6_donk_600pFirst up we will start off with the technical babble that many of you have read here before. 

The 2001 GSX-R 600 was developed by the same team of engineers responsible for the awesome GSX-R 750 and coming GSX-R 1000.

Compared to the model it replaces the new 2001 GSX-R  600 is 11 kilograms lighter, 25mm shorter in overall length and 30mm shorter in overall height.  The smaller and more slippery shape has helped achieve a 4% reduction in aerodynamic drag.

The 2001 engine is more compact, lighter and more powerful.  It’s basic design mirrors the latest GSX-R 750 engine, but with many unique parts of it’s own.

Common features include DOHCs with liquid cooling and a downdraft TSCC (Twin Swirl Combustion Chamber) cylinder head carrying four valves per cylinder, hollow camshafts driven off the right-hand side of the crankshaft by a link-plate chain.

The crankshaft and transmission shafts are staggered vertically on two separate, horizontal crankcase splits to reduce engine length front-to-rear, the crankshaft is carried on the upper crankcase split and the transmission shafts are carried on the lower crankcase split.  Besides making the engine shorter, this semi-cassette type design allows the transmission assembly to be removed without disturbing the crankshaft.

Internal passageways in the upper crankcase and cylinder block carry lubricating oil to the cylinder head, eliminating 6_Head_600pexternal oil lines.  Shot-peened connecting rods carry lightweight forged pistons.  The clutch has coil springs with cable actuation for better feel with a revised lever ration for a lighter lever pull.

Compared to the previous model the new GSX-R 600 has a larger bore and shorter stroke, 67×42.5mm instead of 65.5×44.5mm, to reduce mechanical losses at high rpm.  The valves are now set at 28 degrees instead of 30 degrees in a combustion chamber which raises the compression ratio from 12.0:1 to 12.2:1.  The downdraft angle of the intake ports is steeper, 44 degrees instead of 41.5 degrees and the intake valves are larger, up from 26.5mm to 27.2mm, but the valve stems are narrower.  Overall the new cylinder head is 9.5mm shorter front-to-rear and 6mm shorter from the head gasket surface to the top of the cam cover and weighs 900grams less than the previous version.

The crankshaft sits in smaller main and big end bearings and the new con-rods carry 14mm tapered-bore wrist pins.

Fuel injection makes an appearance on the new GSX-R 600 and is a similar system to that used on the GSX-R 1000 except in the 600’s case the throttle bodies are 38mm items.

The new GSX-R 600 combines a new, more compact twin-spar aluminium-alloy frame with a bolt-on rear sub-frame and a 20mm longer swingarm, placing more weight on the front wheel.

The frame itself weighs 2 kilograms less than the previous model, yet its torsional rigidity to weight ratio is improved by 10%.  Rake and trail measure 24° and 96mm and wheelbase measures 1,400mm.

New, fully adjustable conventional front forks with cartridge dampers are lighter and deliver 5mm more wheel travel.  New triple clamps carry the fork legs 7mm closer together, reducing frontal area for better aerodynamics as well as reducing steering effort.

A new fully adjustable piggyback reservoir shock has a 25mm shorter, 6mm larger diameter body made of aluminium instead of steel.  The new shock is 500 grams lighter and delivers 130mm of wheel travel through a progressive linkage.  The aluminium body dissipates heat better and the internal heat compensation system is larger and more effective, both contributing to more consistent damping performance.  The upper shock mount incorporates a ride height adjustment bracket.

The 320mm front brake discs work with new, lighter four-piston calipers featuring large aluminium alloy pistons.

Engine 599cc 4 stroke, in-line 4 cylinder, 16 valve DOHC.  (114hp  claimed – our independent dyno charts to follow)
Bore x Stroke 67mm x 42.5mm
Compression Ratio 12.2:1
Induction EFI – 38mm throttle bodies
Ignition Digital
Starter Electric
Gearbox 6-speed
Length x Width x Height 2,040mm x 715mm x 1,135mm
Wheelbase 1400mm
Rake / Trail 24° / 96mm
Seat Height 830mm
Ground Clearance 130mm
Fuel 18 Litres
Suspension – Front Telescopic, fully adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping. 
Suspension – Rear Monoshock, fully adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Brakes – Front Dual 320mm discs with 4 piston calipers
Brakes – Rear Single disc with 2 piston caliper
Dry Weight 163 kilos (claimed) – 192 kilograms wet (measured with full tank and ready to ride)
RRP (AUS) $13,990

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So now you have all the technobabble on the GSX-R 600 but what is it really like?  We aim to tell you that here and now…

OldAndNew_600pWhen climbing aboard the GSX-R 600 I felt instantly at home.  The riding position feels good, in control and reasonably comfortable.  A little more weight is placed on the wrists than preferable in a perfect world but the fact is that if you are to feel connected to the front end your hands have to be down near it.  A fact of life and one that is easily worth the sacrifice of a little comfort in a tool like the GSX-R.  If you really are a weak wristed wonder you can ease the strain by strengthening your stomach muscles to help you keep the weight off your wrists.  If things get really bad just lean your chest on a tankbag. 

Straight after hopping aboard the GSX-R the front end weight bias was obvious.  The GSX-R 600 has a more front end weight bias than the 750 and this lets you feel ‘connected’ with the front end.  The fork action is excellent, better than any other bike in the hard fought SuperSport class, as per the previous GSX-R 600.  Showa is the supplier and the 45mm conventional forks seem to be pretty much the same as the ones fitted to the previous model.

The rear feels stiffer than the 750 and the whole bike seems a much more taut and race ready package than it’s bigger cousin.  It is not too harsh, the initial suspension stroke front and rear is compliant enough to absorb most of the hard hits encountered on a motorway haul.  Softer than a Ducati but still hard enough to play ball when the game turns serious.  Interestingly the shock seems to be exactly the same unit as fitted to the 750 but seemed to work better on the 600.  Obviously, SuperSport racers will change to an aftermarket unit anyway but I can never imagine the average track day punter needing to.

