First Ride: 2007 Suzuki Bandit 650

Old faithful returns with a new jacket, starched braces and a spanking new motor

Posted: 2 April 2008
by Jon Urry

I remember the first time I saw my dad wearing jeans. He just looked wrong. Dad's from a generation of slack-wearers, not denim, and him in Levi's finest looked as out of place as a Casio watch in a Ben-Hur film.

But progress and the passing of time catch up with us all, and in 2007 it's  the turn of Suzuki's Bandit 650.

Now in its twelfth year Suzuki's classic budget bike has finally had to bow to a demanding new generation. Thanks to tough new EU laws limiting engine noise and emissions, the classic air/oil cooled motor has been consigned to the crusher in the sky, and one of the last bastions of carbs has fallen to fuel injection.

And unlike my dad, who converted his jeans to garage rags, progress with the Bandit's here to stay.
As you can see from the pictures Suzuki has avoided messing with the Bandit's look, as it generally has for the last 12 years! Aesthetically the 2007 bike's hard to split from its predecessor. The fairing, forks, swingarm and frame all look the same at a glance, but there are subtle differences.

The frame is 10 per cent more rigid thanks to 4mm larger diameter tubes, which has necessitated slight bodywork tweaks to fit around this, and the swingarm is actually longer than before because the new liquid-cooled motor is more compact.

Which is, of course, the major change. Although the bore and stroke are unchanged that's the only similarity between the two motors. Where the old Bandit engine could trace its roots back to a small weaving loom built sometime during the industrial revolution, the '07 motor is a ground-up redesign.

Which is where Suzuki could have come unstuck. In its 12-year reign the Bandit has gained a huge following by providing cheap, reliable and hassle-free motoring with a friendly and smooth motor. No frills, but very, very competent. Changing the motor, the very heart of the bike, could easily have buggered that character. But like the new Bandit 1250, which also went water-cooled this year, the 650 gets away with it.

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