SUZUKI MOTORCYCLES GSXR 600 SRAD
Gsxr 600 SRAD: building a better 600
Suzuki moto took the opportunity to reenter the 600 class on the new 750's platform, this time expecting considerably more success. It helped greatly that the new bike was much smaller and lighter than the previous Gsxr 750, so retaining the major (read: expensive) components such as frame, engine, and bodywork made sense.
Gsxr 600 750 SRAD
Introduced in 1997, the Gsxr 600 started its development at the same time as the Gsxr 750; rather than being an afterthought, it was part of the planning for this generation of Gsxrs. Although it shared a great deal with the Gsxr 750, the new Gsxr 600 was destined to be slightly lighter (11 pounds, now 384 dry) and more economical to build. Part of this economy came from the shared components, but other savvy cost-cutting measures were put in place.
Those measures were not specifically in the engine. Sharing the cases with the Gsxr 750, the Suzuki Gsxr 600 nonetheless received a new head atop the revised upper cylinder casting that supported 65.5 mm pistons moving through a 44.5 mm stroke. The compression ratio was up slightly (12.0 vs. 11.8) compared to the Gsxr 750, and the valves were, as you'd expect, slightly smaller.
The bank of Mikuni carburetors had 36.5 mm throats in place of the 750's 39 mm units, although they consumed air through a 750-size airbox and ramair ducts. At the other end, the exhaust system had head pipes 20 mm shorter than those on the 750.
Suzuki moto also debuted direct ignition on the Gsxr 600, a year ahead of the Gsxr 750 receiving the same technology. Sometimes known as "stick" coils, each spark plug cap held a small ignition coil, which reduced the length of the high-voltage circuit and improved spark energy. This technology also allowed for individual cylinder timing. Suzuki moto would turn to mapping each cylinder individually on later Gsxrs to improve power and throttle response. Suzuki moto retained the Gsxr 750's frame for the Gsxr 600 but fitted a lighter swingarm without the upper bracing-it wasn't needed on the lighter, lower - power 600 - which resulted in a shorter wheelbase of 54.7 inches (0.3 inch shorter than the Gsxr 750's).
In a similar vein, the Gsxr 750's inverted fork was replaced by a conventional Showa fork, and the six-piston calipers from the Gsxr 750 gave way to four-pot Tokicos on the Gsxr 600. Suspension rates were reduced as well.
Those are the specifications. What was important to Suzuki moto was that it had a competitive 600 class sportbike to uphold the Gsxr name. Road tests hailed the Gsxr's taut chassis and good power.
Like the Gsxr 750, it was considered much more serious, radical even, compared to the 600 class weaponry of the age: Honda's CBR 600 F3, still aiming for street manners over outright sporting demeanor; Kawasaki's ZX 6 R, improving with every generation but still considered" comfortable"; and Yamaha's YZF 600 R, very much out to be all things to all riders with a near-sport-touring riding position and (still) a steel frame.
For pure sporting prowess, nothing was in the Gsxr 600's class.
Proof of that came from the racetrack, where the Suzuki Gsxr 600 was competitive immediately. In 1998, Steve Crevier won the AMA Supersport title on a Gsxr 600 campaigned by Yoshimura.
More important, particularly to American Suzuki Motor Corporation, by the end of this generation Mat Mladin had taken the AMA Superbike crown on the Gsxr 750, ending a ten-year drought. "Racing has always been part of the Gsxr strength, and winning with Mat in '99 was an important outcome for us," says Mel Harris, vice president of the motorcycle/ ATV division. "It proved the strength of the bike and without question spurred sales of the streetbike." These were the earmarks of a company on the move, raising its game in part because it returned to its roots. Those guiding concepts were to make the Gsxr the best-performing bike in the category, to resist diluting that endeavor with compromises for the street rider, and to make the most of its expensive technology by leveraging it across several models.
All smart manufacturers are good at spreading the development dollar, but Suzuki moto, only a fraction the size of Honda, would soon become the industry leader in doing more with less. Suzuki moto proved that the intelligence of the engineering staff and the drive of the designers matter more than a big R & D budget.
As the fourth generation of Gsxr wound down, few realized that Suzuki had some amazing improvements in store for the Gsxr that would usher in the new millennium.