 

I can sum up the racetrack performance of the GSX-R 600 quite simply….I can’t fault it.

We did not push the GSX-R 600 to anywhere near it’s, or my, limits as plenty of magazines are waiting in line to test this bike so the least we could do was ensure it got back to Suzuki safely.  I have yet to have to make the “Mr distributor, I have broke your bike” call and look forward to continuing that precedent.  Even though it may seem that we have little regard for machinery (by looking at the wheelie and stoppie photos) I can assure you that I am quite comfortable doing such things (little stunts) and think of it as less of a risk than riding in Sydney traffic.  Anyway back to the bike.

We rode it as hard as what probably 95% of potential owners will push it, but do not pretend to be motorcycle racers…

Flopping from big lean angle to opposite angle is simpler than on anything else I have ridden.  Want to change your line mid corner, a little push on the peg or pressure on the bars and it is done, no fuss.  It does have a steering damper as standard but thankfully it does not increase bar effort too much.  It feels like a race bike in the way you can literally grab it by the scruff and slam it from one side to the other without having to wait for the suspension to get over it.  This serves to raise the confidence level further.

Stability is surprisingly very good.  51% of the weight is over the front wheel and this obviously helps the cause.  In comparison the R6 has more weight over the rear than the front which helps to make the Yamaha a little more lively through the bars.  Heavier riders seem to amplify this problem on the Yamaha.  The Kawasaki ZX-6R, like the GSX-R, carries more of it’s weight over the front wheel than the Yamaha.

On the brake side of the equation the Suzuki now has the equal of the Yamaha.  I believe the GSX-R brakes are similar to the units fitted to the company’s 750 but I think slightly harder pads may be used in this instance.  I don’t know exactly what the changes from the 750 are but I do know that the brakes on the 600 work better.  I had no cause for complaint.

The bike never put a foot (wheel) wrong during our time with it.  Think ‘tighten a line’ and it is done, if you get into trouble you can use the front and/or rear brakes to slow the bike down while in a turn.  I did not outrun myself into a corner but always provoke this type of occurrence in relatively safe surroundings to simulate an ‘Oh shit I have come in too hot’ type of reaction for the inexperienced.  This type of situation will most probably be very relevant to a lot of potential purchasers of the baby GSX-R, for a lot of whom something like this 600 will probably be their first big bike.  And to think that this ‘little’ 600 would comprehensively chew up and spit out most big bore sportsbikes on the market when it comes to laptimes…..

The engine pulls well everywhere in the rev range.  It is no big bore but the engine performance is amongst the best in the SuperSport class.  

Quite often I found myself dawdling along in top at around 3,000rpm during Sydney traffic crawls, the bike never complained and would drive from that low.  Excellent for a 600.  Just under 5,000rpm in top sees around 100kph on the dial.  

Any urgent throttle action gives the rider some aural pleasure as the airbox makes a great roar.  The fuel injection system is excellent and I saw as much as 225 kilometres pass under the wheels when city commuting before the fuel light came on to tell me there was around 4 litres left in the 18 litre tank.

But keep in mind this is only a 600 so it does have to be kept revving in order to get good pull out of corners etc.  This is half the fun of a 600 and if you are too slack to enjoy whizzing up and down the gearbox, buy something bigger.

At Eastern Creek I entered the main straight around 50 yards behind an R1 and at the end of the straight was still only about 50 yards behind the much more powerful bike.  The Suzuki obviously has excellent aerodynamics.

The gearbox is smooth and positive, even with only 2,000 kilometres on the clock.  In my experience Suzuki gearboxes sometime take up to 15,000 kilometres to reach the pinnacle of their smoothness.  Clutch feel is good and we experienced no problems in that area.

Suzuki’s GSX-R 600 features the same dash as their 750.  Well laid out and comprehensive with a conventional tacho alongside an LCD unit containing a digital speedo, two tripmeters and odometer.  Switchgear is typically Japanese, efficient and simple to operate.

Seat width and padding is acceptable and touring on this bike would not be out of the question at all.  The only stumbling block to touring very long distances would be the trouble you will have strapping luggage to the GSX-R.  For aerodynamic reasons the tail unit flares out very widely.

This means that plenty of duct tape or something similar will be needed to protect the paintwork when strapping luggage to the rear seat using the excellent tie down hooks that are fitted to the Suzuki.  It is not a huge problem and the use of a lot of tape will sort it, but it is worth mentioning and I had to find something to whinge about…..  

Reasonable under seat storage is big enough for a set of wets or chain lock.

There are no annoying vibrations or anything like that to worry about.  We never got around to testing with a pillion but carrying someone on the back of a bike like this will only spoil the fun by making the bike hard to handle by changing the weight distribution and making the bike harder to steer.  The 750 was noticeably harder to turn with someone on the back and the damper really made itself felt under those passenger carrying conditions.

Sometimes a little heat is felt on the legs from behind the fairing when sitting in traffic but no worse than most other bikes.

Build quality seems good.

I believe the 2001 Suzuki GSX-R 600 is now clearly the 600cc benchmark when it comes to performance.  But this class is reasonably tight and just because this bike is the fastest on the track does not mean that you should not consider the opposition. 

The whole SuperSport class consists of very quick bikes which all have genuine 240kph + top speeds.  For those of you that think your 600 is a lot faster than that you should note that the bikes in this class all have wildly optimistic speedos.  Just because your 600 shows 270 on the speedo doesn’t mean that you are doing anywhere near that.

There is no doubt in my mind that in 2001 the GSX-R 600 is the SuperSport class leader.