Suzuki’s Bandit 600 was the benchmark for top value biking for a decade, but the all new GSR600 is in a different league. Featuring a detuned GSXR600 four cylinder engine, easygoing handling, ’soft’ Streetfighter styling and respectable braking power, the GSR600 looks like it will have broad appeal for all kinds of riders.
Alastair Walker took the GSR600 out and about in Derbyshire for a day.
I can still recall my first `proper´ bike, which was a Honda 400/4 from the mid 1970s and this new GSR600 gave me the same rev-hungry, lightweight feel. The convoluted exhaust system on the GSR600 also reminded of the old Honda a little bit, even down to having some scary rust traps visible along its twisty route to the rear of the bike.
Obviously the GSR600 goes faster than some ancient Honda, in fact it feels a bit like a slimmer, sweeter handling 250 Honda Hornet and the brakes are superb. Even the fuel injection worked almost faultlessly during the week I rode the GSR600, just spluttering a little after resting at a junction in traffic for a minute or so.
Some people reckon the GSR600´s suspension is too soft, but I wouldn´t have said it feels as wallowy as the V-Strom 650, or the Kawasaki Z750S, both of which feel slightly more `mushy´ to me. The Honda CBF600 and the old Hornet 600 from the late 90s compare pretty closely to the GSR in terms of overall handling, but the GSR600 seems to carry its weight lower than the CBF600, feeling more agile in hairpin bends, or roundabouts.
Apart from the fuel injection making the bike want to stall at tickover when moving away from standstill, it worked exceptionally well. The power comes in really smooth, steady and novice riders will soon get to love the GSR and the way it lets you gradually explore the bike´s limits, and your own.
I also rated the brakes for that same predictability. There´s no point in having super grabby disc brakes on novice level 600 bikes in my opinion – most learner riders have never experienced the instant stopping power of radial brakes on big sportbikes, which is one reason why some of them fall off on their own as soon as they buy a big R1/Blade/Gixer etc.
Not that anyone admits that of course!
Is the GSR600 the perfect all-rounder then? Nope, because it lacks any sort of screen or fairing, and the underseat exhaust system, plus assorted bracketry and shock mounting gubbins, all looks set to suffer from road salt/crud/usual bad Northern weather. Materials look slightly tacky, a bit cheap, like the first generation Bandits in fact.
Top tip; I would fit the biggest `hugger´ and undertray I could find from new if I bought a GSR600, as some parts look poorly finished and unable to hack winter biking. Under the chunky, funky bodywork, this bike is built to a tight budget.
You also need a screen, or fairing fitted, even though the riding position is set slightly leaning into the wind. Once you top 80mph the pressure is immense as the handlebars are set quite wide – it does give your pecs a workout I guess, but at my age so does changing channels with the TV remote!
The right hand mirror also vibrated to the point of being useless above 70mph by the way, yet oddly enough the left mirror stayed clear. Both gave a 50-50 view of elbows and rearward vision.
For all its niggling faults, the GSR600 is a great bike to razz around the back lanes on a summer Sunday, or commute on £10 worth of unleaded all week. It has the `fun factor,´ like the Hornet 600, the old Honda 400/4 or the old Ducati Monster 750 from the 90s.
The de-tuned Gixer 600 four cylinder motor makes loads of midrange oomph, the seat is nice and low for short-legged riders, and I like the way that the bike´s oddball styling details make it stand out from the crowd. It is important that Suzuki, and other manufacturers, make bikes stand out visually. That´s why so many riders don´t buy new bikes anymore; they look too similar to models that they supposedly replace.
With the GSR600 costing just £5200 OTR, this has to be a bike worth considering, if you´re the type of rider looking for something practical, stylish, yet with enough performance to put a daft grin on your face on Sunday mornings. It isn´t perfect, but if you like the looks, and it physically fits you, then give it some thought.
Rivals for me include Suzuki´s own Bandit 650 and SV650S, Guzzi Breva 750, BMW F800 twin, the Kawasaki Z750S or new ER6n, Yamaha FZ6 and the Honda CBF600 – it´s a really tough market out there.
There´s a range of factory accessories offered with the GSR600, so that owners can personalise the bike right from the word go. Items include tank protector, carbon look tail light cover and Yoshimura twin end cans, which look very cool, but cost £800. Ouch.
Get Suzuki motorbike insurance for the suzuki gsr600.
Engine in line, DOHC, four cylinder, liquid cooled four stroke
Peak power N/A
Compression ratio 12.5:1
Bore and stroke 67 X 42.5mm
Fuelling Dual throttle, digital fuel injection, 38mm throttle bodies
Gears 6 speed, with digital gear indicator
Chassis Aluminium alloy twin spar type
Front suspension 43mm telescopic forks, multi adjustable
Rear suspension Monoshock, multi-adjustable
Rake/trail 25.5 degrees, 105mm
Front braking Twin 310mm discs, 4 piston callipers
Rear braking Single 240mm disc, 2 piston callipers
Wheels/Tyres 120/70 ZR 17 inch front, 180/55 ZR 17 inch rear
Seat height 785mm
Fuel capacity 16.5 litres
Dry weight 183kgs
Accessories Tank pad protector, tail light cover, Yoshimura exhausts, single seat cover, ignition console surround, chainguard etc
Price £5200 April 2006