Motorcycle road test
I sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for this biking game.
You see, I recently test rode Triumph’s Street Triple R, and all I could think beforehand was ‘ooh, it’s an R, that’s a bit scary’.
And then I was offered Suzuki’s GSX1250 FA ST, and what did I think? First of all I thought ‘GSX – that means sporty’. And secondly I thought ‘1250cc – blimey, that’s a big beast!’
During the course of my short riding career I have decided that a little wariness and hesitation isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it makes me less likely to come a cropper on the roads.
And then other times I just think, ‘man up Smudge, stop reading too much into the letters and just go out and enjoy the ride’.
So that’s what I did. And I can tell you, that this is actually one thoroughly enjoyable ride.
For starters, it looks great. Like its 650F baby brother, it is essentially a Bandit but with a sporty fairing and accessories. The Sports Tourer version I tested comes with a 37-litre top-box – enough for a full-face lid and other odds and sods – and two 33-litre panniers.
Despite my initial mild concern over the engine size I was actually really disappointed when I started it up and wasn’t met with the loud burbling growl I’d been expecting. For a 1255cc, 4-cylinder engine, I just think I was expecting something with a little more of the ‘LISTEN TO MEs’ about it! However, it’s nothing an aftermarket can couldn’t sort out, which would also go a little way towards improving the long, fairly uninspiring chrome number that is fitted as standard.
What is in keeping with the size of the engine is the bike’s weight – it’s heavy. And I mean bloody heavy. There may, or may not, have been an incident when the sidestand wasn’t down properly and the bike may, or may not, have fallen over a little bit. I was lucky to get away with just some minor scratching to the engine casing.
My poor old back and arms, though, weren’t quite so lucky as, at 257kg wet, it didn’t half take some lifting. And that was with the panniers removed and very little in the top-box.
If nothing else, I re-learned a valuable lesson that had already been drilled into me when I did my CBT – put the stand down, then give it a good, hard kick just to make sure!
On the road, however, that weight just disappears and it handles like a much smaller bike. What surprised me most about it was just how easy it is to handle. At 96bhp, it’s not the most powerful of machines for its size, and what it does have is best used around 3-4,000rpm. It feels pretty torquey too.
It really is a very manageable big bore bike and won’t really bite you – unless you do something stupid like drop a gear while riding in the rain and cause the back end to flail around underneath you, while you narrowly avoid highsiding.
This may, or may not, have happened to me. Another valuable lesson learned, and one I was lucky to learn the easy way.
It would be very easy to try to shift the blame elsewhere for that one and blame the tyres, but I can’t – I was stupid and over-confident. The tyres – Bridgestone Battlax BT-021 F – were actually very good in my opinion, offering excellent grip in the dry, as I found out when my missus told me off for banking it over way too far (in her opinion!) and in the wet. Or at least they did when I wasn’t pushing it more than I should have been.
As for the rest of the ride experience, the suspension was soft – very soft, in fact. But I really liked it and it made for a very comfortable ride.
Its low seat, which is adjustable from 805mmm to 825mm, and high bars offer a very comfortable riding position, great for those looking to tour on it. And while pillion capacity in itself is fine, it becomes a little more cramped when fully-loaded with top box and panniers.
That manageable engine also means the bike is equally adept at short-hop town riding and commuting. That said, as I wasn’t going anywhere for any great length of time, I removed the panniers so they weren’t an issue when filtering.
There is also rather a lot of fairing, which widens the turn circle somewhat. And while it offers good weather protection on the whole, the shield seems to deflect most of the wind to the head and could do with being angled upwards just a little.
If you are out to tour, its 19-litre tank is good for around 160 to 170 miles on average, although I did manage to squeeze 190 miles out of it on one occasion.
Don’t be fooled by the fuel gauge though. It will start flashing relatively early, with something like five litres still in the tank. You’ll get a final flash with a litre left, so all told you can easily eke 40, maybe even 50 miles out of the reserve mileage counter.
The rest of the display has all the usual gubbins – rev counter, two trip meters, gear indicator and shift light.
The mirrors, mounted on the fairing, either side of the windshield, offer excellent views and the brakes give solid enough stopping power – with the added comfort of knowing they are ABS, should you need it.
All told, the GSX1250 FA ST is a great all-round package – and with prices starting at £7,865 for the standard model, it’s an awful lot of bike for your buck.
Model: Suzuki GSX1250 FA ST
Engine size: 1255cc
Engine spec: 16-valve, DOHC, inline 4-cylinder
Fuel capacity: 19 litres
Range: 180+ miles
Seat height: Adjustable 805mm to 825mm
Price: From £8,464