Rapid, economical, easy to work on. The best 600 you’ll find for two grand
600S WERE AT a crossroads in 2000. The GSX-R, then the R6, had previously introduced us to the idea of race-focussed, high-revving (if gutless) racers on the road. Meanwhile, the CBR600F still had a centrestand whilst trying to keep pace in World Supersport (and succeeding, thanks to the efforts of HRC/Ten Kate). The ZX-6R (and best-forgotten Triumph TT600) were similar, if starting to edge away from the everyman’s Honda.
And it might be argued the Kawa had found a sweet-spot. Still roomy, comfy and flexible, it was also light and powerful, posting the best speed figures in PB’s group tests of the day.
The J1 model was mostly detail updates over the G-model, but a little less weight and a little more poke made a sound bike near-perfect. PB’s truffle-hunting road test pigs of the day rated it best on the road, second on a circuit and second overall to the R6. So why not recommend R6s?
Two words: cylinder liners. Early Yams are known for terminal failure of the bores, and it’s enough to make us twitchy about buying one. The Kawasaki has proved much more reliable (usual gripes about piss-poor quality of Tokico six-pots aside), so is more likely to continue giving its best.
We’re presuming you’ll tackle at least a few jobs yourself – simple things like the grease nipple on the swingarm will come in useful, as will the more generous proportions and better access to service items, compared with the slant-block, stacked gearbox Yamaha and its tight packaging. Be prepared to become a dab-hand at brake maintenance: if you do keep the original calipers, they are at least the second-best performing in the class of 2000. It was even the most fuel efficient 600. All in all, a lot of bike by anyone’s standard for £2k.