Used Buyer’s Guide

Ev­ery­thing you need to know about buy­ing a 2011-2017 GSX-R600

Fast Bikes - - CONTENTS -

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.

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