When Suzuki went away to liven up their GSX-R600 for 2011, many were expecting a new dawn for the 600 sports bike. Despite reducing weight by 9kg, upping the power and paying extra attention to suspension and braking requirements, the end result wasn’t a giant leap for 600 kind, instead it was more a case of taking a very capable machine and making it better in all areas. With a claimed top speed of over 160mph, perhaps we’ve reached the ceiling of 600cc development? Maybe that’s why these days most middleweight supersport bikes are not even 600s anymore, with bigger engines to get more performance, while many manufacturers have abandoned the sector all together.
When this bike was new in 2011 it ruled the 600 roost and it’s easy to see why. The GSX-R brand is still extremely strong and the 600 looks very much like the 750 and 1000 of the day. Under the bodywork there’s a reworked engine that had a close ratio gearbox and the weight shaved from it wherever possible. The end result was an impressive 125bhp claimed by Suzuki. The bike was lighter too and had top notch Brembo Monobloc calipers tacked to the Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF), which is what everyone was talking about back then. The whole design has hardly been tampered with since it’s 2011, with only graphic changes, largely due to the decline in the 600cc sector and partly because, as we already suggested, the evolution of middleweight sports bikes has reached something of a peak.
Suzuki also raced the bike in various supersport championships around the world. Despite being the poor relation to Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha on the world stage, the GSX-R600 performed well in national series, winning the 2011 British Supersport Championship with Alastair Seeley on board.
Despite sales of new supersports bikes being on the floor, there are still plenty on the road and they remain strong in the second hand market.
What’s it like to ride?
A 600 sports bike is always going to be an acquired taste. It’s not for everyone so always try before you buy, especially if it’s to be your only form of transport. These bikes are designed to be ridden on the track and are physically fairly small, with lots of weight being transferred through the rider’s wrists. The close ratio gearbox means that first gear is very tall and not ideal for town work, but the closer cogs are further up the range and will get you the best from that 599cc engine. Pillions need not apply. This is a bike that’s designed for rider pleasure only. Getting the best from it can be rewarding once you’ve gelled, but these traits remain true to all bikes of this ilk, including the Yamaha YZF-R6 and Kawasaki ZX-6R. Those lightened pistons allow the motor to spin up that bit faster, and that’s noticeable especially on track, although there’s actually a fair amount of torque if you work your left foot to get the best from it.
Many will end up on the track and with suspension set up correctly, the GSX-R600 will still embarrass bigger and newer bikes.
What to look for?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Suzuki dealership Wheels Motorcycles in Peterborough. He says: “This is one of our most popular used bikes, we sell loads of these and there’s no sign of that changing. The bodywork is pretty flimsy on this model. Suzuki went to town trimming the fat and (as a result) the fairing panels are very thin, it doesn’t take much to crack them. The engine is bulletproof, but you should always try to find a bike with a service history for peace of mind, and also to make it easier to resell if you decide a 600 is too focused for your needs. Wheels can easily buckle so always check those out too. There are plenty of these out there, so never rush and buy the first one, or the cheapest!”
What to look for?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson at Grumpy 1260, they service lots of bikes and often see things that we don’t. He added: “It wasn’t too long ago that 125bhp was the territory for litre bikes. The GSX-R600 shows how far we’ve come. They don’t crash too well. Suzuki reduced the weight of the frame, which also made them less strong if they are involved in an accident. We’ve seen bikes that have snapped in half after an incident! Check for any frame damage and walk away if you find any. Many of these are used on the track, then get the road bits replaced once their track days are over. Always look for a service history, not just because you know it’s been looked after, but it will also prove that it’s been a road bike!”