Journal of the Motorcycle Action Group

Motorcycle Action Group, MAG
Issue 4 May-Jun 2006
Back Issues

Suzuki GSR600

Ian Kerr explores

Suzuki bill the brand new GSR 600 as a middleweight street-fighter; a bike where modern art meets race technology. You cannot argue with either statement, especially as the bike has some of its heritage in the now famed B-King concept bike and the engine comes from the fabulous GSX-R 600, minus juts a few bhp!

There is no doubting the bike is a real looker, especially in the metallic matt black and silver option of the test machine. It certainly attracted plenty of attention in the still fashion conscious Kings Road in Central London and it also attracted favourable looks in rural country towns.

No animals went running madly for cover as it drifted through their natural habitat on the lanes surrounding said towns, so it scores on looks wherever it goes, which is the sign of a good design! You certainly find it hard to find fault thanks to the clever blend and integration of essential components like the frame into the overall styling package.

However, as always there is a trade off and the good looks and lack of fairing mean that it is a nightmare to keep clean when used in the country, or on salted highways and byways like many of its genre.

This is a bike that will demand a dedicated owner if it is not to deteriorate too badly, a case maybe of form overcoming function! Bizarrely Suzuki appears to acknowledge this, because their already extensive list of aftermarket items and accessories already list items like rear huggers and various body panels that can be added on by the owner.

Sitting on the 'naked' machine, to use a once hackneyed phrase; 'all controls fall easily to hand'. The instrument console is clean, functional and easy to read and the digital speedo makes passing speed cameras at bang on the legal limit a real doddle. Likewise the digital gear indicator is also useful along with the clock, two trips and an analogue rev counter redlined at 14,000 rpm.

From the stepped seat, you can see how the clear looking front indicators have been blended into the front of the 16.6 litre petrol tank, to sit nicely on the all-new aluminium alloy frame. (This, like the impressively solid-looking swing-arm, is built using a high-vacuum die-casting process which produces a seamless finish.)

This seems to envelop the black engine which comes from the GSX-R 600 that powered the 2004-5 models. Changes to the 599cc in-line four-cylinder, liquid-cooled motor, include dropping the throttle body size from 46mm down to 38mm as part of the engine retune for more torque, rather than top end power. The gearing has also been altered to mirror the new power characteristics, by lowering the first two gears. The top four remain in place so that you can take advantage of the high revs when on open roads and put in some sports bike style riding.

The exhaust has also been changed to the centre mount type, which includes a catalyser (masked by the small under-engine fairing) eventually ending as twin pipes next to the trendy LED rear light units. (These are set in, what appears at first glance to be an additional set of exhaust pipes, to give a four-pipe look from the rear.)

Suzuki's proven PAIR (Pulsed secondary Air) system is used to feed air into it at the exhaust headers to help reduce unburnt hydrocarbons. As a result, needless to say it easily meets Euro 3 emission regulations!

Suspending the bike is done by conventional 43mm forks at the front and a mono-shock at the rear, both from the Kayaba factory. There is pre-load available on both, while the rear also gets rebound damping adjustment. Seventeen-inch wheels shod with 120/70 and 180/55 section tyres keep things rolling along quite nicely and providing good grip.

Stopping power is provided by a set of calipers and discs that once did service on the GSX-R 750 of 2000 vintage. This means opposed four piston units at the front backed up by a single piston item at the rear, which means they will all need a lot of maintenance in the winter if history is anything to go by.

Lighting the way through the winter and the hours of darkness is a multi- reflector light unit that is in concert with the instrument binnacle to deflect some of the wind blast up and away from the rider. On dipped beam it is superb, but main beam seems to light anything other than the road, reducing your pace a little on unlit roads.

From a distance the bike looks small and when you are on the bike it feels compact and nimble without feeling in anyway cramped. The somewhat conservative rake and trail of 25.5 degrees and 105.0mm give a neutral feel to the bike, which reacts well to rider input, making for a physically relaxed ride. It must be said that the riding position is very good and extremely comfortable, even for long periods in the saddle.

Despite the lack of rider protection it is not too unpleasant up to the three figure mark and you do not need a current gym membership to hang on even above this level. The sculptured seat does well to locate you and its non-slip surface ensures you or your pillion do not slide around under braking. Interestingly while the brakes are more than adequate, they do not inspire like the items on modern sports machines. This demonstrates just how much things have progressed since these were 'the ones' to have on the sports bike of that time!

Out on the open road the bike handles well on the fast open roads and is even good fun on the tighter country roads until the budget suspension gets pushed a bit. (Time spent dialling this in for personal riding styles will be time well spent and eradicate any glitches.)

However, for the main it is a comfortable ride and most people who will buy this will not try and ride the bike in sports mode and be happy with the bikes surefootedness and general ease of use. In town it is agile enough to slot through lines of traffic and cut through most gaps that present themselves on the daily commute.

The engine is reasonably torquey and quite rideable in such situations, without too much cog swapping being required, thanks to the new ratios.

Get the motor spinning above 6,000rpm and the pace quickens and if you really want to see the motors heritage, break the 10,000rpm barrier and hang on.

The slight drop in bhp does not stop this motor giving your heart and brain a good work-out as the horizon seems to leap towards you at a very fast pace! Even with such use, you can still expect to get around 130 miles to the tank-full before needing to fill up.

So all is very well with this mid-range mid-priced middleweight (403lbs)? Well not quite!

The bike has a small problem with the way it delivers its power thanks to the new fuel injection system, which at times displays a slight lag, while at others, is almost like an on/off switch. To counteract the lag, I generally resorted to brisk acceleration to almost ride the bike through the slight pause in throttle response.

Ridden in sports mode, the problem was less noticeable and the response was as smooth as the original engine. However, when cornering on a fixed throttle before accelerating out, you still needed to be careful not to alter the twist-grip position so as not upset the bikes equilibrium.

Having said all that, once you have got used to the glitch you learn to deal with it and it is not a big problem. No doubt it will soon be designed out by means of a new chip or similar now it has passed all the relevant tests!

The only other minor flaw is that the mirrors do not give enough view to the rear to make sports use a safe affair. When enjoying such pursuits, I do like to see if anybody is coming up behind to join in, or not as the case may be.

Lack of good mirrors is almost acceptable and the norm on a sports bike costing tens of thousands, but not on a middle of the road bike like this, costing just over £5,000.

No bike is perfect and none of these faults detract too badly from what is a modern stylish middleweight that you can have quite a lot of fun on, while being accepted in all areas of polite society. Which these days, is quite a compliment!

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