“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