Tips on buying a Suzuki Bandit

Suzuki Bandit

Suzuki Bandit buying tiups.

Steve Spalding and his Suzuki Bandit
Steve Spalding and his Suzuki Bandit

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This review comes from RACQ executive manager technical and safety policy, Steve Spalding, a long-time Bandit tragic. He not only reviews his first-release 1996 Bandit, but also gives some great advice for those thinking of buying a Bandit. He’s titled his review “Suzuki Bandit 1200, taking the crisis out of mid-life!”

Loyalty to a bike isn’t for everyone, new models come and go and each arrives with a compelling reason to either shell out the full purchase price and add to the collection or trade in your pride and joy and cough up the difference.
Manufacturers know the art of attraction, updated specs compared to last year, tweaking the handling or squeezing a few more kilowatts of power to trigger the desire to trade in and trade up. Sports bikes in particular undergo almost annual refreshing and there is no doubt many can’t resist the temptation. They may be the proud owner of the current model but they are already watching for the next one to hit the showroom floor.
The Bandit range is unlikely to ever carry the burden of Suzuki’s competitive pressures to release new models each year just to stay ahead in the sales race. Those that know the Bandit understand why and probably so does Suzuki. If the current range is as good as the original 1200 released back in 1996, and I suspect it would be, most owners are sufficiently content to stick with their bike for a long while.
Steve Spalding and his Suzuki BanditIt’s more than just contentment to stick with what you know. The Bandit is one of those bikes that delivers on its promise every time you ride it. It works as intended and it won’t send you broke when it comes to maintenance. Importantly, it won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road because of some inherent reliability problem that is either a design flaw or a misguided acceptance of quirky character. Take note exotic brands, this one is not only reliable it still has more than enough grunt to rocket you to the horizon if you so wish.
Longevity doesn’t happen by chance. Get the design and build quality right and the foundations are in place. The Bandit’s original engine was developed from the GSX1100R which means around 10 years of service before the Bandit received it. It lived on in the Bandit for another 11 or so years before its eventual retirement and renewal as a 1250 liquid-cooled unit. By any stretch that’s a lot of real-world testing and confidence for a prospective purchaser.
Some say the motor is bullet-proof, it may be but it’s still important to choose carefully if looking for a well-kept Bandit. If the owner mentions its wheelie capabilities or spectacular burn-out videos on YouTube I suggest you look elsewhere. Bullet-proof doesn’t mean indestructible.
As a minimum, run the engine from a cold-start until it’s at running temperature. The Bandit engine should start Steve Spalding and his Suzuki Banditcleanly from cold with a little choke (yes four carburettors here) and settle to an idle of around 1000rpm with no choke needed after a minute or so. When it’s warm the idle shouldn’t be erratic either. It goes without saying it shouldn’t smoke, rattle or knock but being air-cooled it will make a fair amount of general mechanical engine noise. By the way, if there is black smoke it’s usually a sign of a rich fuel problem and blue, well, be prepared for expensive engine work.
Routine oil and filter changes are relatively straightforward but periodic valve adjustment is a little trickier. The half-fairing can be fiddly to remove and refit with care needed not to crack the windshield at its mounting points. Suzuki sells a small tool for adjusting the valve clearances that makes the job easier and a workshop manual is a must. Incorrect adjustment is a sure way to burnt valves.
I have found fully synthetic oil helps keep the motor protected particularly on hot days and in heavy traffic where the air-cooling is struggling to keep temperatures under control. Chain and tyre wear is not excessive if the bike gets used in a sensible manner. Chain adjustment and lubricating however is important if you don’t want excessive transmission backlash or noisy gear shifting.
The bottom line however, is get a good one and it will grow on you. There’s also a good chance you’ll keep it for a good few years. Interestingly, Suzuki’s original Bandit slogan in 1996 was ‘Ride the Winds of Change’ which, with the benefit of hindsight, turned out to be for a bike that changed a lot less over its life than many others. If I could ask Suzuki one question though, when will we see the Bandit released in Barry Sheene’s original 1970’s Texaco Heron colours? That’s one change that might just get me back in their showroom.

3 Comments

  1. Recently purchased 2005 bandit 1200s. This bike was found and recommended by my local motor cycle guy. I have not owned or ridden a bike for 35 years. I am 66 years old 6ft 5 and weigh 120 kg. Friends have called me mad amoung other things but I wanted to ride a bike again before it was to late. My last bike was a CB 750 Honda super reliable and fast for the time. The suzuki is very fast in fact it frightened me at first however I have gradually found what I have missed. I have had some problems with the gear changer but my local service guy is going to adjust this for me. I love the bike already its a similar ride to the old 750 in many ways. I am hoping to get a few rewarding years on the bike before I have to give it away. I would welcome any comments. Incidentally I am a pretty normal person who justs wants to enjoy my bike.

  2. Hi to all Bandit riders, I am a long time Suzuki rider from the 3 cylinder to a beautiful katana and now for close to 10 years a Bandit 1250S, it’s still like show room condition and only has 14500 kl, never ridden in the rain or left outside always garaged and covered, I used to use Mobil 1, now the dealer no longer carries it, was told Motul racing oil is good, change oil every year and oil filter, always use injection cleaner and about 300 ml of Malroy oil conditioner each oil change , at 67 YO I been wanting to sell but can’t bear to part with it, I still get a lot of enjoyment riding my Bandit, never had any problems with it, but each year it’s getting very expensive to register and maintenance, I have made 1 change due to the height, it’s now 40 ml less in height bought 2 sports lowering rods from UK motorbike racing online,

  3. having owned a Blackbird, Transalp, various Ninjas, CBR’s and FZ’s I bought the 2004 baby bandit 600 simply to commute on (kids, cars, budgets, etc)and find that I now enjoy it more than any other bike I have ever owned. Easy on tyres, brakes, fuel and servicing (I do most all my own to date with standard GTX at 5000 miles and oil filter at ten- I know this does not smack of indulgence but the bike has not missed a beat and runs as hard as it did the day I got it. I suspect some valve attention and new spark plugs (still on the originals) plus some new steering head bearings are due and will promise to rectify as it is fast approaching 50,000 miles. I am happy to say the more I ride it the more I enjoy the ownership experience- we have been through a lot of emergency stops in 8 years and only one speeding ticket. For some strange reason I ran 180 section rear tyres on it which lasted around 25000 miles but back to Michelin pilot 160 /60 now and enjoy their flick ability. I defy any sports bike rider to out corner it on a roundabout. -should I talk like this at 53? not often I own a bike for more than 18 months but cannot bring myself to part even though I would love a 1200 for the low end grunt Alloy crankcase getting a little pitted now and I am toying with some renovation work. I am just about to put third sprocket set on and swear by 530 DID VX x ring chain which has lasted 35000miles plus – having now learned not to use WD40 on the chain (caused major problems with binding links) I now just clean occasionally with kerosene), brakes are mint but I run soft organic Ferodo platinum pads to save on disks. Electrics are faultless although I am now on the third battery-heated grips are my only addition with an under seat relay switch to stop flat batteries from absent mindedness. I am too old to push start! Because I am getting ancient I do not overly like the style of the latest breed of naked bikes and still love the look of the Bandit. Its very reminiscent of the 1970 Jap inline fours that I yearned for while at school -however I could be persuaded by the BMW Nine T although it will cost more than a decent hatchback!! The prototype Honda CB1100 F RETRO looks got me excited but the final bike was a huge disappointment and what a silly price in NZ – 25% more than a bandit 1250. and not as good a bike! How about a café race harking back to the 400/4!

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