Bandit 1250 SEA

Suzuki’s new 1250 Bandit SEA has touring ability and package and all for a bargain price. But is it good enough to steal Bondo’s heart (and more importantly, money)?

Words: Steve Bond. Pics: Supplied by Suzuki, unless otherwise specified. 



Suzuki classifies the 1250 Bandit as a “standard,” but frankly I find that a bit of an insult. Standard somehow connotes ordinary or average – no-one wants to be standard. And although plenty of us may indeed be standard, believe me, the Bandit is far from that.

Whether you ride for hours on the superslab, strafe apexes on two-lane curvies, do day trips or even the everyday drudge of commuting, the 1250 Bandit does it all.

Because of this versatility, it’s always been one of my faves but I’d always think, “Gee, if only Suzuki would throw a set of hard bags on this thing, it’d be damn near perfect.”

And then they did. And now it is.

For 2011 they added a new SEA version with a very GSXR-ish visage and Givi hard bags, top box, a full fairing and ABS – and all for just $13,299!



The 1255 cc inline four is tuned for grunt.

The 1255cc motor is a gem. Claimed horsepower remains around the 100 mark but the Bandit’s character is defined by the arm-straightening 79 lb-ft of torque that’s available at just 3,500 rpm – right in the sweet spot for everyday riding conditions.

Throttle response is immediate while remaining very smooth and tractable. You can idle right down to 50 km/h in sixth and El Bandito still pulls away like a train leaving the station with no stuttering or lurching.

The six-speed tranny shifts like most Suzuki boxes – very positive with a crisp, short throw. On the highway, 100 km/h comes up at a very relaxed 3,450 rpm, which is right in the Suzuki’s strike zone. Passing? Hah! “We don’t need no steenkin’ downshift.” Just grab a mittful and before you can think it, you’re by that minivan or RV.


All you need (plus some you don’t).

The instrument cluster has all the information you need including a large digital speedometer, analog tachometer, twin tripmeters, odometer, an LCD fuel gauge, a very useful gear position indicator and a rather pointless shift light.

Honestly, you’ll never need to rev the Bandit high enough to activate the shift light – unless one day you find the Space Shuttle approaching and you need to make a break for it.

The optimistic speedometer must be of Italian lineage. Traffic on the 401 generally travels above the posted minimum but was everyone really doing 125 km/h? According to my portable GPS, an indicated 100 km/h was an actual 93, and to get an actual 100, you had to have 110 showing on the clock.


The Bandit’s satisfying grunt will pull you from corner to corner.

Get out of the city and onto two lane twisties, and there’s nothing quite like the Bandit’s satisfying grunt warping you from corner to corner without having to tap dance up and down through the gearbox. I’d make the case that it’s actually safer to be aboard a bike with this much acceleration when passing on two lane roads – you’re left out in no man’s land for much less time.


bandit_seat.jpgSeat is adjustable in two positions.

Standard seat height is 805 mm (31.7 inches) but it’s adjustable down to 785 mm (30.9 inches) for those shy of inseam. The seat-to-peg distance fitted my lanky frame nicely and the wide, comfortable seat had great support and gave me no grief during a couple of 700-kilometre days.

The only thing I didn’t like were the bars, which had a weird bend that tilted up at the ends. But then they are the bolt-on tubular type so finding one to suit anyone via the aftermarket would be easy.


Shield deflector doesn’t seem to do much useful.

New this year is an adjustable flip spoiler on the windscreen that’s about as useful as a moustache on a pineapple. In the down position, it does nothing and when up, it creates buffeting so annoying I was ready to rip it off and deposit it in the nearest landfill.

The Givi bags are spacious but hinged at the bottom, which usually means underwear littering the parking lot when they open and the top box will easily swallow a full-faced lid.

What is damned inconvenient though is having three separate keys for the ignition, topbox and bags. The two luggage keys look identical so I used a piece of tape to differentiate the top box key, but why not have one key for everything (or at least one for all the boxes)?


