2010 Suzuki GSX1250FA Review – The Respect It Deserves

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Suzuki has divorced the name “Bandit” for the GSX1250FA, much as it has the GSX650F, untying the bike from what has become a lineage of bland visual design and daily commuter associations. Then the Japanese brand went a step further and gave the FA a GSX-R fairing treatment and headlight, so the response at first glance from those at a recent group ride was, “I thought you were bringing the Bandit.”

“Err, you mean GSX1250FA right? Suzuki’s dropped the Bandit bit.” Ok, so not everyone will remember that anonymous string of letters and numbers, or drop the Bandit appellation, but there’s a bigger strategy at work here. Suzuki, with a little plastic, a change of name and a dash lifted from the GSX-R, has dropped the dowdy and conservative Bandit image. This is a marketing transformation of a bike, which deserves far more respect than it has ever garnered in the North American market place.

Other changes between this and the previous generation of Bandit are minor. The forks feature heavier springs and firmer rebound damping to compensate for the fairing’s extra weight and there’s an additional radiator fan to aid with cooling and compensate for the insulating value of the new bodywork.

Priced at $11,799 the GSX1250FA is a bargain of a sport-tourer, with standard equipment including a centrestand, ABS, and a height-adjustable seat or there’s the GSX1250SE which adds a higher windscreen, hardbags and a top case for $13,299.

The height adjustable seat though is the most extreme thing about the GSX1250FA, the manual suggests taking the bike into the dealer to raise the seat height or you can spend a couple hours looking at this upholstery of the damned. In the end you need to separate the seat entirely from its base, and I’d recommend the instructions found at BanditAlley.Net rather than going it alone. The process would be acceptable if it was required to maintain the comfort of the GSX1250FA’s seat, but it’s not. In a word, the seat is brutal, luckily with the GSX1250FA’s price point you’ll have a bit of cash in pocket for a custom one.

The rest of the ergonomics are exactly as you’d expect; genial and refined. Seat raised for my 6’2” height the FA was more comfortable than my former VFR800. The windscreen is low, putting you out into a clean stream of air and the elements, but the aftermarket awaits for those who prefer otherwise.

The heart and soul of this bike is the “new in 2007” 1255cc inline-four, which turns out liquid power like a nitroglycerine squeeze tube with each roll-on. It’s not manic, but third gear and the sweep to red-line on the tach, will see you passing handily. As important, the fueling for the inline-four is nearly flawless, with only a slight hesitation when transitioning from roll-on to roll-off with the throttle.

In the corners GSX1250FA is an easy ride, predictable fueling and utterly usable power compensate for the softly sprung suspension and the bike is pure point and shoot out of the apex. It’s not a hard-core sport bike, but the FA will happily hold its own with the Triumph Sprint ST or VFR800. Though, pushed to a hard lean angle, the bike does tend to undulate sideways over wallows in the pavement, with limited adjustment (preload in the front and compression and preload in the rear). Overall though, the ride is solid, predictable and plush.

In sporting terms, the GSX1250FA isn’t a small fry; it weighs in at 257kg/567lb fuelled and ready to ride. That’s a bit heavier than the outgoing VFR800’s 250 kg (551 lb), and svelte in comparison to the new VFR1200FA’s 268 kg (591 lb), and an even match for the 254kg (560lb) BMW’s K1300S. The Bandit kicks all these bikes around the block in terms of power. Ok, not horsepower, the GSX1250FA only develops 97bhp, but torque – the stuff that counts for effortless passing and two-up riding. The money number is 81 lb.ft (11.2kgm, 110Nm), down in the tach’s 3,700rpm basement.

The liquid cooled power plant delivers utterly seamless hydraulic thrust in any gear and at near any rpm. Suzuki had put the torque curve on an anvil and sledge hammered it into an utter usable level – if BMW had developed a K engine this smooth and refined there’d have been a huge fanfare, but with the “non-Bandit” line it’s just expected. From the feel of it this plant is one of the least taxed on the market, and I expect its life expectancy to be similar to Methuselah’s.

Near electric, you really can just leave the affirmative shifting gearbox in third and idle around town in near silence. Yes, the bike is quiet. Stealth quiet, even at full chat, that likely comes down to the massive grape-fruit launching pipe hanging off the right-hand side of the bike. Strangely that’s not a complaint; this bike is one of the easiest to ride and most genial on the market, so quiet fits.

