Motoring: Much, much more than the sum of its parts

Roland Brown rides Suzuki's top-selling GSF600 Bandit

Common sense suggests that Britain's best-selling motorbike should be something medium-sized, practical and inexpensive - a two-wheeled Ford Escort. That description certainly fits Suzuki's GSF600 Bandit. But the story is not as simple as that.

The Bandit has become a hit by combining old- and new-style appeal. In particular, its four-cylinder engine and simple but effective chassis combine to provide performance and entertainment out of all proportion to its price.

To keep the Bandit's cost down, Suzuki borrowed most of its components from existing models (this logical approach is less common in the bike world than you might expect). The 599cc, 16-valve engine is from the GSX600F, a good bike that was too ugly to sell well. Tuned for extra mid-range performance, with new carburettors, camshafts and exhaust, the oil-cooled motor is claimed to be capable of 79bhp at 10,500rpm.

The Bandit's frame is purpose built from conventional steel tubes, but most the chassis parts are borrowed. The complete front end, consisting of forks, wheel, twin disc brakes and even the mudguard, comes from the more expensive RF600 sportster, while the rear shock absorber and wheel come from the GSF400 Bandit. Details such as instruments, switchgear and mirrors are from a variety of other Suzukis. Despite this, the Bandit looks right - simple, cleanly styled, and handsome in an understated way.

Japanese 600cc fours tend to be highly-strung devices, and the Bandit is no exception. Its red line is set at a heady 12,000rpm, and the Suzuki's power delivery encourages the rider to make the most of it, revving the bike through the slick-shifting six-speed gearbox towards its top speed of 120mph. But top-end excitement does not come at the expense of usability. A broad spread of power ensures that decent acceleration is available from almost any speed. Fuel consumption is nothing to write home about, dropping below 40mpg under brisk riding, but it's hard to grudge the hard- working Suzuki thirst. Especially when you've been having such a good time in the bends. The Bandit's chassis may be ordinary, but its suspension outclasses that of budget rivals such as Yamaha's 600 Diversion and Kawasaki's 550 Zephyr. In combination with the Suzuki's compact size and light weight, that makes for a bike that is nimble and manageable around town, yet one which delivers superb handling when the pace hots up on a twisty road.

So does this two-wheeled paragon have no failings at all? Apart from the lack of a centre stand or pillion grab rail, it is hard to think of any, especially as the Bandit is available either in simple "naked" GSF600 form (pounds 4,449) or, as the GSF600S, fitted with a wind-cheating fairing (pounds 350 more). Combined sales of these two versions propelled the Bandit to the top of last year's sales charts - despite Honda's protest that they are two separate bikes and that the Honda CBR900RR, a 165mph rocket ship, was the true number one. Who cares? With or without a fairing, number one or number two, the Suzuki GSF600 Bandit is a brilliant motorbike.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Receptionist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join this w...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

    Recruitment Genius: Project / Account Manager and IT Support

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn