Suzuki Bandit 1250S vs. Yamaha FZ1 - Comparison Test

Double standard.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S and Yamaha FZ1 group action shot

From the July 2007 Issue of Cycle World

My middle-aged brother-in-law was bitten by the sportbike bug a few years back. As the granddad of a dozen and counting, he stood little chance of my big sis allowing a sleek, seductive supersport mistress to enter the family fold. My recommendation at the time resulted in the purchase of Yamaha’s then newly introduced FZ1.

It's easy to imagine that the Tuning Fork Folks were thinking of guys just like my sister's husband–law-abiding family men inflicted with midlife moto-crisis–when they came up with the clever idea to cloak their YZF-R1 motor in a more-civilized guise. But if another friend or relative were to call today expressing interest in finding a rational sportbike offering performance and versatility, would I send them Suzuki's way for a fling with the all-new Bandit 1250S?

While the original Big Bandito didn’t fit what my brother-in-law was looking for at the time, following a year’s hiatus, the Bandit 1250S has re-entered Suzuki’s stateside lineup bringing a promise of improved power and handling over the venerable 1200 it has replaced. Can it give the FZ1 a run for its money in terms of performance and riding excitement, is it the more refined and versatile of the two, or is it simply a nice bike and a good value?

Needing an answer to these questions should the phone ring, we rounded up the two players and put them through the full gamut of weight, measure, dyno, dragstrip and top-speed testing, along with comparative street riding impressions.

Built specifically for the Bandit, Suzuki’s all-new 1255cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, dohc inline-Four has replaced the mid-Eighties air/oil-cooled design that powered its predecessor. The engine layout closely resembles the previous configuration with its centrally located cam chain and the sidedraft throttle bodies feeding a fairly upright cylinder bank. The engine is more compact, however, featuring vertically stacked transmission shafts, and now the ’box has a sixth gear ratio for a more relaxed cruise rpm on the freeway. A secondary balancer shaft driven off the crank has also been incorporated for reduced vibration at all speeds.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S on-road action shot
Suzuki Bandit 1250S UPS DOWNS
Power where it counts the most Dated styling
Affordable ABS that works Heavy clutch pull
Carves corners in comfort Clackity-clack twistgrip (tighten tolerances, please)

While the Bandit’s tubular steel chassis is completely new to Americans, it debuted in Europe last year, albeit cradling the old mill while the new engine neared completion. The 1250S engine employs solid mounts at the rear while rubberized mounts at the bottom and front locations are connected to larger-diameter downtubes said to have increased the frame’s torsional rigidity for improved handling.

Yamaha hasn't sat idle with regard to its FZ1, either. Last year saw the sporty standard receive a major modernization of its own with a switch from carburetors to fuel-injection, a more sporting chassis package and edgy new styling. The first-generation tubular-steel frame was replaced by a cast-aluminum, twin-spar design using the engine as a stressed member that's said to be lighter while offering four times the vertical and lateral rigidity of its predecessor. The engine was moved nearly an inch closer to the front wheel, which along with locating the rider two inches farther forward resulted in a 51 percent forward weight bias for improved front-end feel.

Highlights on the short list of 2007 updates to the FZ1 include a lighter shock spring, and revised fork and shock internals, both getting lighter damping for improved rider comfort. Of greater importance, however, is a new ECU with updated fuel-injection mapping to address driveability issues encountered with last year’s bike. Press reports of an on-throttle stumble and surge had left a smear on the FZ1’s fine reputation; hopefully this condition has been fixed and could be written off. I was anxious to find out for myself.

Having spent a couple days aboard the Bandit before climbing on the FZ1, my initial impression of the revised "real-world R1" wasn't real favorable. Simply put, the Suzuki's power delivery was love at first ride and a very tough act to follow. Super-clean throttle response and an abundance of torque available from idle to redline made it a perfect partner in everything from the traffic tango to a backroad ball. To trade the Bandit's robust bottom-end goodness for the sub-4000-rpm flatness felt on the FZ1 was like dancing with a bruised toe.

Comparing the peak power figures in the accompanying spec panels doesn't present the full story. On the CW dyno the Bandit held a 30-foot-pound torque advantage over the FZ1 at 3000 rpm and maintained a 20-plus-foot-pound edge all the way to 7000 rpm. Above 8000 rpm the FZ1 is clearly the boss and exploited its substantial horsepower-to-weight advantage when tested at the strip.

To get the best numbers, the FZ1 requires high revs and prolonged clutch feathering to avoid bogging the engine when launching, making a scene and sounding sort of painful in the process. The torque-rich Bandit is casual by comparison, leaping out of the hole with far fewer revs and allowing full clutch engagement almost immediately. While the Bandit will outsprint the FZ1 for a block or two, it can’t match the Yamaha’s pace once it hits full stride. This pair offers two very different flavors of motor-vation; how would you like yours served up?

