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I have very recently passed my motorbike test, 2 weeks ago in fact. Since then I have been looking for a good, all round bike to ride around on and be proud of, and I think that I have found it with the Suzuki GSF650 s.
To start with the bike looks gorgeous, having much sharper lines than previous incarnations of the bandit. The seat is extremely comfortable and I found that you can eat up the miles without any hint of a numb bum! The controls look and feel great, particularly the digital speedo, which also has a clock, a fuel gage and mileometer. The front brake lever is adjustable, however, the clutch lever isn't, and I found it a bit too far to stretch my hand to.
The performance of the bike is great, like the many bandits before it. It will happily cruise along at 50 all day, but with a slight twist of the wrist, it will fly and very possibly scare you! The bike that I bought it black, the best colour for the bandit as it makes it look quite mean and aggressive, helping to turn a few heads as you ride along.
All in all, I have found this bike to be a fantastic first bike, brilliant and easy to ride, and a bike that I won't be changing for quite some time to come!
Suzuki only marketed the air-cooled GSF 650 Bandit in the UK for a couple of years before they dropped it in favour of the current (2008) liquid - cooled model that they had to move to in order to meet emissions regulations, so the subject of this review is the last of the air/oil cooled Bandits.
It has four cylinders, four carburettors, a four-into-one exhaust system (in stainless steel, thankfully) and a six-speed gearbox. It has a radiator at the front where liquid cooled bikes have their radiators, but it is an oil cooler rather than for liquid coolant. There's nothing particularly trick about any of it and there's no doubt that it is built down to a price (see Build Quality below) but it's still a cracking buy for a certain market segment. Here are some details:
The riding position is nicely upright, so comfort is reasonable. The SA model with half fairing and ABS offers reasonable wind protection meaning that cruising at or slightly above motorway speeds is a breeze and the spare power available when riding along at motorway speeds in top gear is enough to waft you by dawdling traffic literally with a flick of your wrist and without needing to change down. If you do change down one or two gears though and then give it a big handful you get exactly the desired result and a very rapid overtake.
I have to say I've never experienced the ABS in action. In normal use the brakes seem very effective and highly responsive. All the controls are responsive, in fact. This is coupled with a fantastically flexible engine. The GSF650 just does not have a power band as such and you get a great response anywhere from 3000 rpm up. If you really want to you can gently open the throttle from just above 1000 rpm and get a smooth response, though I suspect not many bikers would be overly interested in that riding style. All in all the experience is smooth. The engine is a detuned and bored out sports bike engine and there is just no noticeable vibration at any revs. The power characteristics give a clue to the target market. Hard-core bikers will not want this bike, that does everything reasonably but nothing exceptionally.
Pop some throw-over panniers on and you've got a totally reasonable tourer capable of covering 200 miles between fill-ups. You even get a clock and a fuel gauge on one of the dials. The seat isn't good for 200 miles, though. The most I can manage without numb bum is about 2 hours. The lights are good on both dipped and main beam and the indicators are big and bright and flexibly mounted. The mirrors work. No vibration and you can actually see the road behind with them.
The handling is not sports bike good, but you can still fling it into bends with confidence and flick it about as soon as you've got even a little warmth into the tyres. The whole thing is fun.
Now for the build quality and finish. Not good. I guess Suzuki had to cut costs somewhere. The paint is amazing; give it a funny look and it will flake a bit in protest. I've lathered the more hidden bits of the swinging arm with Waxoyl pending the fitting of a rear hugger (I don't know if you can still buy Waxoyl - it's a greasy semi-permanent water and rust repellent that works a treat but looks terrible) and I imagine I'll be having the forks repainted sometime soon. I'm told that the rear shock doesn't last very long. Mine's OK for now. I had an automatic chain oiler fitted when I bought the bike and that seems to be working very well indeed.
With a discounted brand-new purchase price of about £4000, a 0-60 time of about 3.5 seconds and a top speed in excess of 130 mph it has to be one of the most cost effective ways known to the human race of giving people an amazing feeling of power and control. The riders of better specced sports bikes will know that a Bandit does not have the power, torque, handling, ride or braking of the better bikes, but for a host of less demanding and less skilled riders (like myself!) it fits the bill perfectly
To sum up, I heartily recommend this bike as a first biggish bike or as a bike for someone returning to motorcycling after a period away. Just wash it the moment you get back home if you want even a fighting chance of preserving the finish.