Suzuki GSX-R600 longtermer update...

A man with mechanical sympathy writes

Posted: 18 November 2010
by Richard Hallett

Is that a slipping clutch? No, it's a chain baggier than Anne Widdecombe's knickers...

I’ve done it; I have handed back the GSX-R 600 to its original owner. Ours was a short but sweet relationship; I didn’t fall off and it didn’t spit me off. In the end, though, I wasn’t too sad to hand back the keys.

Not because I didn’t like the bike or like riding it. If I thought it slightly over-styled compared to earlier models, I still got a buzz looking it over every time I climbed off and, if I found it a little intense for commuting, there was at least one moment on every ride into town when it made complete sense.

What was not to like? Not much. The clutch cover gets mighty hot and is perfectly placed to warm the inside of my knee. The 1500rpm idle is annoyingly high, just like on the FZ6 I had. Maybe it’s a feature of injected 600 fours. Alongside a hestitation just off idle there’s naff-all steering lock and not much feel from the back brake, which I use trickling through congestion, so riding in heavy traffic is more of a pain than it might be. The storage space under the pillion squab is a tight fit for both the handbook and a disc lock and, erm… it vibrates. Otherwise, I’m struggling. I’d definitely go for black, though.

It’s hard to know where to start on the “good” side, which I guess is how it should be with a £7.5k bike in 2010. How about the tool kit? I wasn’t expecting much from it until I came to adjust the chain. The axle nut is huge; 34mm or something and way bigger than my biggest socket and, with the chain so slack when I got the bike from Ben that it absolutely had to be tightened, I was resigned to a trip to Halfords. I got the tool kit out just in case and found a predictably tinny but perfectly effective ring spanner to fit.

While adjusting the chain, I had time to appreciate the build quality of the Suzuki. Or, at least, the precision manufacture. The beautifully finished swingarm ends with neat, accurately-machined housings for the axle sliders and shifting them back each side using the screws and locknuts was more than usually pleasurable. Sad as that may sound.

Maybe I’m missing something but aren’t 600s supposed to be a bit peaky and flat low down? Not the GSX-R, which has a motor I’d like to see in a middleweight tourer. Above 4k rpm it pulls cleanly and strongly before really getting going if worked. Makes you wonder what’s the point of detuning.

Best part though? For me, it has to be the suspension. Firm yet plush, supple yet communicative, hugely adjustable and unfazed by the worst of London roads, it’s the one part of the package I’d like on every bike I ride.

But that air of contained violence, of instant performance waiting and willing to be unleashed is, well, great some of the time. However, so too, is a soft, deeply upholstered seat, upright riding position and just a little less focus. And heated grips.

Must be getting old...

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