Watch out for the speed trap at the bottom ….

The hydraulic clutch is a bit on the heavy side, although it’s smooth and progressive, while five-position adjustable brake and clutch levers should fit any size glove.


Four-pot calipers and ABS keep everything on the safe side.

Feel and feedback at the brake lever is quite good and the four-pot calipers bring the 273 kg (603 lb) Bandit to a safe, controlled halt. The ABS provides another measure of security in wet or panic stop situations, although I never got on them hard enough to activate it.

Steering is fairly light and precise – a slight push on the inside bar initiates the turn and once committed, it stays where you want it. Front forks are non adjustable and setting the Bandit’s rear preload is a frustrating exercise in knuckle skinning.

Fortunately, spring and damping rates seemed fairly well matched to the motorcycle, although once you crank up the preload to firm-up the handling, the ride gets a bit harsh over frost heaves and expansion joints.

I was stunned when El Bandito sipped an average of 4.65L of dead dinosaurs for every 100km traveled (60 mpg Imperial) – and that included some spirited riding.


Top box can do one better than Linda Lovelace and swallow a full face lid.
photo: Steve Bond 

During a day trip when riding with a KLR650 and a ZR7S, the Bandit routinely took on less fuel than the two other bikes over the exact same riding conditions.

The reserve is quite generous – when the fuel light started flashing, I could only get 13.5 liters into the 19-liter tank, which means a 400 kilometres cruising range is likely. Plus, the Bandit’s emissions controls and catalytic converter ensure it meets tough Euro 3 Tier 2 standards.


To me what really summed up the Bandit is that even in basic meat-and-potatoes form it would’ve easily held its own on the CMG Fall-ish Tour against the high rent exotica of the Honda VFR1200 automatic, BMW R1200RT and Ducati Multistrada S.

And, when you figure that other popular sport tourers such as Honda’s ST1300 and Yamaha’s FJR1300 are also just over the $20,000 mark, it shows just what an outrageous bargain the $13,299 1250 SEA really is.


It’s a lot of bike for not so much money.
photo: Steve Bond

Even Honda’s CBF1000 lists at $12,999 and when you add bags, topbox and assorted required bracketry, you’re up to 15 large.

The 1250 Bandit is still one of the most comfortable and versatile motorcycles available and the SEA version takes it one step further. Granted, it doesn’t really excel in any one area but ranks near the top in every category you’d care to name and all at a bargain basement price to boot.




Suzuki Bandit 1250 SEA



1,255 cc

Four-stroke dohc inline four,
 Power (crank)* unknown

79 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
19 L (4.18 Imperical Gallons)

Fuel Injection, 36 mm throttle bodies

Final drive
Six speed, chain drive



Twin 310 mm discs with four-piston

Single 240 mm disc with single-piston

785/805 mm (30.9/31.7 in) – Low/High

1,485 mm (58.5 in)

Wet weight*
269 kg (595 lbs)

Black, Blue

12 Month unlimited mileage
* claimed


  1. Yea the seat thing is bad.After the first ride with the Mrs on the back I ordered a russel seat and put a back rest on for the Mrs.Now we can ride to Barrys bay without getting off.Great bike,but keep an eye on the speedo unless you have a govener (Mrs on the back)

  2. By way of comparison, I’m hoping you’re able to ride the new Sprint GT. It’s similarly priced right down tot he panniers and one would think it would be a bit better bike… especially with 30 extra horsepower.

  3. One of the best things about my Big Bandit is the seating position…

    I have no weight on my wrists or shoulders and as I mentioned before, other than the medieval torture seat, it’s comfy around town, or on the highway at ummmm, supra-legal cruising velocities. 😉

    The adjustable seat height is great, but I’m not so sure that the one inch (or so) makes all that much difference for me, but it may be deal breaker for some.

