Splitting heirs: Suzuki GSF600 V GSF1200

Suzuki's Bandit models brought brand-new sports motorcycles suddenly into the price range of just about anyone. Five years and one re-vamp later, how do the 1200 and 600 stack up against each other?

Posted: 20 September 2010
by Chris Moss

Back in 1995 Suzuki started a new trend to answer some of the prayers of the less well-funded. They produced a more affordable bike, called it the Bandit 600 and spawned a whole new budget class of fun sportsbike. Since then, all the other major manufacturers have been obliged to follow the cost-cutter sportsbike trend, recognising a massive market when they see one.

The Bandit name was actually a bit of a misnomer. Its 72bhp performance and looks weren't particularly wild or nasty, though they were decent enough. But one thing which could be linked to its name, was its price. At just £3,999, it was said that the only people being robbed were the Suzuki dealers themselves.

Within months the Bandit 600 became the UK's best-selling bike. Buyers were more than happy. Suddenly there was no further need to lurk around for months checking out the best second-hand deals. No need to check the service history or how carefully a bike had been ridden. Now they could have a brand new bike that no one else had buggered about with. And there was a proper warranty, too.

A year later in 1996 the factory introduced a larger capacity version, the 1200 Bandit. This bike had heaps more attitude and genuine 100bhp power, but retained the same value for money philosophy. It cost £2,000 more than its smaller brother, but at £5,999 it still put a new big-bore bruiser within reach of many more potential customers. Suzuki's decision to release this larger variant was just as successful as the 600 and Big Brother Bandit soon earned stuntbike badass appeal.

A minor re-design in 2000 saw both bikes get a slightly different - and mainly cosmetic - frame design. Each naked bike gets an option of a half-faired model to keep the elements at bay. This is still available now (and much better looking than it was) for an extra £300 on the 600, and £400 more in the case of the 1200.

Even the price of the Bandits hasn't changed too much. Now it's just a £100 more for the unfaired 600 than it was in 1995, and in the case of the basic 1200, it's actually £300 cheaper than it was in '96! This will largely be down to the serious level of competition the Bandits now face, most of which perform better in certain areas than the Suzukis. But there's no doubt that the Bandit Brothers still represent fantastic VFM.

Walk up to the two Bandits and you'd be hard pushed to tell which was which. Apart from some visual giveaway details like the different brakes and swingarms, they appear almost identical. No bad thing, as both have a rugged and basic style to them. Ask a six year-old to draw you a picture of a motorbike, and he'd draw you a Bandit. Both show off their engines to full effect and the lack of plastic coverage gives each a stronger sense of purpose.

Continue the Suzuki GSF Bandit road test

Cost of Living

The Bandits are fitted with different brands and sizes of tyres. The 600 wears Bridgestone BT56s, with a 120/60 ZR17 front and 160/60 ZR17 rear. Michelin Macadams are original rubber on the 1200, a 120/70 front and 180/55 rear.

BT56s are an excellent all-round tyre for the smaller Bandit, with good stability, grip and wear rates courtesy of their Dual Aligned Compound. The DAC arrangement effectively makes the rubber grippier on the sides of the profile for hard cornering, and tougher in the centre for longer life.

But the BT56s are becoming more difficult to obtain as they're being superseded by the BT010 type. These are superb alternatives. They have the same comprehensive performance as the BT56s, but give even more grip. They'll cost you around £200 to have fitted to loose wheels and balanced, and will last you around 7,000 miles, depending how you ride.

Michelin Macadam 100s for the 1200 Bandit ironically cost slightly less, despite the bigger size of the rear tyre. Around £190 will cover the cost of fitting and balancing them to loose wheels.

The performance of the Michelins is generally good and they're durable enough to last up to 5,000 miles. But their grip isn't so good when they're cold, and heavy-handed throttle use can wear them out in as little as 3,000 miles. That's the price of the 1200's extra power and weight. On the whole expect the bigger Bandit's tyre bills to be around double the 600's.

Fuel economy
Fuel costs are marginally higher on the bigger bike on the whole. Both Bandits have 20 litre tanks - just over 4 gallons in real money. That equates to a useful range of 180 miles on the 600 with its average consumption of 42mpg of unleaded, and 155 miles on the bigger Bandit which is a little thirstier with an average of 35mpg. This difference is reduced if the 600 is ridden very hard, as its engine has to be thrashed so much.

Fuel ranges of both Bandits are long enough to make them practical tourers. Both have fuel taps with a reserve position which gives a warning of only 25miles worth of fuel remaining before running dry. But the 1200 has the luxury of a digital fuel gauge, making the time before refill more predictable to gauge.

Depreciation is a fact of motorcycling life, especially when buying new. Initial losses on the Bandits aren't too bad due to their low cost and high popularity. But after a year expect to lose around £1,000-1,200 on the unfaired models and about £300 more on the faired ones.

Of course mileage and condition are the biggest influences on the value of a used bike, and it should be noted that the finish of the Bandits isn't particularly durable. Alloy parts corrode easily and the paintwork wears and scratches if it's not cared for. It's important to give the bike plenty of TLC to avoid premature deterioration, especially after rides in winter.

Try to get a Bandit a bit cheaper than RRP. Haggling with dealers on Bandits isn't that easy because they're in such demand. A little patience might net a £250 reduction on the price of a 600, and a little more on a 1200. But don't bank on it.

Servicing costs for the two Bandits are identical, so there's no saving to be gained in this area one way or the other.

After the initial service at 600 miles when the oil and filter are changed, costing around £20, intervals are every 4,000 miles. These services alternate in cost as one is an interim, and one a major. Interim services, which occur at 4,12 and 20,000 miles, should be priced at around £100. Major work could cost as much as £160 depending on how much work needs to be done on the valve clearances.

The need for new consumables such as air filters, brake pads, tyres, chain and sprockets etc will obviously affect the bills. Expect to pay around £300 for servicing over a 2-year or 10,000 mile period, depending on how hard the bike is used.

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