2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride

Steve Atlas | May 13, 2011
2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride
The GSXF1250FA represents a budget sport-touring platform from Suzuki, the marque notably lacking an ST mount.

The new 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA is based off of Suzuki’s very successful Bandit platform, a naked standard-style motorcycle that we will no longer be seeing Stateside. Over its two-decade lifespan the 1200 Bandit was considered a wild, tire-smoking beast of a motorcycle with a much more naked, street-fighter-type look to it, but that bad-boy is a European-only model now. We get the newest addition to the Suzuki family: The GSXF1250FA, which is equipped with a full fairing that offers good wind protection and gives the bike a sporting appearance that the American motorcycle consumer seems to prefer over the naked bikes.

It’s interesting that the updated-for-2011 GSXFA retains the upright handlebars from the Bandit, rather than traditional sportbike-style clip-ons, which would get the rider’s CG lower and into an attack position for improved high-speed handling. Suzuki feels this makes the GSX more of a sport-touring machine, reducing the amount of pressure exerted on a rider’s arms and wrists and making it more well-suited to logging long days in its comfortable seat. Wind protection provided by the new fairing is very good as it provides a low pressure bubble that a variety of different sized riders can easily fit into.

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Climb on as we hit the streets of So Cal with Suzuki’s latest sport-touring steed in our 2011 Suzuki GSX-1250FA First Ride Video.

And while the Suzuki GSX1250FA achieves a level of touring comfort, the overall ergonomics and seating position is a little too-upright for my taste when the riding gets more aggressive. Its upright stance makes it a bit difficult for a smaller rider to get in the attack position because the bars are pretty high and the pegs are equally low. Our larger riders actually found the layout comfortable, so we feel the GSX could be popular for the lanky-legged folks among us. At least the seat height is adjustable, offering a range from 31.7 inches in its low setting to 32.5 inches in the upper position which should accommodate a variety of riders. The sport-touring oriented Bridgestone tires are designed for logging highway miles so we’re sure you’ll get some decent life out of them on the open road, but they didn’t make me feel real confident when I pushed the bike to its limits. When it comes to riding hard in the corners of our favorite canyon roads, we could tell that Suzuki was a bit more serious about the touring experience than the sport riding side of the equation.

“I enjoyed the Suzuki’s riding position, upright and standard with high-mounted handlebars,” explains Managing Editor Bart Madson. “The seat is soft, maybe too soft for touring, but great for short trips. Aggressive ergos on sportbikes are fine for the fellows who fancy wearing knee pucks on

2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride
2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride
2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA Dyno Sheet

the roads, but I’m not one of them, so I dig the 1250FA’s neutral approach. I’d like to get more time and a really long-distance tour under my belt before pronouncing the GSX1250FA long-range comfort. That said, I enjoyed the wind protection offered by the fairing. The tallish windscreen does an admirable job too. While non-adjustable, it delivers a smooth steady stream of air to my upper chest, no tiresome buffeting noticed.”

The GSXFA is built around a steel tube-type frame, and while it’s plenty strong horizontally, it has a tendency to feel loose at a sportbike pace. Its simple fork and rear shock do a fine job on the highway and during touring aplications, but they don’t offer the level of performance we feel may be neccessary to hang with the new $17,500 Honda VFR1200F or Concours 14, for example. This motorcycle also tips the scales at 567 pounds without the aftermarket bags or any kind of luggage attached. For a sport-touring bike, that isn’t on the porky side at all considering that the VFR weights in at 591 pounds and the loaded-with-bags Concours tips the scales at a rather hefty 670 pounds. Can you see where we are going with this?

Suzuki has made some improvements to the bike, giving it a dual-valve fuel injection system that is fed via 36mm throttle bodies. This is intended to smooth out power delivery across the entire rev range of the 1255cc machine, especially in the lower rpms. After spending a good deal of time on the 1250, one couldn’t help but notice this improvement. The bike is so linear it almost feels electric, with no spikes or dips in the power curve. This makes it easier to ride, but also tones it down down quite a bit compared to its hooligan-style Bandit predecessor. Since this bike is intended to be used as a ‘sport touring’ machine, the easy-to-use power delivery is a welcome feature when logging loads of miles.

