Sadly, it must be said, that most Suzuki Bandits have gone to motorcycle heaven, lost to the world forever. No, not because they’re bad, far from it, but most were chopped up and destroyed in the Streetfighter craze and sadly very few unmolested examples remain. But one very clever home builder has come up with a way to take the best of those Suzuki years and turn the final product into a timeless classic. From Germany comes our friend Gunther Schmidt, who has picked his way through the Suzuki junkyard, spun up a storm in his garage, and emerged with this stunning classic custom, it’s a cafe racer with a whole lot of grunt.
Big time fans of the Hamamatsu based company are probably looking at the bike right now and working out exactly what model and year each part has come from, so rather than make you wait, here is the basic run down. The frame is from a 1985 GSX 1100, the engine is a 1997 1200cc unit from a Bandit and the tank is 1983 metal, taken from a GS1100. There is also a host of other GS and Bandit parts dotted throughout the bike. But a common mistake is simply to believe the hard part is sourcing the pieces.
No, the real journey for any builder armed with such an array of parts, is working on how to get them to all function together and exactly which parts really are interchangeable. Too often an internet forum will give the advice that something is a direct fit, without adding that first, you have to grind, weld, change bearings and lose half a pint of blood to actually make it happen. For Gunther, he’s well versed in the Bandit world and has always ridden big air-cooled bikes, so only his day job would slow him down.
With the twelve-year gap in frame technology, Gunther knew that to accept a more powerful engine and to give the bike a solid chassis, the ’85 steel would need some strengthening. So he set about beefing it up, focusing on areas like the lower centre posts, subframe supports that also help to prevent twist near the swingarm pivot and the cross-bracing throughout the frame. A lot of the extra tabs and brackets that weren’t to be used were cut off, the whole frame ground smooth and then a coat of black laid down.
Next was a touch that Suzuki aficionados have already picked up on and something Gunther really desired, “My favourite detail is the location of the oil-cooler in the frame triangle, I wanted a clean look from the front of the motor, and I have never seen this before on a bike.” The change gives the bike an ultra-clean appearance and allows that simple brute of an engine to be seen uninterrupted. But horsepower makes heat, so to keep the engine cool an oil-cooler than is 20% larger than stock and with better flow, was chosen for the task and carefully mounted at the rear.
Now work could begin on upping the ponies that it pumps out and the donor engine was a perfect find, with just 21,000km on the clock. Mildly modified, the stunningly presented engine has been fitted up with rebuilt and tuned carbs, that draw through an open filter. The exhaust is picture-perfect too, a classic four into one stainless system that exits out of a very fitting Shark DSX 5 carbon fibre muffler. Strapped down to the dyno and Gunther’s handiwork resulted in a very healthy 117bhp and 109nm of torque.
But before all that power could go to the ground, Gunther had to get the chain alignment right. A custom sprocket, some clever machining and a 520 chain solved the problem, but again, never believe in something simply being just a straight swap. To help the bike handle, a new set of rear Koni shocks was sourced with progressive springs and the full front end from a late model Bandit bolted up to the frame. The swingarm is also a late model Bandit 1200 piece, along with the wheels and the big twin disc brakes.
The final step was to achieve the right look, and classic styling starts with a beautifully body worked tank from that 1983 GS. The custom tail unit is a perfect match and the timeless shape, with a black leather seat and single headlight ensures that this is a bike that will always look cool.
Finally, to keep the eyes drawn to the major components, the wiring loom was ripped out and an all-new and well hidden system pieced back together. The Streetfighters had their day in the sun and I’ll admit for a brief moment I liked them too. But Gunther has built a Bandit at its very best, big on torque, low on weight and looking better than ever.
[ Photography by Kati Dalek ]