Big Ban­dit Pin­sent puts his oar in

Motorcycle News (UK) - - THIS WEEK IN MCN -

Most game-chang­ing mo­tor­cy­cles are won­ders of tech­nol­ogy or per­for­mance – or both. Machines such as the first race-replica GSX-R or mould-break­ing su­per­bikes like the GPZ900R or first Fire­blade. If not, they’re usu­ally clever new con­cepts like the Ducati Mon­ster or Honda Gold­wing.

But Suzuki’s bril­liant Ban­dit was none of these – it was quite the op­po­site. As a four-cylin­der road­ster the Ban­dit was ut­terly con­ven­tional. Thanks to hav­ing a fa­mil­iar lay­out and proven com­po­nents, it was ver­sa­tile, prac­ti­cal and fun. But, best of all, with the 600 be­ing £3999 new when su­per­sports were nudg­ing six grand, it was phe­nom­e­nal value. So much so, that the Ban­dit 600 be­came the first big bike for a whole gen­er­a­tion.

Olympic gold medal-winning rower Matthew Pin­sent was one of them. “It was the Spring of 1997 and I’d only re­cently passed my test,” he told MCN. “I was on my Suzuki Ban­dit 600, rid­ing back from Lon­don on a straight bit and thought: 'Well, this is as good a time as any, I might as well have a go at the ton!'” It was that kind of bike.

Plenty of oth­ers popped their bik­ing cherry on the Ban­dit. Reader Richard Moore said: “My 650 K7 Ban­dit was my first big bike and I loved it. It was re­li­able, com­fort­able, easy to work on, cheap… and, when con­di­tions al­lowed, quite rapid.”

Nick Hod­gins is an­other Ban­di­tista: “My Mk2 600 Ban­dit in­tro­duced me to rid­ing on the con­ti­nent. I took it to the Black For­est in 2014 and spent the next few days hav­ing my mind blown. It han­dled ev­ery­thing from wet, twisty roads to long mo­tor­way stints.”

Phil Buck­thorpe also cut his teeth on the Suzuki: “This bike is im­por­tant to me. For a first big bike on an A2 li­cence the Ban­dit is so easy to learn and work on, and is one of the best re­strictable bikes you can get!”

Not bad for a ma­chine which, when launched, was con­sid­ered some­thing of a parts bin bitsa.

The first GSF600N Ban­dit landed in the UK in 1995 af­ter a pre­ced­ing, less well-known 400 ver­sion (plus a 250 in Ja­pan). Like those it used proven in­gre­di­ents in a com­mon sense recipe: the solid, 78bhp brisk, oil­cooled four from the GSX600F along with de­cent sus­pen­sion, brakes and wheels all joined to­gether by a tubu­lar steel frame, hand­some body­work and con­ven­tional but pleas­ing enough clocks, switchgear and mir­rors.

The re­sult, while in no way earth shat­ter­ing, was friendly, fa­mil­iar, sur­pris­ingly good fun and so cheap one magazine’s cover shouted: Laugh­ing all the way to the bank.

Yet Suzuki had a fur­ther ace card to play: a dou­ble, or should that be quadru­ple whammy. There wasn’t just one Ban­dit avail­able, not even, with the ad­di­tion of the half-faired S ver­sion, two. With the launch of two big 1200 broth­ers the fol­low­ing year there were FOUR Ban­dits to choose from, all at bud­get prices and now to suit all re­quire­ments, as 1200 owner Terry Richard­son dis­cov­ered:

“I’ve owned two Ban­dit 1200s and it is, for me, one of the best bikes on the mar­ket. It has the tour­ing as­pect, enough power to play with sports­bikes, there’s lots of per­son­al­is­ing that can be done and it won’t break the bank.”

Cliff Ho­lifield is an­other owner – or rather, he was. “I owned one un­til Fe­bru­ary when I was knocked off by an el­derly gentle­man who said he didn't see me. The fol­low­ing week I would have owned the bike for a nine full years, dur­ing which she was rid­den in all weath­ers as my daily com­mute. The poor old girl was writ­ten off but what a nine years we had to­gether!”

Many oth­ers have sim­i­larly fond mem­o­ries. It should be no sur­prise, then, that not only was the Ban­dit, in all guises, a huge suc­cess it re­mained so pop­u­lar that it lived on for al­most 20 years, ne­ces­si­tat­ing two sig­nif­i­cant up­dates, lat­terly to 650 and 1250cc.

And though, now, due partly to Euro4 reg­u­la­tions, both Ban­dits are fi­nally no more. As a used buy, how­ever, it re­mains hugely sig­nif­i­cant to a huge num­ber of bud­ding big bik­ers.

One of them is 25-year-old reader Dean Goundry. “I’ve just passed my test and own a 17-year-old 1200,” he told MCN. “My fa­ther got a Ban­dit when I was 13. I did thou­sands of miles on the back. He ended up sell­ing it in 2013 and re­gret­ted it ev­ery day but found it last year and bought it back. That in­spired me to do my test and buy my own.”

I found a straight bit of road and went for it’ MATTHEW PIN­SENT

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