2006 Middleweight Sportbike Comparison: Honda CBR600RR Vs. Kawasaki ZX-6R Vs. Suzuki GSX-R600 Vs. Suzuki GSX-R750 Vs. Triumph Daytona 675 Vs. Yamaha YZF-R6 - The Un-Comparo

Redefining Middleweights

By Brian Catterson, Photography by George Roberts

"These bikes are all so good, I have no idea how you pick a winner."

Reading that quote, eight of the nine testers who took part in our 2006 middleweight sportbike comparison are no doubt nodding their heads, thinking he or she was the one who said it. (The exception is the one who typed it, who knows it wasn't him.) But those words came from none other than Scott Russell, former AMA and World Superbike champion, who after a five-year layoff came out to play with us at our new favorite playground, Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Truthfully, sportbikes have progressed to the point that they're all so good-and so mind-numbingly capable-that the winner of a shootout is typically decided by mere decimal points: a few hundredths of a second at the dragstrip, a couple of tenths at the racetrack, a horsepower or two on the dyno. That's all good information, and great for bragging rights at the bar. But how many riders actually possess the skills to tell the difference? You pretty much have to be a Pro roadracer to ride a current 600 to its limits nowadays, let alone a literbike. The vast majority of sport riders are limited not by their machine's capabilities, but by their own. And that's truer on the street than it is on the track.

So ... rather than conduct yet another numbers-heavy comparison where we let lap times determine the winner, we thought we'd do something a little different. Call it the Un-Comparo. Still jazzed from our Sportbike Track Time experience at Barber last fall, we rounded up a retired Pro racer, a few magazine types and a bunch of friends, loaded the bikes in the vaunted Motorcyclist fish truck and convened in Irondale, Alabama, the city that gave us Fried Green Tomatoes. But don't hold that against it.

We also decided to do something different with the bikes this year, and include more than the 600cc fours that traditionally define the middleweight class. So in addition to the Honda CBR600RR, Suzuki GSX-R600 and Yamaha YZF-R6, we brought out the 636cc Kawasaki ZX-6R, the Triumph Daytona 675 Triple and-gasp, horror!-the GSX-R750. Yes, the 750 is illegal for 600cc Supersport racing; so is the 636, and at press time the AMA hadn't approved the 675, either. So what? Racing be damned-if you're in the market for a middleweight to ride on the street and at the occasional track day, why should you be limited to some arbitrary displacement?

Our testers were no less diverse, ranging from 31 to 55 years of age, from 128 to 220 pounds, and from track-day intermediate to former world champion. Manufacturers call this a focus group; photographers call it bracketing; shooters would say we had good scatter.

What we lacked was a consensus; votes for the winning bike were all over the board. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before flipping ahead to the conclusion, read what each tester had to say on the following pages.

View From The High Banks
Scott Russell

Age: 41
Height: 6'
Weight: 170 lbs.
Skill Level: Pro
Avocation: Retired World Champion

It's hard to believe how far bikes have come in the five years since the accident that ended my racing career. I stalled my Ducati at the start of the 2001 Daytona 200 and got hit from behind, breaking my arm and leg real bad. I was fortunate to recover 100 percent.

I've done a little supermoto racing since then, and I try to ride motocross at least once a week. As for roadracing, I rode with Mike Smith at Little Talladega once last year, but that's it. I just got a Yamaha YZF-R1 LE, though, so I'll probably do some track days soon.

I got excited when Motorcyclist called to ask if I wanted to help test these new middleweight sportbikes. The fact that we were going to ride at Barber made it even sweeter. I'd never ridden there. But when I did it reminded me of Brands Hatch in England, my favorite track. I like the ups and downs, the blind stuff, just like my home track, Road Atlanta

I rode the Triumph first and was pleasantly surprised. It felt like one of the Japanese bikes to me. It's got a different sound to the motor, because it's a triple, but the way it handles and all, I was totally taken by it.

The engine is so smooth, and it just keeps pulling. I wasn't on the bottom too much, but I saw the blue shift lights a lot on top-very cool! The suspension was a little soft in the back, so it wagged its tail some. I think it was packing up, sitting in the bottom of the stroke. That's the only thing that held it back.

