First Ride Review: 2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS

Safe Bets, Place Your Safe Bets Here!

Suzuki says: "A whole new standard." Motorcyclist Magazine says: "Standard? Yes. Whole new? Hardly."

2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
Small changes to the styling include extra fairing bits around the radiator shroud. Otherwise, it’s a flashback to 2007.©Motorcyclist

Suzuki's 2016 Bandit 1250S finds itself in a strange place. Once the go-to standard bike in Suzuki's lineup, the $9,899 Bandito Grande now has intramural competition from the cheaper ($7,999), lighter GSX-S750 from below as well as the much higher-performance (and only slightly more expensive at $10,999 with ABS) GSX-S1000F just above. Which, naturally, begs the question: What would entice a buyer to go for the Bandit over the GSX-S1000 ABS in the same price range? And, thinking more laterally, what makes the Bandit more appealing than, say, a V-Strom 1000 for touring? In many ways, Mr. Bandit is a jack of all trades, which will be viewed as a strength to some buyers, a demerit to others. Is there still room in motorcycling for the mature generalist?

Mature, by the way, is code for old. The Bandit 1250 was first introduced in 2007 with an MSRP of $8,799, primed to do battle with Yamaha’s still-kinda-new second-generation FZ1. Now the 1250 has been refreshed ever so slightly and made slightly more affordable; that ‘07 price tag equates to just over $10,000 today.

2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABSJulia LaPalme
2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
The bike does come with a center stand, but this 135-pound editor couldn’t leverage the Bandit’s 563 pound heft on my own. Sidestand it is, then.©Motorcyclist

So much of the Bandit’s styling still speaks to that first millennial decade, only now Suzuki’s added a few small fairing pieces to the front end to help with airflow around the radiator shrouds. The Bandit’s aerodynamics aren’t bad, but the height of the windscreen is somewhere between just bikini pretty and awkwardly tall but useful. For my 5-foot-5 self, that means I either have to tuck in really tight behind the fairing to minimize wind (and still get a noisy blast of it right into the vent above my face shield) or sit taller than my natural riding posture to maximize the aerodynamic flow. Neither of which is practical for longer rides. Taller riders say the fairing parts the wind just right, leaving their heads out of the turbulent air.

If the Bandit’s aerodynamics are less than ideal for long rides—for shorties, anyway—at least its liquid-cooled four-cylinder engine is up to the task. In fact, the Bandit’s eerie smoothness and effortless torque seem built for touring. Cruising along at highway speeds, the Bandit’s tall gearing is made possible by the engine’s bounteous torque, which begins to make an impression as low as 1,350 rpm. At typical highway speeds, the engine is loafing at 4,500 rpm. Plenty of times I found myself cruising along at 80 mph in fifth gear, making sixth almost superfluous. Sadly this does not equate to especially impressive fuel mileage. Over nine fuel ups, with mostly freeway riding, the Bandit averaged a middling 40 mpg. At least the Bandit has very good throttle response—the engine responds immediately but not abruptly, and is much better than the too-sharp GSX-S1000.

2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
The Bandit’s most redeeming feature: it’s buttery smooth engine, delivers torquey power as low as 1350rpm, and cruises at highway speeds nonchalantly at 4500rpm.©Motorcyclist
2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
The obscenely sized shiny can keeps El Bandito’s noise to a neighborhood-friendly minimum.©Motorcyclist

If smoothness wasn’t enough to prove the taming of the Bandit, the low decibel exhaust noise is. At one point, a riding buddy pulled up next to me after I’d started the bike, leaned over and said “I didn’t even realize that thing was on!” Some might rejoice in the smoothing of El Bandito’s buzz, but others find it too tame. Bossman Cook opined, “As a long-time Bandit fan, I don’t like this engine. It’s too tame, too quiet, too… um, not like an early GSX-R.” Someone needs to tell Cook that 1985 called and wants its oil-swilling, hydrocarbon-spewing engine back.

