Re-Cycling: 1997-2005 Suzuki Bandit 1200

Suzuki Bandit
For 2001 the revamped Bandit 1200S got an all-new frame for sharper handling and the seat height was lowered nearly
two inches.

If you’re put off by modern technology like throttle-by-wire, fuel injection and trick electronic engine management systems, but still want gobs of horsepower available at the twitch of a throttle, you need to look back a few years to find what you’re looking for. To around, say, 1997, when Suzuki took a GSX-R1100 engine off the shelf, retuned it, bored it out to 1,157cc and stuffed it into a middleweight-sized chassis. Thus was born the Bandit 1200, a bike that packs a punch like a surly silverback gorilla and reminds you there was a time when software wouldn’t save you from yourself.

The B12’s air/oil-cooled four is a model of old-school simplicity, with four carburetors, screw-and-locknut valves that any halfway-competent home mechanic can adjust and few other critical maintenance requirements except changing oil, a job best done on time to prevent sludge clogging the cam-chain tensioner. The four-into-one exhaust system is a model of civility, but is also largely responsible for holding back the Bandit’s wild side—a freer-flowing system unleashes significant horsepower and torque, although possibly at the expense of the goodwill of your neighbors.

Suzuki Bandit
The Bandit was the Rider cover bike in February 1997.

The tubular-steel chassis is remarkable for its lack of remarkableness, and modifications to the damper-rod fork and price-point shock are necessary to bring out the Bandit’s best back-road behavior. The brakes, too, could stand an upgrade; braided stainless-steel lines and aftermarket pads are the minimum you need to effectively rein in the engine’s ferocity. In its day the B12’s hunger for rear tires was legendary, but modern dual-compound tires should curb its appetite.

From its debut in 1997 to its curtain call in 2005, the Bandit 1200 went through few changes aside from the seat and bodywork; later models got fairing-mounted mirrors and dual headlights. Those who know the model well, however, suggest giving 2001-02 models a close inspection for excessive oil consumption, allegedly caused by a run of pistons with incorrectly sized holes behind the oil-control rings. Also look out for leaky fuel petcocks that allow gas to dribble into the cylinders, past the piston rings and into the oil—have a sniff at the crankcase filler hole for a whiff of gasoline.

Suzuki Bandit
The Bandit 1200 in Marble Canyon, Arizona, on a two-up trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles, California. It proved to be a capable touring bike—though we could have used a top trunk!

The Bandit quickly became one of the darlings of the street-fighter scene, making stock ones hard to find. Obviously, pass on those with cheap, loud exhausts, scarred frame protectors or missing plastic. A slip-on, a jet kit and a timing-advance kit are about all that’s needed to wake up the engine, and along with receipts or records of regular oil changes and valve adjustments are points in a bike’s favor.

You can score a decent B12 for $2,000-$3,500, the higher price worth it only for a stock, unmolested original. Performance mods add or subtract from the asking price, depending on whether they’re from reputable sources and were installed by a dealer or a competent mechanic. But even in stock trim the Bandit 1200 is a formidable bike, a cost-effective hot rod that comes with the potential to commute, sport tour or go totally snake-eyed with only a few modifications.

1997-2005 Suzuki Bandit 1200

Inexpensive to buy, simple to work on, cheap to modify. A rocket for riders without deep pockets.

Old-school chassis and running gear yield similar handling and braking. Engine vibration can be bothersome.

Displacement: 1,157cc
Final drive: O-ring chain
Wet Weight: 485 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 87 PON min./5.0-5.2 gals.
Seat Height: 31.0 in.


  1. I wanted a Bandit for years … even after I gave up riding in college. Fast forward two plus decades and I came across a near-perfect condition 1997 Bandit 1200s. I looked at it out of state and the price was good but not great. Fast forward a year, and a fella about 20 miles from me bought the bike and then decided he didn’t want it because it was too powerful and too tall for him. He knew I loved it when I saw it and as the riding year was coming to an end (late 2019), he offered it to me for a pittance. The bike had about 6,000 miles on it when I bought it and had one small blemish on a side panel. The rest is stock. The bike fires instantly and runs like heck. I rode it about 5 miles and already had it up over 120mph on back roads. It’s that comfortable and easy to ride. I’ve had a lot of powerful bikes and several faster than this one but the relative light weight, powerful motor and dirt-cheap price conspire to make it my second favorite bike of any that I’ve owned. I know there are better bikes that are faster, but the value quotient on the Bandit is off the charts. It’s amazing to me how effective the tiny fairing is for my 6′ body. I’ve had 3 Concours and an FJR and they had a noisier air pocket than my mighty Bandit. The thing is a gem and I’m lucky to have come across the bike and even more fortunate to get it as inexpensively as I did.

  2. I have a 2002 and my lovely wife has a 2007 1250. We love our Bandits. I have a Hayabusa shock on the rear and Racetech fork springs. Pod filters and jetted. Danmoto exhaust. It runs pretty good.

  3. I loved the Bandit when it came out – at the time I was on an old GS1100G. After a few years of no motorcycle, I started looking for an old Bandit in 2012 – something modern in my mind, but not too far removed from the GS750/850/1100 E & G I’d had previously – when I ran across a first-generation FZ1. I’d ridden a couple bandits, like them – but the FZ1 was a whole level better. S O L D!!
    (still have it, 8 years later)

  4. I tuned my 2003 with an opened air box, Hole shot exhaust. Added a taller Zero Gravity windscreen, bar risers, engine guard with highway pegs, Top Sellerie heated seat and a full set of Givi luggage. The absolute best sport tourer for the buck anywhere!

