Comparo: Suzuki Bandit 1200 vs: Triumph Speed Triple – Part 2

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In part 1 we touched on some of the bike’s abilities during Larryfest 2000. Part 2 seems a good place to have a look at some of the technical aspects, and how the two bikes measure up to each other … Oh, and Mr. Tate’s two cents on the whole thing.

Bandit 1200

Overall I was very impressed with both bikes. My fears that Suzuki may have changed the Bandit for the worse proved not to be. The overall character remains the same with notable improvements in the fairing, suspension (stiffer) and seat height. Yes, although I’m big and so prefer taller seats, the 45mm drop in height of the new Bandit not only makes the bike more accessible to the masses, but still somehow manages to feel roomy in the leg department.

However, there were some disappointments, most notably the choice of tires, which both Larry and myself felt were rather crappy at giving the rider the required feedback. Personally, I’d go a bit farther and say that they’re … well, shite. Also, the step up in front brakes from 4 to 6 pots should have been awesome. I don’t know why they ended up just being ‘good’ and not noticeably better, but I suspect some braided lines may help rectify this. And finally, the addition of the throttle position sensor should have done a bit more for the low down lack of power. Suzuki claim a significant improvement, I didn’t notice any.

Speed Triple

“Burn baby, burn”.
Larry made me do it. He did, he did.

I have mixed feelings about this bike. On the one hand it’s a brave and identifying statement made by Triumph – based on the streetfighter that is a popular European modification to a sport bike once it’s plastic has expired, the Speed Triple tries to be nothing but a hooligan bike and succeeds in buckets. Then they go and paint it pink. Initially when I was first introduced to this bike at a show a few years ago, I hated it. A couple of years later and good long blast down some suitable twisties and I love it .. almost.

It’s in-line triple motor manages to blend the character of a twin with the howl of a four, making it unique in a market full of similarities. Although it could probably be beat by most of it’s similar rivals in the high speed tests, I doubt they could match the exhilaration factor induced by the Triumph. Then there’s that flowing aluminum tubed frame (another Triumph unique point) and the bike’s ability to perform, aided by the great front stoppers, taught chassis and stiff suspension.

Did somebody say stiff suspension? Well that brings me nicely to the things that I didn’t like about the Speed Triple. While the suspension might be great for tricks and high speed carving of ultra smooth roads, inevitably when that glorious, but bumpy side road comes up, the Triple hits your spine like a three legged man in an arse kicking contest. We couldn’t back it off anymore, which is a shame, because it ultimately drops the bike from all-rounder status to fun-bike-but-you’d-need-another-one-to tour-on. And then there’s that back brake. Okay, a harsh back brake is bad because of the easy lock up, but at least make it do something. I’m convinced this one is just for show.

The Acid Test

Gotta love that 955i triple motor.

So if I had to buy one, which would it be? I’d have to go for the Bandit. The overwhelming plus for the Bandit is it’s ability to not only tour all day long in relative comfort, but with a click down on it’s silky smooth box, it quickly turns into a capable sport bike, all for the bargain price of $10,499. That’s up $500 on last years model, and is justifiable given the improvements offered, but it’s still a massive $3,400 cheaper than the Speed Triple, giving the purchaser plenty of extra to cash to change the tires, fit braided lines and slap on an aftermarket can for a significant power boost.

On the other hand the Triumph does offer a unique factor not only in the looks department, but with it’s frantic and adrenaline inducing motor.

What’s more important? I’ll leave that for you to decide.


View of Speed Triple clocks. Speedo seems to be reading almost double of what we were actually doing .. honest.

Second View, by Larry Tate

These bikes are both clearly licence-eaters. They’ll go so fast, so quickly, and so effortlessly that if you have one, unless you have a lot of Get Out of Jail Free cards you’re going to find out more than you wanted to know about the worlds of facility insurance, courtrooms, and possibly taxi fares and bus schedules.

Still and all, as much as they’re eager accomplices (bloody instigators, really), given that they manage to do much the same thing it’s amazing how different they feel. The Triumph feels much the way it looks – raw, mean, and evil to the bone. It feels small (with a claimed weight of 432 lb it’s 53 LB lighter than the Bandit, although oddly enough it’s actually got a 10 mm-longer wheelbase, which you’d never believe after riding them), in large part because you’re perched right on top of the tank, with almost nothing in your field of vision except the road.

Also, from the factory the suspension is rock-hard, which translates into instant response which creates a general reinforcement of the feeling of lightness.

The new Bandit has a new face (fairing).

