Used Review: Suzuki Bandit 600

In 1995 Suzuki built the naked middleweight Bandit. Compared to Yamaha's Diversion it was a revelation: sure it was cheap, cheerful and built to a price, but it was also a hell of a lot of fun to ride.

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY was not part of the deal when this Bandit stopped us in our tracks 10 years ago.

Instead, you were the one on the take. For just £3999 new back in 1995 you'd get a smart-looking budget bike with well proven chassis parts and motor. In fact, it was all a bit of a steal.

The engine came courtesy of the old GSX600F 'Teapot'. Not the fastest bike out there, to be sure, but the air/oil cooled motor was reliable and good for 70-80bhp and 125mph: and while the suspension was wibbly-wobbly and super-soft you could still wind up the wick and really enjoy twisty roads.

It seemed as if all these budget parts seemed to add up to so much more. The name was cool and the look was classical. Here was a nice-looking, modern and cheap naked bike, with just a hint of retro chic. It was a winner.

Suzuki, wisely realising they were onto a good thing, decided in 1996 to add another model to the stable - the GSF600S - basically the same bike with a half-fairing bolted on. These were soon joined by a Bandit 1200 for just £2000 more and both bikes shot to the top of the charts.

It was certainly the price that made the Bandit a big hit, but sadly, come winter, the budget bits could prove to be the bike's undoing. Exhausts rotted quicker than Shane McGowan's teeth and engine paint would dissolve on contact with the smallest drop of H20.

Today, things have most definitely moved on. Back then you could fool yourself that the Bandit was a sporty little number and better than its main opposition - the dowdy Yam Diversion. Sadly, the ravages of time and newer, smarter and better built opposition such as the Hornet, Fazer, Z750 and Suzuki's own SV650 have seen it revert from a smart little bike into something that's simply a cheaper, poorer alternative to better bikes.

But the upside of being one of the first budget naked middleweights on the block is that there's a Bandit out there for any sized wallet. Just beware of the mangy old hounds.


End-cans rot, engine chrome is thin, as is paint - so despite the motors themselves being bomb-proof, they do end up looking tired, even if they ain't. Early models were more prone to a bit of corrosion around the frame welds. As the frame was painted, look hard for evidence of this and remember that 'Ferrous Brown' was not a colour option. Check forks for pitting and leaky seals. But remember, all of this is avoidable if you look after the bike, clean it and bestow upon it superhuman levels of TLC


Soft as butter and about as adjustable as a young Conservative's stance on Europe. You can get them sorted out, but it will cost. Best thing to do is swap standard parts for heavier oil and springs. This gives a lot more resistance to hard braking use by heavier European riders on Blighty's pot-holed roads


Everything and anything's been seen on the Bandit. Original bikes have had Metzeler MEZ1/2 combos and Bridgestone BT56s. Bridgestone's later rubber (020s) are still popular, too, as are Metzeler's newer offerings. Dunlop Sportsmaxes will be seen on many a dealer-sold bike ('cos they're cheap) and stickier rubber is also popular with the hooligan element while zero-grip, zero-wear Hoo-Flung-Dung bakelite radials are available for all you tightwads


Not the strongest or most powerful, even at the time when the bike was originally launched. These sliding twin-piston jobbies do - like so many braking systems - benefit from a large dollop of TLC to keep them working well, so regular stipping and cleaning will help. Braided lines are also a must


Cliche after cliche has been written about this motor. It's basically taken from the 80s/90s GSXF600 'Teapot', and is originally derived from the early oil/air-cooled GSX-R750 mill, sharing the same bottom end. Power is around the 70-75bhp mark and it's delivered in a frantic, screaming buzz around the 10,500rpm redline. You can poodle around at 2000 revs, and there's a bit of mid-range at 5000 onward, peaking at 38ft-lbs of torque at 9250rpm, but this isn't what the Bandit is about. Thrash it, cane it, rev the tits off it. The motor won't mind one little bit. Service intervals are every 4000 miles. Bandits can need their valves checking pretty regularly, so ask if this has been done and listen for any top-end rattles before you get out your chequebook


Not the best quality item. Many will rot through in a single winter if not looked after properly. Weak points include the silencer, any weld area and the place where the end-can and downpipes meet. As to replacements, Motad/Nexxus are popular with the Sam Browne belt brigade, while fruitier options such as Scorpion, Micron etc are the choice for the younger generation. If you want to do it on the cheap, then some GSX600F pipes will fit - but you need to check the model, although owners say that GSX end-cans fit on late model 600 Bandits


Cheap and cheerful, but still prone to be needing replacement at the 20-30,000 mile mark. Check out the shock and downpipes to see if the previous owners are diligent cleaners...


About 18 litres of unleaded will keep you going for around 120-140 miles before refilling - depending on your right wrist

Carburettor/starting problems

Many owners have reported problems in this area and it can be down to a number of things. First off, do check that you're getting a spark. If you are, the next culprits are the carbs. Bandit carbs can suffer in a number of ways:

FUEL: If the carbs have got a bit of muck in 'em or if fuel has been left in the float bowls for too long problems can arise. Do hear the bike fire up, let it warm up and then take it for a ride

DAMP: Leaving the bike outside in damp conditions for days on end doesn't help starting either. So, fire the bike up on full choke three or four times, then let the bike rest and then try again

PIPES: Look for kinks in the pipes under the tank. A kink in the fuel vent hose is a common problem

COLD: Carb icing can be a problem. This is where ice molecules form in the petrol, some petrol additives work

FUEL TANK BREATHER: Dodgy filler caps have been reported on any age Bandit 6s. You'll be going on your merry way and then the bike will cut out, as if there's some sort of fuel starvation. When it does that, pull over and stop as quick as you can and pop open the filler cap and listen for any hissing

Suzuki GSF600N Bandit (1995-1999)

Colours: Black, red, green, silver, blue, teal blue

Price new: £3999

Pay now: £950-£2000

Comments: So right it hardly changed in years. Tubular steel frame houses an unstressed, air/oil-cooled, ex-GSX600F motor. All-in-all a good old honest, traditional looking bike with no pretensions. Joined by basically the same but otherwise half-faired GSF600S in 1996.

Suzuki GSF600N/S Bandit (2000-2004)

Colours: Red, black, silver, blue, yellow, maroon

Price new: £4649

Pay now: £1500-£3000

Comments: First major update of the Bandit line. New design frame loses the original's cradle curve and in comes a 3mm longer wheelbase and a slightly breathed-on motor, although you'd barely notice the difference. A subtle re-style sanitises the original's looks. For the S, in comes a much more stylish half-fairing with much better headlights.

Suzuki GSF650 Bandit (2005-on)

Price new: £4299

Colours: blue, black, red, silver

Comments: We've seen it before. Bigger motor, painted frame, soft chassis, shite build quality, good price. The midrange boost is a handy addition, but Suzuki now faces tough competition in a cut-throat sector of the market.