The Suzuki Bandit has been around in one incarnation or another since 1989. That’s 27 years for one model. Starting out as a 250cc motor and now sold only as a 1250cc the Bandit has grown up. In its 27 years countless people have learnt, owned, sold, abused, cherished and fixed Bandits (though not many need fixing).
The Bandits popularity came in 1996 when it was increased from a 400cc to a 600cc. This new motor, taken straight out of a GSXR and de-tuned, was the power that the bike had been waiting for. The journalists at the time could not believe what a great all round package the Bandit offered. Like the BMW GS the Bandit spawned a new genre of motorcycle; the ‘budget, naked all-rounder’. Tractable power, predicable handling, comfortable and as reliable as bricks and mortar it was the do-it-all machine.
The Bandit 600 enjoyed success from 1996 until 2004 when it was increased to 650cc. The 650cc continued to sell well until the mid 2000’s and production stopped 2012. Parallel to the 600’s success Suzuki did offer a 1200 option for those who were brave enough to take on the challenge. It also gained other fancies but the recipe remained largely unchanged – decent motor, basic frame and priced keenly. The larger model remains in production today.
Only a handful of specific motorcycles get their own race series and yes the Bandit was one of them. Running as a support race for British Superbikes, amateurs were able to take their ‘mostly’ stock Bandits around the best circuits in Britain. Compared to other slick, stripped back racers imagine a fleet of Bombers heading into turn one with the riders, crew and crowd wondering if the bikes would make it round. Wholly un-suitable the series was short lived with suspension bottoming out, brakes fading and riders breaking bones. Currently the similar support race is for Ducati 899’s and is going strong.
‘Dickson and Class’ used to be couriers that operated out of Portsmouth and would do regular runs 24/7 up to Newcastle and back. Having parked my Bandit outside a motorcycle shop once a previous employee told me that they had three Bandit’s for a time. He loved them. He told me that each bike did 138,000 continuous miles – ‘Only stopping for fuel and a service that bike ran every hour of everyday’. Once the bikes were put out for pasture the owner of the company took one and used it as his commuter the others sold on.
So the Bandit is a well established, reliable, fun and honest motorcycle. All the bike that anyone would need. But people want more than they need. The Bandit has not developed with the times. As I said before it is much the same now as it was then. So late in 2015 when Suzuki announced that an ‘all new’ Bandit was to be available in 2016 people were interested. Similar to remaking a classic film there is apprehension mixed with excited. So the Bandit was unveiled and to no-ones surprise it was a Bandit.
Looking like it has always looked, acting like it has always acted it was much of a much-ness. Yes this is improved and that is refined but the core remains. The reception was…luke warm. In 1996 when the Bandit was released it was one of a kind. Budget, exciting naked bike…genre defining. Now why buy that when I can buy…Whatever you want.
It is argued that Suzuki had the ‘all new’ bandit in 2015 when they released the GSX-S1000F 1250. But Suzuki was very clear that that was not the case. So the Bandit lives on as a 1250cc machine in its own right. At £7000 new it is hard to separate yourself from that cash when a less refined but similar machine is awaiting for 1/6th that price.
Suzuki made a bike that was too good. They did the same with the k5 GSXR 1000. Now firmly in the history books as one of the best sports bike ever they have never managed to top it. Though BMW did in 2010 when they released the S1000RR. BMW openly admitted that the S100rRR was based off of the K5 GSXR. The Hayabusa that came out of nowhere at 200mph that trounced the Honda Blackbird. Similar story with the V-Strom 650 and 1200. Each of these model are still for sale but the question looms why by a new one?
So when Suzuki say that they are making an all new machine pay attention. When they say they are updating a model then politely take notes and ride away on your machine.