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First Ride: 2006 Suzuki GSX-R600 review

More power, less weight, and all wrapped in a GSX-R1000 looky-likey form. It's bound to kick butt on-track - but can it deliver on the road?




I was pleased when I heard my first ride on the 2006 GSX-R600 would be on the road only - French roads, in fact - instead of the more usual track-based sportsbike launch. All new supersport bikes have impressive engine performance, plus they corner, steer and stop exceptionally well no matter what circuit you visit. It's only one's ability as a rider that defines how fast you circulate.

With engine and chassis performance at this level, being impressed on a track is a foregone conclusion. So I believe things have turned full circle and road manners are now equally important.

This hit home on the recent Triumph 675 Daytona launch when, after a day on the Sepang circuit, we took off into the countryside where it came up trumps as one of the best sportsbike I've ridden on the road.

I never thought the K4/5 GSX R was the prettiest 600 out there, but the latest model is right up there with all the competition in the looks department. Notwithstanding an aerodynamic improvement of five per cent, its combination of softer lines and flowing graphics make it instantly lovable, especially in white and metallic blue. Although the styling is very similar to the GSX-R1000's, its wee brother is much more compact with a thinner tail section, a lower seat height and smaller 16.5-litre tank. Following on from the the 1000's love-it-or-loathe-it 'chubby' silencer, the new 600's pipe is a work of art. The stubby tail pipe is tucked neatly under the right footrest while the silencer blends in with the black belly pan directly under the engine. As with all manufacturers, 'mass centralisation' is the theme throughout the sportsbike category.In line with this Suzuki has given its engine a stacked gearbox, making it 20mm smaller from top to bottom and 54mm from front to rear. Weighing in at 161kg (dry weight, claimed by Suzuki) the nimble look is finished off nicely with some of the skinniest three-spoke wheels I've seen to date.

With bright sunshine in the sky but frost on the ground I was glad Jan had sneaked in some M&S thermals for my day-long thrash on the brilliant 'A' roads north of Beziers in south-western France.

The K6 GSX-R600 may look different but there's no mistaking that familiar growl when you hit the starter button. It's quite incredible that Suzuki manage to keep it sounding the same, considering how many engine changes have taken place.

I gingerly set off, hoping to get some heat into the normally sticky BT014 Bridgestones and to discover whether this is a bike that is built for the road or the racetrack. Although there's no hesitation, the engine's fueling feels rich below 5000rpm, something I can only imagine comes from strangulation/noise reduction due to the latest emission requirements. From 5000rpm to 10,000rpm there's a much cleaner, free-revving feeling, then from 10,000rpm to 16,000 you are in full banzai mode, more of which later.

Town and low speed riding was fine, even in high gears. The riding position is perfect for me, but a nice touch are the adjustable footpegs, which can be moved 14mm horizontally or vertically. This is such a good option, and could mean the difference between loving or hating the bike.

But it's out of built up areas where this bike comes alive. Whether the surface is rough or smooth, the corners fast or slow,

I could not fault the handling. The K6 has a longer swingarm with its pivot moved forward to give more rider feel and less weight transfer. This was really evident; riding hard on the road is usually a compromise and getting the perfect suspension set-up is normally impossible. It was only at the end of the day I realised how faultless the handling was - from stability to quick flicks I never got into trouble. I had already heard from some Yoshimura contacts in Japan that the standard suspension was impressive, and they were right. As with the suspension, the radial calipers and 310mm discs are 100 per cent consistent. I found the rear quite easy to lock, but this may have been me not allowing for the slipper clutch to kick in.

Show the GSX-R some open roads and it's like releasing a caged cheetah - this bike's desire to be thrashed just sucks you in and before you know it the speedo will be reading160mph. With maximum power (125bhp claimed) appearing at 13,500rpm gearshifts are most productive at 14,500rpm. I can believe this power figure too, since our engine guys at Crescent are working on a race motor that's already showing 138bhp. The main power increase comes from bigger 40mm throttle bodies with twin injectors and a more efficient ram air system snorting through re-positioned ducts. A new curved, trapezoidal radiator also improves engine cooling.

The trouble with riding this bike - for me at least - is that there's no middle ground. Sure, the engine is smooth and has a wide spread of power, but the unique sound and feel of the motor between 10,000 and 15,000rpm is addictive. Trying to ride outside these parameters means continually shifting gears - which becomes tiresome after a while - so before you know it you're back in the naughty zone. On the up side there's now a gear position indicator which is handy since it's easy to lose track of which gear you're in. There is also a shift light and reserve fuel trip countdown.

So is this a brilliant road bike? The answer is 'yes' if you want to ride fast and the answer 'yes' if you want to ride slow.

But if you want to ride somewhere in between I'm not so sure. The GSX-R600 is a beautiful animal with pin-sharp brakes and handling plus a glorious engine. Its road manners are good, but to unleash all the potential it needs to be taken to its natural habitat: the race track.