Give Suzuki credit for matching a calm, reassuring engine with brakes of the same temperament. The four-piston Tokico fronts and single-piston Nissin rear on the 1250 offer adequate power, but the front brakes require a firm pull to get into the ABS and have virtually no feel, like squeezing a balloon full of sand. ABS comes standard, and makes quite a fuss when engaged, calling attention to itself with a very distinct clatter (and not an endearing clatter some would prefer in the engine noise). Steering effort is on the heavy side but the bike’s inherent responses are fairly neutral. It doesn’t try to push back in corners, and isn’t unduly upset by mid-corner bumps, but sporting riders would likely consider the Bandit to be safe and dull.

2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS brakes
Tokico 4-piston front brakes with ABS give decent stopping power for relaxed riding, but not terribly aggressive for the faster riders. You gotta really get in it to activate the ABS.©Motorcyclist

The Bandit’s Showa suspension leaves a bit to be desired, too, almost certainly the result of cost-cutting measures. The 43mm Showa fork is a cartridge design, albeit without any external adjustments, and combines slightly too-soft springing with a surfeit of high-speed compression damping, which isn’t a great combination. Dive under braking is substantial, yet the front wheel has difficulty following small bumps in the road. It’s at once mushy and harsh. Certain sections of freeway turned the bike into a stiff rocking horse. Rear suspension, by way of a preload- and rebound-damping-adjustable shock, is fine.

The Bandit’s harshness is not something I would enjoy for long trips. But in the twisties, the suspension felt a bit better settled, though, again, without the refinement to really absorb mid-turn bumps and ruts. With all that said, the suspension never unnerved me—the Bandit is naturally stable and slow to get out of hand. It just never feels of particularly high quality.

2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS gauges
Gauges - RPM on the left, everything else crammed into the screen on the right. Nothin’ fancy about it, but utilitarian.©Motorcyclist
2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS front seat
Adjustable front seat (from 31.7 to 32.5 inches) is separate from the pillion, and comfortable enough on longer rides. Grab bar and tie down posts help when securing cargo to the back.©Motorcyclist

Now, I’ll admit I’m not the average sized rider. With a 30-inch inseam, the Bandit felt a bit tall for me at first, though its seat is adjustable from 31.7 inches (in low setting) to 32.5 inches (in the high setting). In low, the default setting from factory, I was able to plant the ball of each foot at standstill. At first the 563-pound bike felt somewhat cumbersome, but over time I got used to maneuvering its heft. Putting the Bandit up on its standard-issue centerstand proved a challenge, even when putting my entire 135-pound weight onto the leverage peg. This bike is not for small riders, folks. But it’s not entirely inaccessible, if you can manage the weight.

So, who is the Bandit 1250 made for? Good question. We asked a dealer friend of ours who said he just that morning had a guy, mid-40s, walk in looking at a trio of bikes: A new Kawasaki Concours 14, a Ninja 1000, and the Bandit. He wanted the Connie but it’s too expensive. He looked at the Ninja and thought it was ugly. He also looked at Suzuki’s new GSX-S1000 naked bike, but wasn’t impressed. He kept walking back to the Bandit, taking his time, not about to make any kind of emotional decision. He went home to think about it some more.

2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
Dat can, doe. You can see it coming a mile away, but you won’t hear it much.©Motorcyclist

Obviously the new Bandit carries on where the old one left off so many years ago—to be a versatile, comfortable, affordable motorcycle that is easy to manage, inoffensive, and not so frisky that it coerces you into trouble. A safe bet. A fine, capable, cautious choice in a standard-style motorcycle. And you know what? It’s exactly that, and nothing more.


PRICE $9,899
ENGINE 1255cc, liquid-cooled inline-four
MEASURED HORSEPOWER 99.0 hp @ 6900 rpm
MEASURED TORQUE 80.5 lb.-ft. @ 5900 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel twin-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload; 5.1-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.4-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Tokico four-piston calipers, 310mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.3°/4.1 in.
WHEELBASE 58.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.1/31.9 in.
For riders who want a traditional, almost throwback-style Japanese standard that’s not trying to be overtly retro.
2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS
Suzuki claims its standards “deliver easy ergonomics,” check, “metro muscle,” check, and “modern style,” well… not so much.©Motorcyclist
2016 Suzuki Bandit 1250S ABS review
Front suspension was a combo of mushy and harsh, but rear shock was fine.©Motorcyclist