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2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride

Friday, 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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2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA First Ride Video
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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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shmedly   November 20, 2011 04:55 PM
I turned a 2009 Bandit into a sport touring set up with 45 liter Givi cases and a Madstad windshield. At 6'2" I needed a little more leg room so flipped the rider pegs over and that worked great. Stuck lower fairing and every gadget I could find on it including risers (mostly from Twisted Throttle), and re-did the seat with memory foam. It is an excellent sport-tourer, two up or solo. Looking back for all I spent I could have just bought a Concours, but I did have a lot of fun building it up. My buddy has an FJR, and he wishes he had my torque vs the high end because we ride pretty mellow. Here is the list of add-ons for anyone who wants to turn a Bandit into a great sport tourer: Genuine Suzuki color matched lower fairing - 464.99 Madstad 20 inch adjustable windshield (mounted on stock windshield) - 189.95 Seat redone with memory foam, optimized for upright touring position for passenger and rider Givi E45N detachable side cases - 334.00 Givi side mounting racks - 170.10 Givi E450 detachable top case with & brake light kit and back pad, - 211.50 Givi rear mounting rack - 142.20 (top case moved back 2 inches so passenger can sit up / back) SW-MOTECH Gas cap Bottom Ring for Quick-Lock Tankbags - 14.40 Bags-Connection "Daypack II" Quick-Lock Tankbag - 79.90 Pilot Fork mounted Halogen accessory driving lights - 20.00 HealTech Speedo Healer (makes speedometer adjustable to correct for built-in factory 8.5% over-read error and auto records top speed with button recall) - 114.99 GI-Pro gear position indicator with ATRE (automatic timing retard eliminator - eliminates factory setting that lowers torque in first and second gear) - 162.99 Barkbusters Storm Handguards (nice for bugs and on cold days) - 99.99 MFW Vario Extension Arm 50mm with MFW Vario Master Grip Pegs (makes leg room for passenger.) - 90.00 Kaoko Throttle Lock Cruise Control - 125.00 Gen-Mar Handlebar Risers (1" up and 1" back) 145.00 LED lighting kit (two red running in back, two yellow extra signals in back, switched blue under body accents, valve stem covers blue) - 78.00
RaptorFA   September 19, 2011 01:23 PM
Thanks for the great article, Steve. I am proud to say that I am a 1250FA owner and absolutely love this machine. I am in fact one of those more lanky, long-legged riders you mentioned in your article so the ergos work supremely well for me. The fairing does provide good protection and your assessment of the wind screen is spot on.

Everything this bike does can only be described as smooth. I wouldn't really describe this machine as a sportbike - it's sporty, sure, but I wouldn't take this bike to the track as my first choice, if you know what I mean! But that's OK, as I had the longer distance commute and touring mission in mind when I bought it, and that is exactly the market space I see this bike in. 6,000 miles in nearly three months and every mile has been smooth and trouble-free. It's a wonderful ride!

If there was any one thing I would change on this machine it would be the suspension. It is a bit simplistic and keeps the platform from delivering much better performance. But for what I'm doing with it the stock setup is quite good. Over-all this bike delivers excellent value for the price point. Looking forward to the comparison!
Ramjet   August 24, 2011 08:18 AM
The Bandit/GSX1250AF is the perfect bike for someone who enjoys canyon roads and highway touring.The bike is agile and will flick into a turn easier than you might want.You won't need to lean as much in the corners as you would with a VFR1200 or a C14, so the ergonomics works well for us taller, older riders.As for power and torque?Just add a new slip-on exhaust(the stock can is big & heavy),install a K&N air filter, drill an inch hole through the back of the air filter box to help it breath and you'll have even more horsepower and torque.I've upgraded the shock and fork springs, seat, and added LED lights to the front.23000 miles and no complaints.
OlavSweden   May 31, 2011 01:50 PM
Got myself one as a bearthdayresent last autumn. Figure they come one year earlier in Europe. Not a bad bike at all imo. Havnt driven the noted competitors so cant compare to them but I´m quite satified with the hadling and ergos. Lots of torque and its like haveing an electric engine. Suppose some ppl dont think it has character or such but I´m perfectly happy with that. Heated grips (optional) and the centerd stand (english term?) is great. Its a somewhat heavy machine compared to what I drove be before (V-strom and DR650) but a stable ride. Cant for my life figure our why they put a shiftlight on it. Wont burn out that light anyway. Cheers!
antbrown   May 26, 2011 11:41 AM
What I really want is for someone to review the Bandit, er, GSX1250FA with the full set of Suzuki bags and the touring screen, Vario screen thing. Two up as well. In my opinion that's how many people will use the 1250. Myself included. I rode one at Suzuki demo days here in Canada last year and it felt pretty good. Very smooth and I like the looks but I do wish Suzuki would hurry up and make it into a true ST already with the same seamless power delivery from down low but how about some more top end. What's the delay? As far as I can tell they are the only one of the top six motorcycle manufacturers to not have any touring bikes in their lineup. No cruiser touring bike, now ST, no touring bike. That's a huge hole and as a Suzuki fan I want to get a Suzuki ST damn it. I'm sure the other makes have fine machines but I don't want to have to buy a Kawi, Yamaha, Honda, BMW etc. so get with the program Suzuki. You're losing sales!!! Bring back the Cavalcade!!!
phxrider   May 17, 2011 10:49 AM
509MXFan, the VFR12 and Kawi Z1000/Ninja 1000 should rip the C14 a new one in a straight line... I rode the Ninja about a month ago at AZ bike week and it's fast and torquey down low for a 4, seemed faster than the C14 I rode the year before and put out less heat to the rider.
MotoFreak   May 14, 2011 10:45 AM
I liked it better naked. The fairing looks like a cheap after market add on. I wish they hadn't messed with it.
ssalmons   May 14, 2011 08:30 AM
The new Ninja 1000 is ugly as sin but seems like a better machine for around the same price.
mpisula   May 14, 2011 03:58 AM
Thank you very much for this interesting review. If your needs are for a testosterone laced sport bike, to show off to the boys and girls, nothing wrong with that, but if your needs are for an everyday get-up-and-go bike appropriately priced bike for the recession battered American rider, the GSX1250FA is an excellent choice. Slap on a set of user friendly Hepco-Becker side panniers and top case, the GSX1250FA flips reliably from street-fighter to long-distance sport tourer that holds its own against that from BWM, Kawasaki and Yamaha. The Brits love her, thank you Suzuki for bringing the GSX1250FA to the American shore…..now if we can only find one in the dealer show room………
509MXFan   May 13, 2011 06:39 PM
I disagree with Madson, I think all sportbike riders would prefer 150+ hp at the rear wheel. However, not all sportbike riders want to contort themselves onto the modern crop of superbikes. This ride review is somewhat disappointing, the added cc's of the gsx made it most likely of the semi-sports to have that rip-snarl power (even the "trick" vfr can't provide). I guess I'll have to stick with my old hooligan bike, since the cb1000, ninja 1000, z 1000, vfr, and now gsx are all too neuterd to consider a viable replacement. Maybe in a few years I'll pick up a c14, at least it's 135ish hp at the wheel.