Nov 16, 2011 ... because it's basically a restyled version of the 1250 Bandit, which hasn't had a
proper ... Suzuki's excellent SDTV dual throttle valve EFI with.
The Big Bandit Dressed for Sport-Touring
by Dave Searle
four has the self-assured swagger of a prizefighter, and delivers its massive peak torque of 75.7 lb.-ft. at just 3500 rpm, for the kind of relaxed muscle you don’t find very often. Although this kind of power isn’t ideal for the dragstrip, where the GSX can “only” manage an 11.49 sec. quarter-mile, it works great in real-word riding situations. Because the big motor appears to have significant flywheel weight in its crank and balance shafts and isn’t tuned for high revs, it doesn’t accelerate at high speeds particularly well. But this same inertial weight keeps the fuel injection from making the engine feel too responsive at lower rpm, and it never feels abrupt. And with all that power down low, you never have to wait for the engine to answer the twistgrip at street speeds; for instance, 0-60 mph comes up in just 3.37 sec. Further engine details include an automatic cold starting system that achieves clean running immediately, and a generously sized catalytic convertor ahead of the muffler to keep the exhaust clean.
ALL, DARK AND HANDSOME, the GSX1250FA exudes an air
of mystery. Too big to be a race-replica, although it wears the same pointed wind-cleaving face as its Gixxer (GSXR) siblings, its vibe is understated almost to the point of being introverted. But if you think it also looks new and at the same time oddly familiar, you’re right on both counts. It looks familiar because it’s basically a restyled version of the 1250 Bandit, which hasn’t had a proper update since 2007. The full fairing, however, is all-new and it’s available only in black, which looks more sober than sinister. Thankfully, if you look more closely, the paint actually gleams in bright sunlight with deep metallic blue highlights; serving as a reminder that the closer you look, the better the GSX1250FA gets.
Engine Background In their earliest incarnations, from 1996 to 2001, the big Bandits were considered bargain-priced muscle bikes, torque-rich beasts that eagerly responded to modification. Powered by a variant of the five-speed, air/oil cooled GSX-R1100 motor, the 1157cc Bandits vibrated too much and didn’t have the chassis stiffness to handle all that well. But things improved immensely in 2007 when stricter emissions regulations essentially required engine updates. In place of the old motor was a new liquid-cooled, six-speed, stroked to create a 1255cc displacement. The steel chassis was new, with stronger front downtubes, to allow the use of rubber mounts at the top and front of the motor in order to quell what vibration wasn’t subdued by the engine’s balance shaft. Suzuki’s excellent SDTV dual throttle valve EFI with 36mm throttle bodies replaced carburetors to provide excellent throttle response and driveability. A new cylinder head with a tight 16° included valve angle aided combustion efficiency, and the compression ratio increased from 9.5:1 to 10.5:1 but still allowed the use of regular 87 octane gas. Oddly, these changes didn’t increase output, but actually cost 2.5 hp, although the peak torque did improve. In fact, the GSX1250 motor’s state of tune remains a throwback to its original premise, a torque-monster in a world of hyper-active but less flexible powerplants. Despite preconceptions that more is always better, the motor’s character creates a great impression. With “just” 99.5 hp and a redline of “just” 9500 rpm, the 1255cc DOHC, four-valve, in-line 16
MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS
Transmission & Clutch Suzuki has earned a great reputation for producing excellent transmissions and the GSX1250 is a perfect example. It shifts gears easily with modest effort and it never misses shifts, even at high rpm, when some trannies experience problems. In fact, it seems to relish the opportunity to grab another gear quickly when you’re on the gas hard. The transmission’s gearing matches the engine’s powerband nicely. First allows you to pull away smoothly at barely more than an idle, and top gear allows high road speeds at modest rpm. For instance, at 4500 rpm the speedo indicates 87 mph, almost 20 mph faster than the average midsized four-cylinder engine will go at those same revs, and it cruises a true 65 mph at just 3830. This makes it perfect for extended freeway riding, when the engine doesn’t sound or feel like it’s working hard but still holds vast reserves of passing power in hand without the need for downshifting. And, as we’ve found typical of Suzuki’s clutches, the GSX1250 unit has the engagement strength to handle the torque with a very controllable feel that simplifies routine riding and that’s also easy to modulate during high-rpm launches. Also, the clutch actuation is hydraulic, which allows the unit to self-adjust for a consistent lever position.
