The engine was rotated upwards in the frame by three degrees to help shorten the overall wheelbase.
The new dash features programmable shift lights, gear position and mode selection. The mode selector button is neatly positioned on the front of the left switchgear.
Brembo calipers are attached to Showa Big Piston Forks—both exceptional upgrades over last year's equipment.
The rearsets are three-way adjustable, allowing you to dial in your comfort zone and required ground clearance.
Suzuki knocked off over seven pounds from the bodywork. A good chunk of that came from the stubbier upper fairing (featuring stacked headlights) and the svelte tail unit.
The 750 liked to do this over the same crest that the 600 was happily planted. that sums up the power difference in a nutshell.
The GSX-R600 has a 15mm shorter wheelbase, but it didnt come from simply shortening the swingarm. Instead, Suzuki ingeniously pivoted the engine upwards, allowing the new frame to shrink and shorten the overall length while retaining the long swingarm for solid handling.
Ahh, the 600 class. They tend to provoke a love/hate sort of respect level with most street riders. There are those who feel that a 600cc, 100 horsepower sportbike is all you need to hang a decent wheelie or get a triple digit speeding ticket by the time you’re at the end of an onramp—and that’s hard to argue. Then there are the haters. Typically astride a 1000cc or larger bike, they have no respect for anybody on a “little 600” and have even been known to heckle these bikes at various gatherings. Such loathsome behavior is ridiculous at best, and had they ever paid their dues and come up through the smaller class they’d realize such silly conduct is rather pointless.
And if they had a go on the 2011 GSX-R600 they’d surely recognize the error of their ways and beg forgiveness from the 600cc community. The new community, that is. Kawasaki broke the anemic, feeble-engine trend with its most recent ZX-6R, and now Suzuki is back in the game with its new Gixxer. The most exciting news to hit the GSX-R600 fan club is that the new model has midrange power—and lots of it. That means no more multiple downshifts just to pass a car quickly or get out of a potentially harmful situation. From 7000 RPM and up the GSX-R progressively pulls harder and harder. That means no more screaming around town at ten grand with your pipe wailing while every cop within a mile radius tries to pinpoint your whereabouts. It also means your left foot gets a break from constantly stabbing at the shift lever during a twisty backroad ride. Try to lug a lower gear on the previous model and you’ll have enough time to make a call and check your email before the engine gets into its sweet spot.
We discovered this tasty new motor at the Barber Motorsports Circuit, a fantastic track that combines lots of elevation changes with various sorts of corners—much like what you’ll find during backroad street rides. It was at about the midpoint of our first session that the realization of something equally bizarre and unique was taking place on the left side of the bike. Could it be that I was actually shortshifting through several corners? On a 600, that couldn’t be right. Sure, the Suzuki press dudes had mentioned the focus on midrange power during the previous evening’s press conference, but you never really give their claims a lot of credit until you can experience it for yourself. And yet, there it was, making power well below the top third of the rev range—previously no man’s land on a 600.
But where did this newfound midrange glory come from and why wasn’t it there in years past? The motor has been completely redesigned, and while they were at it, Suzuki engineers even decided to rotate it upwards three degrees in the frame to aid in the bike’s overall shorter geometry, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At the core of the motor’s structure are new holes—crankcase ventilation chambers to be exact. The old motor’s crankcase featured a round ventilation chamber, but the new model utilizes a pentagonal shape that is claimed to help reduce crankcase pressure and help the engine to breathe better—resulting in a quicker revving motor overall. Suzuki explained in great deal how it shaved off a few grams here and a couple ounces there while redesigning the pistons, rods and bearings, all of which seemed slightly irrelevant (if not annoying) during the presentation. But the surprise climax came when it was announced that in total there’s nearly a four and a half pound weight savings in the motor alone, which is pretty huge when you consider it came from making each component smaller, lighter and more efficient.
The significant weight savings in the motor isn’t just an isolated case of trimming off some fat, and as indicated by Suzuki one of its goals in redesigning the bike was to shave as much weight as possible. A few ounces here or there don’t seem like much, but in total it adds up to a whopping 19-pound weight reduction overall. A relocated ECU saves weight in the wiring harness, a redesigned airbox knocks off a few ounces too, and even a shortened exhaust servo motor cable saves weight. On their own they aren’t really worth mentioning, but once in the seat the bike’s light stature is obvious.
But first you’re faced with an all-new cockpit layout. The bars are adjusted wider, and combined with the newly shaped tank and slimmer seat it helps make the GSX-R feel smaller than it actually is. Residing just below the clear and concise digi speedo is a programmable shift light that, at the very least, will look cool during night rides. They were useful on the track of course, but took a few minutes of demonstration to set them properly.
Over on the left side is the traditional sweeping tach needle that borders the S-DMS (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector) indicator. For 2011 there are two modes instead of three (A or B) and there’s a greater disparity between the two than before. You probably won’t use the B mode really, but it’s there if you want to reduce power significantly (but who would want to do that?).
Just a few years ago the mention of Brembo calipers on a Japanese 600cc sportbike instantly created an idea of something trick, performance focused and beyond most of our budgets. And now Suzuki offers them as stock equipment. But just because they bear the logo of the famous Italian brand, do they actually perform much better than the previous model’s Tokicos? Yes and no. They have a strong initial bite and plenty of power, but are ultimately let down by the rubber hoses. Once you conjure up some heat from aggressive use they lose that hard hit and the lever comes back ever closer to the bar—a sure indication that the hoses are heating up and expanding. The fix is simple though (and inexpensive) to really enjoy the strength the brakes have to offer.
Paired with the new calipers is another significant upgrade on the 2011 model—the Showa Big Piston Fork (BPF). When we first tried these on the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R we had nothing but praise, and these work equally well on the GSX-R. Even when a ham-fisted journo (me) missed a braking point and grabbed far too much brake lever in hope of avoiding the gravel trap and still making the corner, the forks refused to dive (or bottom out and lock the tire) or pitch back on the rebound and unsettle the turn in.
With all of the weight shaved off, a more engrossing riding position and a beefier motor the 2011 GSX-R600 has stuck its stubby nose right up at the front of the pack. Handling is stable and consistent, yet the bike feels light and nimble. These attributes usually don’t walk hand-in-hand, but that’s what total redesigns are all about—making the entire package better than before. And Suzuki has done just that—possibly making it the 600 that everyone wants, and couldn’t make fun of if they tried.
If you love the new style and characteristics of the 600 but desire just a little more motor, there’s a pumped-up version called the 750. For just $400 more you get 20 more horsepower and different paint schemes. The weight difference is minimal (four pounds heavier) due to the larger motor and handling is just a touch less agile, but otherwise the two bikes are nearly identical.
Suzuki and Yoshimura have worked side-by-side since the first GSX-R750 dropped way back in ’86. It was no surprise then to see slip-ons, full systems and lots of accessories already bolted on to the GSX-R600. Starting at just a few ticks over four hundred bones you can score a slip-on, or if you’re after ultimate weight savings and power check out one of the full systems. We recommend the dual- port TRC configuration for the sweetest sound and style.
Yoshimura R77 and TRC exhausts
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600
MSRP: $11,599 / $11,999 (750)
Engine: Inline four-cylinder, 599cc
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Front Suspension: Showa BPF
Rear Suspension: Fully adj. monoshock, revised linkage
Front Brakes: Brembo monoblock calipers
Rear Brake: Nissin single-piston caliper
Curb Weight: 432 pounds/436 pounds (750)