1995 saw the launch of the Suzuki Bandit – a bargain-basement bike, with top-level fun available with the flick of the wrist.
The Suzuki Bandit sounded all mean, moody and as if it was going to stop you in your tracks and empty your wallet, but the reality was quite the opposite.
Think back to the mid-1990s and bike prices were a bit salty (OK, nothing like today…) but this was at the time that parallel imports were coming in and before the main UK manufacturers were forced to cut their prices to suit. So, when Suzuki came up with a bike that cost just £3999 new back in 1995, a bike that was smart-looking, with well proven chassis parts and motor it made the Bandit a bit of a steal…
Yes, it was parts-bin: the engine came from the old GSX600F ‘Teapot.’ Not the quickest, but the air-oil cooled motor was reliable (remember it can trace itself back to the GSX-R750F) and good for 70-80bhp and 125mph. The plot was held together in a tubular steel frame, which had a whiff of the double-cradle about it from the GSX-R, but this was painted in the colour of the bike itself. OK, so the suspension was pretty basic, being only adjustable at the rear for rebound and preload, but much fun could be had out on the road, more fun than on – say – the naked Yamaha XJ600N Diversion.
Lots of fun; in fact: here was a bike where all these budget parts seemed to add up to more than the actual sum of the individual parts. Better still, it had a cool name ‘Bandit’. Thankfully, it didn’t look like a black Trans-Am, instead it was a smart-looking, naked ‘Universal Japanese Motorcycle.’ Remember, in the mid-1990s we seemed to love fairings but here was something stripped bare. Not ‘classically’ styled though, as this was a single, not a twin-shock machine.
Development was slow as the sales were huge at the time so why fix what ain’t broke? Eventually, the Bandit family of machines battled with the Honda FireBlade as top dog in the sales war. Did we say family? Indeed, the half-faired S-model 600 came out in 1996 for £4699 while the Bandit 1200 came along a year later (again, in half-faired version) and even the naked B12 only cost £5999…
If there were (two) Achilles’ Heels we would say quality (or not) of finish (see ‘What Goes Wrong’) and the basic feel of the suspension. Of course, the naked middleweight class eventually went crazy with Honda Hornets, Yamaha Fazers, Ducati Monsters of many capacities and later Kawasaki Z750s…
As the opposition grew and was ranged against it, the Bandit had to evolve at some point. The original model lasted from 1995-1999. We mentioned the original pricing: the £3999 price tag soon grew to £4499 in 1997/8 before dropping to £3798 in 1999 as the parallel import push saw the UK importers react.
From 2000 in came a new and not so attractive model. The frame was different and so were the looks on the half-faired model, even if the motor was largely the same. The Bandit seemed to have lost its edge somewhat and gained 3mm more wheelbase too. This model came in new at £4649, so it was still keenly-priced. As was its successor: £4239 would get you the ‘new’ Suzuki GSF650 Bandit from 2005 with a bigger, updated motor and styling.
Prices? Well, there’s one out there for every budget. Crappers start for a few hundred quid, while half-decent ones begin at a grand to £1500. We’ve seen very low milers go for around £2800… It is a classic… honest.
WHAT GOES WRONG?
FORKS: Soft as your nan when new, we suggest heavier oil and springs. Fork outers often suffer from pitting.
FRONT BRAKES: Sliding twin-piston affairs that were never the best 24 years back. Like any they benefit from TLC to keep them working well, so regular stipping and cleaning will help. Braided lines, softer pads help with overall performance, too.
MOTOR: Derived from the GSXF600 the oil/air-cooled motor shares the bottom-end with the early GSX-R750F models – so it’s solid. Power output in Bandit form is around 70-75bhp but you need to rev it to around the 10,500rpm redline to get the best from it. Solid, dependable and plenty of experts out there can rebuild, tune and resurrect them. Paint on motors suffers and flakes off…
FRAME: Paint also often flakes around the frame welds.
IGNITION: Ahhh Suzuki ignition barells are plain stubborn sometimes and you have to perform the ‘Suzuki key waggle’ to get them to work. If they actually do…
TANK BREATHER: Dodgy filler caps can lead the bike to cut out. Stop and pop open the filler cap and listen for any hissing
CARBS: 32mm Mikunis on 1995-1999 bikes or 32mm Keihins on 2000-2004 bikes will always need cleaning if fuel has been left in them for any time. Carb icing can also be an issue.
SHOCK: A budget item, even back in the day – these will not have aged well.
EXHAUST: Originals can be hard to find as they never lasted. Weak points include the silencer, any weld area and the place where the end-can and downpipes meet. Any bolts used down there are likely to be seized too. Any holes will lead to a popping sound on a shut throttle.
Price New: £3999 (Jan 1995)
Price now: £500-£3000
Engine: 599cc, air/oil-cooled, 4-stroke, inline, 16-valve four-cylinder.
Power: 77 bhp @ 10,500rpm
Weight: 208 kilos
Wheelbase: 1427mm (1430mm 2000-on)
WHY WE LOVE IT: A bike greater than the sum of its (parts bin) parts!
WHY WE DON’T: Pretty iffy build quality…