The Suzuki, on the other hand, feels like a big old couch. After riding the Speed Triple on anything other than glass-smooth pavement (seen much of that in Eastern Ontario lately?), spine, back muscles, and knees are screaming for relief, not to mention the neck muscles, which invariably get sore at the speeds you’ve been riding (you canNOT ride the Speed Triple slowly).

Getting onto the Suzuki, by contrast, you seem to sink into a cockpit. The seat is a claimed 45 mm closer to the ground, and there’s definitely more seat-to-peg room, which you’d expect should mean less ground clearance. But on a frantic afternoon thrash on some wonderful twisty roads, neither Rob nor I ever grounded anything.

In the comfort side of things, up front there’s that rather Jetson-ish half-fairing with its weird fluted air deflector behind the (unnecessarily) chromed instrument bezels. Sometimes you do have to wonder what Suzuki’s stylists ingest in their off-hours, but the thing does a bloody good job of moving air away from your chest and helmet, so I guess that’s all that really matters.

When it comes down to letting those two monster motors do what they were designed for – putting your driving record at risk – both are incredibly strong. The Triumph initially hits harder and cleaner, and with somewhat lower gearing as well, actually pulls the Suzuki in roll-ons in sixth and fifth (fifth and fourth for the Suzuki). Once the Suzuki gets spinning high enough to counter the Speed Triple’s initial advantage, however, it’ll reel in, gobble up, and spit out the Triumph in the straight line stakes. Its top-end pull is simply awesome; where the Triumph is starting to run out of steam over 200 or so, the Suzuki if anything seems to be getting stronger, and we saw an indicated 250 more than once with the bike still pulling hard (closed course, professional riders, don’t attempt this at home, etc. Ahem).

While the Speed Triple deals with turning accurately by being very, very, very stiffly sprung (even with all the settings, of which there are all you can imagine, backed off as far as possible), the Suzuki allows considerable rider comfort while still cleanly tracking at ridiculous speeds. It’s considerably stiffer than the previous Bandit 1200, which was soft enough to be considered squishy, but still delivers a more than acceptable ride even on the rough secondary roads we were visiting. It feels longer (it isn’t) and extremely stable no matter what the speed.

The Bandit air/oil cooled motor has been around almost as long as Larry.

Not to say that the Triumph is a victim of instability; hardly. An unstable bike couldn’t possible bounce around as much as the Speed Triple does and still keep heading in the right direction. Let’s say that the Speed Triple feels solid like a freight train on rails, while El Bandito Grande is solid like an ocean freighter – still imperturbable, but just a different and more fluid sensation.

Part of that might be the tires. The BT56 Bridgestones on the Triumph seem perfectly matched to the bike, while the Michelin Macadams on the Suzuki feel numb and don’t inspire much confidence. They worked okay (that is, neither of us crashed), but felt strangely remote.

Bottom line? I loved the Speed Triple as much as I ever have, but couldn’t live with the suspension and slightly-cramped seat-to-peg relationship day to day. Not to mention that the passenger accommodation is rather, um, austere. On the other hand, the Bandit 1200, with its lower seat, slightly sharper steering response than before and massively improved stable and accurate suspension and handling – plus a pretty nice passenger perch – make it the bike for me.

In fact, I ordered one; first new bike I’ve bought since 1982. But I’m gonna change the tires before I ride it home. And add steel brake lines, forgot to mention that the Speed Triple’s brakes are unbeLIEVably strong and sharp in response, to the point that an inexperienced or careless rider could easily get caught out. And I want my Suzuki’s brakes to feel more like that without feeling just like that, if you know what I mean.


Click here to read part 1 (riding impressions of the two bikes and a day at Larryfest 2000).

 

Bike

Suzuki Bandit 1200S Triumph Speed Triple

MSL

$10,499 $13,899

Displacement

1,157 cc 955 cc

Engine type

Inline dohc four, air/oil cooled Inline dohc triple, liquid cooled

Carburetion

4 x Mikuni BSR36SS Fuel Injection

Final drive

Five speed, chain drive Six speed, chain drive

Tires, front

120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17

Tires, rear

180/55 ZR17 190/50 ZR17

Brakes, front

Dual 310 mm discs with six-piston calipers Dual 320 mm discs with four-piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single 240 mm disc with two-piston caliper Single 220 mm disc with two-piston caliper

Seat height

790 mm (31.1″) 800 mm (31.5″)

Wheelbase

1,430 mm (56.3″) 1440 mm (56.7″)

Dry weight

220 Kg (485lbs) (claimed) 196 Kg (432lbs) (claimed)

Canadian colours

Red, Black Jet Black, Neon Blue, Nuclear Red

 

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