The idea was simple; go as fast as a 1000 on a 600 with just a dash of cash tossed at it. The definition of fast is as broad as the sport of motorcycling, so instead of qualifying the statement by saying “it’s fast for a 600,” this budget bomber had to legitimately run with the big dogs.
Sure, a literbike (or bigger) would have been the easy route to big speed, but plenty of riders can’t afford the price of admission. While the notion of a 220 HP monster is nice, in reality the cost associated with such a beast can be crippling. Instead, forget the literbikes, ’Busas and ZX-14s; going quick doesn’t have to break the bank. With the right combo even the cash cows can be dethroned by the penny pinchers. We wanted to bring a knife to the gunfight and ride away victorious.
Since claiming a bike is fast without supporting facts is hollow, we decided to test Project Frugal Flyer on a trio of battlefields. The dyno was our first proving ground since big power on the drum will inevitably translate into aggresive forward motion.
Outside the confines of our SuperFlow dyno room, the drag strip and the standing mile were the next yardsticks to which this middleweight would be measured. In order to deem this project a success, it needed to stay around the $2500 budget, run nines at the drag strip and push 170 MPH in the standing mile. Knocking down literbike times on a budget 600 is a serious achievement. A tall order indeed, but it was worth a shot.
What started as a happy hour idea quickly blossomed into an all-encompassing quest for cheap speed. In search of the ideal platform we found that the latest Suzuki GSX-R600 fit the bill perfectly. It had good grunt, respectable top-end speed, a great chassis and, most importantly, is the lightest of the 600 class—a svelte 417-pounds full of fluid.
When we originally took possession of the 600 it had only been on the market for a month, which made finding parts a serious challenge. Nonetheless, we braved uncharted territory to win some…and lose a few as well.
In the early stages the goal was to cut weight and improve aerodynamics. It’s a proven recipe; less weight and better aero equal more speed. A Zero Gravity Double Bubble windscreen and a Yoshimura YRS fender eliminator were added to reduce drag. The stock mirrors were removed, as were the pillion pegs along with random bits that trapped wind and added weight.
The windscreen created a larger pocket of air for the rider to tuck behind and the Yosh fender eliminator not only shaved weight, but it also replaced the giant stock flap that was hanging in the wind while allowing us to attach a plate for street rides.
It’s been said that the most un-aerodynamic portion of a sportbike is the incoming air that rushes through the radiator and hits the engine. This abundance of air smacks the motor before spilling around either side and exiting through the side-mounted outlets. In some cases insufficient exit venting at high speeds can cause the air to back-up behind the radiator, preventing sufficient flow through the fins. When this happens a bike can quickly overheat. Because of this giant scoop-like hole we lowered the front by sliding the triples down over the fork tubes and added a Yana Shiki lowering link out back. The slammed stance diminished the radiator cavity and created a slippery shape with the nose tucked just over the fender.
The gauge hanging next to...
The gauge hanging next to the tachometer allows for a real time display of the air/fuel ratio.
A Scott’s steering damper was a prerequisite for combating tankslappers. Its high-speed damping circuit meant the bars were free of cumbersome damping until a high-speed wiggle was encountered; at that point the Scott’s was there to straighten things out. While it added a few ounces it offered unmatched piece of mind, particularly when tucked with one hand on the bars at top speed.
With a proper stance and sorted aerodynamics the first phase of power enhancements began. A Yoshimura R-77 stainless/carbon full system got the rear end of the deal while a K&N Race Spec air filter made sure the Gixxer kept its mouth wide open. The combo took the baseline numbers of 103.4 HP and 44.12 LB-FT and increased them to 108.64 HP and 44.99 LB-FT.
Since the free-breathing combo upset the air/fuel ratio, a Power Commander PCV was added to better blend the air and fuel inside the combustion chambers. With a custom fuel map the power jumped to 111.08 HP and 45.02 LB-FT for peak gains of 8.05 HP and just under 1 LB-FT. Not bad for bolt-ons.
