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1998 Suzuki Bandit 1200
- Road Test -

Competence, Comfort and Fun!

Photos by: MN
Suits: AeroStich Two-Piece Roadcrafter, Helmet: HJC/Arai

Don't like cruisers? Hate that sport bike crouch position? Maybe the bike for you is a performance standard like Suzuki's exciting 1200 Bandit, which offers up one of the most compelling packages in motorcycling today.

The Bandit delivers considerable torque and acceleration, very good handling and exceptional comfort.  The 1157cc air/oil cooled engine gets it's heritage from the GSXR line. The power curve has been altered to provide good low-end and abundant mid-range power - just the kind of power delivery 99% of the riding public can use and enjoy most. Just crack the throttle and the big Bandit pulls hard, especially in the mid-range. Up top, the big engine keeps spinning but doesn't produce a high RPM rush like you would expect from a GSXR.

Though the Bandit can be ridden in the higher RPM range, it's much more fun and easier to ride when you keep the revs in the mid-range. This is especially true while traversing back roads. Here the bike will hang with all but the most serious sport bikes as the steering is surprisingly light and somewhat quick. The secret here is to short shift and let the engine do it's thing, winding it out will only slow you down. The slick shifting gearbox is a joy to use and the engine and it's exhaust note just keeps getting better the more you rev the bike. Under most conditions it's exceptionally easy to cover ground quickly on the Bandit.

As speeds increase the bike requires a firm tug on the bars to change direction, but the chassis stays quite stable under all conditions. When you want to scrub off speed, the Bandit offers up an excellent front binder to do the job. It's so strong, in fact, you'll often find yourself thinking of experimenting with brakies. We were disappointed in Suzuki's choice of front brake lever bend and it's positioning, as it hampers you from taking full advantage of the awesome front brake. The rear binder works just fine, though you often find the rear tire floating off the ground under hard braking.

The most notable feature of the Bandit, for us, is it's exceptional comfort. The seating position is straight up and neutral - no crouching forward, no reaching for the bars. The seat is flat and comfortable, and allows you to easily change positions on longer rides. There's lots of leg room for tall riders yet shorter riders also found the bike comfortable. The awkward looking windshield does a good job of deflecting the main wind blast off the rider so there's no fighting a wind blast when seated upright. The small fairing deflects most of the wind away from your hands and the wide engine cases negate any direct wind from reaching your feet. You do receive the full force of the wind from the neck up, though this is only tiring in high wind or high speed conditions. The only item that kept this bike from scoring a perfect 10 in the comfort category was the slightly odd shaped bars. They fit the bike well but could offer a slightly more comfortable bend.

Two areas of irritation for us were the bikes disappointing mirrors and levers. The round mirrors were steady and clear, but round mirrors simply don't give you as good a picture of what's behind as rectangular mirrors. The mirror stalks also looked like an afterthought and require as many as two wrenches to adjust. The levers are a bit awkward in shape and are two far away from the bars for even our 6'2" staffer. This makes more difficult to grasp and modulate. This was particularly noticeable when trying to squeeze maximum performance from the powerful front brake.

The other area of concern on our test bike was not one of design, but one pertaining to our particular test bike. The clutch was never quite right and turned to toast the first time we began to abuse it. Our test bike was a 1998 model that had been loaned out numerous times, so we can't point to the cause of our problems. Suzuki has offered us some time on a new 99 unit so we'll take them up on it if time permits. 

Gauges on the Bandit include a speedo, tach and the traditional warning lights, and they're all large and easy to read. We wish the bike came with a clock as it's so well suited to long rides or sport touring.

With such great comfort and roll-on power, the 1200 makes for a great sport tourer, a great commuter or just a fun and easy to ride weekend warrior. In fact, it's hard not to compare this bike to the legendary Honda VFR750 because of its all around capabilities. It's also got tons more grunt and is even more comfortable to ride.

If your looking for a comfortable do-everything bike with exciting performance, look no further than Suzuki's 1200 Bandit. It's a winner in our book.

Test note: Our test bike was a 1998 model. Suzuki made no significant changes to the 1999 model.

Suzuki: 1998 Bandit 1200 (GSF1200SW)
Quick Specs: Ratings:  Poor Fair Good V/Good Excellent
Displacement: 1157cc, DOHC 4-cylinder Acceleration                 9  
Drive:   5-speed, 530 chain Brakes                 9  
Fuel Capacity:   5.0 Gal. (1.2 reserve) Carburetion             7      
Fuel Mileage: 37 - 40 mpg Comfort (overall)                   9.5
Fuel Range:  185 - 200 miles Comfort (touring)                 9  
Susp. Front: Telescopic, preload Finish (quality)             7      
Susp. Back: Link-type, Single Shock Handling (overall)                 9  
Tire Front: 120/70 - ZR17 Stability (handling)                 9  
Tire Back: 180/70 - ZR17 Suspension (overall)               8    
Weight:   Dry - 471 lbs.

Fun Factor

                9  
Retail (US): $7,199

Overall Rating

                9  

 

Ups Downs
Comfort, comfort, comfort. Throw away the mirrors - please.
Fun to ride. Cold blooded when starting.
Strong front brake /
Excellent shifting.
Lots of engine noise
while worming up - typical for
Suzuki engines of this type.
Mid range grunt. Poor lever shape / positioning.
Price, price, price. Too much reserve (1.2 Gal.)

Suzuki makes some
of the best OEM
racks available. Small
and stylish!

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