Used Buyer’s Guide
Everything you need to know about buying a 2011-2017 GSX-R600
Whatever happened to the supersport bike? In the 1990s and 2000s you were guaranteed a new model from each Japanese manufacturer every four years and midway in between these dates you also got a sexy little update to keep your interest whetted. But consider this, the GSX-R600 L1, which arrived in 2011, the last time Suzuki updated their supersport bike.
Yes, a staggering seven years have passed since the GSX-R600 received even as much as a new set of brake calipers. In fact, so much water has passed under the bridge that the GSX-R600 has now died a death. It is deceased. No more. It is an ex-supersport bike…
But let’s not think about that depressing fact and instead let us celebrate the last, and in many ways the greatest Suzuki GSX-R600 – the simply wonderful L1. Well, after 19 years of development, you would have hoped it would be something pretty bloody special!
Launched with a slight lack of fanfare in 2011, the L1 was far from a small tweak as many assumed. The financial crisis had hit Suzuki the hardest of all the Japanese manufacturers (or they just battened down their hatches the tightest) and the firm had shown little evidence that their R&D department was even functioning, so when a new GSX-R600 and GSX-R750 were announced, interest was pretty
muted. That certainly wasn’t helped by both bikes appearing to be pretty similar visually to the outgoing models. But you should never judge a book by its cover.
The best yet
Under the pretty ubiquitous GSX-R fairing (in white and blue, naturally) was actually hidden a substantially modified model. Starting with the chassis, Suzuki had trimmed 1.3kg off the frame and not only altered the position the engine was held within it, but also reduced its wheelbase for greater agility and yet managed to shoehorn in a longer, and lighter, swingarm. And that wasn’t the only improvement to the chassis; finally Suzuki had armed the GSX-R with proper Brembo stoppers, a notorious weak point on the previous model. Next up was the motor.
Much like the GSX-R1000 K2 (another fantastic example of the breed), Suzuki actually went to town on the engine. A higher compression ratio, new cam profiles with less valve overlap, lighter pistons, ventilation holes to reduce pumping losses, a closer ratio gearbox and a remodelled exhaust were just a small taste of the mods. Not that you could tell it from the outside, but this was a thoroughly reworked GSX-R engine. And it showed up in the ride.
The GSX-R600 L1 is one of those bikes that just works from the word go. As soon as you sit on it you notice it has a remarkably roomy riding position for a supersport bike. It’s not all head down and bum up like an R6 or RR, instead it feels like a fairly relaxed space and is pretty pleasant to spend time on. But while this will bring a smile to your face,
what will make you whoop out loud is the motor’s performance.
Ride the GSX-R600 back to back with other 599cc bikes and you will be forgiven for thinking it is the 750. Far, far stronger in the midrange than the other inline fours, the GSX-R very nearly out grunts the Daytona 675 triple when it comes to drive. It really is that impressive. On the road this equates to a bike that is far easier to live with on a day-to-day basis and not one that demands to be nailed to its redline when you only want to pop to the shops. That’s not to say you can’t thrash the Suzuki as there is plenty of top end, not to mention a wonderful snarling airbox growl when the needle starts to rise, it’s just far more usable than its rivals when you want to take it easy. And the chassis reflects this attitude.
Thanks to its weight loss, the L1 gained an extra element of agility that was lacking before and this, combined with a fantastic amount of front end feel, equates to a bike that installs huge levels of confidence. The Showa BPF forks offer loads of support (possibly a touch too much) and the new Brembo brakes make this a GSX-R that finally stops as well as you would expect a supersport bike to. Although the OE Suzuki pads are a bit crap, change them as soon as possible for aftermarket items to restore some serious bite.
By now you may be thinking the GSX-R600 L1 is the best supersport bike on the market, which it is, but not for every rider. If you like an engaging supersport ride, the GSX-R is a touch too refined, a bit too relaxed and a little too easygoing to really get your pulse racing in the same way an R6 will. But if you aren’t a full-on, frothing at the mouth supersport rider you will appreciate this. It’s a great bike, but not to everyone’s tastes.