Before I share my thoughts on the bike, I invite you to take a look at what others said about it. One of the web pages is on Motorcycle News and you can find it here — when reviewing the specs, just remember that the UK gallon is a bit higher capacity than the US gallon, 4.55 liters vs 3.78 liters respectively (all the more reason to go to the unified system of measures). Obviously there are countless other websites detailing information on the 600 Bandit. The one that I referenced above seemed to have been most helpful to me when I was reading on the bike some time ago.
So here are my thoughts on the usefulness of the Bandit 600S for sport touring, information that some websites perhaps do not emphasize enough (this is just the stuff that mattered to me):
- It is a very reliable bike
- It is very quick for its size and age
- There are a number of aftermarket parts available for it
- Some potential issues to be aware of
Let me discuss the above points briefly.
From the reliability perspective I have never had a problem with it. The motor is bullet proof and so is the transmission. The engine is NOT computer-controlled, it uses a plain, old, and proven carburetor.
In the speed department, the bike can get you to 62 mph (or 100 km/h) in about 4 seconds. I know, it’s not even close to today’s 600 cc speed demons, but it’s still plenty quick. And yes, you can shift gears with minimal clutch involvement very fast.
In terms of aftermarket parts availability, from the perspective of sport touring, you can easily find bags and mounts for the bags in the Internet. Ram mounts fit this bike with ease since it’s steering bar is a simple round tube bent into a proper shape.
All of the above make the bike a very quick and nimble sport touring machine. Almost an ideal solution for long distance motorcycling, but is it?
This brings us to potential issues:
- High engine RPM at highway speeds (oil use and engine vibration)
- Chain lubrication and stretching
- Stability concerns
Issue #1: High engine RPMs at highway speeds
Consider this: in the sixth gear, the approximate engine RPM looks like this:
- 50 mph -> (about) 5000 RPM
- 60 mph -> (about) 6000 RPM
- 70 mph -> (about) 7000 RPM
- 80 mph -> (about) 8000 RPM
The motorcycle has a six-speed transmission. The engine is oil cooled, not water cooled. The oil that cools the engine is the same oil that lubricates it and that lubricates the transmission.
That’s a lot of work that this oil has to do.
After riding 3200 miles (5000 km) in one week on an initially brand new high quality oil, I had to add some oil to the engine (about 3/4 of the quart). That initially got me concerned and upon returning home I changed oil and rode the bike for the next 3000 miles monitoring it closely — there was no need to add any oil during the normal city operation (some highway and some in-city use).
I do not know what happened to the oil during the long trip, but I can only imagine that some of that, due to high and prolonged RPM was burned off by the engine — as far as I know every engine burns a bit of oil that seeps through its gaskets. On that token, if you consider the high RPM and possibly elevated engine temperatures due to perhaps not as efficient cooling, the oil could have changed its chemical properties and seep to the combustion chambers around the piston rings.
One side note for readers outside of the USA: the distances that we cover in one day on our motorcycles when going to see interesting places are in the excess of 600 miles, or almost 1000 km. Much of that riding for folks like myself who live in Chicago is just plain, boring highway mileage when a distance between stops often exceeds 100 miles (162 km). The highway is super mesmerizing: straight level surface allowing for the above-listed speeds. Once on it, you want to get off of it at your place of destination as soon as it’s humanly possible. Hence this is the reason why the engines have to work overtime at high RMPs. Some of the engines may not have been designed to do that.
Aside from oil consumption, the bike has had some engine vibration being transferred onto its handle bars.
In my case I’ve noticed that the vibration suppressors at the end of the handle bars made a huge difference. If you plan on riding this motorcycle long distance, do yourself a favor and keep the vibration suppressors stock. And BTW: make sure that the rubber bushings used to mount them inside the steering bar are not rotten. Otherwise the noise dampening effect can be worsened or the suppressors will fall out.
To summarize this point:
- Watch the oil consumption when you do prolonged highway riding
- Make sure that the noise dampeners are stock and attached inside the handle bar with good quality bushings
Issue #2: Chain lubrication and stretching
This should be obvious, but is not for new riders that I once was.
Sometimes we tend to forget that the main chain needs to be lubricated as well. Get yourself a can of good lube: it’s simple to use just follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Another fact that I was faced with while riding the Bandit was chain stretching. During long distance trips, the chain will stretch in length. That’s absolutely normal. Just remember to adjust it per manufacturer’s specification. BTW: make sure that you keep the chain clean.
Issue #3: Stability concerns
Don’t get me wrong on this one: the motorcycle, if properly loaded is a very stable one.
Here’s what happened:
I went on the camping trip with some 150 lbs (68 kg) of gear. While riding on a highway at 60+ mph (100 km/h) I wanted to open the visor of my helmet. I hold the steering bar very lightly (there is no need to squeeze anything while riding at a normal, relaxed pace). I lifted my left hand up to open the visor and the instance I did that I felt the steering bar vibrate. I must admit that this got me a bit concerned. I placed my left hand on the bar and the vibration went away.
Needless to say at the first possible stop I checked the tire pressure and the bearings as well as the front shock absorbers. I found no problems. After unloading my bike at the camp site, I rode it unloaded. The issue was still there but MUCH less pronounced.
Now, on a private roadway, the bike without any luggage felt very stable at 125 mph (200 km/h). I attribute this issue to motorcycle loading.
To address the issue I did nothing special. I left the motorcycle stock and decided to live with it.
I figured out that adding a steering dampener (the one seen on high performance gixxers) may make things worse at low speed. After all the dampener reacts to abrupt movement. I think that may impact the emergency maneuvers where the movement of the steering bar may be very quick. So not knowing enough about the dampeners I decided not to install one and simply ride within reasonable constraints.
Another part of the stability issue was a back-end motorcycle wobble with GIVI bags installed.
Again, do not get me wrong on this one, but I think that this was more related to the very much altered aerodynamics of the bike once the bags got installed. At 85 mph (138 km/h) the back of the motorcycle started to become unstable. It felt like the bike was wagging its tail, not much, but enough to make me notice. Keep in mind my previous statement that the bike felt stable at 125 mph with no luggage installed. This issue happened right before lunch time. After having eaten lunch and making sure that the tires were cold, I measured the front and rear tire pressure. The measurements were correct. Then it occurred to me that the GIVI set came with the statement that the set was tested up to 130 km/h or (80 mph) and that the manufacturer’s recommendation was not to exceed this speed. Duh…
To summarize this point:
- Get to know what the new limits of the motorcycle are when ANY modifications were done to its aerodynamic properties
- Ride within the new limits
So here you have it, the main concerns that I’ve encountered when riding the 2002 Suzuki Bandit 600S motorcycle. Please feel free to add to the above as you see fit. Happy riding.