New Bikes 2006

Suzuki
600 and 750 GSX-Rs jump back in the fray
Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, goes the old racing adage.
But what if you don't win?
Suzuki knows the answer to that question all too well. Though the GSX-R1000 piloted by Australian Mat Mladin has utterly dominated AMA Superbike competition since 2003, the GSX-R600 hasn't fared nearly as well. The last two Supersport seasons went by in a green blur, as Kawasaki-riding brothers Tommy and Roger Lee Hayden finished 1-2 twice in a row. And the year before wasn't any better, with Yamaha's Jamie Hacking taking the title. Suzuki wins have been few and far between; Ben Spies claimed one each during the '03 and '04 seasons, and none in '05. Magazine shootouts have been similarly unkind.

With the all-new 2006 GSX-R600, however, Hamamatsu hopes to return to the halcyon days of 2002, when Yoshimura's Aaron Yates won five races en route to the Supersport crown. Taking a page from the 2005 GSX-R1000's book, the 600 was redesigned from head to toe, so that it again bears a resemblance to its much-lauded bigger brother.

Details at this early juncture are sketchy. Suzuki gave us just one photo and one page of specs, and left us to discern what we could. Here's what we can tell from the photo: The new 600 obviously shares the 1000's stylist, its pointy nose and tail looking like they were drawn by the same hand. The twin-spar aluminum frame is similar but not identical, as is the asymmetric aluminum swingarm, the most notable difference being the 600's brake caliper positioned above the arm instead of below. Likewise, the 600's distinctive triangular muffler resembles the 1000's; it's just tucked in tighter against the fairing and covered with a heat shield to prevent char-broiling the rider's right foot. Does it have an exhaust valve like the 1000? There's no way to tell. The front brakes look to be the same Tokico components as before and the fork the same Showa, albeit with the Diamond Like Coating first seen on the 1000's sliders. The shock is presumably also a Showa, though again, there's no way to tell. While precious little can be seen of the engine, one intriguing detail is the lofty position of the clutch, suggesting a stacked transmission. Examining the specs provides a few more tidbits. Clearly, the 2006 GSX-R600 is a size smaller than its predecessor, consistently 0.6 inch shorter in overall length, height and seat height. Steering geometry was juggled subtly for increased stability, rake increasing 0.65 degree to 23.8 and trail 0.1 inch to 3.8. Wheelbase remains unchanged at 55.1 inches. No weight figures were provided, but one would expect the new bike to tip the scales a few pounds under the old one's 429 pounds (wet).

As for the engine, it boasts the same 67.0mm bore and 42.5mm stroke as before, and already had titanium valves, so redline can't have risen much above 15,500 rpm. Power figures also were not disclosed, but with the fuel-injection system featuring 42mm throttle bodies--2mm larger than before--power should be up a tad from last year's 103.9 bhp at the rear wheel. Price is another unknown, but given that Japanese pricing has been fairly flat lately, we wouldn't expect it to rise much more than a few hundred dollars over the '05 model's $8299.

Will that be enough to stave off the Kawasaki hordes and the new 17,500-rpm YZF-R6? Let's just say when it comes to sportbikes, it seldom pays to bet against Suzuki.

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