VERDICT 4/5

It stops, it goes, it handles and it looks the business. Needs a race track to really stretch its legs, but surprisingly good on the road, too.

I WAS PLEASED when I heard my first ride on the 2006 GSX-R600 would be on the road only - French roads, in fact - instead of the more usual track-based sportsbike launch. All new supersport bikes have impressive engine performance, plus they corner, steer and stop exceptionally well no matter what circuit you visit. It's only one's ability as a rider that defines how fast you circulate.

With engine and chassis performance at this level, being impressed on a track is a foregone conclusion. So I believe things have turned full circle and road manners are now equally important.

This hit home on the recent Triumph 675 Daytona launch when, after a day on the Sepang circuit, we took off into the countryside where it came up trumps as one of the best sportsbike I've ridden on the road.

I never thought the K4/5 GSX R was the prettiest 600 out there, but the latest model is right up there with all the competition in the looks department. Notwithstanding an aerodynamic improvement of five per cent, its combination of softer lines and flowing graphics make it instantly lovable, especially in white and metallic blue. Although the styling is very similar to the GSX-R1000's, its wee brother is much more compact with a thinner tail section, a lower seat height and smaller 16.5-litre tank. Following on from the the 1000's love-it-or-loathe-it 'chubby' silencer, the new 600's pipe is a work of art. The stubby tail pipe is tucked neatly under the right footrest while the silencer blends in with the black belly pan directly under the engine. As with all manufacturers, 'mass centralisation' is the theme throughout the sportsbike category.In line with this Suzuki has given its engine a stacked gearbox, making it 20mm smaller from top to bottom and 54mm from front to rear. Weighing in at 161kg (dry weight, claimed by Suzuki) the nimble look is finished off nicely with some of the skinniest three-spoke wheels I've seen to date.

With bright sunshine in the sky but frost on the ground I was glad Jan had sneaked in some M&S thermals for my day-long thrash on the brilliant 'A' roads north of Beziers in south-western France.

The K6 GSX-R600 may look different but there's no mistaking that familiar growl when you hit the starter button. It's quite incredible that Suzuki manage to keep it sounding the same, considering how many engine changes have taken place.

I gingerly set off, hoping to get some heat into the normally sticky BT014 Bridgestones and to discover whether this is a bike that is built for the road or the racetrack. Although there's no hesitation, the engine's fueling feels rich below 5000rpm, something I can only imagine comes from strangulation/noise reduction due to the latest emission requirements. From 5000rpm to 10,000rpm there's a much cleaner, free-revving feeling, then from 10,000rpm to 16,000 you are in full banzai mode, more of which later. 

Town and low speed riding was fine, even in high gears. The riding position is perfect for me, but a nice touch are the adjustable footpegs, which can be moved 14mm horizontally or vertically. This is such a good option, and could mean the difference between loving or hating the bike.

Verdict

But it's out of built up areas where this bike comes alive. Whether the surface is rough or smooth, the corners fast or slow, I could not fault the handling. The K6 has a longer swingarm with its pivot moved forward to give more rider feel and less weight transfer. This was really evident; riding hard on the road is usually a compromise and getting the perfect suspension set-up is normally impossible. It was only at the end of the day I realised how faultless the handling was - from stability to quick flicks I never got into trouble. I had already heard from some Yoshimura contacts in Japan that the standard suspension was impressive, and they were right. As with the suspension, the radial calipers and 310mm discs are 100 per cent consistent. I found the rear quite easy to lock, but this may have been me not allowing for the slipper clutch to kick in.

Show the GSX-R some open roads and it's like releasing a caged cheetah - this bike's desire to be thrashed just sucks you in and before you know it the speedo will be reading160mph. With maximum power (125bhp claimed) appearing at 13,500rpm gearshifts are most productive at 14,500rpm. I can believe this power figure too, since our engine guys at Crescent are working on a race motor that's already showing 138bhp. The main power increase comes from bigger 40mm throttle bodies with twin injectors and a more efficient ram air system snorting through re-positioned ducts. A new curved, trapezoidal radiator also improves engine cooling.

The trouble with riding this bike - for me at least - is that there's no middle ground. Sure, the engine is smooth and has a wide spread of power, but the unique sound and feel of the motor between 10,000 and 15,000rpm is addictive. Trying to ride outside these parameters means continually shifting gears - which becomes tiresome after a while - so before you know it you're back in the naughty zone. On the up side there's now a gear position indicator which is handy since it's easy to lose track of which gear you're in. There is also a shift light and reserve fuel trip countdown.

So is this a brilliant road bike? The answer is 'yes' if you want to ride fast and the answer 'yes' if you want to ride slow.

But if you want to ride somewhere in between I'm not so sure. The GSX-R600 is a beautiful animal with pin-sharp brakes and handling plus a glorious engine. Its road manners are good, but to unleash all the potential it needs to be taken to its natural habitat: the race track.

VERDICT 4/5

It stops, it goes, it handles and it looks the business. Needs a race track to really stretch its legs, but surprisingly good on the road, too