When it comes to the horsepower aftermarket, one of the most popular engines of the early 1990s to be tweaked and massaged by racing tuners is Suzuki's original air/oil-cooled, four-cylinder motor that powered the GSX-R line from 1985 to 1995. First produced in 750cc form, the lightweight engine responded favorably to various hop-up modifications, spawning a catalog of parts from speed merchants around the world. When the big-bore GSX-R1100 made its debut in 1986, horsepower mavens literally tripped over themselves in their rush to build parts aimed at squeezing even more thrust from the stoutly engineered mill. The onslaught of technology waits for no one, however, and now the only remaining Suzuki to utilize the venerable powerplant is the Bandit 1200.
One person who has established a long-standing reputation for extracting unbelievable amounts of power from that particular engine is Carry Andrew of HyperCycle. An enthusiastic participant in past Sport Rider UFO shootouts, Andrew manufactures his horsepower the old-fashioned way: no artificial tricks like nitrous or turbos, just straightforward normally-aspirated engineering.
In Suzuki's Bandit 1200, Andrew saw the perfect streetable superbike. "I'm an old-style rider. I grew up on the old-style superbikes, before they had full fairings and clip-ons," recalls the affable AMA racing veteran. Andrew raced the AMA Superbike series during its infancy, campaigning various racebikes from 1978 to 1989. Starting off with the original single-cam Honda 750, Andrew swiftly progressed to Kawasaki's Z-1 and GPz series, then competed on Honda's VF750F Interceptor in '83. He finished his career racing Suzuki GSX-Rs, winning an AMA Endurance championship in 1988, and then became the main engine tuner for various AMA Supersport teams, where he amassed all of his vast knowledge dealing with the then-innovative four-cylinder motors.
Not a whole lot of external...
Not a whole lot of external trickery is evident, other than the 41mm Keihin flat-slide carbs (with no airbox; being an engine builder, Andrew's not too worried about it). Actually, there's not too much wild componentry inside the 1216cc mill, either, but you'd be very surprised at the power output from such a relatively simple motor.
The Bandit 1200 uses the same basic engine from the original big-bore GSX-R, which meant that Andrew could weave his magic on the propulsion side, while the Suzuki's non-GP-tuck riding position is more like the superbikes of yesteryear that he used to race. "I'm getting older these days. I like to go on longer rides without getting sore," laughs Andrew.
Considering its monster power output (around 165 horsepower at the rear wheel, and our well-calibrated butt dynos won't dispute that), the motor in Andrew's Bandit has surprisingly minimal modifications. "I wasn't able to source a suitably larger oil cooler in time, and the GSX-R motors put out a lot of heat when you squeeze really high horsepower out of them," reveals Andrew. A set of 81mm JE pistons sit atop the ubiquitous Carillo rods, which are attached to an APE lightened and balanced crankshaft with micro-polished journals. Milling the surface of both the cylinder block and the ported and polished (to HyperCycle specs) cylinder head bumps up the compression ratio to 13.2:1, and we did notice the tell-tale odor of racing fuel when we rode Andrew's bike. A set of Yoshimura Stage 2 cams works the stock-size valves through the company's valve spring kit, utilizing titanium retainers.
The 1216cc mill breathes through a set of 41mm Keihin FCR flatslide carbs, with only a heat shield to protect them; no airbox or individual filters attached. "I figure that it's pretty difficult for any major particles of dirt to make a 180-degree turn into the carb throats," reasons Andrew. Exhaling is through a Yoshimura Tri-Oval stainless steel exhaust system, sporting a dual-outlet titanium canister. Power output is fed through a Barnett clutch, utilizing one stock diaphragm spring and one Barnett unit. Final drive uses a color-coordinated EK 520 chain running around AFAM sprockets.
It's all Performance Machine...
It's all Performance Machine components up front, with a pair of their 320mm floating cast iron discs set on their spun aluminum Chicane wheel, grabbed by PM's new four-piston calipers; braking action was fantastic, some of the best we've ever tried. Jim Lindemann did an excellent job revalving the stock preload-adjustable-only forks.
Suspension duties are handled by a Lindemann Engineering-massaged Penske shock out back, while the Bandit's conventional spring-preload-only adjustable fork got the full Lindemann treatment. The fork tubes were coated with titanium nitride for less stiction, while the cartridge internals were modified with a shim stack approximating the damping curve of a GSX-R600, along with stiffer springs.
A set of hard-anodized Performance Machine Chicane spun-aluminum wheels in the usual 17-inch diameter (3.50-inch wide up front, 6.0-inch wide out back) carry sticky Dunlop D208 GP radials for traction. Slowing all this hardware is a pair of Performance Machine's new four-piston calipers biting on PM's cast-iron 320mm discs, fed by Goodridge brake lines.
We got a chance to take Andrew's Bandit for a spin up one of the tighter canyon roads near our offices, and found it to be a relatively docile package, despite its prodigous power output. The Keihin flatslide carbs can be notoriously difficult to get dialed in, but the HyperCycle Bandit carbureted flawlessly, starting and idling without a problem, while producing crisp power from as low as 2000 rpm. Dial in more than half-throttle above 3500 rpm, however, and you'd better be pointed in the right direction--Andrew's bike possesses incredible torque in the low-to-midrange rpm band, launching the bike with such force that the front end reaches for the sky in the first three gears without provocation. In fact, we were wishing for a steering damper, as the Bandit's propensity for lofting the front wheel out of corners sometimes caused some headshake when the tire came back down to earth. Serious power begins at 6500 rpm, with the acceleration literally trying to peel the bars out of your hands, all the way up to the engine's peak power near the 10,500 rpm redline.
Yoyodyne supplied the beautiful...
Yoyodyne supplied the beautiful Mikuni rearset foot controls, which helped keep the rider's feet out of harm's way without undue discomfort. Titanium bits from Yoyodyne are sprinkled liberally throughout the bike.
Just as impressive were the PM brakes and Lindemann-massaged suspension. The power and feel from the four-piston PM front calipers is outstanding, with excellent progressiveness through the lever travel allowing you to bleed off just the right amount of speed with little effort. And we couldn't find much fault with the suspension, even though the Bandit's fork is only adjustable for spring preload; we've always liked the highly adjustable Penske shocks (especially after Jim Lindemann has tweaked them), with their superior ability to keep the chassis stable, justifying their somewhat expensive price.
Andrew always goes riding with his buddies who ride the usual hard-core sportbikes, but never really comes away wanting after a hard canyon sortie. "They never leave me in any spots, no matter which roads we ride on. So I never see the need to upgrade yet," he says. With a Bandit 1200 like his, we don't see it happening in the foreseeable future, either.
Editor's note: For those of you interested in Andrew's handiwork on more hardcore machinery, he's in the process of building a monster GSX-R1000. Stay tuned.