The Yamaha was the first bike I've ridden with a fly-by-wire throttle; everything I ever raced had carburetors, even the Lucky Strike Suzuki I rode in the 500cc Grands Prix. I could tell it's different-just the connection between your wrist and the seat of your pants. I never did get the tire to spin up. If I did, I didn't feel it.

The engine feels electric, and it's really fast on top. Heading up to the chicane on the back straight, it was just hauling. It doesn't have much midrange, though; it just screams a lot. I was shifting when the light came on at 16 grand instead of holding it to the 17,500 redline. You're definitely working harder on it, shifting a lot more than on the other bikes.

With its slipper clutch, the R6 wants to back around going in, which helps you start your turn. I didn't feel comfortable doing that just yet, but the bike was ready to do it. I like the way it handles, too. It's really light feeling. When you think turn, it turns. It's really sharp in everything it does.

The Honda, on the other hand, was much more stable. Entering the corners and braking, the back's not wanting to pass the front. Steering-wise, the CBR feels heavier. It turns in nicely, but there's a point there where you need to make the rest of it happen. It tends to want to go that way a little bit and you need to make it come this way. But overall, I was pretty happy with the way it was working. It's easy to ride, that's for sure.

I felt right at home on the two Suzukis. It's funny, but they still kinda feel like the GSX-Rs I raced in the late '80s. I didn't like the 750 as much as I thought I would, though. It squatted in the rear and ran wide, especially in the fast chicane on the back straight. It needed some more preload in back, but it was about out of adjustment.

The Kawi was the most comfortable bike for me to ride. I felt more like I was sitting down in the bike instead of up on top of it. Being a tall guy, I like to get down in it, you know? I liked the feel of the clutch and the midrange power, and the steering felt real neutral; it wasn't too quick or twitchy or anything. It was real stable and the suspension seemed fine. Definitely my favorite.

Like the GSX-Rs, the ZX-6R felt familiar, like the Muzzy Kawasaki I raced in '90. It's kinda thicker through the middle than everything else, kinda heavy, a little softer, a little slower ... not in speed, just in the way it steers. But I still went quickest on it; my best lap time was a 1:38 flat. That's 10 seconds off the times the AMA guys do now, but I don't think it's too bad after a five-year layoff. I mean, I was on a streetbike with mirrors and lights and I felt like I was just rippin'! It really felt like I was on a racebike again.

Six Iron
Yamaha Hits A Hole In One
Jim West
Age: 37
Height: 6'
Weight: 220 lbs.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Avocation: World's fastest golf pro

Unlike most of the other riders here, I don't have any roadracing experience. I'm also bigger than everyone else-by a lot! I'm just your average working guy. But I do eat, sleep and breathe motor-cycles, and I attend a dozen or so track days each year. So I suspect I'm fairly representative of the person who might buy one of these motorcycles.

The new middleweights are so good it's hard to choose one over the other. None have any real faults, all are littered with the latest, greatest bits, all make excellent power, handle exceptionally well and look great. But as good as they are, I did have a clear favorite, and it wasn't the bike I expected.

The bike I wanted to like best was the Triumph. I've owned several Triumphs over the years, so I have a certain softness in my heart for them. The Daytona 675 is one of the best-looking motorcycles I've ever seen; it's amazingly narrow and sleek. I was excited to get a chance to ride it on a racetrack. Once out there, however, I never got comfortable. The suspension seemed unsettled and didn't react well to pavement irregularities, especially while leaned over.

The surprise was the Yamaha. I'd ridden previous-year YZF-R6s and, quite honestly, didn't like them; they felt twitchy and unstable. Therefore, my expectations weren't high when I hopped on the new model. At first, I felt perched too high in the air, the bike feeling too small for someone my size. But I was shocked when, after two-thirds of a lap, I felt entirely comfortable on it, like I'd ridden it for years. As a result, I went significantly faster on the R6 than on the other bikes. The motor is super-strong, ultra-smooth and revs to the moon

I think picking a winner here is all about personal preference. You can't go wrong with any of these bikes; they're all excellent. It just depends on which one best fits your riding style

Work Of Art
Triumph's Daytona 675 Works As Good As It Looks
Lee Bivens

Age: 38
Height: 6'
Weight: 175 lbs.
Skill Level: Expert
Avocation: acclaimed Motorsports artist

As I rolled into Barber for this comparison, I was excited, but not overly. I was born and raised on the Japanese 600s, so I had a good idea what to expect. But what about that British bike, the Triumph Daytona 675? Surely, the screaming fours are the way to go, no?