    I’ve talked a lot about trading to a Victory Cross Country or a HD Street Glide, but that is strictly related to my inability to restrain my wrist, and ‘wick it up’… 8)


  4. One of the things that Suzuki has going for it (and against it) is they stick with tried-and-true designs, often rejigging them from time to time in an effort to make them better.

    The benefit is that you get to keep the stuff you like and just add to it, instead of constantly starting over. The GSX650F and 1250 are prime examples.

  5. How about a comparison test with the new 2011 Ninja 1000? At 36 more horsepower, same torque, 100 lbs lighter, adjustable wind screen and much better looking, the Kawasaki wins on paper for me. It also seems to address the concerns Steve had (tank size, looks) with the Z1000 on which the Ninja is based. With MSRP only $400 more (plus the cost of the luggage), I would certainly look at the Ninja before the Bandit.

  6. You need a new bike already? You kept the FJ for about 100 years and bought the Bandit, when was it, last year? And now you want to go to a “kitted out” SV? I hope you mean an SV1000.

    Can someone back there have a talk with the lad? Larry? ‘Arris?

  7. Thanks for the offer, I’ll take you up on that.

    Anyone who thinks a Bandit is a handful to move around the garage as serious issues. The FJ1200 was a BIT of a handful; my friend’s Valkyrie, now that is a handful!

    I debate whether to go down to a V-Strom 650, kitted out, upgrade to a 1250 with bags, or go for a CBF or Varadero/Tiger/Tenere. Or just continue to ride the 2003 Bandit since it does everything reasonably well.

  8. I have an ’08 GSX650F, which is almost exactly the same as this bike, minus 600cc and some funky graphics. I’m probably going to add some Givi bags and already have a taller Givi windshield. The 650 is remarkably torquey for it’s size. It’s almost like a smaller version of my all time favourite FJ1100 without the “road-hugging” weight.

  9. Buzzerd: you are looking for a STer with passenger comfort? My significant other once fell asleep on the back of my FJR. Not an ideal situation (that was fixed with a can of energy drink), but proves that the passenger accommodations of that bike are pretty good! Got a brand new FJR for $16,500 too. A bit higher in price than the Bandit, but mine has heated grips, adjustable preload and headlights, electrically adjustable windshield, glovebox, twin headlights, 125 ponies and 99 ft-lbs, etc….

  10. C.i.T.O. makes some good points, Sean. Also, I agree with you.
    When in tight spots (such as turning the bike around in a small garage), the extra heft may be pill. :cry

    But, once moving, the power and stability seem intoxicating.
    Why did I previously post a desire for a 650 version?

    Well, hopefully it should be lighter and more fun. I have an
    Sv1000s. In these days of ‘Die Fantino-Jugend’ and fifty over
    and all that, I have found my 1K to be a bore.

    With the RZ350 I enjoy bags of fun revving the snot out of the
    engine and tap-dancing on the tranny. Also, I may get out of
    first gear in the city. With the 1K I am stifled and always in danger of losing my license. Recently I was on the 401. Looked down. Was doing 150 km/h (although, others were passing me). Shifted my weight. Was doing 160. In third gear!

    Smaller bikes are the way to go…. IMHO.

  11. @ Sean

    Yup, 600+ lbs… But once you’re doing more than 5kph you can’t tell…

    Sure, it feels heavy compared to say, an RZ 350, or an SV or even a Ducati Multistrada, but the power and the ability to mosey along at whatever pace you choose, solo, or two up with luggage, more than makes up for the $5K to $15k you might spend on another marque to do the same thing…

    I bought mine because of the price, and to replace an ’81 CB900F. Rarely has it not been a reason to smile… and there’s been the odd occasion where I couldn’t not laugh, or talk to myself about how much fun it really is…

  12. “Yes Your Blackness, that’s me riding the bike and that desert landscape is what you typically find in Ontario cottage country.”

    With your history of globe-trotting, I had to assume that it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. So…it wasn’t you, right? 🙂

  13. Just thinking – I should’ve checked the odometer readings with the GPS as well. If it’s also ten percent optimistic, that would inflate the fuel economy figures, wouldn’t it?