While the weights may be similar, there is another major difference between the GSX1250FA and other sport-tourers on the market; simplicity. There is a feeling with the Suzuki that if anything were to go wrong on the road, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to repair it. That’s a commodity in a niche where bikes have seen a massive jump in technological complexity over the past two years with features like electronically adjustable suspension, traction control and linked braking.

When you get down to it the Suzuki GSX1250FA is about a 1000 times more usable and useful than the plethora of visceral, shout in you face, scream in your ear, manic sportbikes on the market. It’s also a downright simpler and less expensive to maintain than the latest batch of big technology sport-tourers like Honda’s VFR1200FA, BMW K1300S or Ducati Multistrada 1200. A genial generalist in a world of specialists, we hope the GSX1250FA finally gets the respect in North America it deserves by putting on the sporting wolves’ clothing of GSX-R styled fairings. As importantly the marketing works, throwing a leg over the GSX1250FA the other day while clad in sport leathers, I don’t think I looked like a total poser. After all with we aren’t all ready to trade in for hi-viz one-piece textile suits the moment we ride a sport-tourer.

Suzuki GSX1250FA MSRP: $11,799 Canadian

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. rapier says:

    Sort of like my 95 Gpz1100 which was fine but no match for my ZZR1200 who’s only drawback is too much power and iffy fueling from the last street bike out of Japan with carbs.

    In this segment more attention should be paid in reviews to all aspects of wind protection. Admittedly not so easy without some times. The ZZR is seemingly impervious to side winds and dreaded front quartering winds. At least 5 times better than the Gpz was. I drove across Nebraska to the front range over two days with heavy south winds and wore out one side of my front tire. In such conditions the ZZR just steams ahead. Heavy wind tunnel work must have been done on the thing. Wind protection also really means smoothness of wind flow since your upper body and head are in the wind. If your talking sport touring air management is a vital deal maker or breaker. I wish more focus was put on it for those people heading out for thousands of mile trips.

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    1. One of the problem with wind protection is it’s very much height dependent. For myself, at 6’2″, unless the bike has a livingroom window, I’m exposed. That said, I’d likely be putting an aftermarket touring screen on the GSX1250FA. The bike didn’t seem overly affected by sideways gusts, and doesn’t kite like the KTM 990 Adventure or the new Multistrada 1200S. In the wet, the sport inspired fairing doesn’t offer much in the way of protection, even compared to the outgoing VFR 800.
      Cheers,
      Neil

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  2. Brian says:

    How is it ergonomically for the taller rider? I’m 6’4″ and I generally lean toward the V-Strom for the less-cramped, more upright position. Can you see long trips on this?

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    1. It’s ok, but not great. I’m 6’2″ and found the bike a bit cramped in the legs (but not near as bad as any sport offerings). I’d lean towards a custom seat for longer trips. Check wil me later in the summer as I’ll have a chance to try the bike with a touring screen later in July.

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  3. Michael says:

    I’m really interested in this bike as a sport touring machine as my SV1000S while a fun canyon bike just doesn’t cut it on trips over 350km. I wish someone would review the SE version of the ‘Bandit’ over a long weekend trip (two up would be nice) so that readers know what to expect. The bags, vario screen etc. Is there any chance you could test this version. No one else seems to be doing this on the Net or in print.

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    1. Michael,
      Let me talk to Suzuki and see what we can do. It might not be the Vario screen, but I’m sure they’d be willing to help us get a two up review of a fully equipped touring version together. Great idea for a writeup.
      Neil

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  4. Michael says:

    Thanks Neil I think a lot of people are waiting to read a review of the ‘touring’ version. I’ve seen a lot of ‘Bandit’ forums where they keep asking about the SE version but there is no review to be found. Everyone keeps reviewing the ‘sport’ version. I’ll post a link to your website on the Bandit forums if that’s ok with you. I think you’ll get a lot of traffic. Is there a reason why Suzuki wouldn’t provide the vario screen? I thought it was part of the SE package.
    I wish suzuki would get a bit more serious about this segment. As far as I can tell they are the only major manufacturer that doesn’t have a stong presence in the touring market. I laugh when I see my friends C90 ‘Touring’ bike. Are they kidding me? Just so you know I’m a big Suzuki fan I just think they’re missing the boat here big time. I don’t want to have to buy an FJ or Concours etc.