Suspension Supporting this 569.5-lb. gran tourismo are conventional female-slider forks with adjustable preload and 5.1" of travel and a rear monoshock with 5.4" of travel, 7-positions of preload and rebound adjustability. Athough we initially wondered if the rear damping wasn’t a bit too firm, the bike’s overall ride quality is excellent, sufficiently controlled to eliminate any wallowing on rough roads but with enough cushion that bumps are swallowed up without upsetting the chassis. The freeway ride is also ideal, plush enough for long-term comfort, matched with great directional stability and resistance to rain grooves. Although we’d have wished the front suspension offered some damping adjustability, its action was certainly good enough that we couldn’t be too disappointed. The preload adjustability it does have makes a handy way to change the front ride height to alter steering characteristics, but we were very satisfied with the handling created by the stock setting and left it undisturbed.
There’s nothing surprising or cutting edge about the GSX1250’s braking equipment: Good sized 310mm semi-floating front discs within the grasp of Tokico four-piston, differential bore calipers; no radial mounting or braided stainless brake lines, and out back a single 240mm disc covered by a single-piston caliper. While the power of these brakes is perfectly adequate, we weren’t overly impressed with their control feel, particularly at the front. Perhaps the addition of braided lines would make the difference, or maybe it’s a matter of brake pad composition. Whatever, they were good but not truly great. ABS is standard equipment on the GSX1250FA, which at one time was offered as a $500 option on the Bandits. It performed as we’ve come to expect from ABS, allowing stops just shy of 1.0G of deceleration (a best of 122.7' ranging to as long as 133.7') and giving no odd sensations. Of course, tires are the ultimate arbiter of braking performance, and the GSX wears the popular Bridgestone BT021 sport-touring rubber as standard equipment. These have a reasonably good ride quality and offer neutral handling, although we’ve replaced them in the past with Metzeler’s ME-Z6s and found improvements in both handling and comfort.
Handling Riding on a relatively compact wheelbase of 58.5", and using 25.3% of rake and 4.1" of trail, the GSX has the weight distribution of a proper Gixxer; resting 51.8% of its riderless weight on the front wheel in order to create an almost perfectly balanced condition with the rider on board. While it’s details such as this that make for a great handling motorcycle, it’s not so easy to achieve in practice, and the engine needs to be very short front to back to shift enough weight forward, which is an inherent advantage of the in-line four. This also allows a long swingarm to be fitted, which is advantageous to suspension action and improves drive. What it all accomplishes is a very confidence-inspiring sense of front end grip, which allows the rider to enter corners more rapidly than he or she might otherwise, secure in the knowledge that the bike has the traction it needs. Also, the precise rake and trail figures work to provide razor-sharp steering accuracy as well as low steering effort. Although the bike feels a little top-heavy, its weight is so evenly distributed from side-to-side that maintaining balance at a stop is exceptionally easy to do, and we found ourselves regularly pausing at stop signs without putting a foot down. At such times, the GSX’s excellent clutch and throttle control always made moving smoothly away from a standstill easy to control.
Ergonomics As the photograph above shows, the GSX’s riding position is not extreme. The seat is just 31.6" off the ground, and if that’s not high enough for your long legs, you can adjust it another 20mm (.8") higher by spending a couple of minutes with a wrench on the mounts under the seat. The footpegs are 14.0" off the deck, which allows plenty of cornering clearance for rapid riding and the handlebars are 8.5" above the seat, for a comfortable upright stance.
Although several of us worried that the handlebars were too narrow at first glance, in fact we found the machine steers so lightly that leverage isn’t a problem. And the mirrors are also well placed for a good view of what’s behind. After riding extended distances at high freeway speeds, we were very impressed with the level of wind protection provided by the new bodywork and windshield. The shield deflects the windblast to about the chin level and doesn’t create any buffeting to cause fatigue at high speeds. And despite the engine’s considerable displacement, and the unseasonably warm prevailing weather we encountered (90°+ temps), engine heat was not an issue during our testing, so the fairing’s vents clearly do a good job at evacuating heat away from the rider. Lastly, the seat comfort is also very good for both the rider and passenger. Multi-hundred-mile days were not a problem. Scott Rousseau
If you’ve read this far, you won’t be surprised that we rate the GSX1250FA a solid 9.5 out of 10 for its riding impression. Only its slightly below-par braking feel hurts its score. Otherwise, its handling, power, smoothness and slick transmission action are exemplary. It may also be worth mentioning that on roads that aren’t extremely smooth, the Suzuki’s plush suspension is better for control than it would be if it were sportbike firm, which would only cause the bike to be knocked around by bumps, making it harder to hold your lines. In this case, a better ride does not preclude better handling.
Instruments & Controls The instrumentation is also very complete and easy to read at a glance. In addition to a large analog tachometer, you’ve got a large digital speedo, a clock, a gear position indicator and a shift light. Plus, all the control levers are well-placed and adjustable for a custom fit.