It wasn't going to be easy to sell us on a British triple. Corporate Triumph types were at Barber in force. Were they worried about the 675 or proud of it? Now I know; they're proud of it-and damn well should be!

To begin with, it looks fantastic: a classic European sportbike, as aggressive as they come, and certainly Ducati 916 caliber. The three-cylinder engine also sounds great, especially at the lower end of the rev range where you spend most of your time on the street.

So the Triumph looked good to this art dude. But could it rip? Yes. The 675 pulls just as hard, if not harder, than all five of the Japanese bikes, the Suzuki GSX-R750 included. Plus, it has the added benefit of bottom-end power and revs at least 1000 rpm beyond its 14,000-rpm redline.

Hopping aboard, I found the creature comforts completely race-oriented. An ultra-narrow seat/tank junction and stretched-out handlebars felt just right for a tall rider trying to imitate Valentino Rossi. Initially, the suspension was set up for street riding and was too soft in all respects. To cure this, Triumph's Jeff Fields added 4mm of shock preload and dialed up compression and rebound at both ends. That accomplished, the 675 felt much more aggressive

On-track, the Brit-bike felt remarkably like a Japanese machine. The front brakes were the best of this group, particularly while trail-braking. The 675 also has the greatest cornering clearance. Transition from full throttle to heavy braking was nice and stable, and downshifts were smooth even without a slipper clutch.

Flickability is arguably best on the 675. The ultra-narrow body, light weight, steep rake and minimal trail make for quick transitions. The bike worked very well when loading up the front end for aggressive corner entries, too. Mid-corner speed was good, and it was possible to make line corrections once committed. As for line-holding ability, I'd rate the 675 second behind the Yamaha YZF-R6. Even while accelerating, enough weight remained on the front end to let the bike finish the corner. Never once did I come close to running off the track.

Where the Triumph shines the most, however, is picking up the throttle, squirting off the corners and firing down the straights. You've got to speed up your brain to keep up with this fast-revving triple

In my mind there's always been a question of how far behind the Japanese Triumph is. Not anymore. The British have closed the gap to almost nil. If you are bold enough to stop being a Big Four man and are willing to step into the relatively unknown world of European motorcycles, then I'd say try the 675. You won't be disappointed.

A Perfect Slacker's Perspective
Aaron Frank
Age: 31
Height: 5' 7''
Weight: 170 lbs.
Skill Level: Expert
Avocation: Editor, Super Streetbike magazine

As far as I was concerned, this one was over before it started. The Suzuki GSX-R750 would come out on top, followed by the Triumph 675, the Kawasaki 636 and, finally, the three 600s holding up the rear. The fact that I own a 2004 GSX-R750 and had long ago declared that platform the ultimate blend of big-bike power and middleweight handling only bolstered my confidence. I might as well write this story on the flight down and file it from my arrival gate, then kick back and enjoy my time at Barber stress-free

Just one problem: This perfect slacker's scheme fell apart as soon as we took to the track. Sure, I went well on all three cheaters, but these hardly afforded the advantages I'd anticipated. In fact, my lap times on the Suzuki GSX-R600 and 750 were near identical. Uh-oh, looks like I'll be working this weekend after all

The GSX-R600's new chassis is beyond complaint, with solid, neutral handling, rock-solid brakes and a very communicative (hence trustworthy) front end, which you really appreciate at a handling track like Barber. My best laps on the 600 were utterly unremarkable (a good thing when you're at the absolute edge of your skill), characterized by confident, predictable steering (thanks to a new, more forward weight bias that helps improve front-end feedback) and ample, accessible power from the redesigned and revvier engine.

The 750's chassis is identical to the 600's, and as you might expect its handling is similarly faultless. The difference is in the new, longer-stroke motor and the extra 150cc, good for an additional 20 horsepower. You'd think that would have been worth a second or two on the racetrack, but it wasn't; my lap times on the two bikes were high 1:40s and low 1:41s.

What gives? All I can figure is I was riding the 600s really well and didn't have the skill, nerve or energy to ride the 750 any faster. Besides, the big motor was letting me be lazy, making five fewer shifts per lap than on the smaller bike. A lazy moto-journalist-maybe my slacker's scheme did play out at Barber after all.