    Michael

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    1. Michael,
      Let me double check the Vario. I know Suzuki will be willing to fit the bike with the taller screen from the Touring package, but I’m not 100% sure that’s the Vario. I agree that Suzuki has been left behind in the touring segment, though there’s a lot to be said for the GSX1250’s simplicity and usability. I have to run the GSX-R 750 we were testing back later in the week so will organize it all then. Most likely it with be the FA kitted with all the SE bits to transform it. Would that be ok? Now I need to find a willing passenger. 🙂
      Oh, and you are completely welcome to post the link.
      Cheers,
      Neil

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  5. Michael says:

    Hey Neil,
    I’m just wondering if Suzuki agreed to let you test the GSX1250 with the touring package and when you might be doing this.

    Michael

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    1. Michael,
      Suzuki did indeed kit the bike out, complete with the Vario screen. I’m off to do a car review for a couple days, then I need to source a willing passenger for a two-up test. I’ll try get to it by end of the month. Can’t promise though, the schedule is a bit hairy at the moment.
      Neil

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  6. rapier says:

    Neil, the comment on the KTM and Multistrada “kiting” is exactly what I was talking about. This stuff never seems to get mentioned in tests. I guess lighter, taller and more vestigial body work pretty much guarantee more reaction to wind. Still I suspect really good design of the body work can make a huge difference. As I said this is one area where the big ZZR excels. No wind condition much affects it. In 55K miles I have never been going down the road leaned into the wind. Maybe the other newer big touring bikes are as good.

    This is separate from the air the rider is taking or how smooth that air is. Of course your going to be in the air unless your behind a Gold Wing size window. That’s why all those Wingers ride with shirtsleeves and open face helmets in seeming serenity. If your in the air you need a good, aerodynamic full helmet and good riding jacket. It always seems that people are trying to put taller screens on which often doesn’t help. Pretending they can block the air but only making it more perturbed.

    Nothing is perfect I guess. I am drawn to getting off the big ZZR beast and getting something like a Versys perhaps. Just something that can go on gravel roads, even iffy ones, and the highway. No test of the V mentions its ability to deal with side and headwinds. Maybe all smaller bikes suck under those conditions and it’s a given?

    Just to go on far too long. I think there are two issues with air. One how the bike reacts to heavier side and heading winds and how smooth is the air is on the body. I think it’s a distinction with a difference which is ignored.

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    1. Wish I could help with the Versys and sidewinds, but Kawasaki is located in the centre of the universe (Toronto) so we’re hard pressed to get anything to test. That said, pop over to the Versys forums and ask the questions.
      Agreed that the distinction between air flow and wind protection is often missed, or one or the other is ignored (I’ll try keep that in the mix for future reviews). Sadly it seems windscreen design is often a mater of styling rather than functionality.
      Cheers,
      Neil

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  7. Michael says:

    Hi Neil,
    I’m just wondering if you’ve had a chance to test ride the GSX1250 with the touring setup yet.
    As well, I noticed that Suzuki has reduced the size of the luggage this year I assume becuase the previous top box was pushing passengers too far forward into the rider’s back. Unfortunately I don’t think you can store two full face helmets in them which to me is an oversight. Do you think that the luggage capacity is adequate for two people over a five day period?
    I’m 6′ tall and my girlfriend is 5’9″ tall. I’ve heard that the passenger footpegs are too tall for longer legs. I noticed that when I sat on one at a dealership earlier this year but perhaps in use it’s not that bad. What is your experience? If I changed the seat to something thicker do you think the footpeg to seat height would be sufficiently comfortable for a 6 footer?
    Lastly, does the Vario screen actaully work? Would it be worth spending the dollars on it?

    Regards,

    Michael

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    1. Michael,
      I’m afraid I haven’t yet. I partially sliced the end off my thumb and had to take some time off to recover, which pushed out the testing schedule. I will try get this test in and answer your questions by mid-Sept if that’s ok?
      Cheers,
      Neil

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  8. Richard says:

    I have now ridden some 26,000 kilometers on my 2008 Bandit 1250SEA (Canadian model)in all kinds of weather conditions and all altitudes – solo and two-up. The reviewer is right about this bike in all his comments, especially about that incredible engine; turbine smooth and torque, torque, torque. I’ve owned a Honda St1300 and have ridden a BMW K1300GT several times and i still prefer the GSF1250 / GSX1250 overall.