Attention To Detail Not only is ABS included at its base price of $11,599, but a centerstand is also standard. And the stand works very easily, too, so you don’t have to worry about hernias or needing regular visits to the chiropractor if you decide to use it regularly.
Value While the GSX1250FA is no longer the steal the older 1200 Bandits were, it’s still a very good value compared to its competition. The Yamaha FJR1300 with ABS costs $15,590 and weighs 662 lbs.; Honda’s ST1300 with ABS costs $17,699 and weighs 727 lbs.; Kawasaki’s Concours 14 with ABS costs $15,599 and weighs 689.5 lbs. Consider, Suzuki sells a full set of Givi luggage for $1315.80 to equip the GSX for sport-touring, raising its MSRP to $12,914.80—still thousands less than the competition. Sport riders might also appreciate that it has the dynamic advantage of a chain final drive, vs. shaft drive on the others.
Bottom Line Suzuki says its streetbikes “leverage the legendary GSX-R DNA.” In the GSX1250FA’s case, that’s more than a slogan. Visit us at WWW.MCNEWS.COM
Model Evaluation STATIC PHOTOS BY DAVE SEARLE
Left: The GSX has a sleek new fairing that completely eliminates helmet buffeting and evacuates engine heat away from the cockpit nicely, turning the former 1250 Bandit into a perfect choice for commuting or sport-touring. The motor makes a little less than 100 peak ponies, but has a great spread of torque, excellent driveability and is silky smooth. It loafs at freeway speeds and makes high speed passing easy. Above: The instruments are wellarranged and easy to read at a glance. The tubular steel handlebar seemed a bit narrow at first, but the steering effort is light, so it turned out not to be a problem. The fork is preload adjustable and offers a plush ride quality for long distances.
Right: Plush seating for both the rider and passenger makes the GSX an excellent choice for two-up riding. The 1250’s relaxed power and smooth response are made for the job.
Right: The Suzuki’s ABS gave us a solid performance, with a best stop of 122.7'—right in line with what we’d expect. However, in normal use, we were not overly impressed with the feel of the front brakes—they’re good but not great. Left: Although the GSX’s suspension is not highly adjustable, its overall ride quality is excellent. Plush but well controlled; ideal for our less than smooth California roads. Its handling backs up Suzuki’s claim that the GSX “leverages the legendary GSX-R DNA” by delivering excellent frontend feel together with light steering effort, making the big GSX a fun accomplice on twisty roads.
TESTERS’ LOG What at first glance looked like a warmed-over showroom filler turned out to be one of the best sport-touring mounts we’ve tested. Even with an output of less than 100 hp, the GSX1250FA is plenty quick enough for real-world riding and with a great transmission, plush-yet-sporty suspension, powerful brakes, great ergonomics as well as superior aerodynamics and inspiring handling, it does everything well except drag racing. If stoplight contests are really your priority, we’d recommend you keep looking, but if you need a bike that’s totally at ease on the freeway and that makes twisty roads a joy at the same time, this is a lot of motorcycle for the money. Mount up the optional hard bags, and it will make a great sport-tourer. And if two-up riding is your thing, excellent seat comfort and its friendly low- and mid-range power can handle the extra weight without breaking a sweat. It’s amazing what the right bodywork can do to turn a capable chassis and muscular engine from an underachieving naked bike into a world-class sport-tourer. —Dave Searle
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Shame that the GSX1250FA wasn’t available when we conducted our Japanese Sport-Touring Shootout in August of 2010, because I think that it could’ve shaken up the outcome. Sure, the Suzi doesn’t come standard with hard bags, and it lacks an adjustable windscreen, high-tech trip computer and other sporttouring specialized equipment found on the upper echelon bikes in the class, such as the Concours 14 and FJR1300. But those bikes both retail for at least $14,599, while the GSX is just $11,599. For that price, I could install the Givi Trekker luggage tested in our last issue, add a Garmin Nuvo 665 GPS and aftermarket heated grips, and I’d still come in under $14,000. So, maybe a taller windscreen would be in the budget, too. It’d be worth the effort. The GSX’s Triumph Sprint GT-like handling and sinewy four-cylinder motor are already perfect for the job, and it’s riding position is extremely comfy, with a nice seat and handlebar angles that don’t aggravate the wrists. Considering its pedigree, I’m very impressed. —Scott Rousseau
