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Budget bandit goes on tour

Suzuki have released a fully-faired tourer at a price that's hard to believe

By David Neely

We’re all trying to stretch the pounds in our pockets, or what’s left of them, as the new Chancellor pours over the county’s books to see where he can make extra savings.

I can inform George Osborne that one bike manufacturer has already taken a lead in budget control by releasing a tourer at a bargain basement price.

Suzuki has come up with a package, based on its GSX1250 Bandit, aimed directly at the rider who wants a bike ready-made for touring. It comes in two guises, the fully faired 1250FA, without panniers or a top box, at £7,124 on the road, or as a complete package, the FA ST (Sports Touring) for an extra £500 quid.

I’m breaking with tradition by giving the cost at the beginning of this article because the price is one of the main reasons why this is such good value. Suzuki has managed, somehow, to make this keep the tag astonishingly well down, especially creditable considering how much the £ has fallen against the Yen in the past couple of years.

And when you look at the specs and discover that both models include ABS in the price, and a centre stand, it’s no wonder that the fully faired machine is proving an instant hit with punters.

In the riding position, the seat is comfortable, with plenty of support. For me the bars are a nice reach and not too much of a stretch. The controls are typical Suzuki and the console, dominated by a rev counter, contains plenty of info.

For a start there are two trips and, and, great to see, a small window telling you which gear you’re in; every bike should have one. There’s a clock and a fuel indicator, among others, everything you need.

Once on the move, first gear goes in with a slight clunk but the rest of the six speed box is smooth after that. You’ll immediately discovered that the engine, as in all the 1250 Bandit series, has been re-mapped for torque and there’s plenty of output to make two-cruising at 100mph on the autobahn a dawdle.

The engine produces about 97bhp at 7,500rpm, so you see it’s not a buzz box, and the torque is given as 108Nm at 3,700rpm. You’re not revving the neck of it to maintain speed, it makes for a more relaxing ride.

The day I sampled the FA the weather was the worst it had been for some time; driving rain, roads left greasy after dry spell, made treacherous by diesel spills, from tractors, I believe. And for a good mix there was plenty of mist in some sections too.

It’s in conditions like these when you want to ride as smoothly as possible. No hard braking, a good steady line through corners and fair progress can be maintained.

(At one stage I met two groups of riders from the Continental, about 40 in all, going in the opposite direction on the Antrim Coast Road and I felt sorry that they were not seeing it, or very little of it, at its best).

The full fairing did a good job of keeping the worst of the rain at bay. A higher screen is offered by Suzuki as an extra and for me this would be a good buy. Heated grips are another option and as I was wearing lightweight summer gloves the grips would definitely be on my shopping list.

The frame construction is straightforward, simple, plain engineering and at the front there’s a set of conventional forks. The ride was slightly on the firm side, suspension has been strengthened to carry the extra weight of the fairing.

Double discs on the front and a single on the rear took charge of the braking department. The steering was neutral, obviously not as fast turning as a Gixxer, but then it’s set up for touring and not sports riding.

The tank holds 19 litres and expect mpg to be about 45mph. The wheel sizes give a good choice of after market rubber, the bike came with Bridgestone 021s.

It’s by no means a perfect bike; purists, for example, like tourers to be shaft and not chain driven but to reach this level you’re into quite a few thousands pounds more unless you go second hand. The Bandit series have always provided good value machines and the two versions of this model are no exceptions.

My test bike was borrowed from GS Motorcycles ,Ballymena, and, of course, they have another outlet at Hillsborough. My congratulations to two of its Ballymena staff, Kurt Harmer, who has just been awarded Suzuki 2010 salesman of the year, the first year the competition has been held, and to technician Alex Hunter, runner up in Suzuki’s national apprentice of the year.

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