Riding The Bell Curve
Jack Seaver

Age: 55
Height: 5' 10"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Avocation: Silver-tongued car salesman

During the course of a typical track day, my riding follows a sort of bell curve. First session: cold track, new tires, I'm cautious and careful. As the day warms up, I get going better. My best sessions are usually right after lunch. Later in the day, I start to get tired and ease up a little. I notice this most when I haven't been to the track in a while, like in the spring. Which was last Saturday at Barber.

This time, I wasn't at the track for a vintage race or to play on my RC51, but to help evaluate six different middleweights. I only had one day, which meant one session on each bike to gather my impressions. No pressure, really. And did I mention Mr. Daytona was there? Each bike had an AiM Sports MyChron lap timer (www.aimsports.com) on it-lap times matter, and did I mention that crashing one of these things would be a big problem?

I went out on each bike in turn, riding in the intermediate group. After each session, I wrote down my impressions. It seemed as if I had just finished when it was time to go out on the next one. Meanwhile, I was trying to factor in the bell curve.

I was lucky to find a natural partner in Jim West. He rides at my level and we played tag session after session. Jim gave me a kind of reference point for each bike: "Whoa, you were really cooking on that one! I could barely keep up!

I've been reading comparison tests in motorcycle magazines since Cook Nielsen raced a Harley Sprint, and I've always hated it when there was no winner. So here it is, my favorite of an amazing group: the CBR600RR. This bike is every bit a Honda, with a level of fit and finish that has become a benchmark. I even liked the wild orange paint. The ergos are noticeably comfortable for me. There was so much legroom that I was initially concerned about cornering clearance at the pegs, but no worries. I could tuck in easily, and what little moving around I did was easy.

The Honda's engine pulls hard in the midrange, then gives a really satisfying top-end shriek. The transmission ratios are spot-on, the overall gearing feels perfect, and clutchless upshifts are crisp and natural. The brakes are strong and linear and stayed consistent even when hammered. This bike won me over with its confidence-inspiring feel. Every control input is met with a silky immediacy of response that had me grinnin' big-time inside my helmet. I rode the CBR late in the day when I was well into the wrong end of my personal bell curve, and it woke me up with its overall excellence. It felt to me like a perfect track-day partner.

Blarney!
Brian Catterson

Age: 44
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Skill Level: Expert
Avocation: Executive editor, Motorcyclist magazine

Blame it on St. Patrick's Day. Or blame it on the three Irish Car Bombs I drank that night, which happened to be the Friday before our track day. (What's an Irish Car Bomb, you ask? A pint of Guinness mixed with a shot of Bushmills, into which you drop a shot of Baileys. Drink it fast before it curdles.)

Clouded judgment notwithstanding, the motorcycle I liked best in this group was the Triumph.

As the stats at the top of this page attest, I'm larger than the average American male, and piloting a 600-class sportbike has always reminded me of riding a 125cc motocrosser. I find myself pinned everywhere, shifting constantly, fanning the clutch, trying to get the revs up to where the engine makes good power. Meanwhile, the 130-pound teenager I'm chasing is disappearing into the distance.

Add a little power to that equation and the odds tilt back in my favor. And that's why I liked the bigger bikes in this mix better than the smaller ones. Even though its engine displaces just 36cc more than the true 600s, the Kawasaki ZX-6R feels much more powerful through the midrange. And the cheater Suzuki GSX-R750 feels stronger everywhere, and weighs a scant few pounds more than its smaller sibling.

The Triumph, however, strikes the perfect balance. It's the lightest bike in this test by 6 pounds, and the slimmest by far, with a racy-yet-roomy riding position that doesn't make me feel the least bit cramped. Its standard setup, with a 4mm shim wedged under its top shock mount, is pretty stinkbug-esque, which means its handling is fairly edgy, suiting experts more than novices. It turns in just as quick as the R6 (some said too quick), and has equally good feedback from the front end, but never shakes its head. And when you get back on the gas at the corner exit, the three-cylinder engine produces ample torque to catapult you down the straight. It feels just as strong as the GSX-R750 through the midrange, and doesn't give away a thing to the 600s on top. That wide power delivery makes the 675 really nice on the street, too, where it's reminiscent of an open-classer. It even wheelies like one!

