The following review is courtesy the Motorcycle Online article "Frugal Flyers." The Suzuki placed second in their test of 1. Honda Nighthawk, 3. Harley Davidson 883 Sportster, 4. Kawa EN500 Vulcan, 5. Yamaha XJS600 Seca II, and 6. MZ Saxon Tour
It was a tough fight, but somebody's got to be number two. Suzuki's Bandit came oh so close to winning. It was second only because limited availability of the new bike means price is unlikely to be lower than sticker -- we're thinking budget here. Honda's CB750 lists at $5199, a couple hundred less than the Bandit, but demand has been so high for the bright red Suzuki that real, out-the-door prices are likely to be much lower for the been-around-a-while Hondas.
On paper, the Suzuki looks identical to the Yamaha Seca's specification sheet. DOHC, 599cc engine, 6 speed transmission. On the road, it ain't even close. The new Suzuki, virtually a naked 600 Katana with different valve operating mechanism (screw and locknut, instead of expensive-to-adjust shim) looks faster, is faster, and handles slightly better than Yamaha's offering.
The air-oil cooled Suzuki engine has been around for years, usually hidden under the full-coverage bodywork of the Katana series, but it looks just fine out in the open. The Bandit has brutal good looks, helped by the single-color paint scheme in `arrest me' red. The pressed steel and round tube frame may not he the most modern chassis around, but one knowledgeable onlooker mistook it for Ducati's new four -- until he saw the name on the tank. It's that good looking.
Warming the engine up from cold takes a couple of minutes, and it's a good mile or three before the air-oiled cooled engine is warm enough to pull cleanly at any throttle opening. Once warmed up, performance is stellar. Thanks to six low gears and a 12,000 rpm redline, the Suzuki is by far the best performer of the bunch. The gearchange is slightly notchy, and indeed the whole gearshift linkage nearly self-destructed at the dragstrip, which would have been a first, but once in gear and wicked above 4,000 rpm the Suzuki takes off, fast.
Braking is just as outstanding, with the fade-free twin front discs, the only one of our group to sport them, offering linear feel and the ability to lock the front wheel with a hard squeeze. A single disc handles rear braking duties.
Limited as it is by non-adjustable front suspension and preload-only adjustment on the rear, handling is the best of the bunch, and little short of spectacular on smooth roads. On rough tarmac, the soft suspension shakes, shimmies, and may even bottom out at times over deep ruts and potholes. It's shod with quite competent Bridgestone Exedra tires on its wide front and rear rims, which are the right size to accommodate most of the modern tire compounds offered, and the right size to do a little weekend canyon carving.
Comfort is good. The wide, well padded seat stays comfortable on long rides, although it's a little on the high side for short-legged riders. Like the Seca, standard handlebars are mounted in risers cast into the fork yokes, allowing easy adjustments and even the possibility of handlebar replacement. Comfort at freeway speeds is only marred by high-frequency vibration which is enough to get your fingers tingling after a hundred miles or so. Higher gearing would help here, at the expense of a little less acceleration.
In short, with a little work on suspension and gearing, the Bandit would compete with most 600cc Sportbikes on the market, raising it far out of the budget category. If performance alone is your main criteria, the Bandit rules.