On the MotoUSA dyno the 2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA spun the drum to the tune of 93.81 horsepower @ 7700 rpm, showing that the Inline-Four engine isn’t exactly a top-end screamer. On the other hand, it put up 74.13 lb-ft of torque at 6000rpm; by comparison its torque output is right on par with 2011 Yamaha YZF-R1 on the same dyno and only slightly down on the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R1000. As a result of the competitive torque and how low in the mid-range it’s produced, the Suzuki has no trouble coming off the line. It ticks the 0-60 mph mark in 2.9 seconds and passes the lights in the quarter mile to the tune of 11.38 seconds at 121 mph. That puts it directly between the VFR and C14 in terms of outright acceleration. They posted 11.08 and 11.38 quarter miles runs in our 2010 Sport Touring Comparison Test.

2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride
The GSX1250FA’s fairing and windscreen, as well as upright ergonomics look to increase long-distance comfort.

“Certainly this motor won’t get confused with its Hayabusa sibling, which is closer in displacement than the GSX-R1000, yet the 1250 engine delivers gobs of street-friendly torque down low,” confirms Mr. Madson, one of our long-legged test riders. “This easy low-end, combined with a smooth six-speed transmission, makes it an easy to ride commuter mount. It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde routine, however, as the polished, polite bottom-end transforms into a more familiar wailing Inline Four once the grip is twisted.”

Up front sits a conventional 43mm fork, making the GSX1250 one of the few sport-based bikes to still employ this older technology. The fork is adjustable for preload only, much the same as the single shock out back. These are mated to a steel tube-type frame and a relatively small swingarm. Tires measure 120/70-17 up front and 180/55-17 in the back, our unit coming equipped with Bridgestone Battlax BT021 – a very neutral-shaped sport-touring tire. As a result of front tire profile and the upright handlebars, it makes for a relatively lazy steering motorcycle. While I wouldn’t say it’s difficult to turn the Suzuki, to get the 1250FA from side-to-side takes far more effort than we expected.

Brakes are adequate for the job at hand, though when pushed hard on heavy-braking twisty roads we experienced some fade as temperatures increased. The front brakes utilize a box-type master cylinder, a design we haven’t seen on modern sportbikes in quite a while. We assume this helps keep hardware costs in check so that Suzuki can offer all the GSX1250FAs with standard Anti-Lock Brakes.

2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride
At $11,599 the GSX1250FA is affordable compared to larger purpose-built ST mounts.

When you look long and hard at the GSX1250FA and pour over its spec sheet, you can’t help but think Suzuki designed it as a price-point sport-touring motorcycle, and who can blame them? This is a market that has been fairly consistent and which they have not had a real presence in for some time. With an MSRP of $11,599 it puts it on the lower-end of the current ST machines while offering close to the same level of performance, and in some cases even more. The main problem with this approach is that, compared to the state of the art offerings this bike is competing with it, it feels somewhat dated even though it’s a new model.

“Some might wonder what market Suzuki is targeting with its 1250FA, but the lack of a sport-touring mount has been a glaring hole in its lineup for years now,” says Madson. “And while the Suzuki may not be a true sport-touring bike on par with the Kawasaki Concours 14 or Yamaha FJR1300, it’s a fair bit lighter and less expensive than those mounts, too. Instead, the GSX1250FA bolsters the new class of standard-ish sportbikes, like the VFR1200F and Ninja 1000, that has emerged in the past few model years. Not every sportbike rider wants 150-plus horsepower at the rear wheel.”

So, the question is: how will the Suzuki GSX1250AF stack up against the current crop of high-tech sport touring machines? We suspect that its no-frills approach will attract consumers who are looking to get into an affordable sport touring motorcycle. With standard ABS and a powerful engine, the GSX is sure to lure riders loyal to Suzuki. But does it have what it takes to attract buyers who may also be looking at the VFR or C14? Stay tuned as we toss the new Suzuki into the mix against some of the veterans of the class in our upcoming comparison test.

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Steve Atlas

Contributing Editor |Articles | Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

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