04/12/2007 00:00 | By By Jane Omorogbe, contributor

Ridden: Suzuki GSX650F



Jane Omorogbe and the Suzuki GSX650F (© image © PA)

At a glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking the GSX650F belongs in Suzuki's superbike family. It's much sharper and more purposeful than its predecessor, the GSX600F which was fondly referred to as the Teapot due to its round, odd styling.

This replacement GSX650F is fully faired with the familiar Gixxer styled paint scheme and even shares the K5/K6 GSX-R1000's dual, vertically stacked headlight housing with the surrounding ram air look.

GALLERY: Suzuki GSX650F

Jane Omorogbe and the Suzuki GSX650F (© image © PA)

Click images to enlarge, more below

The instrument display has also been donated from the Gixxer range (including the gear indicator) but there are tell-tale signs that immediately distinguish this bike from its superbike relatives - the indicators protrude from the front bodywork instead of being integrated into the mirrors, the exhaust pipe's fat and round and the one piece seat and pillion grab-rail confirms the bike's practical character. It's an everyday bike that's managed to combine common sense with capability and the results are very impressive.

Jane Omorogbe and the Suzuki GSX650F (© image © PA)

Suzuki's superbikes have an instantly recognisable image. They're so distinctive that many bikers dream of belonging to the family, but sometimes a Gixxer won't quite fit the bill. Perhaps it's down to a rider's lack of experience or ability; maybe it's the need for something more comfortable and practical. Or maybe they'd just prefer a bike that's less intimidating and cheaper. Hence the introduction of the GSX650F, which is an affordable budget bike at just £4,999 and the perfect stepping stone to the Gixxer range. However, don't assume that means there's a sacrifice somewhere along the line because there just isn't.

Powerplant

Jane Omorogbe and the Suzuki GSX650F (© image © PA)

You'd also be forgiven for assuming it's simply a fully-faired Bandit 650. It is, but it also has its own identity and it's a quite different riding experience than the naked Bandit. The donor Bandit 656cc, four-cylinder power unit has been revised with different engine mapping to offer more power at the top of the rev range for the GSX650F. Where the Bandit tends to produce its torque and power low down, this bike has a sportier feel. There's still a strong emphasis on midrange power and the bike pulls steadily and smoothly from 4,000rpm.

Suzuki GSX650F (© image © Suzuki)

This is due to Suzuki's dual throttle valve fuel-injection system where the throttle activates a primary valve and the bike's ECU 'electronic brain' has charge of a secondary valve. For really defiant overtakes and a more focused feel, you can stir the silky smooth six-speed box and keep the revs between 6,000 and 8,000rpm, only licking the 12,500rpm red line if the buzz of the ride takes over. During the launch in France, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the bike adapted to my various demands.

Comfort

Suzuki GSX650F (© image © Suzuki)

Pottering gently through the quaint villages highlighted just how comfortable the riding position is. The handlebars are, of course, flatter than the Gixxer's, so you don't have that poised-for-action stance, but the benefits are less pressure on the wrists and a more relaxed ride for your legs. The bars are also rubber mounted to reduce vibrations. The more upright position means you've a clear view of the road ahead, without the bum-up, head-down style of a GSX-R. Longer journeys and motorway miles are more manageable too.

Suzuki GSX650F (© image © Suzuki)

The one piece seat is perfect for carrying a pillion and, although I didn't take a back seat myself, I did sneak a quick perch and I'm pretty confident the ride would be as comfortable on the back as it is the front. The grab rail is easy to find and you certainly don't have the sensation that you're sitting five feet above the rider with your knees up round your ears. The Gixxer-styled full fairing facilitates a healthy top speed and despite the wintry winds constantly threatening to blow me off line, the Suzuki triumphed in every way. Even when a sudden, albeit pretty, snowstorm tested the bike's weather protection, I failed to find a flaw.

Ride and handling

Suzuki GSX650F (© image © Suzuki)

Testing the bike's sporty nature was a total blast. With the throttle back to the stop, you feel immersed in the complete riding experience without ever feeling overwhelmed (by comparison to the full-on sports bikes it visually imitates) and the handling is spot on. The suspension comprises conventional 41mm forks with adjustable preload up front and adjustable preload/rebound at the rear. I left everything as standard and pushed as hard as I dared in such cold conditions. But again, the Suzuki stood proud as teacher's pet complete with a rosy red apple and confident smirk. It's not superbike-taught, but nor is it armchair-tourer wallowy - it's just right, whether you're hooning around or merely travelling from A to B.

Suzuki GSX650F (© image © Suzuki)

The GSX650F is shod with the same Bridgestone tyres as the Bandit, but the front is a different compound. The grip on offer encouraged me to indulge in the bike's almost split personality until my knee dug firmly onto the French asphalt and my grin threatened to burst clean out of my lid. The four-piston, Tokico callipers at the front and Nissin two pots at the rear had no trouble in rapidly reducing my mph. Actually, they were far more effective than my own resolve in scrubbing off speed. I had so much fun, I distinctly remember being disappointed when I realised we'd finally completed the test route and the day's ride was all but over.

Verdict

Suzuki GSX650F (© image © Suzuki)

It's the little things as well as the rideability that makes this bike work so well. For example, because the exhaust downpipes are now trickier to reach compared to the exposed Bandit, they're are coated in a protective black finish to help preserve them. Suzuki has certainly covered all the bases with the GSX650F. It's perfect for one or two-up trips, young or older riders, sporty or sedate styles and like the GSX-R600 and SV650, there's even a free 33bhp restrictor kit available for novices if they buy the bike new. I'm not suggesting this bike's equally as sporty, or as focused as a Gixxer. But it is agile, fun and more than capable of dealing with whatever you throw at it.

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