Suzuki GSX-R600 The Decathlete
The paint scheme might look familiar, but the '06 Gixxer is a clean-sheet redesign that incorporates a slipper clutch, radial brakes and a MotoGP-style exhaust system.
The new GSX-R600
has been somewhat overshadowed this season by the avant-garde R6 and non-conformist Daytona. This certainly can't please Suzuki, as its popular Gixxer 6 has been given a ground-up makeover that includes all the popular and trendy latest kit. But a supersport buyer would be foolish to overlook the Suzi.
The GSX-R line has been known for taking the replica out of race-replica, offering top-ranked racetrack performance sometimes at the expense of street civility. This is happily not the case with this latest edition, as its ergonomics were judged to be the friendliest overall. Compared to the racier R6, the Gixxer's clip-ons are higher and swept further back, making it more streetable.
"My first impression of the GSX-R on the street was that it is almost the perfect streetbike," Kenny praises. "It is the most comfortable of the group, and its riding position is easily the best of the bunch; only the plush ZX was even close. It has a tall windscreen that offers good wind protection, the mirrors worked well for me, the seat was supportive but plush, and the bars were higher than the others, which all combined for an excellent street ride. Plus, the bike has adjustable footpegs so we could have gained another quarter inch of legroom by dropping them to a lower position."
In the engine bay, the Gixxer's revised mill is mostly successful. Among the Japanese bikes, its bottom-end power (below 6500 rpm) is almost as good as it gets. It then lags slightly behind the CBR and ZX until its powerband receives a kick in the pants at 11,500 rpm when it lunges for its 15,300-rpm (not 16,000 as claimed) rev limiter. This gives the Gixxer a 3200-rpm spread where it makes 100-plus ponies, second only to the "cheater" Kawi.
Despite its excellent slipper clutch and shift action that most of our testers praised, the GSX-R falls a bit short in the transmission/clutch category. Some of us experienced occasional balkiness with the gearbox, with more than one complaint about difficulty finding neutral at a stop. In addition, we were surprised when the Gixxer's clutch was toasted after just two hard launches during acceleration testing. GSX-Rs usually have snickety-snick transmissions and stout clutches, so we wonder if there might've been an anomaly with our test unit.
Donny B showing the form that brought him success during his racing days. He praised the Suzuki's overall package, adding it is one of his favorites in the class.
When it was time to tilt some horizons, the Gix Six worked well for most of us. Moderate chassis geometry provided no surprises, proving neither twitchy nor unstable. Our more aggressive testers wished the clip-ons weren't swept back as much so they'd be wider for better leverage and quicker turn-ins.
"I don't think the Gixxer was the quickest steering bike out there, but it did turn in pretty damn quick and was very stable through the corner," notes BC. "Both front- and rear-end feel was confidence inspiring, and the bike felt plush through most terrain, which aided in its confident feel in the corners."
Since BC is a semi-retired racer, we were glad to hear the Gixxer's handling also suited our relative newbie on staff.
"As a somewhat novice rider when compared to my coworkers, I was pleased when I was able to hit the corners hard and feel that the bike was going to pull me out with no problems and without any shakiness," Haldane says. "Easily my favorite bike to ride on the street, the baby Gixxer was both comfortable and confidence inspiring at the same time."
Aesthetically, the new GSX-R is a large step up in glamour. Its fit and finish has been brought to a higher level, and it has shed its formerly dowdy appearance.
"For the first time ever, I am actually impressed by the styling of a Suzuki," says a charmed BC. "The new Gixxer 6 takes cues from its big brother but brings the whole package together in a more aggressive and slimmer-looking package. Sleek integrated turnsignals, a well-finished GP-style exhaust and cutaway bodywork actually made me proud to be riding the Gixxer. If only they would offer it up in a solid color rather than the 1980s multi-colored versions."
The Suzuki's attention to detail is also better than ever, as it boasts all the latest tackle. Snub-nosed MotoGP exhaust: check. Slipper clutch: check. Adjustable pegs: check. Standard passenger seat and
seat cowl: check. Radial-pump brake master cylinder: check. The other bikes in this class might have one or two of these features, although none but the Gixxer has them all.
One of the clever new features on the GSX-R is its adjustable footpegs. Shown here in their highest position, the pegs can be lowered for greater comfort when not scuffing the edges of its tires.
Plus it has a still-rare gear-position indicator, something even our experienced riders appreciate having. "I don't know why after 25 years of riding that I enjoy the luxury of knowing for sure what gear I'm in, but I do," BC admits.
Even more impressive, Suzuki packs in all these goodies for a bargain $8799 price tag, cheaper than all but the Kawi.
"If I were going to have a mistress, I think this would have to be her." Haldane states. "Slim, beautiful, fast and fun, what else could a guy want?"
"After raving about the Gixxer Thou for the last couple of years, I was eager to ride the new 600," says BC. "For street use, it had one of the best motors of the true 600s, one of the better street riding positions and a killer new look. Although I ended up feeling a little let down, I had to remind myself that not everybody in this class plays by the rules. But on the street, it doesn't really matter if you break the displacement rules."