The Bandit has been utterly reliable (except for the starter, which I will talk about later), despite being ridden in all weather. At 45,000 km I am still on the original chain and sprockets, which is in no small part due to the fact that I have a Scottoiler fitted. Are the Scottoilers worth it? In my view, yes if you plan to keep a bike and ride it a lot. No if you ride it occasionally and don't like to get wet (a can of chain lube lasts a long time). There's lots of debate abut what chain lubes to use. I have tried a lot and quite frankly, it doesn't matter as long as you either have a Scottoiler, or simply keep the chain lubed.
The Bandit is easy to tune yourself: if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you should be able to do your own tuneups. A good socket set, an oil filter removal tool, some screwdrivers, allen keys and a couple of torque wrenches (a low range and a high range) will do most stuff. If you want to get into balancing throttle bodies, a set of gauges is required (I use a Morgan Carbtune Pro), and a basic multimeter helps for diagnosing electrical gremlins (rare on a Bandit). I recommend getting a Haynes Manual. The factory manuals are available on line, but assume you have specialist tools and knowledge. Some things like bleeding the water pump are in the Haynes Manual but not the OEM factory one.
The engine is fantastic. Massive torque at low revs, and very usable power at real world speeds. Significantly over-engineered and will last a long time. Other high capacity bikes may make more peak horsepower, but the Bandit has it right where you need it. There's easy extra power to be had. The way I have done it is with Dale Walker's Holeshot Stage 2 kit (www.holeshot.com). In essence, opening the airbox, replacing the air filter with a K&N and adding a piggyback Tuneable Fuel Injection (TFI) module, liberates about 25% more horsepower. Torque and power is improved, and with removal of the secondary butterflies, the bike is freer revving and doesn't run out of power up top. You have to have a replacement end can as well. (More about this later too).
Some folks have gone down the PowerCommander route. These work similarly and have more adjustment than the TFI, but you will need to spend money on dyno tuning with a professional to get it right. (Dale's setup is plug and play). There's other TFI type boxes too, like the Juicebox, but the cost of a dyno to get it right adds up. Some folks offer remapping of the bike's ECU, but it again needs a dyno to get the most out of it. Whichever way you go is personal choice. I like Dale's setup and his personal service. Whichever way you go, the bike needs it, as they are tuned lean and many surge at low throttle openings.
Just to confuse things, there's two different K&N air filters. Go for the SU-6500, which is listed for the 1200. It is the same external dimensions as the SU-6505 which is listed for the 1250, but has more filter surface. Not much in it though. If you aren't doing other mods, I recommend keeping the standard air filter.
You can use any of these setups with pipe and filter remaining stock as well. Smoother running, but no real extra power. Just don't half do it and lean it out with a pipe and filter and airbox mod without adding fuel. The bike won't go better.
Is it worth doing? It's a lot of money you won't recoup, so if you change bikes like socks, I wouldn't. If you plan to keep the bike a while, go for it. It's what Suzuki should have built. The power is copious right where you need it. Just don't let unsuspecting friends leap on and open the throttle, as the power is right there from idle and it can bite the unwary.
What about pipes? I have a Yoshimura TRS on mine. Why? Because the previous owner fitted it and it looks and sounds great. Much of the muffling on the Bandit occurs in the headers with the catalytic converter, so most cans sound fairly similar, so whatever you choose will be on looks and price more than anything else. They are much lighter than the stock cannon, and when coupled with intake mods, give you a lot more power. Don't expect a lot more just by adding the can to a stock setup though. The bike needs more fuel going in to stop it running lean.
Headers are available and with appropriate induction mods, can give another 3-5 Hp on top of the stage 2 setup. The standard pipes are double walled and the honeycomb catalytic converter adds to the restrictions. Some have punched out the cat with a steel rod, but you will need an oxygen sensor bypass plug as the sensor won't work properly. Headers can be expensive (I am in New Zealand so shipping is costly). Dale Walker makes his own sets, and there are a couple of others out there including some by Delkevic. I don't need the extra power, and the cost benefits aren't there for me on headers. I'd rather spend the money on suspension mods to get power to the ground more effectively.