The newfound power was great, but running nines at the strip and 170 MPH in the standing mile required more than just a good bump—it needed a Hail Mary. Where someone with money might consider a built-motor or turbo, the meager budget meant nitrous was going to be this project’s higher-powered savior.
A direct port system was the obvious choice because of its proven track record on racebikes, but the budgetary confines again pointed towards something more affordable—a dry fogger kit from Nitrous Express. Not to be confused with cheap, the NX kit uses high-quality pieces like its carbon-fiber solenoid to administer an even stream of N2O.
Since nitrous installation and tuning isn’t for the weekend warrior we turned to Herrera Racing for help (OK to do all the work). Since the budget fogger kit fed the motor by way of a line plumbed into the airbox, Herrera Racing directed the N2O before the air filter to help evenly distribute the spray.
Along with an even dose to each hole, proper timing and octane adjustments are crucial to a successful N2O endeavor. As such, we added VP Racing C16 race gas, a serious blend of 115 octane to keep combustion chambers cool and reduce the chance of detonation.
As for the timing adjustments, a Power Commander Ignition Module was left for that task. But Herrera Racing took it one step further by connecting the Ignition Module and multi-map switch to the NX nitrous solenoid.
An all-motor map requires maximum ignition timing advance for more power, while a nitrous map needs a retarded timing curve to combat the high combustion temps. Oftentimes there’s no middle ground between the two since a nitrous-tuned bike is lazy off the bottle and an all-motor bike without a nitrous tune is dangerous on the juice. Instead, the Ignition Module allows for multiple maps, which means your bike can run hard with an all-motor map when off the nitrous, but will automatically select the nitrous fuel map when the N2O is activated.
On the dyno with a 40-horsepower jet in place the Gixxer didn’t disappoint with an impressive rear-wheel reading of 147.16 HP–an honest 40 HP jump from a baseline of 107.57 HP (this baseline was on a different dyno and thus lower than the previous numbers).
The dry shot sprays directly...
The dry shot sprays directly into the airbox where it distributes itself evenly (hopefully) between the cylinders.
After the nitrous, the next step on the road to success was protecting the investment. Since N2O can be like playing with fire, a proper air/fuel-ratio (AFR) gauge is crucial to any nitrous setup. An analog wideband gauge from AEM made it easy to read the AFRs from the cockpit to keep a real-time eye on the AFR reading.
Taking it one step further, AEM’s AQ-1 datalogging computer was connected to the wideband gauge to monitor AFRs along with throttle-position and injector duty cycle.
While it’s nearly impossible to monitor all of these parameters in real time during a full-throttle run, the datalogger allows the user to retrieve the information after each pass and make the appropriate changes before the following run.
A lightweight 520 combined...
A lightweight 520 combined with aluminum sprockets chain reduced weight. Rear sprocket swaps at the strip and top speed venue were critical to a positive result.
Monitoring AFRs, throttle position and fuel injector duty cycles are paramount to a successful nitrous experience, and even more important when you’re spraying a shot with a 40 percent increase in power. That 40 percent may not sound like much, but to put it into perspective, if our motor made 500 HP and power was increased by 40 percent it would be a 200-shot of nitrous¬–that’s big.
Last on the long list of mods was to drop a few more pounds and properly gear the Gixxer for each event. A lightweight Shorai battery shaved an amazing 4.6 pounds over the stock unit and a combination of Renthal/Vortex sprockets and a Renthal 520 chain dropped another 1.25 pounds off the stock 525 setup.
When the final tally was determined, the GSX-R600 made 147.16 HP for a total power increase of 43.76 HP from the stock baseline. As for the weight savings, in stock trim and full of fuel it tipped the scales at 417 pounds but after the weight reduction, with one gallon of race gas and the five-pound nitrous system in place the new race weight was 396 pounds—a total savings of 21 pounds.
