Just a Bandit with a full fairing? Jon Bentman flies to France and discovers the new GSX650F is a bike that’s much greater than the sum of its parts
It was a case of nip/tuck. Nose on the tank, toes curled round the pegs, throttle pinned. Watching the two identical bikes ahead for clues as to just how fast the next curve was going to be. Calculating where to apex to get the best run onto the following straight. I’d inch forward, maybe even make a few feet on the two guys ahead, momentarily catching the whiff of cheap aftershave as favoured in Peterborough’s environs, then, in the wipe of a nose, lose the tow again.
With over 11,000rpm on the tacho, in fifth, it felt sorely fast and a quick glance at the speedo showed 196. Only this was kilometres per hour, not miles, so in truth an imperial 120 or thereabouts. An illegal velocity in the UK of course (oh, and in France too I hear), but not entirely mental – almost ‘pony’ in a modern context. Yet when we pulled up some ten minutes later it was grins all round. There was the usual excited burn-up banter.
The talk was of fond memories, too. Some of us were likening this experience to our bad old days slipstreaming our mates on LCs, essentially flashbacks to our first sport biking experiences. All of which must have been happily observed by the Suzuki personnel. This new GSX650F – Suzuki call it an ‘all day sports bike’ (a hint of Little Chef menu there) – is a bike that will apparently suit the novice and the veteran rider alike. So, seeing as Suzuki had five seasoned journos genuinely enthusing about the bike while simultaneously dropping-in the yesteryear comparisons, well, they knew it was a case of mission accomplished.
It feels more than just a little awkward to be so enthusiastic about the GSX650F. It is, after all, little more than a Bandit 650 with a full fairing and some minor tweaks. And seeing as it’s only making a claimed 85bhp, then really this must be soft-sports at best. Yet the final execution, the performance, the handling – you can’t help but be impressed.
And while there’s no denying the Bandit heritage, Suzuki have gone to some lengths to individualise the new bike. While the engine architecture (bore and stroke etc) remains identical to the Bandit, a modified ECM, throttle bodies and injectors provide for a subtly more racey power delivery with more mid to top end. Equally the suspension has been given the makeover treatment, different part numbers revealing altered valving in the forks and the addition of rebound damping adjustment showing the rear shock to be a higher quality unit too.
Continue the Suzuki GSX650F Review
It is a bit remiss to label this GSX650F as a lightly modified Bandit. To do so overlooks the development that’s gone into the package and the technology that goes with it. This is not a basic package.
Take the fuel injection for a start. This is dual butterfly, SDTV in Suzuki speak, actuation just like on the GSX-Rs. While your throttle hand operates the primary butterfly (‘valve’ according to Suzuki) the ECM operates the second, making its adjustments according to the revs, gear and your own input.
This new 656cc motor isn’t to be sneezed at either. As well as the stacked gearbox and hydraulic clutch, again we’re finding GSX-R-style features like SCEM coated cylinders, direct ignition spark plugs, PVD ion-plated piston rings and an automatic hydraulic cam chain adjuster. The exhaust is a 4-2-1 type with catalyzer and Lambda sensor, ensuring emissions comply with Euro 3 Tier 2 requirements.
The chassis benefits most from subtly revalved and upgraded suspension units. While the 41mm Kayaba forks have detail changes (over the Bandit) in the valving, the rear shock gains rebound damping adjustment. The brakes are very effective, Tokico four-piston calipers offering strength and feel. A twin piston Nissin operates on the rear 240mm disc.
The full-fairing is well designed. By virtue of the GSX-R1000K5 vertically stacked headlamp it gains significant street appeal while providing good protection for the rider.
The fairing mounted mirrors do a decent job too. The instruments, a white faced tacho and LCD speedo are again GSX-R-alike, offering a cool upgrade over the chromed case retro clocks on the Bandit. Practical types might lament the lack of a centrestand but the chain adjusters are of a tidy design that will allow easy adjustment even with the wheel on the ground, on sidestand.
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