The ’05 GSX-R600 is the only bike to offer up a factory-installed steering stabilizer as standard equipment.
What’s up with us and Gixxers, anyway? We had to wait a long time for a Gixxer 6 last year, then promptly crashed it, causing an even longer wait for a replacement. This year wasn’t much of an improvement. Read our Supersport Prologue to find out what happened this time around.
So, unfortunately for the GSX-R600, it came late to our party and was the only to arrive without factory support. Our first experience with this bike, unchanged for ’05, was about mid-way through out Zoom Zoom trackday at Infineon. The guys at Motorcycle.com graciously handed over their loaner to us, but their setup didn’t work at all for us. Making things more sketchy were the stock Dunlop D218 tires that paled in comparison to the race-compound Dunlops on our other test bikes.
With time in such short supply we only did some minor knob twiddling to the Suzuki’s suspension, making it better but not perfect. And the relatively slippery tires would have to stay on until Thunderhill.
At Infineon, we enjoyed the squirt offered by the GSX-R’s healthy midrange that nearly rivals the class-busting Kawasaki, piling on speed where some others were waiting to hit the meat of their powerbands. This makes it much easier to ride fast for those who aren’t accustomed to revving the piss out of their bike. However, the Gixxer’s power curve tapers off after 11,000 rpm while the others continue to gain power with revs, blunting its ultimate acceleration. As such, its powerband is nearly the complete opposite of the CBR’s.
“It does feel like it has more midrange than the CBR,” affirms Becklin, “but it tops out kinda quick.”
A small glitch in the Gixxer’s powerband cropped up at the exit of Thunderhill’s Cyclone corner, essentially a mini version of Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew. The entry to the initial left-hander is at the top of a rise, and the track plummets downhill immediately after. The slow right-hander that lies at the bottom of the gully seems to demand 1st gear, but its increasing-radius exit warrants 2nd gear. Here, lugging in 2nd gear, the GSX-R demonstrated a boggy response at about 5500 rpm, a condition verified by our dyno charts.
Otherwise, the GSX’R’s titanium-valved engine is a very cooperative partner on the track. Like the others, its overrev past the power peak is very useful for saving an upshift prior to braking for the next corner. Unlike the Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki’s SDTV throttle valve system and double-barrel throttle-body design responds without an unsettling lurch. “The GSX-R offered very smooth throttle response no matter how ham-fisted I was,” states the self-deprecating Hutchison.
When every other manufacturer updated their bikes for 2005, we never thought that the Gixxer would remain competitive on the track, but it put forth an impressive effort during our track test.
While Yamaha and Kawasaki have been relaxing the steering geometry of their 600s, the Suzuki‘s geometry is now the raciest. The rake angle of the others falls into the 24.0-to-25.0-degree range, but the Gixxer’s fork is set at a more upright 23.3 degrees. And its trail, listed at 94mm, is the least among this group, though just barely below the CBR and R6.
Now that may sound like it adds up to a twitchy motorcycle, but the GSX-R counters that aggressive steering with the only wheelbase longer than 55 inches (55.1) and with the only factory-installed steering damper in this quartet. As a result, the Gixxer steers fairly quick yet remains stable in nearly all conditions.
“The bike was planted on faster corners but required a bit of muscle on tighter sections,” Becklin notes.
Thanks to the quick response of American Suzuki’s Garret Kai, we received Suzuki’s recommended track settings for the GSX-R in time for our day at Thunderhill. Its suspension performed much better after its adjustments, but it remained the bike that moved around on its dampers more than the others. The many bumps at T-Hill seemed to confuse the Gixxer, and it almost feels as if there is some frame flex, a condition not helped by its thickly padded seat that lets a rider’s body move around too much during fast laps on a racetrack.
Brake duties are ably handled by a pair of 300mm rotors up front, gripped by 4-piston calipers and actuated with a radial-pump master cylinder. Like the ZX, the Suzuki uses Tokico calipers, but they are an older generation design that uses just two pads each to the Kawasaki’s four. While the brakes are very strong and never faded for us, we did notice a tendency for the rear end to get tail-happy under heavy braking that shook a bit of confidence to run it in deep into the corners.
Continuing a long tradition of excellent transmissions, the Suzuki’s is as slick as snot. A rider is free to concentrate on riding instead of wondering if the next cog is going to snick quickly into place. It’s the one category the GSX-R clearly tops.
– Tons of aftermarket support.
– Best racer’s contingency in the industry.
– Feels bigger than the others.
“Generally a good bike, but nothing about it really blew me away.” Becklin