flak's Garage

3 vehicles

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    Effortless torque and acceleration, almost electric-like in its power delivery. Never need to rev this one, just twist and go for smooth cruisin or passing in 6th gear with ease. This is basically a stripped down sport touring platform without all the bells and whistles (or saddlebags). So just toss a couple soft bags over the back...done. It handles very well too just be sure to respect the bike's weight.

    This is the bike I ride when I need to eat up a lot of miles in relative comfort plus maintain higher sustained speeds during those long distances. It feels like it's barely working cruising 80mph or more all day long.

    One star deduction is simply for lacking features vs. similar modern day models but it also was a bargain of a bike when I bought it. This bike is really all about the motor and it was the smoothest most refined motor I could buy at the low price I paid for it at the time. It was a leftover so the $1,000 off dealer incentives plus 5 years zero interest financing was the clincher. One other cool thing is insurance classifies it as a 'standard' despite having 1255cc displacement so the premiums are cheap. I pay more for my Versys 650 which is classified as 'sport' though it lacks any comparison whatsoever to the acceleration and top speeds of the Bandit.

    The bike was later revised as a half-assed tourer with more wind protection later on but by then it cost several thousand dollars more and sales were lackluster at best because it no longer represented a bargain proposition. I feel Suzuki has yet to go full-in with a competitive sport touring platform like the FJR, Concours, or ST1300. Now the 1250S Bandit has returned in its original form (minus the extra plastic) and while it remains just under $10,000 I managed to get mine for a couple thousand less than that. The problem is, it's still the same bike from 2007 (with ABS standard now) so I feel the current price point lends itself to spending a bit more and getting a bike with more features.

    If I had my way today I'd buy the 2016 FJR1300ES. That bike comes with everything you'll ever need in a tourer but it also costs MORE THAN TWICE what I paid for the Bandit new! And finally it sounds like they added a 6th gear to the FJR which (despite claims) is something it really needed. The bike has power galore but at high cruising speeds I feel that 6th gear is essential to keep vibrations in check.
    flak
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    flak
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    Nimble and fun no frills bike. I find myself grabbing the keys for this bike more than my others. The handling is great, the motor has a playful character, and the exhaust sounds good too (after adding a leo vince oval pipe).

    One star deducted for being a little porky and lacking some power vs. modern day competitors like the FZ07 plus also lacking features vs. modern day equivalents at similar price points (including the revised 2016 Versys 650). Also the brakes lack some feel, adequate but not great. It also exhibits some excess vibration at certain RPMs.

    That said it's still a great bike to rev out and the handling really is quite nice. For shorter jaunts and spirited rides this is the bike I mount up every time. It's not going to win any races vs. pure 600cc sport bikes or the competition from Yamaha in this class but it is by no means a bad bike. If buying today though I'd go Yamaha. They're offering a lot of bike for the money in this class.

    flak
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    flak
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    Dependable but very heavy and outdated vs. something like the KTM dual sports. The only older tech dual sport worth considering at this point is the DRZ400 in my opinion. The DR650 is too similar to the XRL, heavy and sorely outdated...though it does at least have an oil cooler which the XRL could use as it tends to run hot. The KLR kept going more street biased over the years which seems pointless to me for a dual sport so given the a choice I'd go for the DR or XRL at that point.

    For a modern day dual sport as it should be though I think KTM's 500 is pretty much "it". I'm not really counting the heavily street-biased adventure bikes which is another competitive segment with lots to look at...like the Tenere, Tiger, GS, and Honda's Africa Twin coming stateside soon. When I think "dual sport" though I envision a bike with more offroad DNA than street touring capabilities.

    That said I will acknowledge the XRL is a go anywhere bike for the most part and it does represent a certain era in the progression of dual sporting overall (albeit 20+ yrs ago). You wouldn't want to do the street miles the adventure bikes of today are capable of but then offroad I'd take the XRL over those big heavy beasts any day. Still there's no denying the weight of the XRL offroad is a huge disadvantage but it would be decent if it weighed 70-80lbs less at the same price.

    Honda should retire this dinosaur and make something to compete with KTM's offerings. Some may say there's no money in it but then, looking at some of the seriously wacky street experiments Honda has put out in recent years I hardly think they'd do themselves a disservice by making a true modern day dual sport...preferably one with more than 250cc displacement like the XRL's baby brother dual sport. I don't think a dual sport should have to be screaming at cruising speeds on the street if it's a go anywhere bike. I think 500cc would be the sweet spot.

    flak
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    flak