2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA ABS SPECIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE DATA ENGINE
Type: .......... Liquid-cooled, inline four Valvetrain: .... DOHC, 4 valves per cyl., shim-under-bucket valve adjustment Displacement: ........................1255cc Bore/stroke: ................79.0 x 64.0mm Comp. ratio: ............................10.5:1 Fueling: ....SDTV EFI w/36mm throttle bodies Exhaust: ......................4-into-2-into-1
Measured top speed ......152.3 mph 0–1/4 mile..................11.49 sec. [email protected]
114.35 mph 0–60 mph ....................3.37 sec. 0–100 mph ..................8.81 sec. 60–0 mph ........................122.7' Power to Weight Ratio ........1:5.72 Speed @ 65 mph indicated ....59.4
MC RATING SYSTEM
Transmission:........................6-speed Final drive: ......................O-ring chain RPM @ 65 mph*/rev limiter: .. 3830/9500
EXCELLENT VERY GOOD GOOD FAIR POOR
*actual, not indicated
SUSPENSION Front: ..43mm female slider telescopic forks, adj. preload, 5.1" travel Rear:....Monoshock, 7-position adj. preload and rebound damping, 5.4" travel
TIRES & WHEELS Front: ..120/70ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT021 (M/C 58W) on 3.50" x 17" wheel Rear:180/55ZR17 Bridgestone Battlax BT021 (M/C 73W) on 5.50" x 17" wheel
MISCELLANEOUS Instruments: ..Analog tachometer, digital speedometer, odometer, dual tripmeter, reserve trip, clock, gear position, shift light, coolant temp., Indicators: hi-beam, t/s, neutral, ABS function, oil pressure, low fuel, coolant temp., engine malfunction MSRP:..................................$11,599 Routine service interval: ......6000 mi. Valve adj. interval:..............14,500 mi. Warranty: ..12 month, unlimited miles Colors: ..........................................Black
ELECTRICS Battery: ..............................12V, 10Ah Ignition: ..........Mapped, transistorized Alternator Output: 400W @ 5000 rpm Headlight: ..............................60/55W FUEL Tank capacity: ..........5.0 gal. (4.9 CA) Fuel grade:..............87 octane, regular High/low/avg. mpg: ....45.7/31.3/42.8
G HI J
: : :
: : :
Low end Mid-range Top end
DYNAMOMETER DATA 99.48 hp ::::: ::::: :::;.
The 1255cc motor has a massive torque spread; above 70 lb.-ft. from 3000 to 7000 rpm. The dual throttle valve fuel injection is very responsive, but never too abrupt and the rubber mounting gives excellent smoothness. It’s still a torque-monster.
TEST NOTES PICKS Delightful motor, smooth, powerful and responsive Excellent handling with low steering effort Comfortable ergonomics and aerodynamics PANS Front brakes lack ideal control feel Passenger pegs are a bit too close to the seat If offered in red, it would look as exciting as it is to ride
Tested at Mach 1 Motorcycles, Costa Mesa, CA
SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL TORQUE, LB. FT.
Front: ..Dual 310mm floating discs, 4piston calipers Rear: ..... 240mm disc, single-piston caliper
Vertical (ground to) F: Handlebar (center). G: Rider footpeg (top). H: Rider seat (lowest point). I : Passenger peg (top). J: Passenger seat (middle).
SAE CORRECTED REAR-WHEEL HORSEPOWER
Wheelbase: ................................58.5" Rake/trail: ....................25°20'°/4.10” Ground clearance: ......................5.25" Seat height: ................................31.6" GVWR: ................................1045 lbs. Wet weight: ........................569.5 lbs. Carrying capacity: ..............475.5 lbs.
Horizontal (nose to) A: Passenger seat (middle). B: Rider seat (middle). C: Handgrip (center). D: Passenger footpeg (center). E: Rider footpeg (center).
–––––– Open Sportbike ––––– ::::: Engine ::::: ::::: Transmission ::::: ::::: Suspension ::::: ::::; Brakes ::::: ::::: Handling ::::: ::::: Ergonomics ::::: ::::: Riding Impression ::::: Instruments/Controls ::::; ::::: ::::: Attention to Detail ::::: ::::: Value :::::
STANDARD MAINTENANCE Item Time Parts Labor Oil & Filter .......................0.5 ..............$13.10+$25 ....$40.00 Air Filter ....................0.7 ..........$32.58 ..........$56.00 Valve Adjust ..............4.0 ..........$88.00 ........$320.00 Battery Access ..........0.5 ............MF ..............$40.00 Final Drive ................0.3 ................................$24.00 R/R Rear Whl.............0.3 ................................$24.00 Change Plugs............1.0 ..........$22.00 ..........$80.00 Synch EFI ..................2.0 ............................$160.00 Totals ................9.3 ......$180.68 ......$744.00 * MCN has changed the estimated labor rate to $80 starting March 2007
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MOTORCYCLE CONSUMER NEWS