Suzuki's timing with the release of the first Suzuki 1200 Bandit (GSF1200) way back in 1996 couldn't have been commercially better. Faced with the disparate choice of a full-on sports machine or a mundane 'practical' motorcycle, riders were calling for a big-bore, budget utilitarian that could deliver a few thrills along the way. The Suzuki 1200 Bandit hit the spot perfectly and take-up for the motorcycle was immediately strong.
The Suzuki Bandit engine was a detuned version of the venerable oil and air-cooled, 1156cc, 16-valve four-cylinder powerhouse fitted to the Suzuki GSX-R1100. While the term 'detuned' usually means that power has been reduced to the point that the engine delivers a lukewarm response when compared to the original manifestation, this was not the case with the Suzuki 1200 Bandit. Sure, it was nowhere near as powerful as the donor engine, but it still offered 98 horsepower at 8,500rpm and torque was a respectable 90.7Nm at 4,500rpm. Coupled to a short wheelbase and relatively steep geometry, the Suzuki 1200 Bandit delivered fun in spades. So much so that it was quickly adopted by stunt riders the world over and the Suzuki 1200 Bandit still features strongly as the stunt rider's favorite at events across the globe.
Of course, the added attraction was the power lurking just under the surface for the interested engine tuner. Yes, a huge plus was the engine's untapped performance. In fact, just the placement of an aftermarket end-can gave 15 extra horsepower! There are shortcomings across the Suzuki 1200 Bandit range, though. Build quality has always been a sort of a problem on budget motorcycles. It's easy to see where the money has been saved – don't expect carbon fiber or gleaming add-on with the Suzuki 1200 Bandit, in any incarnation.
The initial Suzuki 1200 Bandit (CSF1200) remained largely unchanged from launch in 1996 to 2000. The GSF1200S also became available in 1997, the designation referring to the half-faring fitted to the motorcycle. At the same time, a version of the S Bandit with anti-lock braking was introduced for certain markets.
The rear shock on the early Suzuki 1200 Bandit's was nothing to write home about and can lose damping. Take a good look here – any Suzuki 1200 Bandit which still has the original shock still in place is likely to be shagged.
Another issue that beset a few of the early 1200 Bandit's was the loss of all instrument power due to water invading the wiring loom.
A new Suzuki 1200 Bandit was released in 2001, running through until 2006. This incarnation could suffer from excessive oil burning, the problem sheeted home to piston design. This was dealt with via warranty and any potential purchase shouldn't show any signs of this problem.