Top 600s, 1997

1997 600cc Sportbike Shootout

So how does an overweight bike hustle around the track so fast? Three reasons: The brakes, a good rear shock, and acceleration off the corners. Despite the YZF's bulk, nothing stops quicker or with better feedback. A crowbar through the wheels is the only way to stop a bike quicker. Brake markers that were consistent for other 600s were ignored on the YZF as its rider was able to dive deeper in the corners, confidently trailing the brakes with just one finger. The rear shock has a 24-position rebound adjuster on the bottom that actually works -- differences between each click are noticeable, and the range of adjustments spans from no rebound on the softest setting to near hydraulic lock on the slowest rebound setting. Taking time to dial in the rear ride sag and damping rates really pays off, especially with the smooth and tractable motor: smooth, controlled slides are easily attainable, and lend to excellent acceleration off of corners. Ground clearance wasn't on par with the Suzuki and the front fork's spring rates were too soft for ten/tenths riding -- although the fully adjustable rebound and compression damping worked well -- but overall the YZF handled The Streets of Willow with composure.

And the winner is...So how does the Yamaha come to be 600 class champion after merely keeping up in the canyons and at the racetrack and placing third at the strip? For the answer get up out of your chair and look out the window. See that? It's called the real world and here the Yamaha reigns supreme. Yamaha's YZF wins this shootout by playing Honda's game -- being good, but not best at everything often puts you on top overall. The YZF isn't the sharpest at the track, but it isn't far off. 
 In the canyons its torquey bottom-end lets you pull quickly through corner exits and those awesome brakes allow you to dive deeper into corners than any other 600. But where the Yamaha really beats the competition is in comfort. Whether around town or on the freeway, the YZF spoils its rider with its plush suspension, smooth motor and a wide, tall fairing that creates a whisper-quiet pocket of air. The YZF600R may be the most comfortable middleweight sportbike ever produced. Any bike that can offer that level of plushness and still hold its own on the racetrack deserves the title of 600cc Sportbike Champion. Add in that Yamaha actually lowered the price of this bike for 1997, and the bike earns the title of best 600 the hard way: At the increasingly painful bottom line.

Yamaha's YZF600R   

The YZF's instruments are simple and uncluttered.
Not everyone liked the Yamaha's large and uniquely-styled fairing, but it provides the best wind protection by far.
Yamaha's fully-adjustable suspension responds well to tuning. Changes as subtle as one click of rebound can be felt on the track.
Although Yamaha's YZF acquitted itself quite well on the racetrack, spring rates were a little on the soft side for a ten/tenths race pace.
At 482 lbs full of gas, the Yamaha is nearly 50 pounds heavier than the Suzuki. That translates to slower turn-in and cornering speeds.
Despite being the heaviest of the bunch, Yamaha's YZF600R proved to be a competent track weapon.

 Specifications: Yamaha's YZF600R     
Manufacturer: Yamaha
Model: 1997 YZF600R
Price: $ 7,399
Engine: 599cc liquid-cooled inline DOHC
Bore and Stroke: 62 by 49.6mm
Displacement: 599cc
Carburetion: Four 36mm Keihin
Transmission: 6 speed
Wheelbase: 55.7"
Seat Height: 31.7"
Fuel Capacity: na
Claimed Dry Weight: 411lbs
Measured Wet Weight: 482lbs
Peak Horsepower: 88.5 bhp at 12,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 45.7 ft-lbs at 9,500 rpm
Quarter Mile: 11.21 at 123.02 mph

Honda CBR600F3

 Specifications: Honda CBR600F3
Manufacturer: Honda
Model: 1997 CBR600F3
Price: $ 7,799
Engine: liquid-cooled inline DOHC Bore and Stroke: 65 by 45.2mm
Displacement: 599cc
Carburetion: Four 36mm
Transmission: 6 speed
Wheelbase: 55.3" Seat
Height: 31.9"
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons Claimed Dry Weight: 405.6lbs Measured
Wet Weight: 445lbs
Peak Horsepower: 90 bhp at 11,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 43.7 ft-lbs at 10,000 rpm Quarter Mile: 11.00 at 124.61 mph

Suzuki GSX-R 600

When you've got Chuck Graves on a Suzuki GSX-R600 at Willow, everyone else may as well pack up and go home.
The GSX-R's riding position is so radical that testers over 5'8" can't see the instruments unless they're in a race tuck...
...but we forgave the brutal ergonomics on the racetrack!
The Suzuki's huge tail hump may not look good to you and me, but the wind tunnel loves it.
Another tough day on the job for the overworked MO staff.

 Specifications: Suzuki GSX-R 600
Manufacturer: Suzuki
Model: 1997 GSX-R600
Price: $ 7,699
Engine: liquid-cooled inline DOHC
Bore and Stroke: 65.5 by 44.5mm
Displacement: 600cc
Carburetion: Four 36mm Mikuni
Transmission: 6 speed
Wheelbase: 55.7"
Seat Height: 32.7"
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons (18 liters)
Claimed Dry Weight: 175kg
Measured Wet Weight: 435 lbs
Peak Horsepower: 88.7 bhp at 12,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 43.4 ft-lbs at 10,000 rpm
Quarter Mile: 11.31 at 123.1 mph

Kawasaki ZX-6R

Backed by cool brushed aluminum, the Kawasaki's instruments are easily the best looking.
Read your owner's manual, wear a helmet, ride responsibly and SHI....!
With the Kawasaki's front-end woes, it takes a brave man to try an outside pass.
We expected great things from the Kawasaki at the track, but came away disappointed
The Kawasaki drew compliments for its hot graphics and excellent finish whenever it was parked.

 Specifications: Kawasaki ZX-6R
Manufacturer: Kawasaki
Model: 1997 ZX-6R
Price: $8,299
Engine: liquid-cooled inline DOHC
Bore and Stroke: 66 by 43.8mm
Displacement: 599cc
Carburetion: Four 36mm Keihin
Transmission: 6 speed
Wheelbase: 55.7"
Seat Height: 31.9"
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons
Claimed Dry Weight: 401lbs
Measured Wet Weight (Tank full): 463 lbs
Peak Horsepower: 92 bhp at 12,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 46.4 ft-lbs at 9,500 rpm
Quarter Mile: 10.79 at 126.78 mph


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