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This Little Scoot’s Not Just For College Kids

Yamaha’s cool little BW scooter can be found in many city’s and towns across Canada being driven by drivers whose idea of a fancy dinner might be adding some hotdogs to their KD, yup that’s right, college kids!

The BW has been around for a number of years and has been a top seller. It’s a really popular model owing to its sporty looks, two big headlights, and big wheels which give it aggressive go anywhere styling. It looks a bit like a scooter/dirt bike hybrid which raises its cool factor. Scooters are no longer the sole domain of college kids. The rising costs of operating a car, even the most efficient compact, have risen to a level where scooters have come back into focus as a viable transportation option for many Canadians.

A growing number of people are falling in love with the 49cc air cooled reed-value 2-stroke engined BW. They have become very popular amongst scooter commuters. People with RV’s just love these things too! They’re the perfect way for zipping around town, not to mention the fact that they burn practically no fuel. Yamaha claims a figure of over 120 mpg. That’s 120 mpg + based on 40km/hr speed on level ground. Chances are you won’t be driving in these perfect conditions but you’re still going to get better fuel economy than just about everything else on the road. With a fuel capacity of 5.7 litres that’s a theoretical range in perfect conditions of about 250 km. So if you’re doing the math, even with Montreal’s high gas price right now of $1.20/litre that’s less than $7 for a fill up. Those kinds of numbers ought to make any stares and laughter you might be the brunt of when you pull up to work on one of these quite a bit easier to take. But hey, if they knew how fun these were to drive they’d have one too!

Sales of scooters have risen dramatically in the last few years, a 400% increase since 1999 in fact. They’re particularly popular in the province of Quebec. As many as six out of 10 scooters sold in Canada are sold in Quebec. This is partly because driving laws there allow 14-year olds to drive under 50cc sized scooters.

Limited (and expensive!) parking and downtown congestion also add heavily to the appeal of the BW. The under 50cc requirement allowing 14 year old riders to drive scooters is a big reason that the small displacement scooters are 49cc and not 50. Laws covering the age requirement do vary across the country so better check your local area before laying down your cash. Alberta and New Brunswick feature similar age requirements when it comes to scooters. Yamaha Canada love scooters, that’s for sure – they’ve seen sales growth of a whopping 25% between 2005 and 2006. During this same period their motorcycle line sales grew at less than one percent.

This kind of growth hasn’t gone unnoticed and there’s now a bevy of companies manufacturing scooters for the Canadian market. The familiar names are there, Yamaha, Honda, Vespa, and Piaggio but punch in “scooter sales in Canada” in any search engine and you’ll find a quite a few other Asian manufacturers with models available in Canada. Many of these are offered at very competitive prices too.

The BW has a fully automatic transmission and push button start and even has a back up kick start so you won't get stranded if your battery runs low. The 2-stroke engine ensures peppy performance that’s delivered a little quicker than the 4-stroke Yamaha C-Cubed. The C-Cubed is another 49cc scooter in the Yamaha stable. The C-Cubed is a bit quieter and has a lower and larger seat so if you’re looking for something a little less “hooligan” the C Cubed is certainly worth a look.

The BW has also been equipped with a new catalyzer in the exhaust which helps reduce emissions. You don't have to worry about mixing the oil and gas like your old lawnmower either; the Yamaha is equipped with an autolube oil injection system that mixes the precise amounts of oil and gas you need automatically. You just add the gas and you’re ready to go! Need to pick up some groceries on your way home? There’s a storage compartment under the seat that you can use to stow small packages. If you’re not using it for storage it’s a great spot to lock away your helmet. There’s also a rear carrier if you need to haul something a little larger around too.



Front 180mm disc brakes and a drum brake in the rear provide plenty of stopping power. You get a telescopic fork in the front and single shock unit swingarm in the rear. Tires are 120/90-10’s in the front and an even fatter 130/90-10 in the rear. BW means “Big Wheel” and these ones are nice and wide for a scooter so they’re great for soaking up bumps and crossing streetcar tracks. You’ll need those big wheels to put all 5.1 ft-lbs of torque at 6,000 RPM to the ground! Okay – maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but this thing is so small and light (207 lbs wet) that’s plenty for getting around town. Reviews say that they’ll do just about 70km/hr. You won’t want to hit the highway on this one.