My main complaint is with the transmission, which has somewhat notchy action and a large gap between first and second that renders low gear all but unusable once under way. A slipper clutch would likely help this scenario, but the Triumph doesn't have one. Fortunately, with the engine's strong midrange, you don't really need to use first like you would on a regular 600. Also, on the racetrack, the spring rates felt a little soft for my weight. But that's my problem, not the bike's.

On a peripheral note, I appreciate the fact that the 675 technically isn't a cheater. Though the AMA sees things differently, the FIM, the British federation and most U.S. roadracing organizations will allow it to compete alongside 600cc fours and 750cc twins in the 600cc classes.

Lastly, it has that European flair that distinguishes it from the cookie-cutter Japanese machines, and it sounds great. It is, after all, a triple.

Maybe I'd have felt different if I'd drunk four Car Bombs?

Southern Comfort
Suzuki's GSX-R750 Is Suh-Weet!
Angie Loy

Age: 34
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 128 lbs.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Avocation: Web designer

Whatch'y'all doin,' honkey tonkin'?" inquired Tim Langley, owner of 29 Dreams Motorcycle Resort, where Brian and I stopped for our first two tall glasses of sweet tea on this trip. Tim's southern drawl was music to my ears. It was great being back in 'Bama again, and I'd been anticipating the sweet nectar for weeks. It was a sunny Friday morning and we'd just started our third and final loop of Birmingham's finest backroads. The previous day we'd done two street loops and the following morning was supposed to be the first of three days' track testing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas, and we only got one dry day at Barber. Boo!

I've been riding GSX-Rs for the last couple of years, beginning with a 600 and upgrading to a 750 after finding the additional engine power helped me stay ahead of the pack at track days. And now both bikes were supposed to be even better. I couldn't wait to ride them.

So on Saturday, I saved the best for last and rode the two Suzukis at the end of the day. As on all the other bikes, the suspension was set up too stiff for me, but even so they felt totally stable. I can't say that about the Yamaha. I had absolute confidence in the GSX-Rs' front ends and trusted their brakes immensely, regularly outbraking other riders. Anytime I set my sights on a place at the head of the pack, I could grab a handful of throttle and the bike would take me there-especially the 750, which has noticeably more power everywhere. The new slipper clutch works great on both street and track, especially for someone who isn't, um, especially adept at smooth downshifting. Another added bonus is the gear indicator, which helps when you get caught up in a heated battle and forget what gear you're in.

After reviewing my times at the end of the day, I turned my fastest laps on the GSX-Rs, a 1:48.8 being my outright best. Not that impressive compared to Scott Russell's 1:38 flat, but I did volunteer to ride in the intermediate group, so I had more traffic to contend with. Good excuse, huh?

So the GSX-R was my favorite 600. But the GSX-R750 was my favorite motorcycle. If you could have a bike that handled like a 600 but had a much more powerful engine, why would you choose anything else?

Surprise, Surprise
I Thought I Knew Everything Until I Rode The Honda CBR600RR
Neale Bayly

Age: 44
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Avocation: Freelance Moto-journalist

As I headed to Barber, I realized there was only one bike in the mix I hadn't yet ridden: Honda's CBR600RR. Having attended press launches of all the other models, I had some clear ideas about which would be my favorite and on which I'd go fastest. Climbing off the CBR at the end of the day, this thought couldn't have been further from the truth.

Hearing the 10-minute call for my final session, I jumped on the orange Honda. Color aside, it's the most pedestrian looking of the group, the master cylinder resembling something from a '90s-spec VFR and turn signals the size of billboards. The Honda is also the second-heaviest 600, tying with the Kawasaki behind the Suzuki. In fact, from the moment I swung my leg over, the CBR felt like the ZX-6R, with a deeper-sounding engine than the other 600s. The engine didn't seem to rev as quickly, but pulling onto the track the CBR felt immediately strong at lower rpm. I took the first lap easy to get a feel for the bike when Triumph's Jim Callahan went storming by on his Arrow-equipped Daytona 675. Well, I couldn't have any of that, so dropped the hammer and gave chase-which resulted in the most fun of the afternoon.

Enjoying the last few corners in cruise mode, I checked the lap timer, which shows your quickest lap in the top right corner-and had to take another look. I'd just lopped nearly 1.5 seconds off my best time on the Yamaha YZF-R6, and gone even quicker than on the Suzuki GSX-R750! If I hadn't seen my times, though, I would have ranked the Honda behind both of them. The actual mechanics of riding the bike had been unremarkable, yet I'd turned quicker laps.