If you are a rider who rides on the bottom end of the rev range, think carefully before spending a lot of dollars. The Bandit 1250 even fully stock has a lot of power. It comes down to choices: do you want more power through a fairly ordinary chassis, suspension and brakes package, or do you want to go down that route instead? (And hey, if you have the money, do both, but don't expect to recoup the costs).
Oil changes on the Bandit are easy. Use tinfoil to stop the oil from the removed filter leaking onto the headers. I use either OEM filters or K&N KN-138. I have tried all sorts of oils, but changing the oil every 6,000 km means expensive oil = expensive waste. Use a good semi-synthetic like Castrol 4T or Golden Spectro. The engine is understressed and as long as you don't use car oil or the wrong grade, it's really a price and availability thing. There's endless on line debates to confuse you. Just use a torque wrench on the sump plug so you don't strip the threads as some have done.
I use NGK CR7 EIX iridium plugs, but there's no discernable difference (be careful of counterfeits on EBay). Good quality NGKs are not expensive.
Valves are checked at 24,000 km intervals. It's really rare to hear of anyone finding one out of adjustment, even at really high miles. It's a pain to get the valve cover off the engine, and beware the rubber block that can fall into the depths. Get it high temp siliconed in place to reduce the risk of it being dislodged on reassembly and ruining the engine.
Tuneups are mainly an oil change, the occasional plug change and that's pretty much it. Easy.
Tyres are another personal choice thing. I used Michelin PR2s with great results, and am now on PR3s. The PR4s are now out so I guess I will use them. Great wet weather performance and long wear for my riding style. Keep pressures at front 38 and rear 42 psi. Fitting right angled valve stems is good, as it means easier access at tyre pumping time.
Brakes are average. The non-ABS models have better lever feel as the lines are shorter. Best results are by using a good quality brake fluid (keep the system fresh and bled), and sintered pads. I use Ferodo sintereds on the front, and non-sintered rear, primarily because Dale Walker recommends them and he is, as far as I am concerned, the Bandit guru. EBC HH pads are also well rated by owners. Feedback from others on replacing the ABS lines with braided lines is mixed. The lines are so long and the master cylinder is average and the difference is not as great on the ABS model as it is when replacing lines on the non-ABS. Hey, if you want awesome braking and a chassis to get a knee down with, get a GSXR or a Hayabusa, as you won't get a lot more out of Bandit brakes without significant changes. Sintered pads make a big difference.
Electrically, replacing the stock bulbs with something better rated is helpful. I have used HIDs in the past (see the blog for details), but they are not legal in NZ and can dazzle other drivers. I have LED running lights and have used Narva Platinums as my main bulbs as they are a better match for the bluer white LED park lights and running lights. I have also fitted a Speedohealer as the stock speedo overreads by 7% at 100 km/hr with standard gearing. A Stebel Nautilus is a must as far as horns go. Blazingly loud. A waterproof 12v marine socket in the fairing inner helps charge accessories.
Screen-wise, this is very much a personal preference thing according to your size, riding stance and helmet choice. I have the stock screen (wind hits chest), the Suzuki OEM touring screen (aka MRA Vario - much better), and have just fitted a Zero Gravity touring screen which I am liking a lot. Wind hits the top of my helmet but no buffeting.
I also have the factory lower fairing. Looks nice and keeps crap off the engine, but has zero rider protection (does not affect engine cooling at all) and is mainly cosmetic. Don't bother unless you simply must. I also have GSG-Moto crash knobs, which help at a stationary drop or on a track. On the road, my view is that the bike slides further until the knobs hit the kerb and shear off anyway (bitter experience). A radiator guard is a must. I have a RadGuard but there's lots to choose from.
