First Look: 2011 Sportbikes

Less is more

It's hard to imagine the sportbike landscape without GSX-Rs, but that was the case in 2010 when Suzuki didn't bother bringing any to America. The situation isn't looking much better for 2011-the market continues to contract, with the most recent data showing sales down nearly 40 percent from last September's already depressed figures-but at least Suzuki won't sit this year out. Fortunately for Gixxer enthusiasts, the company will re-enter the game with a comprehensively revised GSX-R600/750.

Especially hyperbolic press materials claim this is "the most radical GSX-R redesign since 1996," but you have to look closely to spot the differences. The bodywork looks almost identical to the old bike, except for a slightly slimmer tail section and a reconfigured upper fairing that now orients the fresh air intakes vertically on either side of a narrower, stacked headlamp. Underneath that mildly reshaped skin, Suzuki is claiming a fairly remarkable weight loss-18 lbs. for the 600 and 20 lbs. for the 750-along with key chassis upgrades to improve handling.

Some of that weight loss comes from simplified bodywork, reduced from 40 to 32 pieces for a savings of 7.5 lbs. Frame geometry is unchanged, but fewer frame sections that are thinner in places cut another 3 lbs. Smaller axles, an improved shock with more aluminum and fewer steel parts, and other small hardware upgrades slash even more weight. The engine architecture is likewise unchanged, but lighter pistons and rods shave precious grams, as does a new exhaust system said to drop 3.75 lbs. Claimed output remains the same at 123 horsepower for the 600cc and 140 bhp for the 750cc, with improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, too. A simplified S-DMS interface, now with two drive modes instead of three, allows the ECU to be downsized and relocated in front of the airbox.

Both bikes benefit from significant chassis upgrades, most notably the addition of Showa's light and effective Big-Piston Fork (BPF) previously available only on the GSX-R1000. The front brakes are likewise upgraded from Tokicos to Brembo Monobloc units, in a special M4x32 specification (utilizing four 32mm pistons) designed and manufactured exclusively for the GSX-R. Suzuki claims curb weight of 410 lbs. for the GSX-R600 and 416 lbs. for the 750. If credible weights, these will likely be the lightest machines in their respective categories.

News of these 2011 models came following an announcement detailing extensive restructuring of American Suzuki's operations, consolidating its automotive, motorcycle and marine divisions into a single group. Increased economies resulting from this reorganization will allow Suzuki to keep pricing of these new models class-competitive at $11,599 for the GSX-R600 and $11,999 for the GSX-R750. Both should hit showrooms by March 2011. Welcome back, Suzuki!

Though the look is largely unchanged, a comprehensive redesign with an emphasis on reducing weight slashed 18 lbs. from the new GSX-R600 and 20 lbs. from the 750.