Riding to the pits, I racked my brain trying to figure out how I dropped the time. I think it's that the Honda is so easy to ride and so deceptively quick it gets the job done without drama. The engine is smooth and has strong midrange, so it didn't seem to be in the wrong gear so often exiting corners, as some of the other bikes did. Getting on the brakes hard down into turn 5, the most difficult corner for me, the CBR was stable and gave a lot of confidence tipping it in.

Comparing notes later, I wasn't surprised to find at least two other testers went quickest on the Honda. So it gets my pick of the weekend. Not so much for the fact that it gave me my best lap time, but for derailing my preconceived ideas about which bike would be fastest. For a rider of my ability, the Honda's solid midrange and ease of operation allowed me to go faster with less effort.

They Call This Work?
Riding The Suzuki GSX-R600 Was The Best Job Perk Ever

Brian Sexton
Age: 31
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Advocation: Ad sales for Primedia Motorcycle Group

At the recent Indianapolis Trade Show, Motorcyclist Editor Mitch Boehm asked if I'd like to take part in an upcoming shootout at Barber Motorsports Park. My instantaneous "yes!" probably sounded like that of a 16-year-old who'd just been asked if he wanted to drive his dad's Ferrari. And if that wasn't enough, former AMA and World Superbike Champion Scott Russell was going to be there to help out. Someone pinch me.

Having raced older variants of the Yamaha YZF-R6, I was looking forward to riding the '06 model. This bike has the look-like it's going 170 mph sitting still. Diving into the first corner, I thought, "This is gonna be a great ride." The gauges are easy to read, the shift light is nice and bright, and the sounds coming from the shorty pipe and airbox intake are cool. The R6 turns well, but I got pretty bad headshake under acceleration out of several corners, which eroded my confidence. On top of that, the powerplant was extremely peaky. You had to rev it or power was lacking.

My personal fave was the GSX-R600. The Suzuki has a ripper of an engine. The suspension gives you a tremendous amount of feedback, which allows you to go past the edge and still find your way back. The brakes are plenty strong and have good feel. It has a very legible gauge setup, and I love the gear indicator. I ride my streetbikes with a GP shift pattern, and Suzuki obviously gave this some thought because you can flip the linkage in less than 5 minutes. The footpeg position is even adjustable this year. How cool is that?

Picking a winner from this group of fantastic motorcycles comes down to personal style more than anything else. And the GSX-R600 fit mine best.

And the Un-Winner Is
Nine riders, six bikes and no consensus-but we pick a winner anyway!

Whew! Lots of thoughts from lots of testers, with no narrator to make sense of it all. Kinda like an MTV music video without the hootchies shaking their junk. So that's what we'll attempt to do here-make sense of it all, not shake our junk. Trust us, you wouldn't want to see that.

The bike that got the least love was Kawasaki's ZX-6R. The fact that Scott Russell liked it best speaks volumes, but the rest of us weren't as impressed-even if Aaron Frank noted it was "well blung" with its tribal graphics and red-anodized wheels. While the cheater 636cc engine makes superb midrange, it paled in comparison to that of the Triumph Daytona 675 and-duh!-Suzuki GSX-R750. And, it got nipped by the Yamaha YZF-R6 on top, too. Add to that the hard-to-read LCD tach, the harsh-feeling suspension and a disturbing tendency to drag its brake pedal and shift lever at full lean, and the 636 gives away ground that it simply cannot afford in a class as hotly contested as this.

We expected a lot from the revolutionary Yamaha YZF-R6 and got more than we asked for. It looks like a 6-and-a-half-foot-long stealth fighter, banks into corners and flies like one, too. But like an old FZR400 (with twice the horsepower), its MIA midrange power made it hard to keep on the boil, requiring many more shifts per lap than the other bikes, and it often felt like it was between gears. And that was on the racetrack; it felt even more anemic during our two days of street riding. With different gearing, the R6 will no doubt win its fair share of races, and it may even win a magazine shootout at a track that suits its stock gearing. But for most of our real-world testers, it was simply too unreal.

