Rapid, eco­nom­i­cal, easy to work on. The best 600 you’ll find for two grand

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CHEAP THRILLS -

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.

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