Suzuki Bandit: the models, the rivals and the verdict

The Suzuki Bandit range is very versatile

Perfect for year-round commuting, weekend rides, touring and even spawning its own race series, the Suzuki Bandit name has been a part of UK motorcycle culture for over 20 years.

With a dedicated cult following that stretches from restricted A2 licence riders, to vastly experienced riding veterans, the Bandit will be your best friend on the daily, inner-city ride and conjure plenty of smiles per mile on your favourite backroad. 

Ranging from grey import GSF400s to beefy 1250s, the recipe was always the same; shove a bullet-proof detuned inline four engine into a proven chassis and offer up a smattering of basic mod-cons. The result was a well-priced, competent and relatively trouble-free range of motorcycles.

Cornering on the Suzuki Bandit

The formula was so simple in fact that in 1996, if you combined the sales of the naked and half-faired GSF600 Bandit, it was the best-selling motorcycle of the year. Flash forward to present day and plenty of old-school Bandits can still be found on Britain’s roads, used either as daily transport, or as well-kept weekend toys.

Put simply, there is a Bandit for everyone. Join us as we count down the history of this iconic Japanese name.

Middleweight madness

Introduced in 1996, the middleweight Suzuki Bandit variants survived until 2012, before being killed off with ever-more-stringent emissions regulations. The original 600 upright; the GSF600, was so popular that it actually spawned the whole budget naked class, opening the floodgates to bikes like the Yamaha XJ600 Diversion and Honda CB600F Hornet.

It was great for novices and commuters, thanks to its combination of an aging but acceptable supersport engine, basic, straightforward roadster chassis and keen price tag.

This was then followed by the Suzuki GSF650 Bandit in 2005. For this, Suzuki simply bored out the older bike’s engine by 57cc. Although there isn’t much between them, the newer machine was significantly less vibey. You can also find ABS versions, which cost an additional £300 when new. An ignition-based immobiliser came as standard, too.

A look at the Suzuki GSF600 from the 1200

For 2007 and 2008, the bike transgressed from carbs to fuel injection and gained water cooling. Suzuki also upped the power and torque and gave the bike a new frame for an added 10% stiffness. What’s more, the shock was stiffer, however the front end became slightly softer.

2007 also saw the introduction of the Suzuki GSX650F and although it was never officially called a 'Bandit' the bike was effectively the aforementioned GSF with a stylish fairing chucked in for good measure. Retaining the trade-mark good value mantra, the GSX650F received tweaks to the fueling to rev a little higher than the Bandit. There was also a more sporty shock, rubber-mounted lower bars and a new one-piece seat. 

In 2009, the final instalment of the Bandit 650 family gained a styling overhaul featuring new mirrors, clocks, a black engine and a slimmer tail light. For £500 more, you can have a half-faired version. 

Baby Bandit's big brothers

In action in 1996 on the original Bandit 1200

Alongside the middleweight Bandits sit a selection of larger naked and faired 1200 and 1250 machines. Much like the original GSF600, the first full-fat 1152cc GSF1200 Bandit was also launched in 1996 and was an instant hit.

Using a Suzuki GSX-R1100-derived engine, its simplicity makes it a customiser’s dream, with plenty of scope to squeeze more oomph out of its 100bhp inline four. From 2000, the bike got a bit softer and touring-biased, complete with a nicer finish.

This was part of a 116-strong set of tweaks and in 2004 Suzuki GB lopped a full £450 off the price. This then declined a further £300 the following year.

From 2007, the bike received a bigger bore engine to become the GSF1250 Bandit. The update came to help the bike pass more stringent EU legislation and saw it climb by 98cc to a 1255cc water-cooled, fuel-injected torque monster. 

A genuine all-rounder and famed for its reliability, the bike was also available as a 1250SA addition with ABS and an adjustable seat. In 2010, Suzuki also appeared with the GSX1250F, too. Although almost entirely the same bike, the machine gained a sportier look and new accessories.

The rivals

Large-capacity muscle bikes provide stiff competition

The Suzuki Bandit family inspired a generation of well-priced do-it-all roadsters. As such, there are now any number of potential rivals to these machines, ranging from brand-new A2-compliant or restrictable nakeds like the Yamaha MT-07, to old-school carbed machines like the plucky Honda Hornet.

Also consider a number of hefty upright muscle machines, like the Kawasaki ZRX1100 and 1200, as well as the Honda CB1300S to do battle with the GSF1200 and GSF1250.

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