Wide-open throttle, clutchless...
Wide-open throttle, clutchless shifts are made easy with this little gem.
After hours of setup, tuning and tweaking at Herrera Racing the day had finally come to launch the 600. On the morning the weather was foggy, damp and cold-–a horrible combination for quick times. Despite the bleak conditions, the Autoclub Dragway in Fontana California was prepped with VHT and bit pretty well.
After a few test passes to get an idea of what the bike was capable of on motor alone, a Brock’s Performance lowering strap was added to further slam the stance. A Power Commander Quickshifter also entered the picture to allow wide-open-throttle shifts.
With the ride height set, the father and son pro drag-racing duo from Herrera Racing, Augustine and Gaige, got to work on perfecting their launches.
In a matter of minutes the ETs quickly shrunk from the 10.80s into the 10.40s and eventually well in the 10.20s with a best run of 10.23 @ 133.76 MPH on motor alone.
After dropping the forks through...
After dropping the forks through the triple trees the forks were strapped down for an even lower stance to help prevent wheelies and allow harder launches.
Nailing the launch proved to be difficult, as the riders walked a fine line between bogging or sending the front tire flying. The best all-motor pass netted a 1.69 60-foot, which led Augustine to believe there was more left in it without the nitrous. He decided the best bet was to lower the nitrous shot from the 40-shot down to a more manageable 20-jet.
Even with the smaller shot in place, the front wheel went flying the first few nitrous attempts. No matter what RPM in first gear, when the juice hit, up she came. After a handful of attempts it was decided that the nitrous would be saved until second gear. Augustine also decided to hand over the reigns to his son Gaige, who is another 20 pounds lighter.
When the juice hit in second it wheelied like crazy despite Gaige’s best efforts. Undeterred by the one-wheeled action, he kept it pinned and made the first complete nitrous pass. When the timing board ignited it read “9.98 @ 141.49 MPH.”
Despite a softer 1.74 60-foot time, Gaige was able to power his way into the 9s. A closer look at the ET and trap reveals a combination good for 9.70s with enough setup, but we had other fish to fry.
After the successful drag strip trip it was time to see what our super 600 could do in a standing mile event. Unlike the bleak conditions at the strip, the morning of the Mojave Mile event was crisp, calm and dry–perfect for big speed.
Unlike the drag setup, the lowering strap was ditched in favor of a slightly higher stance and the aggressive gearing was also swapped for high-speed cogs.
Like our pocket ace from Nitrous Express, we also brought a wringer to the Mojave Mile, Krystal Ahmad, a 4-foot, 11-inch, 100-pound test rider who could easily tuck behind the Gixxer’s small fairing.
With a few gearing changes throughout the day and some tweaks to rider technique the GSX-R600 eventually reached a best of 158 MPH on motor alone. To say that figure was impressive would be an understatement, as nearly topping 160 MPH at 3000+ feet of elevation in just one mile is serious business.
With the swap of a higher (numerically lower) rear cog it was time for a few nitrous passes, but not before replacing the 20-jet with the big dog 40 since we were still 12 MPH shy of our goal. In land-speed racing that’s a long way off though.
The only nail in a 50-mile...
The only nail in a 50-mile radius found its way into the back tire.
While we don’t recommend plugging a tire for top speed testing, sometimes you do what you gotta do for the sake of the story
Unfortunately the bottle ran dry on the first pass due to an oversight by the entire crew on hand. The second pass was equally unsuccessful since we played it conservatively by only spraying the nitrous at the top of sixth gear for a 161 MPH run.
As the sun began its descent and the afternoon winds picked up it was now or never. We huddled up and decided the nitrous would be activated in fifth and sixth gears. In theory this should have been enough to gain serious speed without spraying the nitrous long enough to cook the motor…or so we thought.
