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2001 Suzuki GSX-R600: MD Ride Review – Part One

This is a brief, first impression of the Suzuki 2001 GSX-R600 that I have had for about a week. We will provide extensive photography and a detailed review in part 2, which will be published in a few weeks.

Let me begin by saying that my expectations for the GSX-R600 were impacted, somewhat, by my experience with Suzuki’s new GSX-R750 last year. With the same aesthetics and ergonomics, I approached the 600 with the expectation that I would be underwhelmed by its performance — thinking that the scintillating performance of the 750 would make me feel this way.

After riding the 600 for a week (including a commute back to Temecula from Suzuki’s headquarters in Brea, California), I must say that I am very surprised and pleased with this bike. First of all, it feels very different from the 750. Yes, the ergos are the same, but the feel of the bike is very different — much lighter feeling, changes directions even easier, and the engine spins up even more freely.

Although Suzuki’s specs indicate this machine is just six pounds lighter than the GSX-R750, 600s always feel more flickable due to the lower crank inertia. The GSX-R600 is no different. This is one of the things that makes riding 600s on the street so much fun. This bike literally feels like a toy beneath you — a toy that will obey your every command. At the same time, it’s not an unstable bike.

The sometimes heavy feeling imparted to the GSX-R750 steering from the factory-installed steering damper is not a factor on the 600. Although the 600 also features a factory-installed damper, the steering feels much lighter and the feedback from the front tire (at least at this point — we will be riding the 600 on the track and have more info later) feels even better.

The jewel in this bike, however, is its engine. If you have watched other 600 manufacturers struggle to add a horsepower or two over their competitor’s performance with each new model, you will appreciate the step forward Suzuki has made with the 2001 GSX-R600. With several reports of dyno runs showing more than 103 horsepower at the rear wheel stone stock (we will publish our own dyno run soon), the GSX-R600 is a substantial leap forward in engine performance for this class. Moreover, the motor is not peaky — it is even more progressive than the power delivery in the GSX-R750.

With good mid-range (certainly competitive now with the other 600s for around town, lazy riding), the GSX-R600 really comes alive above 8,500 rpm, and wails above 10,000 rpm. Smooth, but not really deceptive — you know it’s fast!

Just as the GSX-R750 brought open class performance down to the 750 class, at this point it appears the 2001 GSX-R600 has brought 750 class performance down to the 600 class. Much more later.