There’s room for a passenger on back too but you might want to avoid hills and quick moving traffic if you do though. Big hills will slow down the scooter a bit with one rider so adding a friend might make you a bit slower than fast moving traffic or on some hills. Colors available for 2008 are Yamaha Blue, Metallic Black, Vivid Yellow.

Need financing for your new beast? Yamaha recommends applying for their Credit Card Program for Yamaha products that cost less than $3,000. According to Yamaha you can have your approval within minutes of applying. The BW comes in at an MSRP of $2,899 so provided you’ve got a few hundred bucks kicking around you should be able to take one of these home without too much fuss.

If you think 49cc won’t suit your needs – maybe you need something to keep up with traffic on secondary roads or maybe you need something that will keep up with traffic on the highway. Fear not, there are plenty of options. Scooters are available in many different sizes and you can get everything from 49cc on up to 650cc models. Not sure if riding on two wheels is for you? Piaggio even offers a three wheeled scooter called the MP3. You won't even have to put your feet down at stop signs with this thing.

Some of the competing machines from major brands include:

Yamaha XF50 “C Cubed”. MSRP $2,599. 49cc liquid-cooled, 4-stroke single
Honda NPS50 “Ruckus”. MSRP $2,849. 49cc liquid-cooled , 4 stroke single
Hyosung Prima/Rally. MSRP $2,295. 49cc Air-cooled, two-stroke, single-cylinder

BMW F800GS and F650GS Test Drive in Portugal

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Paul Germain, the owner of Wildwood Motorsports - located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Wildwood opened for business in 1981 and in terms of motorcycles they’re a multi-brand dealership that sells BMW, Ducati, and Yamaha’s. I hadn’t spoken with Paul before but with a very short amount of time it’s easy to tell that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to motorcycles. He’s got 30 years of industry experience; including working as a mechanic. When he’s not selling motorcycles and snowmobiles he can often be found out riding or racing them.

I wanted to talk to him because I knew that he’d recently been to Faro, Portugal with the folks from BMW for a one day test ride. Incidentally, he’d also be to the Milan show in November where the F800GS was officially introduced.


BMW F650GS
What was particularly special about the trip to Faro though is that he got to ride the new F650GS parallel twin and the F800GS. Just in case you don’t know about these bikes, the new F650GS twin is actually an 800cc bike that uses a detuned version of the engine that’s on the F800GS. Why did BMW call an 800cc a 650 you ask? Nobody I’ve talked to is sure really. Calling a 800cc bike a 650 is certainly a departure from the standard industry naming convention. In F650GS form, the engine makes 71hp and in the F800GS it makes 85hp. The F650GS twin comes to Canada in May 2008 but you’ll have to wait until September/Fall for the F800GS.

Canadians are going to be the envy of American riders in 2008 because we’re getting the new F650GS twin before the US. The US won’t see the twin 800cc version of the F650GS until 2009. Instead, dealers in the US will be selling the old F650GS single models at a significantly lower MSRP than ever before. The singles days are numbered though and 2008 will mark the last year for the F650GS single.

[Note – I’m referring to the new 800cc F650GS as an F650GS twin to avoid any confusion with the single cylinder 650cc version that it is replacing.]

I basically asked Paul about his impressions of the new bikes and to tell me a little bit about his trip. I have paraphrased what he said during our conversation so these are not his exact words:


Seat Close up BMW F650GS
“The F650GS is a spectacular package! Although BMW didn’t have the old 650 single there for a direct comparison I can say based on my memory of riding the previous model that the new 650 is a much better road machine. It’s a much greater pleasure to ride than the old one. It’s smoother and loses nothing in off road ability to the old 650. At an MRSP of C$8990 and a 3 year warranty, this model is a home run. It’s a lot of bang for the buck. With 71hp it’s got a big power advantage over the old 650 which has about 50hp. The bike performs extremely well.