  5. I have had by 97 since new, it has been re jetted with a Micron carbon fiber slip-on and a K&N in the box.Progressive fork springs and rear shock and steel brake lines. I have over 50K on it with no problems except clutch wear. The ICU recently expired but I was luck to find a second hand one. I used to tour on it but now use it for day rides. I changed the gearing up a little to drop highway rpm and it is still crazy fast.

  6. l bought a brand new 97 bandit 1200. l had previously owned and raced a couple of T500’s, a water buffalo (160,000 miles, an 850G, and bought the first Bandit 1200 l ever saw. l had the usual hot rod parts, made 115 at the rear wheel, had a full set of Givi’s. including the top case. lt did everything l wanted very well.

  7. Had a bandit 1200 in the early 2000s. Loved it. Could eat most bikes up to 100mph lol. Raced a ninja from a stop near Squires. Had him up to 100 no problem then he can by me like a scud lol
    Young kid wiped me out on the A1. Bike was a right off and me nearly too. Debated for ages but bought a Triumph TT600. Huge mistake ! What a POS ! Shoulda bought another bandit lol

  8. we have a bandit 12 and a gixxer 71/2 and the bandit will definitely give the gixxer a run for his money but with two people on board, we did 153 on that bandit- gotta wonder about the exhaust mods! both bikes are amazing!!

  9. I Haven a 97 bandit 1200 couldn’t ask for a better all around bike. The power was what sold me on it. First through third stays right with all those new bikes. Plus I ride 100 miles a day to and from work and it’s very reliable .I never plan on getting rid of this bike, it’s found it’s home forever.

  10. I have the 2002 1200s. Hole shot jet. Yoshimura RS3 slip on. Timing advance. Zero gravity windscreen. Passenger backrest. It’s an awesome bike. Easily keeping up with the litter bikes on the tail of the dragon. Very comfortable for an all-day ride. Sporty when it needs to be. I have had ninjas and gixxers. As I have gotten older the Bandit is the perfect fit. I will never get rid of this bike.

  11. I picked up a 1998 1200 , with 7,300 miles , had huge jets ,and k&N pods. RS3 yosh.Removed all that. Now stock airbox. With K&N. Loving every minute of it . The yosh pipe stayed.

  12. for a man who has owned many motorcycles American. German. Italian. British. I must say my 1998 bandit 1200s . is still one of my all time favorites. I am in my side sixties still ride and love my do it all motorcycle. get a map and a tank bag go any where.and just ride all day.and of course I let the kid out of me once and a while .such a pleasure

  13. for a man who has owned many motorcycles American. German. Italian. British. I must say my 1998 bandit 1200s . is still one of my all time favorites. I am in my sixties still ride and love my do it all motorcycle. get a map and a tank bag go any where.and just ride all day.and of course I let the kid out of me once and a while .such a pleasure

  14. Bought my K1 in Denver with 40,000 miles on it, piped, jetted and slip-on. It was well kept and I rode it home to Illinois without issue and loved every second of the trip… well I guess minus the last 500 miles where my right arm was getting tired, no cruise. Yes, the carbs can be pesky, but you learn how to manage them over time and rebuilding them every 4 years is just part of the experience. The low-end, streetable power is fantastic. It’s a hefty bike, but it handles a passenger like it’s nothing. I’m considering putting Dale’s 11:1 pistons in it for a 30% torque gain. We’ll see. But the bike still scares me when I pin the throttle in first or second gear so I’m good with it as is too.

  15. Just picked up a 1997 1200s with 8800 miles. Sat for a couple years, now has gas in oil. Will replace float valves and repair petcock. Can’t wait to ride her. This bike is stock, no mods, unmolested.

  16. Bought a near-perfect ’97 1200S last fall, it sat in my garage til a warm day in March. The effortless ease of this motor is amazing. There definitely is no substitute for cubic inches. It’s basically a 750 that somebody dropped a 1200 engine into. Perfect!

  17. My 1997 B12s was dyno tuned and built by none other than Dale Walker of Holeshot himself when he was still based in Santa Cruz County, Calif 4 miles from my home. Bike has all his stock displacement mods. Stepped header and holeshot can, gsxr cam, timing advance, carbs jetted with pod filters. I pulled off the 80’s fairing and converted to naked and gsxr1100wp usd forks. Made 130hp on the dyno. Bike was at 145 mph indicated once, may have had more but I let off.
    Called Dale a year or so ago, he’s in Nevada and battling stage 4 cancer.

  18. Hi Guys. I have a 97 bandit 1200s up here in Canada and I’m having a starting problem. My coils check out, the engine spins, It has fresh fuel, but it won’t fire. I’m leaning towards a CDI box failure as the coils put out a very weak spark that won’t jump the gap. I’ve searched some of the other forums and have found some guys replacing the ignition switch seems to cure it as there is supposedly a 100 ohm resistor in it that can go south. Any help or if someone might have a working ignitor box I can compare mine to. Thanks in advance, Marty


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