Suzuki's GSX-R600 is all-new, but as Russell pointed out, it still has a familial feel. In a blind test, most riders would have a hard time telling the difference between an '05 and '06 model. Can Joe Public really notice changes like a 600-rpm-higher redline and 35mm longer swingarm? He'd more likely appreciate the GSX-R1000-derived styling and stubby, MotoGP-inspired muffler. All our testers found the GSX-R600 a willing companion, and no one had anything bad to say about it. But in this group, it kinda got lost in the wash.

It doesn't help that its bigger brother came along for the ride. Including the GSX-R750 in what has traditionally been a 600cc comparison was never going to be fair; tester Jim West went so far as to say it spoiled his impressions of the other bikes. The 750 is dang near perfect, its abundant midrange a bonus on both street and track. The only knocks against it came from our faster riders, who found its shock spring too soft and its footpegs prone to dragging. And even some of them echoed what our less-skilled riders said: that they found the smaller bikes easier to ride and thus went faster on them. Yes, GSX-R750 buyers get more for their money, but they also spend more: $700 to $1200 over the cost of the other middleweights. That has to count against it, right?

The bike that surprised everyone was Honda's CBR600RR. Great Pumpkin paint scheme notwithstanding, the CBR is totally unassuming. Yet tester after tester climbed off it and remarked that they'd never gone so quickly, so easily. Everything about the bike-control feel, seating position, engine power, steering effort, brakes and suspension-felt just right. There's no adaptation required, no re-learning how to ride to get the most out of it. Just hop on and haul ass.

So, the Honda wins, right? Not quite. There's one bike remaining-the Triumph Daytona 675. We're not big on Told You So's, but we said all along that the British manufacturer was wasting its time building a 600cc four to go head-to-head with the Japanese. Better to build something distinctive, something different ... something like this 675cc triple. What we never would have guessed is how well such a bike would work. It's like the designers combined all the best features from all the best sportbikes. It's the lightest machine in this test, the narrowest, it has the most cornering clearance and the best brakes. It's got the midrange power of a twin and the zing of a four. And talk about aggressive; forget about being prim and proper, this thing's pissed off and ready to rumble! With the Daytona 675, Triumph has truly redefined the middleweight sportbike. And that's what makes it the winner here.

Specs

2006 HONDA
CBR600RR
PRICE
MSRP $8999 as tested

ENGINE
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm
Displacement 599cc
Compression ratio 12.0:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 431 lb. (196kg)
Weight (dry) 402 lb. (182kg)
Rake 24.0 deg. Trail 3.74 in. (95mm)
Wheelbase 54.7 in. (1389mm)
Seat height 32.3 in. (820mm)
Fuel capacity 4.8 gal. (18L)
SUSPENSION
Front 41mm inverted cartridge fork
adjustable for spring preload, rebound
and compression damping
Rear single shock adjustable for
spring preload, rebound and
compression damping

PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 105.6 @ 13,250 rpm
Torque 44.8 lb.-ft. @ 10,750 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile*h 10.87 sec. @ 128.54 mp
0–60 mph 3.39 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 3.80 sec.

Fuel mileage
(average)

41 mpg

Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

2006 KAWASAKI
ZX-6R
PRICE
MSRP $8899 as tested
ENGINE
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke 68.0mm x 43.8mm
Displacement 636cc
Compression ratio 12.9:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 431 lb. (196kg)
Weight (dry) 404 lb. (183kg)
Rake 25.0 deg. Trail 4.20 in. (107mm)
Wheelbase 54.7 in. (1389mm)
Seat height 32.3 in. (820mm)
Fuel capacity 4.5 gal. (17L)
SUSPENSION
Front 41mm inverted cartridge fork
adjustable for spring preload, rebound
and compression damping
Rear single shock adjustable for
spring preload, rebound and
compression damping

PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 111.4 @ 13,000 rpm
Torque 48.2 lb.-ft. @ 11,000 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 10.84 sec. @ 129.86 mph
0–60 mph 3.37 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 3.89 sec.
Fuel mileage
(average)
39 mpg

Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

2006 SUZUKI
GSX-R600
PRICE
MSRP $8799 as tested
ENGINE
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm
Displacement 599cc
Compression ratio 12.5:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 438 lb. (199kg)
Weight (dry) 411 lb. (186kg)
Rake 23.8 deg. Trail 3.82 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase 55.1 in. (1400mm)
Seat height 31.9 in. (810mm)
Fuel capacity 4.5 gal. (17L)
SUSPENSION

