Suzuki GSX650F ABS – £6,799
As we consumers get more savvy, manufacturers have had to up their game in terms of value, branding and useability. For the two-wheel world this means all-rounders are increasing in popularity as long as the compromises are not too intrusive.
There are now bikes in this niche to suit most budgets pretty much from this Suzuki to the Ducati Multi Strada and beyond.
Given the very competitive price you would expect the compromises to be stark, and in some ways you would be right. There is a lot about this bike that dates it and makes it so affordable-
- Steel Frame
- Right way up forks
- Styling a bit 90’s
- Basic instrumentation
None of these things detract from the riding experience however. Dynamically this is a fun ride, and what little compromise there is depends on the riders bias.
For me that means that I find the engine a little too buzzy and the gears too close and too low a ratio for serious high mileage touring, but when my blood has defrosted this translated into a sweet setup for scratching around my favourite b-roads and offered a top end rush to compete with previous generation sports 600’s.
Despite the lack of cutting edge suspension parts the handling also felt secure and confidence-inspiring, spirited riding is not the hairy prospect it can be on many all-purpose machines. The rear brake is a little wooden, but effective without being grabby. The front brake however is very nice, strong and progressive with very good feedback. On this ABS model you can hear the system readying itself as soon as you touch the lever but it never gave the dead feeling that I have felt on some ABS systems.
On our test lap (40 miles of dual carriageway and minor roads) I covered the route in 54 min and 53mpg. This compares nicely with other bikes we have tested and is the second most efficient bike above 600cc, just beaten by the Suzuki V-Strom 650. Although the V-Strom put in a slower time too.
Practicality is another strong feature of the bike too; for sure there is not much storage under the seat, but a simple chain adjuster and centre stand help with maintenance while aftermarket touring parts are plentiful and quite cheap. Many of the parts are proven on the Bandit and owners have racked up many thousands of winter miles with no major niggles in either reliability or finish – a traditional weak point of the marque.
As a trustworthy eco-commuter it stacks up very nicely against the Honda NC750 (£5999) and Kawasaki ER6 (£6049) with handling on a par, and offers a well sorted straight-four engine giving a healthy extra bit of oomph. There is however a small price premium over the others with an RRP of £6299 for the non-ABS model. There again this bike is a better scratcher than those and can still wear the touring and commuting hats with equal style – albeit at higher revs.
For more serious touring the comfort and protection from the elements arevery good indeed. For me the saddle got a little uncomfortable at about the same time as the tank got dry, so refuelling gave a welcome break to put my old bones back where they came from. The weight at around 240kg fuelled is a little on the high end but never caused concern and probably added to the secure planted feel mid-corner. For sure some sleepy riding and line “refinements” through the turns never had the bike in knots despite the mass and uncomplicated architecture – she can snarl, but she wont bite.
The only other question mark for the Suzuki’s mid size do-it-all is Yamaha’s brand new 700 Tracer which would appear to be a strong challenger on all fronts. But while many motorcyclists change their bike as often as their socks, this GSX is one that you could happily live with for many years.