BMW's forward-thinking front end feels a bit disconnected from the rubber/road interface relative to a good, old telescopic fork. And though the less intrusive Integral ABS II braking system is an improvement over previous iterations, there's still not much feel there either. It's easier to grab too much than just enough. Same goes for the throttle: It's like a shotgun-difficult to pull the trigger just a little bit. Timing is critical. So is keeping the revs up. No dialing up the throttle in the middle of a corner, please. It's a lot of work. But if you can remember all that and avoid sudden or sloppy moves, the Bandit retreats to fuzzy insignificance in the Beemer's mirrors. When the road gets rougher or tighter-or, heaven help us, both-that Suzuki-shaped speck starts getting bigger real fast.
Ridden hard where corners outnumber straights, the Sport turns into an apoplectic rodeo bull in an Armco-lined china shop. A successful career in chain-saw juggling awaits those who can manage hair-trigger brakes-thank God for ABS-keep the revs between 7000 and 10,000 with that touchy throttle whilst climbing around like Ben Spies just to clip the next apex. Smack a significant bump and excess compression damping turns the front suspension into (almost) no suspension momentarily, sending unpleasant aftershocks upstream to you-know-who.
Meanwhile, the shorter, quicker-steering Bandit is almost as quick with none of the drama. There's less room in the cockpit for tall riders, and that diabolical handlebar makes it difficult to lean forward and weight the front wheel when you want to. Springs are a bit soft, but suspension compliance is quite good-and stellar for a bike at this price-though it degrades rapidly with heat and mileage. Brakes are good, if a big high-effort. Dunlop Sportmax radials are great. They stick better than the BMW's Pirelli Diablos, but wear faster as well. Hard stops take two fingers. Squeeze too hard and the optional ABS system takes over, but it doesn't get in the way of aggressive braking as long as those fingers are writing a check the front Dunlop can cash.
The star of the show, though, is Suzuki's new, longer-stroke 1255cc four. There's no need for all that rpm with 77 lb.-ft. of torque arriving at 6000 rpm, followed by the whole 97-horse wallop 1000 rpm later. The net effect is less impressive during a quick trip through the gears. It's also more effective everywhere but the drag strip. Bavarian horsepower punts the K12 Sport through 1320 yards in 10.74 seconds at 131.55 mph, crushing the Bandit's 11.29/118.83 best. The BMW's accelerative advantages dwindle as speeds drop into the realm of street-riding reality. It goes from green light to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds-marginally quicker than the Suzuki's 3.4-second sprint.
What else can we tell you? Covering a few hundred miles after sundown is a more pleasant proposition on the BMW thanks to that photon cannon of a headlight in its nose. Heated grips are a blessing on long, cold nights, and so is a trip computer that calls up how many miles remain before the fuel runs out-a definite step up from the Suzuki's chronically pessimistic gauge. Adjusting the Bandit's shock spring preload is a knuckle-buster; the fork offers no damping adjustment and the chain on our bike stretched more than most, but at least there's a centerstand to make adjustments easier.
However, Suzuki's suggested retail price inspires sufficient grace to forgive its flaws. BMW's doesn't. There are too many concessions, qualifications and accommodations than we're willing to make for a motorcycle that inhales almost $18,000 from your checking account. If a steady diet of Scientific American and brochure copy has convinced you technology is its own reward and you travel to and from various lucrative pursuits on the fast, unspoiled pavement presumably used to calibrate its suspension, the K1200R Sport wins on curb appeal alone. For everybody else, the most significant twist is how close the Bandit comes to delivering filet mignon for the price of flank steak. The bottom line, in this case, is the bottom line. For $8799 (or $8299 if you can live without ABS), the Bandit 1250S delivers more motorcycle for less money than anything in anybody else's showroom. If you run out of ways to spend that other $9000, give us a call. We're here to help. MC