Yamaha FZ1 on-road action shot
Yamaha FZ1 UPS DOWNS
Top-end sizzle Lazy low-end delivery
Sharp handling Throttle response still not perfect
26,000-mile valve adjustment interval Very little underseat storage

During my first couple street outings aboard the FZ1, it appeared Yamaha hadn’t completely remedied the dreaded injection infection. While there were no complaints when accelerating through the gears at a feverish pace, 90 percent of our riding on a powerful bike is done with the throttle barely cracked open. I detected engine surge at minute throttle opening while maintaining a steady speed either in town or on the freeway. I also felt the effects when casually running up through the gears and short-shifting. There is hope, however: Simply twisting the easily reached idle-adjuster knob and raising the idle 200 rpm from its initial setting of 1000 rpm made a dramatic improvement in overall driveability.

It was like riding a whole different bike! I now found myself focusing on the Yamaha’s finer points, such as its wonderful handling chassis. With 64 fewer pounds to fling around, a more rigid chassis and sportier suspension, the FZ1 is a clear favorite when it comes to dicing up apexes. The Bandit flows through twisties with a great deal of competence as well but doesn’t quite match the handling finesse of the FZ1.

Roadside suspension tuning is easy on either, each having a rear shock featuring ramp-style spring-preload collars and a broad range of rebound-damping adjustment. The Bandit’s conventional fork offers preload adjustment while the Yamaha’s inverted fork has the added value of compression- and rebound-damping clickers.

Both are equally adept in the braking department with their triple-disc setups providing good power and sensitivity. The notable difference here is that Suzuki offers the Bandit 1250S with or without ABS. I like the ABS implementation on this bike, and even found myself forgetting it was there until actually needed. It’s a $500 option worth considering since even with ABS, the Suzuki comes in $400 under the FZ1’s sticker.

In a comfort contest on the open road, both have well-padded saddles, upright riding postures and ample wind protection, but the Bandit stands out, having more seat-to-peg leg room, even when its two-position height-adjustable seat is in its standard .8-inch-lower setting. The lack of buzz is where the Bandit beats the FZ1 handily. Few bikes run as silky-smooth across as wide a rev range as this. I really found no discernable sweet spot when cruising the freeway aboard the Suzuki. It was all sweet, from 40 to 100 mph. At an equivalent speed in top gear, the Bandit engine revs 1100 rpm less than the FZ1. There were a few times I found I’d been running fifth gear without even noticing. Now that’s smooth! Aside from a buzz seeping through the grips, the Yamaha can be pretty smooth, too, but the Bandit sets the standard.

When the phone call comes, my answer will depend on the personality at the other end of line, as double standards may apply. These modern-day UJMs have come from very different origins, and while they converge at times, they arrive in opposite corners. If you have an eye for cutting-edge style or lean more toward a supersport without the lower back pain, then the FZ1 is the bike for you. If, however, you thirst for real-world power, classic style, refinement and broader versatility, Suzuki’s Bandit is the one.

SPECIFICATIONS

Suzuki Bandit 1250S Yamaha FZ1
PRICE (2007) $8799 $9199
DRY WEIGHT 536 lb. 472 lb.
WHEELBASE 58.5 in. 57.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.0/32.8 in. 31.9 in.
FUEL MILEAGE 39.7 mpg 40.2 mpg
0-60 MPH 3.0 sec. 3.1 sec.
1/4 MILE 11.04 sec. @ 118.98 mph 10.56 sec. @ 131.82 mph
HORSEPOWER 99.7 hp @ 8780 rpm 130.7 hp @ 11,410 rpm
TORQUE 78.6 ft.-lb. @ 3540 rpm 66.8 ft.-lb. @ 9350 rpm
TOP SPEED 140 mph 154 mph

CW Classics

Suzuki Bandit 1250S action shot #1

Suzuki Bandit 1250S action shot #2

Suzuki Bandit 1250S action shot #3

Suzuki Bandit 1250S action shot #4

Suzuki Bandit 1250S static right-side view.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S static left-side view.

Yamaha FZ1 action shot #1

Yamaha FZ1 action shot #2

Yamaha FZ1 action shot #3

Yamaha FZ1 action shot #4

Yamaha FZ1 static right-side view.

Yamaha FZ1 static left-side view.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S and Yamaha FZ1 group action shot.

Suzuki Bandit 1250S and Yamaha FZ1 group static shot #1

Suzuki Bandit 1250S and Yamaha FZ1 group static shot #2

Suzuki Bandit 1250S studio left-side view.

Yamaha FZ1 studio front 3/4 view.