The ill-fated pass started like every other run, lots of clutch slip to get the taller gearing rolling followed by WOT. First, second and third came quickly, fourth began to string out and as soon as fifth hit, the N2O made acceleration audibly stronger. All through fifth the little Gixxer ran with a sense of urgency. Next came sixth and all was well until the end. As the bike neared redline it broke-up (misfired) just before the shutdown flags. When the time slip printed it read 165.6 MPH, but the Gixxer had been hurt in the process.
Back in the pits the crippled bike was running on three cylinders and was showing symptoms of a dead hole. Cylinder four was the culprit and when the spark plug was removed the damage was immediately apparent. The entire tip was melted off—ouch. A compression check further drove home the point that with zero psi, something went wrong.
A look at the data logging files revealed an AFR change, but not an incredible one. Out came the other three plugs only to realize they were fine–not even a hint of trouble. This explains why the AFR didn’t drastically change, because the three good holes helped mask the bad one.
Sure the 165 MPH run was impressive, especially considering other bolt-on literbikes were less than 10 MPH faster. But had the Gixxer made a full pull, 170 MPH was easily within reach. Like any project, when you walk the razor’s edge there’s a chance of getting cut.
Picking up the pieces
Once back at the SSB ranch we researched the datalog and discovered that the throttle wasn’t 100 percent open. We can’t really fault the rider as she’d never been on a nitrous bike before and had to handle a lot of instruction in a very small amount of time—at 165 MPH. The problem with being just under 100 percent throttle is that the nitrous fuel map isn’t activated until full throttle, which means the engine ran lean and got too hot. Luckily the spark plug took most of the heat and the number four piston was only mildly scarred. It wasn’t a huge issue but enough to shut us down for the day and determine that nitrous is only for experienced riders who are well aware of the repercussions of not adhering to strict riding technique.
Other contributing factors point to a possible distribution problem since only one cylinder took the hit. The substantial 40 HP shot (40 HP) also increased the odds since the bigger the hit the bigger the risk to stock engine internals. We pushed the motor to the edge and left little room for rider error. When that entered the equation it ended the day early.
The biggest disappointment is the monumental “What if” factor. Had the throttle been fully opened to the stop and the nitrous pushed for the complete run would the bike have broken 170 MPH? We can only speculate, but a gambler wouldn’t hesitate to make the wager that a buck-seventy would’ve come easily.
It’s pretty obvious when the...
It’s pretty obvious when the button was pushed. The massive spike in power comes on hard so you’d better hang on.
As with every project there are good parts and there are bad portions, and Project Frugal Flyer wasn’t without both. On one end it made literbike power on the dyno and easily ran a nine-second quarter mile pass. Yet on the other it didn’t reach 170 MPH in the standing mile, instead it suffered some setbacks on the way through 165 MPH. Adding insult to injury we overshot our budget by a good margin as well.
This isn’t to say it was a failure, because it’s quite the contrary. It was as much an educational experience as it was a project, and we hope you can learn from both our success and our mistakes. Among the typical bolt-on bits, this was our first stab at a proper nitrous build with multiple maps and data logging.
We warned in the nitrous installment of the series, greed and temptation are oftentimes the downfalls of a successful nitrous setup. But we failed to address the fact that strict technique is equally important to a successful ride. While we didn’t break any records with our super 600, we pushed the envelope and proved that big displacement and fat wallets aren’t mandatory prerequisites to go fast.
Sean stands next to Krystal to demonstrate how critical aerodynamics are for big speed. His best run on nitrous was a measly 153 MPH, while Krystal crushed his score by twelve MPH and showed much faster acceleration rates through the gears. Power to weight and aerodynamics are the name of the game, and Sean would need considerably more power to catch up to the smaller rider’s number. If you’re a large rider you should realize the cards are stacked against you. Lay off the Big Macs—or get a turbo bike.
AEM Analog Wideband Air/Fuel Ratio Gauge
AEM AQ-1 Data Logger
Yoshimura R-77D Stainless Steel Full System With Carbon-Fiber Muffler
Special thanks to