The new bike not only looks fantastic but BMW have put a lot of effort into making the height of this bike comfortable for the majority of riders. They’ve got three seat height options; you’ll be able to get a low seat version, a normal version with a lowered seat, and the normal seat height version. It feels so thin and small that you’d never know you’re on a twin or that it’s an 800. The lower seat height and thinness of the bike make it really appealing. I can see this bike appealing to many people that might not have had the leg length for the previous version. Women and guys who whose legs were a bit short for the old model will be really happy with this new one.

The 800cc size is a good place to be. It’s smaller but not bigger. Honda used to have the Africa Twin but that’s not around any more so BMW is standing alone in this segment.”

What’s the reason for the difference in pricing between the F650GS and the F800GS? I believe it’s around C$3,000?

There are some differences between the F800GS and the F650GS; the F800GS is standard height, you’ll find it comparable in height to the old 650. The F800GS has got a bigger front wheel than the F650GS. Of course the engine has got quite a bit more power too. It’s got 85 horsepower instead of the 71 of the F650GS. They are not the same even though they look similar. There are some chassis differences between the two and the camshafts are different too. There are some other engine differences as well. You can see the specs online to see all the differences.

[More on the specific differences later in the article]

Details of the riding:

“The ride was in Faro which is at the southern portion of [Portugal] on the coast. We got to ride the bikes for the day in conditions much like Southern California. There were a lot of big hills and scrub; pavement and some fire roads. It was a combination of riding ½ off road and ½ on road. I got to ride the F650GS a bit more than the F800GS. I’d say about two-thirds of my time was on the F650GS and the other third was on the F800GS. All told I’d say I did about 300 km of riding. It started to rain in the afternoon so conditions were really good for testing.”

* Originally quoted as Spain but looking at a trusty google map shows that Faro is actually in Portugal. Apologies to all.


Why the delay with the F800GS?

BMW didn’t really have too much to say about the actual reasons for the delay. They did simply say “Sorry”.


BMW F800GS
One could speculate the reasons behind the delay of course. BMW motorcycles and many other motorcycle companies such as Ducati, and Aprilia all have agreements in place for some pieces. These companies don’t necessarily have the resources of larger motorcycle producers like Honda. The smaller producers' time from concept to market can be dictated by outside forces. The new 800cc twin engine being used in the F650GS and F800GS is a Rotax built engine. Rotax is a Bombardier brand and they’ve no doubt got a lot of pressure from many different parts of their business. So if anywhere along the supplier line there’s a bit of a delay, that delay means a delay in the release of a bike. BMW just had the bike in Milan in November to judge interest.

[Story Notes: If you’re not too familiar with Rotax, they’re a subsidiary of Bombardier- that little Canadian company. Rotax builds a lot of parts for a lot of companies. The new Buell 1125R uses a 1125cc liquid cooled engine built by Rotax . Rotax builds engines for snowmobiles, watercraft, ATV’s, karts, and aircraft.]

On the topic of BMW still but a different bike – What about the G450X?


BMW G450X
That bike won’t be available until September/Fall at the earliest like the F800GS. We didn’t get to ride that one but they did bring some to show us. They had brought in four expert class riders and had a motocross track set up across from the hotel, complete with some huge jumps. They even had a race to showcase the bikes on the track.

It’s a really, in my words, “unorthodox” frame concept. You don’t see too many tubular stainless steel motocross bikes. They do seem reliable though. It’ll use a KYMCO produced engine. BMW built it to be a winner and it’s already been successful in some races.

[Story Notes: Kymco have been around since 1963 and are based in Taiwan. Though known mainly for scooters and smaller displacement engines they have been building larger 650 displacement motorcycles for sale under the Kymco name in Canada for a few years now. Kymco has worked for big name companies too, Honda being one name that comes to mind. The 450 engine is being built to BMW specifications and is a very powerful unit.]

I ended the conversation with a “thanks” to Paul for his insight and thoughts on the new bikes.