  14. Bondo
    Suzuki speedo error is famous. I ride a 2006 Burgman and like all Suzuki’s you add 10% or muliply by 110% to get your actual speed. This has been checked by many owners with GPS units. It would be nice if they just set them corret in the first place, I’m sure they could.
    Other than that I prefer Suzuki products to any other. Low maintenance and incredible reliabiliy.

  15. I have the 2010 Bandit SEA
    Have never experienced mileage better that the mid 40’s

    On the 2010 the front forks are pre load adjustable

    12K on a rear wow my stock tire was on the wear markers at 6k

    I find that you have to wring it’s neck closer to 5000 rpm to start getting some real power out of the engine.

    I agree the seat can cause major discomfort way before i have cremated the first 19 litres of dinosaur.

    The suspension gets slinky like when pushing thru a corner with minor imperfections.

    All that being said I do enjoy riding this bike

  16. My name is Chris, and I own a Bandit… :grin

    Mine is Silver Grey, I wish I’d have gotten the Red, which wasn’t available in ’08. I didn’t get hard bags, yet. $13200??? Really??? I don’t think mine was even close to that with tax and interest… But like I said, I didn’t get hard bags…

    I must agree with most of what was written…

    The speedo is quite optimistic, however with the power curve, it will still easily, and I do mean “Pay attention to what your doing” easy.. To exceed the limit by the whole 50 over thing, and then some…

    My gas mileage isn’t quite that good, but it’s still in the 40-45mpg range… And I keep up with Andy and Shakin… 8)

    I didn’t expect an Olins quality ride, but I’ve never had any problems… The ABS works like a charm, though it cycles a little slower than I would have thought effective… I can only remember one instance that it ‘saved the day’, but also only a few times where it’s been in use enough to notice…

    My instrument panel is different… A little, but the main difference being a gear indicator… no biggie…

    Adjustable seat height… Doesn’t really matter… Except if you can’t already reach the ground… The seat however… Must be CHANGED… Buy the Sergent Seat, get it reupholstered, or be prepared for a numb bum by the end of the first tank, and it doesn’t get better.

    My Princess won’t go with me for anything that’s more than a tank. She’s almost wiped us out more than once with the jumping around she does once the ‘pain in the a$$’ has begun…

    I will mention that the power is fantastic, the ability to hold the front wheel ‘that’ high off the pavement from a stop, and get it that high again in 2nd…

    If the tires ain’t hot… they spin… First rear, Dunlop D202’s I think… Not sure, replaced the rear at 12K, the front and a punctured rear at 18K (This week). Put Roadsmart on it… Great… ‘Cept for the puncture…

    The Bridgestones in the pics are probably good, and someone said that Avon Storm’s are putting up some fantastic numbers…

    My complaints? The windscreen.. Crap. Think you can find a taller screen? Or one with a lip? I’m disappointed to hear that the flip up spoiler is useless…

    That seat… looking for options… I’m going “Butt Buffer”…

    I really don’t see how you could go wrong… Unless you’re looking for dirt bike, or a full on land yacht, I don’t think you’d be disappointed…

  17. I really like the 1250 Bandit SEA. As you say, it’s a tremendous value. But why position the bags and top-case waaaaaay up there in the stratosphere? I don’t think it looks very integrated, as if they were only an afterthought. I wonder what effect this must have on the bike’s centre of gravity and handling when the bags are fully loaded?

  18. Regarding the “model” riding the bike (is that you, Bondo?)….

    A bit of a fashion faux pas…Brown leather pants. WTF? Is this 1975?

  19. I would like to see comments on passenger accommodations, I travel with my wife sometimes and if the queen isn’s happy, no ones happy. When looking for a new bike I have found it difficult to get info on passenger comfort because the bike reviews seem to end at the drivers seat, even just a picture would help. Many of the bikes that look like they would be decent aren’t.

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