In town, it feels like a giant motocrosser, easily lofting the front wheel way up in the air on power alone from stop sign to stop sign. For a bike with such a large motor, the Bandit is slim, and this, along with the easy wheelies and the upright riding position, makes it more fun in town than other more committed sportbikes. Wide bars make steering quick and light, the clutch only needs two fingers on the lever, and the exhaust is extremely quiet, even by 1997 standards.
The gearbox, like most Suzuki gearboxes, is excellent. Apart from being a little loud when going through the 1-2 or the 2-1 shift at low speed, the cogs shift lightly and positively, with or without the clutch, and the abundant torque makes shifting almost optional in town.
The big torque the Bandit
has at low revs is excellent fun; roll the gas
The price for the fantastic low end and midrange is the top end power. Although the Bandit pulls hard up to 8500rpm, it doesn't have the mental lunge a CBR900RR has at higher engine speeds. Then again, a 900RR doesn't have anywhere near the low end of the Bandit, and realistically speaking, the easy-to-launch 1200 has a decent chance at keeping up with any race replica away from a standing start. You simply twist the throttle open, and you're gone. Usually on the back wheel, I should add.
I planned a trip to Ottawa that composed of boring highways and tasty backroads to find out how the Bandit really worked over the long haul. En route to Kingston, I found the Bandit had no trouble cruising at whatever speed I wanted, no matter how high that was. The tall fifth gear lets the engine pull just 7000rpm at 200km/h, and even flat out, at a hair under an indicated 250*, the motor is still only at 8500. The bike is utterly stable at any speed, is unaffected by grated highway surfaces, and is unruffled by sidewinds, too.
* Tested on the exclusive CMG test track, located at a secret hide away in a totally imaginary place.
The small fairing actually gives good protection up to 160km/h; higher cruising speeds made me resort to putting my left arm across the tank to support myself as I tucked in behind the screen to escape the wind blast. Tuck in even lower, and you'll find the "farty zone", where the wind blast takes on an amusing flatulent rumbling sound as it hurtles past - slightly lower handlebars may be a benefit here.
At Kingston I departed the 'comatosing' 401 for Hwy 10. Many of the fast corners made large elevation changes while they snaked through the forest; and the majority of them were blind too. A cutting-edge sportbike, like a CBR900RR, would be frustrating to ride here because you wouldn't be able to use much of the bike's handling potential while keeping the level of safety needed on a road with blind corners.
The brakes are excellent; you can lift the back wheel up with just two fingers on the lever, and the floating discs make nifty whizzing sounds as they constantly centre themselves on the rotor carriers.
Steering felt impressively light and nimble for a large, relatively heavy motorcycle, and on the street had no hint of tankslapping or weaving. You can change lines while leaned over without protest. The excellent Bridgestone BT54 Battlaxes never gave me a scary moment, even when inspection showed they were approaching the edge of the tread when I was strafing backroads. With these tires, ground clearance is the Bandit 1200's cornering speed limit.
I had a lot of fun riding
the Bandit 1200. It's the kind of bike that you could use
for nearly anything: touring, sport riding, commuting, and
wheelies are all excellent fun when you have a Bandit 12.
It's a simple, uncomplicated bike that's based on proven
high performance technology, and that works very, very well
as a sportbike for the real world. Piero Zambotti
I managed to pry the 1200 Bandit out of Pieros grubby little hands just long enough for a week long road trip down to Cape Cod in Massachusetts along with the Missus on the faithful GS750. This 2600Km round trip gave me a good impression ofthe Bandit, most of which has already been well covered by Piero. I do however, dispute the seat comfort bit. It was shite. Okay, I may be more sensitive in the derriere than most, but that seat had me in pain way before it was time for a gas refill. That's a shame because it severely limits the bike's long distance usability.
Apart from seat limitations the Bandit ate up the highway miles with ease. The small fairing looks useless but in fact does an excellent job - keeping the brunt of the wind off the rider. There is that uncomfortable buzz at legal speeds though and the temptation to cruise at 130 is too great.
If any of you still haven't
checked out the White Mountains of Vermont, then it's time
to get off your dusty ass and explore. It's a much needed
antidote to the malaise of Ontarios flat lands, with real
mountains and actual bends in the roads! Unfortunately it
was getting late and we still
Anyway, I digress, what about the Bandit? My supremo cornering test finally came when we got out of Boston to the base of Cape Cod. Here we find a rare phenomenon for North America - Traffic Circles, or knee-down-bike-scraping-mental-high-speed-roundabouts as we call them back in England. Two trips around saw me getting my knee as close to the ground as I care for, with no disobedience from either bike nor tires. One and half hours later, just shy of midnight, we hit my aunts cottage in Wellfleet. I could no longer put any pressure on my butt cheeks, and so face down in bed I quickly lost consciousness.
Would I buy this bike? If the truth be known, I'm too cheap to buy any new bike. I would however recommend it should it find its way onto your short list, providing you have buns of steel of course.
Oh, and what was the result of our New York speed test? Heather pleaded guilty and got a US$100 fine, but I would have none of it. However, faced with a subsequent expensive little excursion (at very short notice) down to Dansville, with no guarantees, I changed my plea to guilty but with an explaination (i.e. I wasn't really guilty but I couldn't afford to go and defend myself). After a chat on the phone with the judge, I duely ran around getting notorised statements and express delivered them so that I could stand fast in the face of injustice and repression. Two weeks later my extra work paid off as I received notice that I too owed US$100 and had exactly minus two days to pay or the Department of Motor Vehicles in Albany would suspend my drivers licence.
The cheque's 'in the post'.