CanadianMotorcycleRider final thoughts:


BMW F650GS
That concludes the discussion we had with Paul but we’ll move on to discuss some more details about the new models and some of the differences between them. Paul spoke very highly of the three models we spoke about (F650GS, F800GS, and G450X) but gave particularly glowing reviews of the F650GS. I get the impression that he believes folks shouldn’t necessarily wait for the F800GS to come. I can see his point. If you're not going to be doing serious off-roading the F650GS should be plenty capable. Be honest with yourself and what you'll be using the bike for. If you're like most people the F650GS is going to suit you just fine.

In the end it’ll be up to consumer, but I think the F650GS is a worthy successor to the old 650 and it’s well priced. If you think back to just last year a 650 Dakar model would have had an MSRP in the C$11,000 range. The new F650GS gives you a lot more power and an MSRP of only $8990; a real bargain seemingly. That gets you the 3 year warranty complete with roadside assistance. A 3 year warranty is pretty uncommon in the industry and BMW bikes are known for their reliability, dependability, and broad dealer support.

In short, I came away excited about the F650GS. It should rightly bring a lot of people in to the dealerships; some of whom may not have considered BMW in the past. So, if you’re in the Winnipeg area, head over to Wildwood to talk to Paul or some of the staff. You might even want to use some of that $3,000 + tax you’re going to save by buying the F650GS on some accessories that’ll make it even more enjoyable to drive. Maybe a 2kg saving Akrapovic slip-on silencer, some hand protectors, under-body protection bars, and engine protection bars. Sounds pretty good to me!

More Information on the Bikes and their Differences!

The target market for the F650GS is people who might not need quite as much off-road ability as the F800GS. It’s a great all-rounder, providing plenty of power and economy. It’s the ideal machine for everyday use. It features slightly less spring travel, a lower seat height, lower weight (8kg), and slightly reduced engine power. The focus for the F650GS is high torque at lower engine speeds coupled with excellent economy.


The F650GS comes with cast metal wheels and lower ground clearance which indicate an on-road bias. The cast metal wheels are slightly lighter than the spoked wheels so they're advantageous for street use. The reduced power and modified valve timings means there is no need for a secondary air system on the F650GS because fewer un-combusted gases enter the exhaust system and it meets tough Euro 3 emissions requirements as is. The F 800 GS is fitted with a secondary air system which, in combination with the regulated catalytic converter reduces emissions down to Euro 3 requirements. The engine differences also mean that you can use regular 87 octane fuel with the F650GS as opposed to premium with the F800GS. You’ll be able to use lower octane in the F800GS but it will require a software tweak that is easily reversed. The change increases fuel consumption slightly and drops the hp rating by 2 ponies.

F650GS vs. F800GS. The most important differences at a glance (according to BMW):




F800GS

F650GS


63kW / 85HP52kW / 71HP
Valve timings as per F 800 SPower-reducing valve timing
Wide coolerNarrow F 800 S cooler
Off-road-style fairingsStreet-style fairings
Row 4, column 1 dataRow 4, column 2 data
High windscreenLow windscreen
Front - USD telescopic fork 230mm travelFront - Conventional telescopic fork180mm travel
Rear- WAD spring strut w/215mm travelRear - Gas pressure spring strut 170mm of travel
Spoked wheelsCast metal wheels
21" front wheel19" front wheel
Double-disc brake, floating frontSingle-disc brake, front
Aluminium handlebarSteel handlebar
880 / 850mm seat height820 / 790mm seat height
Ready-to-drive weight 207kgReady-to-drive weight 199kg
--Lowering kit (765mm)
--Power reduction kit (if required)
transmission ratio of 1:2.625 (16/42 Z)transmission ratio of 1:2.412 (17/41 Z)
steering lock stop 42 degreessteering lock stop of 40 degrees



* Note: In the information provided by BMW it indicates in one place that both bikes feature conically shaped vibration absorbing aluminum bars and then in another place indicates that only the F800GS has aluminum bars; the F650GS is said to have steel bars. The Spec sheet on BMW Motorrad Canada doesn't provide details on the bars so you may want to confirm with the dealer a little closer to launch date exactly which one it is.

