougher. A rueful Rob recalls: “It took four weeks to paint the fairing and it was all done with rattle-can paint and patience. I will be buying a compressor and spraygun now. I learnt a really big lesson there.”
Rob has been piling the miles on the bike around Lincolnshire. He says: “It rides really, really well. It’s not that much different in size to a modern 400cc sportsbike but you have all that torque from the 1200cc motor. It’s very easy to ride but the handling is a little flighty and I will be having a play with the suspension to sort that out.”
Engine 1998 Suzuki Bandit 1200, air/oil-cooled 1157cc inline-four, 5° ignition advancer, Mikuni GSX-R 36mm carbs jetted to suit, K&N twin pod filters, Vance & Hines Supersport exhaust system with titanium Danmoto end-can. APS double-size oil-cooler with braided lines and aero-style fittings, carburettor heatshield by Simon Francis Services.
Chassis Hard Up Choppers ‘Savage’ cafe racer steel-tube frame with added headstock bracing, fairing mounts and seat-unit supports. GSX-R750 Slingshot swingarm with homemade box-section top bracing, adjustable suspension linkages, R6 rear shock, Bandit 1200 rear wheel and brake caliper, GSX-R600 SRAD front-end (complete) with Bandit 1200 calipers.
Bodywork and other bits Ragged Edge Racing XR69 Bodywork, with thermal liner, VFR400 front mudguard, home-made wiring loom, Sigma mountainbike speedo, GSX-R750 Slingshot rev-counter and oil light, car headlight, handmade aluminium undertray/electrics holder. Rattle-can paintjob.
Pics: Ian Jubb