    It handles very well, is quiet, runs on regular grade fuel, easy to work on, passes like a rocket and is very agile at low speeds. I’m 5’7″ and have added a Givi windshield which has made long trips much less tiring. It is very sure-footed in heavy rain and wind. The ABS brakes are ‘good’ but I may replace the lines with braided steel to get more feel and less required pressure. I have tested the ABS on freshly rained-on, greasy pavement and it is virtually undetectable. The OEM seat is junk as are most factory standard seats. I bought a Sargent seat and can now spend many continuous hours in the saddle with minimum pressure points. I’ve done extensive work on the electricals to equip it with Oxford heated grips (great product), Heat-Troller controls for vests (also great product), Steibel air horn (make’em drop their cellphone), Scorpion alarm system, plug-ins for Battery Tender and electric air pump. This is a lot of bike for the money and I expect I’ll keep mine for many happy kilometers.

    But it does IMHO have two issues – remember my comments apply to the 2008 model and may not apply to 2009 & 2010.

    Issue 1 (minor): Mediocre headlight for night riding – for me this is not a big issue as I avoid night riding anyway, for obvious reasons.

    Issue 2: I use a Givi V46 top case along with the 2 Givi Monokey side cases. All the cases work very well BUT the mounting bracket for the top case positions the case too far foreward. The effect of this is to encroach on the overall seat length for rider & pilion. In other words with the top case mounted the pilion is crowded forward against my back – and my favorite pilion is not a large person. I don’t know about you but I find it very tiring to have anything / person jammed against my back which forces me forward against the tank. We’re talking long trips here. So my advice to anyone considering this bike for two-up riding is to sit on this bike with a friend, with full riding gear on and see if you feel crowded. Suzuki / Givi may have corrected this shortcoming but you need to be sure. The pilion seat is already rather small.

    Overall, awsome bike (and I’ve had many)

    Ride safe.

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  9. Michael says:

    Hi Richard,
    Regarding the top box intruding into the pillion rider’s space, I was looking at the Givi Canadian website and they list the dimensions of their luggage. I noticed that the E45 is about 150mm (6″) shallower than their 46 litre top boxes and it holds two helmets. I don’t think it looks as nice as the other Givi bags but it should solve the problem. I think. You can see what I mean here: http://www.givi.ca/en/config_choose.php
    I noticed that Suzuki has installed a 37 litre top box on the new GSX1250 to eliminate the problem. I’m not sure if it works but you do lose about 20% storage capacity which you would pretty much get back with the E45 and give the pillion rider their space. From your experience do you think this would work? As well, I watched a video review of the new GSX1250 from Britain and they showed that you can’t fit a full faced helmet in the Suzuki/Givi sidebags. They look like the Givi V35. Is that your experience?
    If purchasing an E45 would solve that problem then the next major problem would be how to lower the passenger footpegs about 40mm.

    Regards,

    Michael

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  10. Richard says:

    Hi Michael. I think you’re probably right about using a Givi E45 as a topcase to gain a little more pilion seating room. As it happens my brother has a set of them for his V-Strom. Next time I visit him I’ll borrow the E45. Mind you he lives about 800km from me so it probably won’t happen till next spring.

    As for the Monokey side cases I really like them. It’s true that you can’t fit most helmets in them but that’s not an issue for me. I usually travel with a Python cable lock which I use to secure jackets and helmets to my bike – works for me. The cable also let’s me secure the bike at night when I’m traveling.

    Everyone has a different view of appearance. I don’t care for the cosmetic changes Suzuki made to the top and side cases. I think they look cheaper. The body work is OK but I still prefer my 2008 GSF.

    Two other things which I forgot to mention on my last post:

    I recently installed a set of Pirelli Angel ST tires. The Bridgestone BT021 were fine (good ole’ reliable) but the Angel ST’s bring a whole new feel to the bike – noticeably faster / lighter steering. Haven’t ridden them much in the rain so I can’t comment on that yet. So far the wear, after 7,000km is excellent and I think they will outlast the Batlax which are already pretty good. Worth a try for any of you guys out there with big Sport / Touring bikes.