Because BMW knows that people may take the F650GS or the F800GS off-road they needed a secondary drive that was not sensitive to dirt. Both GS models therefore have an O-ring chain. A chain guide rail protects the aluminium rocker from damage. Seat heights of 880 or 850mm available for the F800GS. Heights of 820 or 790mm are available for the F650GS (and 765mm with lowering kit).

The new GS models have a vibration-absorbent handle-bar that is made from conically shaped aluminium tubing. In the case of the 800 model, it features folding, wide steel footrests with hollow-chamber rubber surfaces. The rubber surfaces can also be removed if necessary to improve the ability to stand securely in the footrests off-road.

The GS is also a nice place for a passenger to spend some time too. The seat length and footrest position allow the passenger to relax, while the long side-holder brackets at the rear provide a nice secure place to grip. The higher wind-screen on the F800GS can also be mounted on the F650GS.

Both windscreens are a wind tunnel optimized M-shaped design.The 16-litre tank is under the seat which lowers the center of gravity and has the added benefit of not getting in the way if you use a tank bag. The lockable filler nozzle is easily accessible on the right-hand side of the vehicle level near the pillion seat.

According to BMW, there will be some special equipment and accessories available for both models.

Some are fitted at the factory in Berlin and some other items can be purchased at local dealerships. Some pieces you’ll be able to get (according to a BMW Press release dated 11/2007) include:

- BMW Motorrad ABS (with off switch)
- Heated grips (standard on the F650GS in Canada)
- On-board computer
- Main stand
- Low driver’s seat (850mm for the F800GS, 790mm for the F650GS at no extra cost if ordered on purchase of machine)
- White indicator lights
- Theft alarm
- Tire Pressure Monitor system (only for the F650GS)
- Lower positioning unit (only for F650GS - The lowering kit for the F 650 GS consists of a lower seat and a shortened spring strut.)
- Under-body protection (comes standard on F800GS)
- engine protection bars
- A rear splash protection extension
- Hand protection bars
- A wide range of side, tank, and top cases.
- BMW Motorrad Navigator II


Accessorized BMW F800GS
The on-board computer expands the range of information that can be displayed on the clear display on the combined instrument panel, adding the following details: tank display, gear display, coolant temperature, average fuel consumption, range, outside temperature and stopwatch time. A button on the left handlebar fitting allows the driver to switch through the displays and to select the information required. It is also used to operate the stopwatch.

Fuel Consumption/Acceleration/Top Speed:

F800GS
90 km/h l/100 km 3.8
120 km/h l/100 km 5.2
Acceleration (0–100 km/h) 4.1
Maximum speed (km/h) over 200

F650GS
90 km/h l/100 km 3.7
120 km/h l/100 km 5.2
Acceleration (0–100 km/h) 4.3
Maximum speed (km/h) 189

- Link to Wildwood MotorSports 1143 Pembina Highway, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2A3 (Site incorporates sound which plays automatically)
- Link to BMW Motorrad Canada.

I Dream Of Diesel

How does 105 mpg at 72 km/hr with a range of over 1000 km’s sound? Sounds impossible, right? Well, Hayes Diversified Technology (HDT), a US company that are the largest supplier of military motorcycles to the US Defense Department (according to information on their website) have a bike that will do just that, and it’s been tested too. HDT uses the very popular Kawasaki KLR 650 as a donor and beefs it up to military specifications. The most interesting modification though is a state-of-the-art non-turbo charged diesel engine. It’s not some Frankenstein backyard build up; these guys know diesel engines. Consider this as evidence; HDT Racing USA set new World and National Land Speed records for diesel powered motorcycles at the International speed trials by BUB in September 2007.

