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Suzuki GSF 1200 (96-06) Review

Suzuki GSF 1200 

The Suzuki GSF1200 a.k.a The Bandit is what some refer to as a “bargain superbike”. It came with an engine which was based on the one used in the GSX-R1100. It handled quite well and was tuning friendly, which made some enthusiasts really happy.

The Bandit had evolved over the years, with later models becoming more tourer like. They also boasted of a superior finish compared to the older versions.

Humble Beginnings

The Bandit actually belonged to a range of sport/standard motorcycles from Suzuki. The range included the  GSF250, GSF400, 398 cc (1989-1997)- water-cooled; 248 cc (1989-2000)GSF600 water-cooled, ; GSF650, 656 cc SACS (2005-2006); 599 cc SACS (1995-2004); 656 cc water-cooled (2007-)etc. There were other models like that of  SACS (1996-2007), GSF750, 748 cc SACS (1996-1999); GSF1200, 1,157 cc etc.

All the above mentioned models came with DOHC in-line 4 cylinder engines. The engines had 4 valves per cylinder. The GSF600’s engine was derived from the GSX-F 600’s engine.  It had to be re-tuned to provide higher torque at mid-range.

Similarly, the GSF1200’s engine, as mentioned earlier, is basically a re-bored version of the engine used in the GSXR1100. This engine was also re-tuned to provide more torque at mid-range.

The Bandit series of bikes were referred to as “hooligan bikes” because of their powerful, yet unsophisticated performance. Recent upgrades and modifications have made the Bandit series of bikes more tourer oriented. In fact, the GSF1200 is a popular option among stunt riders.

The GSF1200 first came out in the year 1996. Features such as a high end suspension, large front brakes, hydraulic clutch, and a 5 speed gearbox set the GSF1200 from the 600cc versions. Another aspect of the GSF1200 was that the engine did not have the size cast into the cylinder block’s side, unlike other Suzuki bikes. Other than that, the GSF1200 has 45 tooth rear and 15 tooth front sprockets linked together using 530V – 110 link chains.

Upgrades were made to the GSF1200 almost every year. However, in 2006, the model had been completely revamped. It sported a redesigned tank, a height adjustable seat, new side panels, and an extended swinging arm that was hexagonally sectioned.

Performance and Braking

In terms of handling, the GSF1200 Bandit may not have been on par with its competitors, but, it was more than capable by itself. Future versions became a little softer, but they still managed to keep up the pace. For those used to a GSF600 Bandit, the GSF1200 would come as pleasant change. The GSF1200 offered far better stability.

However, it cannot exactly be expected to compete with the likes of a GSX-R750.


The GSF1200’s engine had one thing – torque, and oodles of it. There was always the “rollercoaster ride” sensation once you pushed the throttle. It could carry you around like a rag doll. Also, in the 1996-99 era Bandits, all you had to do was get rid of the stock end can to boost the horsepower. Some owners claimed a boost of 15 horsepower.

The future versions of the GSF1200 had a stronger clutch and offered better mileage.

Reliability and Construction Quality

One complaint about the GSF1200 was that it did not possess a quality finish. It would begin to lose its sheen after a couple of years. On the contrary, the engine was known to wear well over the years. Also, braking and suspension components required maintenance quite often.

On the whole, giving the GSF1200 some extra attention can do some good in terms of long term ownership. A lack of attention can cause the Bandit to act out.

As for used GSF1200 Bandits, there are plenty you can find on the market. They are also available for relatively lower prices. The question, however, is, whether you should spend on it? Well, the cold hard truth is that you should. At the end of the day, the GSF1200 is a useful bike that does more than enough. It serves as a decent commuter bike on the weekdays and on the weekend; it has enough juice to bring out your silly side.

The Bandit is called a hooligan for a reason. It has a brutal and edgy personality. The lack of refinement is what makes this bike fun and worth owning. It is a wallet friendly bike with great power and a classic appeal that is sure to set you apart from the typical superbike crowd.


The GSF1200’s braking and suspension performance is adequate to say the least. You couldn’t ask for much more from a commuter-sport bike. But, in case you do expect something better, the versions produced 2000 onwards came with 6 pot calipers that improved things significantly.

On the whole, the Bandit is a tourer of sorts that offers plenty of comfort and additional features such as half fairing, good lighting, and downpipes made of stainless steel.

Suzuki GSF 1200 (96-06) Review was last modified: May 10th, 2019 by Alan Charnock