Words by Maynard M. Marcelo Photos by Jerel Fajardo
“Just right” is a relative phrase; what might be “just right” for you may not be to others. This was my reaction after riding the Suzuki GSX-R 600 for close to 400 kilometers in one day because, honestly speaking, the Gixxer 600 feels just right. For me at least. So much so that it feels like it’s tailored fit for my particular height, weight, and in some ways, even my riding skill. With my height at 5 feet 7 inches and weighing roughly 150 pounds, the tiny gixxer (biker-speak for the legendary GSX-R series) fits me like a well-worn pair of leather gloves. Riding it, on the other hand, was nothing less than a revelation. Let’s put it this way: If you’re used to scaring yourself silly with liter sport bikes that have no less than 180 horsepower, then you’d be surprised at how much more fun you could have with a Supersport middleweight that has two thirds its power. So much fun, it almost feels like gluttony. Only you’re not getting enough of it. And if after a few hundred kilometers you still have a pulse, believe me, you’d find yourself constantly hunting for corners like there’s no tomorrow.
I got acquainted with the 2012 model Suzuki GSX-R 600 we used for this story at the Suzuki Makati Moto showroom at the corner of Finlandia and Bautista streets, courtesy of Wheeltek Vice President for Sales & Marketing Roscoe Odulio and Suzuki Makati Moto General Manager Bobby Orbe. The GSX-R 600 got a major overhaul in 2011 and is carried over to 2014 basically unchanged save for some new color combinations. The 2014 model GSX-R 600 gets more sinister looking black rims and twin-spar frame. But somehow, I kinda like the color scheme of our 2012 test unit (white rims!) because it reminds me of the badass GSX-R 750 SRAD of the 1990s. Overall styling is unmistakably GSX-R, reflecting similar design elements as its 750cc and 1000cc brethren. Curiously, the projector type headlight that was introduced as an all-new feature in the 2006 model was downgraded to a large conventional multi-reflector type halogen design. They were very effective, nonetheless, providing a wide arc of light. Our particular test unit, despite its model year, is still mint, having just a little bit over 300 kilometers on its odometer. And because they’re all made in Japan, build quality and fit and finish is simply beyond reproach.
The first thing you’ll notice upon swinging a leg over the GSX-R 600 is the weight, or its lack thereof. With a wet weight of just 187 kilograms (9 kg. lighter than the previous model), it almost feels like a 400cc sport bike of two decades ago. Think GPZ 400 and you’ll appreciate the advancements in design and technology. Its 810mm seat height is another confidence boosting attribute I truly appreciate, allowing me to plant both feet firmly on terra firma. As with most current Super Sport 600s, the bar height is almost the same as the seat, thus forcing you into a natural attack riding posture. But the reach to the bars is short, therefore placing less weight on your arms. The rider footpegs are 3-way adjustable to accommodate different types of riders. And with a nicely padded seat, you’d almost think you’re riding a sport tourer. Ok, that one is slightly exaggerated, but the GSX-R 600 is surprisingly comfortable for a supersport bike. Tucked neatly behind the generous windscreen is a compact and lightweight instrument cluster that features a large analogue tachometer and a multi-information LCD that shows speed, odometer, dual-trip meter, reserve trip meter, clock, coolant temperature, oil pressure indicator, S-DMS, and gear indicator. Further fiddling with the menu reveals a built-in lap timer and stopwatch, and a programmable rpm shift light.
Not visible but readily felt, are the changes made to engine. Lighter engine internals and more aggressive valve lift enhance throttle response while producing stronger low-to-mid range torque. Revised gear ratios complement these changes by providing better take offs, acceleration, and stronger drive out of corners. A new back-torque limiter, or slipper clutch, allows for smoother and controlled downshifting even at high speeds. What’s most impressive, however, is the smoothest throttle response I’ve experienced so far; it almost feels like an electric turbine. This is courtesy of Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) fuel injection system that uses 8-hole injectors for improved fuel atomization, which contributes to more complete combustion. But unlike the current trend on the liter-class European sport bikes, you won’t find any race ABS, launch or wheelie control, quick-shifter or even traction control here. Not that it really needs those, actually. The only electronic trickery available is Suzuki’s Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) that provides two race-developed engine control maps to suit rider preference and road conditions.
How all this translates to the road is like a two-wheel symphony. Upon releasing the clutch on first gear, the bike moves with resolute calmness, cleverly disguising its sporty demeanor with its refined manners below 10,000 rpm. Cracking the throttle progressively, however, rewards you with a melodious multi-cylinder rumble that steadily builds up into a vicious howl as the revs climb rapidly to its 15,000 rpm redline with the shift light flashing telling you to shift to second gear. All this drama happens in a split second, repeated four more times as you shift through the smooth 6-speed transmission. Acceleration can be described as frantic. Yes, it’s fast. 100 km/h is disposed of in only 2.7 seconds from a standstill. But not viciously pee-in-your-pants fast like a literbike that wants to throw you backwards with every shift. The GSX-R 600 is no such beast. The meat of its torque can be felt upwards of 10,000rpm, negating any need for launch or wheelie control during hard acceleration. In sixth gear, the GSX-R 600 can reach a 266 km/h top speed.
But it’s not on straight-line acceleration where the GSX-R 600 truly shines. It’s on the twisties. Show it a nice set of winding roads and the tiny gixxer six will curve it all day long. Its short wheelbase and lightweight footing allows it to negotiate corners with cunning agility you won’t find in ponderous-handling liter bikes. It’s torque characteristics and smooth power delivery allows the rear Bridgestone BT-016 tire to grip the road like it has traction control. Brakes and suspension are also worth mentioning as the GSX-R 600 comes equipped with Showa’s Big Piston design fork, which effectively reduces dive during hard deceleration and braking. Speaking of which, radially mounted Brembo calipers take care of scrubbing speed. Which it does repeatedly without fading or sponginess. Perhaps the only downside to the GSX-R 600 is its size. If, like me, you can fit in it, then it represents a very capable sport bike for the track and the real world. Yes, there are plenty of faster bikes out there costing a little bit more than the GSX-R 600’s 669K asking price, but then only a few of them, if at all, can make you feel like a winner after every ride. This subliminal bliss you get when flogging the GSX-R 600 on your favorite mountain road is priceless.
Engine: Liquid-cooled, EFI, inline-4, DOHC, 16
valve, 4 stroke
Displacement: 599 cc
Max Power: 124 bhp @ 13500 rpm
Max Torque: 51.3 lb ft @ 11500 rpm
Seat Height: 810 mm
Fuel Capacity: 17 liters
Curb Weight: 187 kg
Top Speed: 265 km/h (electronically limited)
Price as Tested: PhP 669,000.00
+: Handling, power
–: Class of 1
Editor’s rating: 9.5 / 10