The real focus of this article is the KLR based diesel motorcycles though. For those unfamiliar with the KLR and the reasons why might have been chosen by the military and HDT as “the” bike to put a diesel engine into, consider these facts. The KLR has been in production for some 21 years and has proven itself to be a tough and reliable machine right out of the box. It’s a very versatile machine that can be used on-road or off-road and will be happy eating up the miles on either surface. It’s relatively cheap too. A 2008 KLR 650 from Kawasaki will only set you back $6,599 Cdn (MSRP). If the KLR were a shoe it’d most certainly be a cross trainer. That means it’s not the absolute best bike for carving up the twisty tarmac or navigating a narrow rutted path through the woods. What it does mean though is that you’re going to have a machine that can handle both of these comfortably.

 Now, having not been privy to the actual reasons behind the selection of the KLR it still seems obvious that if you can only have one bike, this one can do it all. 2008 Kawasaki KLR

Diesel engines in motorcycles aren’t all that common because diesel engines in motorcycles were thought not to be commercially practical, cost effective, or even possible given the power and size requirements of a motorcycle engine. HDT has changed that perception for many.

In 1984 all NATO military forces sought a long term goal of a “single battlefield fuel” to lesson the burden and logistical problems of supplying multiple fuel types. In 1997, in support of the “single battlefield fuel” goal, the US Navy announced that in the year 2005 they would not transport gasoline any longer; they would only supply “heavy fuels” such as diesel and jet fuel. After looking for suppliers of motorcycles that would suit their needs no motorcycle manufacturers took on the project. The US Marine Corps expanded their search, seeking all interested parties and offered to pay for the development of a diesel/jet fuel powered military motorcycle. Of the all the applicants, HDT was selected to continue development and testing to it’s final stages. HDT is now under contract with the Marine Corps to produce up to 522 JP8/Diesel Combat Motorcycles.

HDT has a few different models, the M1030M1 JP8/Diesel Military Motorcycle being the main bike of interest and the new “Bulldog”.

The M1030M1 JP8/Diesel Military Motorcycle has a 4-stroke, IDI single cylinder, liquid cooled 611cc engine. It produces 30 PS at 5700 RPM which, at 1 PS per 0.986 hp, is pretty darn close to 30 horsepower and 33 ft–lbs at 4200 RPM. The standard gasoline powered 2007 KLR has approximately 48hp and about 40.5 ft/lbs of torque. 18hp makes for a pretty sizeable difference even though the power comes on tap a little lower in the RPM range.

For 2008, Kawasaki made the biggest changes to the venerable KLR that they’ve made in, well, a very long time! For 2008 the KLR is slightly down in the hp department at right around 44 hp at 6500 RPM and 37 ft-lbs of torque at 5500 RPM. HDT have of course come up with a diesel powered version of the new KLR too. Now, I’ll say from the start that because of increased requirements of their military contracts HDT is not making these bikes available to the public currently but they do intend to offer them up for sale which when you read a little further I’ll think you’ll find is exciting news!

The new HDT model is the MD670F “Bulldog” and it’s got a slightly bigger diesel engine than the military spec bike. Bumped up from 611cc to 667cc, the single cylinder diesel has got right around 35 hp at 5400 RPM but 43 ft-lbs of torque way down low at 3300 RPM. So you give up 9hp on the Kawasaki gasoline engine but you gain 6 ft-lbs of torque at 2200 RPM lower on the tachometer. Not to mention the phenomenal fuel economy means you’ll practically never have to stop to fuel up. The Bulldog gets a staggering 105 mpg at 72 km/hr with a range of over 1000 km’s. You’ll likely get less than this figure which is probably a little optimistic but even if it’s somewhere close this bike is still in a league of it’s own.

If you want to keep updated on the status of the MD670F “Bulldog”, HDT asks that you sign up for their newsletter which you can do here.

According to HDT here are the specifications for the MD670F “Bulldog”:

ENGINE:
Type: 4-Stroke, IDI, single cylinder, liquid cooled.
Displacement: 667cc
Power: 35 PS @ 5400 RPM
Torque: 43 ft-lbs @ 3300 RPM
Lubrication: Wet sump
Air Filtration: High capacity, 3-stage, oiled foam, reusable
Transmission: 5-speed, constant mesh, return shift.
Final Drive: Self lubricated, sealed, O-ring roller chain.

