Supersports evolution: Suzuki unveils all-new GSX-R600 and GSX-R750 for 2011
Suzuki has used Intermot Cologne to reveal its first new bikes for 2011 – the revamped GSX-R600 and 750 supersports. But similarly to the 2009 makeover the Gixxer 1000 received, the new middleweights are more evolution than revolution despite the fact that the designers essentially went back to the drawing board. All-new engines and drivetrains produce the same peak horsepower as this year's model (that's 123hp for the 600 and 148 for the 750) but significant efforts have been made to improve fuel efficiency and reduce power losses between the crank and the rear wheel. The chassis and wheelbase of both bikes have been shortened, both bikes sport Showa's fashionable and fully adjustable Big Piston forks and there's a new and improved, radial Brembo monobloc braking system. The big news is that the Gixxer6 and 750 have gone on a pretty impressive diet, shedding 8 and 9 kilos respectively. It looks like a solid upgrade, if perhaps a little unexciting.
It's harder than ever to pull off something really impressive in the 600-750cc supersports market; the category is so well established, and racing has honed the bikes to such a razor-thin edge, that you've got to do something crazy like throw in a brand new engine configuration a la Triumph's 675 triple to really make any ripples in the pond. Add to this the financial woes that have held back the pace of development in the last two years, and it's unsurprising to see Suzuki playing it a bit safe with its latest update to the popular GSX-R600 and GSX-R750 supersports.
According to the press release, both bikes are brand new for 2011. Neither are a giant leap visually from the previous model though, so you wouldn't know it. All the effort has been put into functional upgrades, so let's take a look at the main differences under the fairings.
If you're not going to boost peak horsepower, the best way to improve a bike's overall performance is to drop some kilos. I'd be a much faster rider on track, for example, if I just laid off the pies for a few months. But since that's unlikely to happen, I'll settle for an 8kg drop in the GSX-R600 and a 9kg drop from the 750 to bring the curb weight to 187kg for the former and a very impressive 190kg for the latter. 190kg wet and a good 148 horsepower sounds like a whole lot of fun to me.
Weight savings have been found in the engine, the frame, the swingarm and the exhaust in particular. As far as I'm concerned, they're free to pull as much weight as they like out of the exhaust, but I'm frankly starting to become a little nervous at just how thin the metal in a frame can be before it starts cracking when you land a wheelstand – or how much metal you can pull out of an engine block without sacrificing long-life thrashability. Still, the brilliance of Japanese motorcycle manufacturers continues to astound me every time I pull another bike apart, so we'll assume they know what they're doing and bask in the improved power-to-weight ratios such efforts yield.
Provided the weight is balanced correctly, a shorter wheelbase means quicker, more precise cornering - just ask a Buell XB12 owner. Suzuki has used its revised, more upright engine design to shorten the new Gixxers by 15mm without shortening the swingarm (which would reduce rear end suspension performance).
While it's true to say that chain adjustment will change the wheelbase even more than that over the life of a chain, 15mm is a significant modification when you're talking about bikes that are made to improve lap times by minuscule numbers. It should make the 600 and 750 even better corner-carvers than before.
Engine and Drivetrain
Although the 2011 engines don't gain any horsepower, they've been redesigned for weight reduction and improved efficiency. Mass has been pulled out of the pistons to reduce reciprocating weight and improve throttle response, the camshaft profiles have been modified for more aggressive lift and the valves themselves are made out of a new, lighter titanium alloy.
Through these and other measures, the new gixxers are an impressive 10% more fuel efficient than the bikes they replace, which is nice for the pocket and the environment.
The gearbox keeps its slipper clutch, but the gear ratios have been revised - first is now taller, which is great on the racetrack but not so well suited for the road, where the 600 in particular already needs a fair few revs to get going. But to complain that sportsbikes are too track focused these days is to ignore what the market keeps demanding.
Brakes and Suspension
The new Gixxers' front brakes have gone monobloc, bringing them into line with most of the top 1000cc machines. The one-piece calliper design saves a little weight where it's most important, while adding a little piston contact area and increasing stiffness. These Brembo units, combined with their radial master cylinder, should be ferocious stoppers indeed.
Suspension is handled by Showa, and includes the must-have items for 2010: the Big Piston Fork system. This ditches the normal cartridge damper inside the forks for a single giant piston that rides against the inner fork tube. The springs are moved to the bottom of these upside-down fork units, meaning that they cause less foaming and bubbles in the fork oil. The overall effect is said to be a more controlled and consistent damping characteristic.
It also moves both the the compression and rebound adjusters to the top of the fork caps, which is hugely handy, because compression damping is probably one of the most frequent adjustments I make on most forks, and it's a pain to get to at the bottoms of the forks in the usual setup. So kudos there.
The rear shock is fairly standard, adjustable for rebound, compression and ride height. Suspension action at both ends has been improved by cutting half a kilogram out of the weight of the rims and sprocket carriers.
The GSX-R600 and 750 also retain their electronically adjusted steering dampers, which leave the bars free to turn at lower speeds but firm up as speeds increase to keep things stable and ward off the dreaded tankslapper.
There's a few other nice touches worth mentioning, including:
So while there's not any big-headline changes in this latest update of Suzuki's vastly popular and fun middleweight supersports, the 2011 models benefit from a significant set of incremental improvements that make them well worth looking at. The latest GSX-R600 is unlikely to catapult to the front of the class with this update, but then for the vast majority of riders, choosing between supersports is splitting hairs on performance and much more about personal taste. And the GSX-R750 – well, that remains in a class of its own.