    The rear spring preload on my 2008 GSF is quite possibly the most difficult to change of any bike I’ve ever ridden. It is a cheap, notchy mechanism which you are supposed to adjust by using a supplied wrench which is almost impossible to fit in the space provided. Fortunately the ‘average’ setting seems to work for me 90% of the time. I may still replace the rear shock with a good after-market unit later.

    For anyone looking at buying one of these, you can’t go wrong with this bike unless it doesn’t suit your type of riding (that applies to any bike doesn’t it?. Although not a sport bike it can really dangle, the acceleration from low – midrange speeds is like an RPG, it is soooo easy to ride and live with, approx 340km fuel range, good manners, not twitchy, totally reliable, after adjustments to the ergos it is comfortable enough for long days in the saddle although it is not an ST-1300. It is simpler to work on than all other bikes in it’s category. Because this is a lower output engine (raw horsepower) it will likely have a long trouble-free life. I’ve had several Suzukis and they have all been extremely reliable. I still have a 08 Wee-Strom which I ride often. And then there’s price

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  11. Michael says:

    Hey Neil,
    How’s your thumb? I assume you won’t be able to test the GSX1250 with the touring setup this year afterall. Is that correct?

    Regards,

    Michael

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    1. I’m so sorry. I couldn’t get to the Touring setup review. It was more a function of time I needed to put into our next couple of adventure series than the thumb healing up (though that didn’t help).

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  12. Michael says:

    Hey Neil,
    I’m sorry that you couldn’t get to test the GSX with the touring setup. Maybe next year. I hope the thumb heals well. Have a good winter.

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  13. Brett says:

    Neil / Richard.

    I am 6’2′ and currently own a GSX750F and wether it be the seat or whatever, riding for long periods of time are a pain. Is the seat on the 1250FA really that much of a nuisance? I’ve been looking at them for a bit and was about to buy one, but this has put me off a little.

    Brett

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  14. Richard says:

    To Brett:

    Things like seats and windscreen effectiveness….etc are very subjective and dependent on the dimensions, body type, weight and your dimensional relationship to the bike. I had found the GSF1250 seat to be OK for up to say 2 hours, after which I’d be moving around frequently to to reduce pressure points on my ‘sit’ bones. I experienced the same discomfort on my Wee-Strom and my BMW F800gs so may that’s just how I’m built. I really prefer a wider seat which spreads the load and yet narrows at the front so I can hug the tank when in twisties and also help to reach the ground (I’m 5’7″). I wouldn’t let the OEM seat put you off from buying this bike as the seating is such an easy fix. Besides, with the substantial dollars you save by buying this bike as opposed to more upscale bikes in this class (ST1300, Concourse, FJR1300) you can afford to tailor it to your preferences. You may want to spend a little time researching what after-market seats are made for this bike. I happen to feel that Sargent seats offer good comfort and value for the cost. I’ve purchased a Sargent seat for the GSF1250, DL-650 and F800GS and I ride about 20,000 miles / year. One additional factor for me is that Sargent has consistently provided my with good service / delivery in Canada as opposed to another well-known manufacturer who doesn’t appear to think that Canada is a market worth serving. That is my experience. And just for the record I have no affiliation whatsoever with Sargent Seats. I just like their product. The Suzuki GSF1250 is a great bike even with it’s minor shortcomings. I intend to keep mine for a long time. Hope this has helped. Ride safe.

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  15. Malcolm says:

    Good Afternoon Gents.
    I Have at present a DL1000 V strom, prior to this I had a GS1150 Suzuki. I have found on occasions my Vstrom is affected badly by side winds. My GS however was rock solid. I am considering the new Bandit……oops GSX1250. I am not worried about the seat issue. My concerns are Fuel economy seems a bit heavy ( compared to the Vstrom), chain wear and the Kiting effect. The wind issue seems to be a non event on the GSX is this true? Have any of you had to change the chain yet, or are near that point and if so what is the mileage expectations? I am extremly happy with my Vstrom it took me to San Francisco and back ( I live in Calgary ) with no problems. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

    Like

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