CycleOnline.com.au tests Suzuki's ever-popular supersport entry.
While Suzuki’s GSX-R750 turned the superbike class on its head with its light weight, nimble handling and brute power on its release in the mid-80s, by the early 90s the superbike class was getting into a new era of 900cc four-cylinder machines. It was about this time, in 1992, they created the first GSX-R600. As is the case today, it was identical to the 750 with only a smaller engine capacity.
What a machine it was. It looked just like the 750 and 1100, and also carried the first-generation water-cooled engine. Not many of these bikes were produced and it wasn’t until 1997 that we got the GSX-R600 in Australia – by then it had become the rounded, bulbous-shape model. At the top of its game, this was the bike that won the Supersport World Series in 1998 with Fabrizio Pirovano and the inaugural Supersport World Championship in 1999 with Stephane Chambon.
From day one Suzuki has continued to keep the GSX-R600 and 750 in the same development cycles with small detail changes to suit the two very different engine characters. Extensively updated for the 2011 model year, this year’s GSX-R600 has differed very little since then with an extensive engine overhaul, nine kilogram drop in weight, redesigned chassis, Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF) and Brembo Monobloc brakes. It was a machine that put Suzuki ahead of the competition back then and ensured the machine is still relevant now.
On the road the GSX-R600 is a formidable package. Comfortable – for a sportsbike – with a strong mid-range and razor-sharp handling, it is more revvy than the GSX-R750 that carries the same chassis and engine architecture. That said, there’s no frantic cog-swapping or need to keep the engine spinning up near its 15,500rpm red-line. The engine will get you off the line well without too many revs on-board and gets things moving along most productively once the it is spinning above 5000rpm with a strong, linear power delivery right the way through to twice that.
Keeping the tacho needle in the upper-half of the dial is where you make the best progress and, in this respect, it makes the 600 a little more taxing to ride than the 750, which has a load more torque and extra power over the 600 thanks to the capacity increase. There is still good drive off a closed throttle, but you need to be more conscious of what gear you are in. Call it a rider aid, the slipper-clutch helps make downshifts smoother and more controlled and is a godsend braking hard into bumpy corners on the road.
As far as the chassis goes, it is bred on the race track, with the ergonomic package one of the most comfortable there is on a sportsbike in my opinion. Even so, Suzuki’s GSXRs have always been comfortable as far as I can recall back to the 90s and there is scope for adjustment in the foot-peg hangers through a selection of mounting holes to shrink or expand the ride triangle. Pillions are considered with a removable seat-pad that makes way for a cowl and the rear perch is comfortable and roomy, but still not the kind of place you want to be for too long.
The Brembo braking package has excellent feel and power being part of the big update to the GSX-R600 six years ago. Compared to today’s brake offerings they have all the power of modern packages, but without the finite electronic assistance that ABS now delivers. Same too should be said for the Showa BPF front suspension and rear shock, which are still at the top of their game despite being superseded by Showa’s own Balance Free Front Forks and Balance Free Rear Cushion Lite shock that feature on the new GSX-R1000.
Racers will want a bit of fine-tuning on the track, but no road rider is going to push the limits of this machine on the road. Built for the race track, the handling of the GSX-R600 is equally a delight at high-speeds taking harsh and abrupt changes in the road surface in its stride. At slow speeds turn-in is light, fast, and suspension is not abrupt in its control. There’s plenty of scope in the clickers at both ends to make it firmer or more supple, but as with any new bike these days the manufacturer has got a great all-round package dialled in from the get-go.
Problem is as good as it is on the road, you can’t help to want to be on the racetrack every time you fire up this mid-sized mauler. It is where this machine was born and where it is in its element but at $16,490 ride-away you can understand why there are so many of them on the road.
Power: 93kW @ 13,500rpm
Torque: 70Nm @ 11,500rpm
Wet weight: 187kg
Seat height: 810mm
Price: $16,490 ride-away
Detailed specs: www.suzukimotorcycles.com.au