For over 20 years, Suzuki’s GSX-R600 has been a staple motorcycle in the Japanese manufacturer’s line-up. And although 600cc motorcycles have fallen out of popularity, if you’re a new rider, or an experienced one, and you’re looking for thrills this Suzuki GSX-R600 ($11,199) delivers.

Back in the day, GSX-R’s sold like the latest iPhone. It was a great recipe: a svelte body stuffed with a frisky and high-revving four-cylinder engine. Packaged in streamlined body panels with even slicker replica-racer graphics, these motorcycles embody speed and performance. Although tastes have shifted, it’s still hard to argue against what Suzuki offers with its three-fifths-liter GSX-R.

What You Want in a Bike I: Light and Maneuverable

Whether you’re new to riding, or more experienced, a light motorcycle makes for a more enjoyable ride. With a dry fuel tank, the 385-pound Suzuki checks that box. You can feel how light it is just lifting it off the kickstand. Plus, it’s compact and easy to roll around the garage or maneuver in and out of tight parking spots on crowded streets.

suzuki gsx-r600
Suzuki’s GSX-R600 is at home as much at the circuit, as it is on the street. Photo: Adam Waheed

Seated at the controls many will appreciate the GSX-R’s friendly rider triangle, at least for a sportbike. Broad, supportive and near to pavement the seat is a worthy platform for a day’s ride. Clip-ons as opposed to a traditional handlebar boost sport appeal, but the position isn’t too aggressive.

The location of the rider footpegs can be lowered, or moved back — a big plus for those with worn-out knees who seek more leg room. This adjustability also comes in handy during track day outings especially after installing sticky and more lean-inducing tire options.

Nimble and very apt to changing directions, the Suzuki 600 handles like a dream on curvy roads. Plus the responsive chassis is equally as pleasing in the city when the route calls for navigating around busses, Ubers, pedal bikes, and whatever else is in your path. Nearly five-inches of suspension travel up front, and a bit more out back filter rough pavement and deliver a very pleasing ride—especially for a sportbike.

2016 Suzuki GSX-R600
2016 Suzuki GSX-R600. Photo: Adam Waheed

But where the suspension performs best, is around the next bend. Corner speed, and plenty of it, is the mantra. Do so, and this 600 is fully in its element. Even through it’s older tech, the Bridgestone Battlax BT-016s give sure-footed grip to keep up with the crazy lean angle the bike demands. Still after wearing them out, we’d take advantage of a more modern tire option such as Michelin’s new Power RS. Something as simple as a tire swap can make your motorcycle feel like a new bike.

Discriminating riders will be able to fine-tune the handling attributes as both suspension components offer full, (and a wide range) of adjustment. For most, the sheer range of adjustment will be a bit overkill, but it’s nice to know that it’s available at the track, or for a more cozy ride day after day on the street.

It’s obvious that the racy Brembo sourced brakes are effective at killing speed. Thankfully, they aren’t so aggressive as to create nervousness during quick stops. ABS still isn’t available, even as an option, so discretion needs to be exercised during stops – especially on slick surfaces. But the brakes are certainly up to snuff and friendly for day-to-day use. Folks that log more of their mileage on track might notice occasional brake fade (condition occurring during heavy use, which gives a less consistent feel and the brake lever), but it’s nothing that a switch to heavier-duty stainless-steel lines can’t remedy.

suzuki gsx-r600
Suzuki’s GSX-R600 sources Brembo braking hardware so you know it can stop fast. Photo: Kam Nielsen.

A good-sized windscreen and broad, but not overly so, forward fairing deflect wind from the rider encouraging highway-plus speed riding.

What You Want in a Bike II: Peppy and Fun

Six hundred cc motorcycles sometimes get a bad rap. With peaky powerbands that stretch to 15,300 rpm or more, these machines like to rev. But that’s what makes this Suzuki so fun to ride.

An early leader in electronics, Suzuki was one of the first manufacturers to include fuel-injection followed by its S-DMS (Suzuki Drive Mode Selector), allowing the rider to choose between one of two separate engine maps via a push of a button.

The standard ‘A’ map doles out full power to the tune of nearly 104 horsepower at 13,600 rpm, and just over 44 lb-ft torque at 11,600 rpm as measured at the tire on a motorcycle dyno. As we mentioned, it loves to rev!

suzuki gsx-r600 horsepower torque dyno chart
2016 Suzuki GSX-R600 horsepower and torque dyno chart.

Power comes online smooth and steady through the lower revs — a plus for riders desiring something mellow that isn’t going to take them for a ride when the throttle is cracked. Yes, the peak torque rating is nothing to brag about but it’s worth nothing that this four-cylinder makes 70% of its peak from as low as 5300 rpm. Engine vibration is muted at all rpms which helps paint a clear picture of what’s behind in the rear view mirrors.

Quick passes still require a downshift, or two, but that only adds to the fun factor. Clutch lever pull isn’t too stiff, plus there’s a slipper-clutch to eliminate rear end chatter if you downshift through the six-speed gearbox hastily. Instrumentation includes a handy gear-position indicator in addition to a swept tachometer and digital speedo. It isn’t the latest and greatest color TFT display but it’s functional and easy to read day or night.