Seats are a matter of personal choice, much like shoes. Your butt may differ. I had the OEM seat (torture after 150k), the OEM gel seat (300k) and now a Sargent low seat (no torture yet). Corbin is also popular. Personal choice thing, really. It's not a GoldWing but you can improve things a lot.
I have added SW-Motech bar backs to provide a more comfortable riding position. You can keep the stock lines, but the top brake line will be tight. I had a hew one made up locally. V Strom 1000 hand guards also help the comfort for cold weather, as do Oxford Sport hot grips. I have also added the SW-Motech adjustable mirror extenders. Blocks to extend mirrors also work but the SW-Motechs look better in my view.
Luggage is personal choice, but as a minimum I endorse a Givi top box ( I use a Givi V46) as it is so handy for carrying groceries, bike parts and other useful stuff. No impact on handling. If you plan to tour, the best looking option is the Givi V35, which match the lines of the bike and you can get colour matched panels for the tops. I don't use them a lot, and the biggest annoyance is kicking them when Iforget they are there. No impact on passenger seating at all. They are costly, so think hard about them. Fantastic quality though! With Givi side cases, they fit best with the OEM pipe, and with aftermarket pipes you may need to add a small strap extender to clear the bottom of the case (I have seen some melted ones). Easily made.
To keep road spray off the bike, a Fender Extender for the front is a must. It should be fitted from new and keeps the radiator free from debris. There is a rear one available that is moulded to fit the rear mudgard and looks OEM. This makes a big difference keeping spray off the top box, and the difference is marked. When I got the bike it had a tail tidy, but quite frankly all they do is allow more rubbish to spray up the back. I have an Ermax hugger fitted as well. Great for keeping the shock and rear of the bike clean.
Handling wise, the OEM suspension is adequate for daily riding, but fitting better fork springs and emulators up front and a quality rear shock is common. The biggest issue for me is cost, and I haven't bothered yet. Be aware that the ABS bikes have limited space, so fitting things like a Hayabusa shock is not an option on these models. Dale Walker's site lists some suspension options which are quite cost effective. On reflection, if you want to spend money on the bike, start with suspension and seat first before motor mods. You will be a safer, faster rider, as in my view making the stock bike faster just shows the limitations of the chassis and brakes.
The starter has been the only issue on this otherwise great bike. A small number of bikes, including mine, the magnets fail in the starter and jam it solid. Not repairable and nothing you can do to prevent it. I bought a spare in case (and it paid off), so if you have the opportunity to get a cheap second hand one, it's a good investment. Some people have had issues with a clogged intake screen in the fuel pump limiting power on acceleration, and some have had pumps replaced as a result. This is usually repairable, so don't let a shop charge for a new pump unless the pump motor itself has failed
Over-all, I have a bike that I can use as a daily commuter. ABS helps with the safety, and the bike is easy to handle with an upright seating position that helps with visibility and control. Power is plentiful at real world speeds and a well ridden Bandit will keep up with sports bikes in most places, but with a lot more comfort. Reliability and parts availability is excellent, and most home mechanics will have no problem maintaining it. Adding luggage and a better seat makes it a powerful tourer with decent fuel range and at a fraction of the cost of a full dress tourer. It's versatile and cost effective. I have ridden a lot of sports tourers including the Hayabusa, but the Bandit is still my choice as it is so comfortable and holds its own except for the most insane riding (and if you want to ride at 10/10ths you probably won't have bought a Bandit anyway). The only bikes I have thought would be the next step (Kawasaki. Concours and BMW R1200GS) are a lot more expensive.
Any regrets? None. I have done a lot of other mods, so feel free to read the blog to see what you may want to try. It's a fun bike to work on and personalise, and it is a bit of a "sleeper" in that it can really surprise people who may think it's soft. Each time I get back on it after a sports bike, it feels like a big dual sport in comparison.