WEIGHTS and MEASUREMENTS:
Dry Weight:369 lbs
Max Width:37 inches
Max Length:85 inches
Max Height:49 inches (w/o mirrors)
Wheel Base:57 inches
Ground Clearance:10.7 inches

PERFORMANCE:
Acceleration: 0-30 mph (53 kph), 3.1 sec
0-60 mph (106 kph), 9.3 sec
Gradeability: 60% (32 degrees)
Turning Radius: Less than 7 feet
Maximum Speed: In excess of 100 mph.
MinimumConstant Speed: Less than 3 mph.
Fording Depth: 24 inches
Fuel Mileage: 105 mpg @ 45 mph (Tested)
Range: 630 miles @ 45 mph

Now – the big questions… What will it cost and will it be available in Canada? Those are two unknowns at this time but don’t expect it to be cheap. It’s likely going to cost a lot more than a standard KLR. As for Canadian availability; they’ll certainly be available in the US at select dealerships or though HDT directly before they are here. So when the time comes that HDT starts selling to the public and you simply must have one it may mean that you have to import one. Or hopefully HDT will allow some dealerships to sell them. Maybe we'll even get a Canadian flag edition instead of this US flag version - Don't hold your breath!

When or if we hear any news from HDT on the BullFrog we'll let you know!

Link to HDT.

Suzuki Bandit 1250 SEA

The Suzuki Bandit is classified under the “street” section of Suzuki’s website and they’ve been around for a while. But in 2007 they upgraded the engine from a 1200cc to smooth running 1250cc. Always known as being a good deal; the 2008 model maintains this most appealing feature. There’s an S edition and a SEA edition for 2008; they both come with ABS but the SEA edition adds a full fairing, and lockable side mounted hard bags (top bag is optional). The MSRP is $11,999. (MSRP for the S edition is $10,799).

The engine is liquid cooled and fuel injected so you won’t have to fuss with a choke when starting it up. Throttle response is linear and immediate with no flat spots or lurching. It’s got near 100hp which may not sound all that impressive but what it does deliver in abundance (right around 80 ft/lbs) is torque! Torque numbers are up almost 20% over the 06 model. That torque comes on tap at a very low 3700 rpm instead of 6500 rpm too which makes pulling away in just about any gear possible without any bucking.

Mated to a six speed gear box and you’ve got plenty of flexibility for all around riding and that 6th gear is particularly nice on long highway cruises and keeps the rpm’s nice and low; around 3450 rpm at 100km/hr, right in the peak torque range area! No need for downshifting to pass those pesky slow moving vehicles.

The engine is a bit shorter which allows for a longer swingarm without adding length to the wheelbase which has improved handling. The frame has been beefed up and made more rigid, the suspension has revised damping rates, and is pre-load adjustable front and back.

The new frame is also more rigid and the suspension has revised damping rates. For suspension it’s got telescopic, oil damped, preload adjustable in the front and link-type suspension, 7-way adjustable preload, 4-way adjustable rebound. It’s got an upright riding position, one-piece handlebars, beefed up frame rails, and a very comfy seat reportedly. For brakes you get dual hydraulic disc ABS in the front and a single hydraulic disc ABS in the back.

The instrumentation is well designed with a large analog tachometer beside an equally large digital speedo. This is a nice setup because it’s easy to see at a glance exactly how fast you’re going with digital rather than have an analog sweeping gauge. An analog tach is just fine because you don’t really need as an exact measure.

The emissions control and catalytic converter meet tough Euro 3 standards so you can feel a little better about all those long distance trips you’re going to want to go on. You won’t need to stop at the gas station quite as soon as the reserve light may indicate though. It’s said that the reserve light comes on quite early with this model, kicking in when you’re between 13-14 liters into the 19 liter tank reportedly.

The Bandit comes with the standard Suzuki 1 yr warranty.

Front Tire: 120/70ZR17MC
Rear Tire: 180/55ZR17M/C (73W), Tubeless
Colors: Grey, Blue
2008 Bandit 1250 SEA (ABS) -- MSRP $11,999

Link to Suzuki’s website.