Front
41mm inverted cartridge fork
adjustable for spring preload, rebound
and compression damping
Rear single shock adjustable for
spring preload, rebound and
compression damping

PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 109.3 @ 13,500 rpm
Torque 44.1 lb.-ft. @ 11,750 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 10.85 sec. @ 129.52 mph
0–60 mph 3.48 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 4.01 sec
Fuel mileage
(average)
36 mpg

Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

2006 SUZUKI
GSX-R750
PRICE
MSRP $9999 as tested
ENGINE
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke 70.0mm x 48.7mm
Displacement 750cc
Compression ratio 12.5:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 442 lb. (200kg)
Weight (dry) 415 lb. (188kg)
Rake 23.8 deg. Trail 3.82 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase 55.1 in. (1400mm)
Seat height 31.9 in. (810mm)
Fuel capacity 4.5 gal. (17L)
SUSPENSION

Front
41mm inverted cartridge fork
adjustable for spring preload, rebound
and compression damping
Rear single shock adjustable for
spring preload, rebound and
high/low speed compression damping

PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 129.1 @ 13,250 rpm
Torque 56.4 lb.-ft. @ 10,750 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 10.47 sec. @ 135.20 mph
0–60 mph 3.30 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 3.37 sec.
Fuel mileage
(average)
36 mpg

Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

2006 TRIUMPH
DAYTONA 675
PRICE
MSRP $8999 as tested
ENGINE
Type l-c inline-triple
Valve arrangement dohc, 12v
Bore x stroke 74.0mm x 52.3mm
Displacement 675cc
Compression ratio 12.7:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 417 lb. (189kg)
Weight (dry) 389 lb. (177kg)
Rake 23.5 deg. Trail 3.42 in. (87mm)
Wheelbase 54.8 in. (1392mm)
Seat height 32.5 in. (826mm)
Fuel capacity 4.6 gal. (17L)
SUSPENSION
Front 41mm inverted cartridge fork
adjustable for spring preload, rebound
and compression damping
Rear single shock adjustable for
spring preload, rebound and
compression damping

PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 109.8 @ 12,000 rpm
Torque 49.1 lb.-ft. @ 9750 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 10.72 sec. @ 129.99 mph
0-60 mph 3.24 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 3.34 sec.
Fuel mileage
(average)
39 mpg

Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

2006 YAMAHA
YZF-R6
PRICE
MSRP $9299 as tested
ENGINE
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke 67.0mm x 42.5mm
Displacement 600cc
Compression ratio 12.8:1
Transmission 6-speed
Final drive chain
CHASSIS
Weight (wet) 423 lb. (192kg)
Weight (dry) 395 lb. (179kg)
Rake 24.0 deg. Trail 3.82 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase 54.3 in. (1379mm)
Seat height 33.5 in. (851mm)
Fuel capacity 4.6 gal. (17L)
SUSPENSION
Front 41mm inverted cartridge fork
adjustable for spring preload, rebound
and high/low-speed compression damping

Rear
single shock adjustable for
spring preload, rebound
and high/low-speed compression damping

PERFORMANCE
Horsepower 113.0 @ 14,500 rpm
Torque 43.8 lb.-ft. @ 11,500 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile* 11.02 sec. @ 127.46 mph
0–60 mph 3.55 sec.
Top-gear roll-on 4.09 sec.

Fuel mileage
(average)

37 mpg

Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level stand-ard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

Dyno Chart
The 113-hp R6 is amazingly strong for a 600, but keeping it above 10,000 rpm is an amazing amount of work. The GSX-R600 punts Honda's more linear CBR, making it the most rideable 600. Triumph's 675cc triple trumps Kawasaki's 636cc four with a broader spread of useable torque. Surprising no one, the GSX-R750 positively annihilates everything else, proving once and for all that there's no substitute for cubic centimeters.

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
  • |
  • 5
  • |
  • 6
  • |
  • 7
  • |
  • 8
  • |
  • View Full Article
By Brian Catterson
Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!

*Please enter your username

*Please enter your password

*Please enter your comments
Comments:
Not Registered?Signup Here
(1024 character limit)
Motorcyclist
  • Motorcyclist Online