Suzuki Bandit 1250S: The ultimate steal?

Suzuki had to update its popular Bandit range. Tim Luckhurst is impressed – and so is his bank manager

British representatives of Japanese motorcycle manufacturers are accustomed to misunderstandings. Sometimes new models arrive, much hyped by their designers, but not obviously compatible with British tastes. With a very popular model, this cultural dissonance causes additional concern. So, the good folk at Suzuki's UK headquarters were worried about the 2007 Bandit 1250.

Its predecessor was the sort of product every salesman appreciates; a modestly priced, high-specification all-rounder with a loyal fanclub. As they awaited delivery of its replacement, executives remembered why they used to smoke cigarettes. But worry was soon banished. Like the 2007 version of its little brother, the Bandit 650 (Independent Motoring, 17 April, 2007), the new big Bandit is a big improvement.

Try this for torque. In sixth gear, at fractionally below 30mph, the redesigned lightweight engine pulls smoothly from 1,400rpm. You might ask in what circumstances a sane rider would drop to such a low speed in top. But with 72kW of grunt at 7,500rpm (the 2006 version had to spin to 8,500rpm to generate as much) oodles of low-down heft make this a simple bike to enjoy.

You can commute to work on one of these without fretting. They are multi-purpose budget superstars, crammed full of as much technology as mass-production can render economically viable and usable everywhere from the M25 to the Swiss Alps.

I started my ride with an exercise in close control to test the bike's versatility in dense traffic. Engaging first gear, I launched into a series of tight, right-hand circles in the Suzuki car park. My handlebars were at full lock after a single rotation and I went on to complete five without putting a foot down. Slaloming through traffic cones was as easy.

Some motorcycles are designed to brake from 160mph at the end of the pit straight before tipping into a bend at the last second with tyres melting and the rider's knee-sliders kissing asphalt. But too many owners lack the skill or inclination to attempt it and never get within stretching distance of their machine's potential. The Suzuki Bandit range is for people who prefer reality.

This is a sublimely balanced motorcycle, entirely confident in urban congestion but capable of much more. The small fairing and screen (only on the S version) kept me comfortable at speeds above 100 mph. That makes long-haul motorway travel practical. So does a 19-litre fuel tank which, though not enormous, offers ample range for touring.

The seating position is perfectly upright and the twin seat is adequate. If I had to ride from London to Madrid in 24 hours I would choose a Triumph Sprint, Ducati ST3 or BMW K1200GT. But, denied the luxury of a top-of-the-range sports tourer, I would not hesitate to make the trip on a Bandit 1250S. It would cover the ground without fuss, keep my back unstrained and easily keep pace with Mercedes saloons on fast French roads.

If I had time to take a scenic route through the Pyrenees it would make that fun too. The Big Bandit does not flick through bends like a sports thoroughbred. But a redesigned chassis and longer swinging arm have made the 2007 version much nimbler than old Bandits. It responds enthusiastically to rough handling, tipping and sweeping elegantly.

You can stir the new, sweet, six-speed gearbox if you want to. The Bandit rewards with very rapid mid-range acceleration. But just stick it in third and you can climb an Alpine pass with barely another squeeze of the clutch. The new, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine is crisp where its predecessor felt lethargic and, because maximum power and torque are both delivered lower in the rev range, feels relaxed.

This is not a machine around which other bikers will gather like flies around a dropped cod's head. It is a motorcycle for pragmatists, but that does not mean it cannot make dreams come true. Durable dependability counts for a lot on long holiday tours. Extended service intervals make high-mileage use cheaper. The S version, which I rode, even comes equipped with ABS brakes, which work smoothly and efficiently.

The nice surprise about this new Bandit 1250S is that it only costs £250 more than the old one; this is a remarkably tiny increase for a dramatically improved motorcycle.

Specifications

Engine: 1250cc liquid-cooled, four-cylinder, four-stroke

Maximum power: 96bhp (72kW) @ 7,500rpm

Maximum torque: 108Nm @ 3,700rpm

Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, chain final drive

Brakes: front twin 310mm discs, rear single 240mm disc

Seat height: Adjustable between 790mm and 810mm

Dry weight: 226kg

Price: £5,549

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