Some of the notable competition:

Yamaha FJR (1300cc) MSRP $19,099, shaft
Yamaha FZ1 TE (1000cc) MSRP $14,999, chain
Kawasaki Concours (1352cc) MSRP $19,099, shaft (Link to our article)
Honda ST1300A (1300cc) MSRP $19,699, shaft
BMW R1200RT (1200cc) MSRP*: $19,000.00, shaft
BMW K1200GT (1200cc) MSRP*: $21,375.00, shaft
Moto Guzzi Norge (1200cc), MSRP $19,395, shaft
Buell Ulysses XB12XT (1200cc), MSRP $13,999, belt (Link to our article)

Suzuki’s got a brand new GSX

GSX-650F that is! Suzuki is spreading the credibility of their sport bike GSX-R models a little further and have tagged a new 650cc street model the GSX650F. The bike comes with a compact, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, DOHC 656cc (Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve) coming from the Bandit 650. It’s an inline 4 that based on its lineage should make about 75 horsepower.

The GSX-650F is designed to be a sporty looking bike that’s targeting beginner riders while giving them some room to grow. Realistically this bike isn’t necessarily just for beginners, it’s got smooth power delivery, looks a bit sporty and has some upright ergonomics. Sounds like it’ll suit more than a beginner rider to me. It might make a nice commuter bike, light touring machine, and all round daily driver that’s a bit more forgiving.

The bike has a full fairing as North Americans tend to buy faired bikes in greater numbers than naked. We don’t have nearly as many naked style bikes as the European market for example. From the handlebars back it looks an awful lot like a full-faired GS 500 except that the engine is a 656cc inline 4 rather than a 500cc parallel twin. Its got a significant horsepower advantage over the GS500.

The GSX650F maintains its cool with a high efficiency radiator combined with a 190mm electric cooling fan controlled by the ECM and a high output water pump with a bearing-less design for reduced weight. New six speed transmission works smoothly with a hydraulic clutch for decisive shifting across a wide range of driving conditions.

It comes with 41mm forks designed to deliver a smooth ride and feature preload adjustability for a variety of riding conditions. New rebound and preload adjustable rear shock works in conjunction with a link-type rear suspension for excellent road holding performance. Tokico 4 piston front brake calipers are used with a 310mm brake rotor combined with a lightweight single piston rear caliper and a 240mm rear brake disc.

The seat is one piece - wide and comfortable, with low seat height for increased rider and passenger comfort. New GSX-R inspired instrument cluster includes a step motor driven tachometer, dual trip meters, reserve trip meter, clock, fuel gauge, and a useful gear position indicator. The fuel tank is specially designed to be compact so that the handlebars are easy to reach. It’s got a narrow mid section while still retaining a full 19 liter (4.2 imp gal.) fuel capacity.

It’s not expected that the GSX650F will cannibalize sales from the popular SV 650/SV 650S models with their punchy v-twin engines. They have similar horsepower ratings but the power delivery is very different. I’d say it’s definitely a possibility it’ll take away some sales given the engine size and pricing is within a few hundred dollars of the SV. It's worth the risk though because despite the similar engine size and price, they're very different bikes. A SV650S with ABS has an MSRP of $8,799. If you’re in the Suzuki dealership looking for a bike in this price range chances are you’d probably take a look at both.

So if you’re in the market for an inexpensive sport bike and are interested in a bit of comfortable fun then this bike is worth a look.

Seat height: 770 mm (30.3 in)
Dry Weight: 216 kg (475 lbs.)
Front Suspension: Telescopic, oil damped, preload adjustable
Rear Suspension: Link-type suspension, adjustable preload and rebound
Front brakes: Dual hydraulic disc
Rear brakes: Single hydraulic disc
Front tire: 120/70-ZR-17
Rear tire: 160/60-ZR-17
Fuel tank: 19 liter (4.2 imp gal.)
Colors: Blue/White, Black/Silver
12 month warranty
MSRP 8,599.00 CDN

* Suzuki’s US site indicates an MSRP $6999 - a difference of $1600.

Link to Suzuki Canada's website.