In our prior installment, we confronted the dilemma of big motorcycle dreams and little motorcycle budget. Sure, we’d all love to have a brand new sport-touring rig in the garage, but with today’s economic realities, the tried and true (and paid for) machine you have now just may be packed with hidden travel potential.
Our test subject is the author’s personal ride, a 2002 Suzuki 1200 Bandit S. With over 30,000 hard touring miles, mostly two-up and loaded down, the bulletproof Bandito was beginning to lose its luster. But with some careful research and a little help from our friends at Race Tech Suspension, Dale Walker’s Holeshot Performance Products, and Galfer Brakes, we were able to give the well-traveled steed an impressive mechanical makeover and thoroughly modernize its aged and prosaic performance. So taken were we with the results, it seemed only natural to keep a good thing rolling. We’ve got it running great, now let’s see what we can do to make the ride feel better.
Touring is what we do at RoadRUNNER and that means going the distance. And when it comes to racking up the miles, few companies can deliver the goods like Twisted Throttle. These guys are as close to a one-stop touring shop as you’re going to get, and we certainly did a little shopping.
Coocase S48 Astra Luxury Edition – $299.99
SW-MOTECH Alu-Rack – $119.99
Admittedly, a $299 topcase may not exactly fit the budget-conscious theme of this project, but its amenities are just too cool to ignore. Topping the hip-list is the remote locking mechanism. A key fob locks and unlocks the case with the touch of a button. The lid also automatically locks itself. This feature is perfect for folks who carry expensive cameras and electronics, yet always seem to forget to turn the key that one extra turn. There’s also a moderately offensive alarm to deter opportunists intent on turning your stuff into ill-gotten booty. The integrated LED lights are another neat feature that increases your rear-side visibility. The interior space suffers a bit due to the onboard gadgetry, but is still spacious enough to swallow two full-face helmets.
The SW-MOTECH Alu-Rack Toprack is a simple, lightweight install that easily accepts the universal mounting plate that comes with the Astra case. And best of all, it can be used for other bag systems if the hard case isn’t your thing.
Denali LED Lighting – $299.99
While three Benjamins may sound a little steep for auxiliary lighting, getting the attention of gray-hairs in Buicks is priceless. These unobtrusive and relatively easy to install beauties cast a bluish stream of light that will sear right through even the thickest cataract. And for those that night ride, the near solar effect is equally impressive. These 2-inch square units draw a measly 0.75 amps, yet throw a beam comparable to twin 55-watt halogens.
MFW Vario Passenger Footpegs – $49.99
If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy, and nowhere is this more true than on the motorcycle. The Bandit’s high mounted footpegs have always been a small thorn in Kathy’s side, so I was excited for her to test the Vario pegs. At their lowest setting they drop foot position approximately 1-inch. That doesn’t sound like much, but Kathy swears they are the best addition to the bike we’ve found yet. Her knees no longer get cramped and our stops are fewer.
Givi T421 Soft Luggage – $168.30
With the hard shell, locking, and alarmed Coocase firmly affixed to the tailpiece, we have a safe haven for the high-dollar goods. As for the laundry, why go heavy when a lightweight set of Givi’s exceptional T421 saddlebags will do the trick? These softies are expandable from 22-33 liters of storage capacity, feature a plethora of extra pockets, and can be configured to fit just about any bike on the road. We located the two stout Velcro holding straps securely beneath the seat and left the just-in-case strap buckled atop the vinyl. Fortunately, this set-up didn’t interfere with the copilot’s comfort at all. And on the road, we never noticed they were there, even while engaging in the sport aspect of sport-touring. OK, the 421s may not be waterproof, and could possibly tempt a passing opportunist. But considering their adaptability, affordability, and easy-to-use disposition, these bags fit perfectly into the parameters of our little project. And to be honest, any rogue that wants my days’ old duds, or even my clean drawers, that badly, obviously needs them far worse than I do.
Bill Mayer Saddles Custom-built Seat – $444 – $739
Don’t go cheap when it comes to your seat. Our factory Bandit seat was pretty good, but the years and miles had taken their toll. Fortunately, Rocky and the gang at Bill Mayer Saddles have the cure for that ill. We sent our stock-seat pan to them and soon had our new distance throne back and mounted up. The results were spectacular. The wider butt-rest looks funny at first, but functions beautifully. The extra pillion support gets a big thumbs-up from the navigator, and the pilot is quite pleased as well. The design of the saddle leaves it thin up front, allowing for easy lateral movement in the twists, while the wide rear invites an easy slide back for a more luxurious feel when the road unwinds. Each seat is custom built to individual rider and passenger specifications. The unique foam core technology delivers a near perfect supple firmness that adds lots more miles to the mix.
Not bad, our little sport-touring makeover. Ergonomic upgrades check in around $1,500. Add that to our mechanical makeover sum of $2000 and we’ve built a “brand new” machine for less than $4000. Considering that most brand new sport-tourers would set us back well over 10-large, that’s a pretty good return on investment. The Bandit is back and it’s better than ever. Now all we need is a tour to stress-test all these new goodies. But hey, this is RoadRUNNER we’re talking about. I’m sure that little issue is the least of our worries.