Things really getting exciting north of 10,000 rpm and the combined howl of the intake, engine and exhaust is music to a motor head’s ears. There are a lot of cool sounding bikes out there, but stock for stock, you’ll be hard pressed to find something that sounds as exhilarating as this Gixxer when its four-cylinder is screaming toward its rev-limiter.

suzuki gsx-r600 dash
Although functional, the GSX-R600’s instrumentation is one area where the Suzuki shows its age. Photo: Adam Waheed.

Most recognize that ‘A’ engine mode is ideal for most riding situations, but if you’re new to riding, or perhaps rolling on an unfamiliar stretch of blacktop, switching to ‘B’ mode reduces the engine torque and makes for a more sedate ride. So much so that even your significant other would likely feel comfortable taking it for a spin around the block.

Fuel mileage-wise, we recorded 45 mpg on the high side during extended 80 mph freeway rides. At the other end of the spectrum, 33 mpg was our average when the day’s mission called for pure canyon carving. Factor the 4.5-gallon fuel tank capacity and rides stretch past 148 miles between fill-ups. The handy dual-stage low-fuel light flashes when 0.9 gallon capacity remains and fully illuminates when you have just over a quart in the tank, signaling you better fuel up.

What You Want in a Bike III: Versatility and Dependability

Most of us can’t afford more than one motorcycle. So your bike better fill a variety of roles. And even though this GSX-R is designed to go fast around the circuit, we’re surprised by its level of versatility.

suzuki gsx-r600
Strap on some soft luggage and a taller windscreen and instantly the Suzuki GSX-R600 becomes a worthy light-duty sport-touring bike. What can’t this motorcycle do? Photo: Kam Nielsen.

With a spacious back seat, at least by modern standards, two-up riding is certainly a possibility. As is light-duty sport-touring with the addition of some soft luggage from companies like Cortech. Further touring accommodations can be made by simply fitting a taller windscreen from companies such as Zero Gravity.

Of course reliability and running costs are also something to keep in mind. Considering Suzuki has built in excess of 360,000 GSX-R’s, they have the production process dialed. This means mechanical breakdowns are almost unheard of. Scheduled maintenance is also few and far between with oil changes recommended every 3500 miles, spark plugs at 7500 and valve clearance checks at 14,500 miles — not bad for a valvetrain spinning at over 15,000 rpm!

Even though this 600 isn’t the newest thing on the road, nor the most flashy or the loudest, it’s a phenomenal motorcycle. For its 11 grand asking price, you get a lot of bike that does many things well ensuring plenty of smiles per mile.

2016 Suzuki GSX-R600 Highs & Lows

    Light, agile, and maneuverable
    Fun, peppy 600cc Inline Four that loves to rev!
    Comfortable and adjustable ergonomics
    Lofty price cc for cc
    Five-year-old technology
    Full manual riding experience could dissuade some

A Sport Rider’s Kit for the Street:

arai signet-x helmet
New from Arai is its skinny-head friendly and long-oval Signet-X helmet. Manufactured by hand in Japan, this premium full-face motorcycle helmet borrows technology, including a new visor mechanism and ventilation system as used on its racier Corsair-X brother.
alpinestars gp pro airflow leather jacket
If you’re a sport rider due yourself a favor and check out Alpinestars pre-curved GP Pro Airflow leather jacket. This coat is a solid three season and all-leather option.
alpinestars sp air gloves
The SP Air glove from Alpinestars blends racetrack protection and everyday sport style. Fit is excellent, plus with copious ventilation, it is warm-weather friendly option. Get the safety of leather with the comfort of a textile offering.
alpinestars crank jeans
A good pair of riding jeans are a must in a motorcyclists closet. Even you don’t have a set consider the Alpinestars Crank Jeans, part of its Pro Denim series that blends serious protection and everyday styling.
alpinestars faster shoe
Alpinestars Faster shoe is a happy medium between traditional riding shoes and purpose-built riding boots. When comfort and foot dexterity count, you can’t lose with the Faster shoe.

2016 Suzuki GSX-R600 Specifications

Engine: 599cc liquid-cooled Inline-Four, DOHC, 16-valve
Bore x Stroke: 67 x 42.5mm
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Fueling: Fuel Injection w/ twin injectors per cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed cassette-type
Clutch: Wet, multi-disc w/ slipper functionality and cable actuation
Final Drive: Chain; 16/43 gearing
Frame: Twin spar aluminum
Front Suspension: Showa 43mm BPF with spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjustment; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Showa gas-charged shock with spring preload, high/low-speed compression, and rebound damping adjustment; 5.1 in. travel
Front Brakes: 300mm discs with radial-mount four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with double-piston Nissin caliper
Wheels: Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5-inch front, 17 x 5.5-inch rear
Tires: Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 120/70-17, 180/55-17
Curb Weight: 412 lbs. (fully fueled)
Wheelbase: 54.5 in.
Rake: 23.0 deg. Trail: 3.8 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Fuel Tank: 4.5 gal.
MSRP: $11,199
Warranty: 12-month, unlimited mileage