Value 600-Class Sportbikes, 1997

Budget-Value 600s: Yamaha FZR600 Vs. Suzuki GSX-600 Katana


 Another important consideration if you're on a tight budget is the cost of replacement parts. In the event of an accident, a motorcycle with full fairings is costly to repair. On most sportbikes the upper fairing, lower fairing, tail section, and gas tank are subject to damage in a typical low-side crash. Replacing these items on the Yamaha would set you (or your insurance company) back $1600 vs. $1900 for the Suzuki.

While a new rider who likes the flowing style of the Suzuki's fairing might pick the Katana, most people will opt for the FZR. Yamaha's budget 600 is a pleasure to ride, giving you all the confidence you need to go fast. Around town the FZR is narrow and light, making it easier to maneuver through traffic. Ergonomics are respectable for a sportbike, and adequate for 300 mile weekend travel plans.

 These motorcycles might not give you leading-edge technology, but you do get proven components that'll meet the budgets of most everyone -- especially starving students or beginning riders. If you don't need to have the trickest, quickest, fastest and newest model, either one of these Value 600s will satisfy your demands for a good, solid streetbike.



Manufacturer: Suzuki
Model: 1997 GSX600FV
Price: $6,099
Engine: DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder, air-oil cooled
Bore and Stroke: 62.6mm x 48.7mm
Displacement: 599cc
Carburetion: Four Mikuni 33mm CV
Transmission: 6-speed, constant mesh
Wheelbase: 56.3 in. (1430mm)
Seat Height: 30.7 in. (780mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gal, Calif. - 5.3 gal
Claimed Dry Weight: 438 lbs (199kg), Calif. - 440 lbs (200kg)

Yamaha FZR600
Manufacturer: Yamaha
Model: 1997 FZR600
Price: $6,499
Engine: DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder, liquid-cooled
Bore and Stroke: 59mm by 54.8mm
Displacement: 599cc
Carburetion: four 32mm Mikuni CV
Transmission: 6-speed
Wheelbase: 56.1 in.
Seat Height: 30.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: na
Claimed Dry Weight: 395 lbs

Riding Impressions:  

1. Brent Plummer, Editor-in-Chief

A crisp winter day in Los Angeles dawned bright and sunny. Digging my leathers out of the closet, I brush off my kneepucks and head for the canyons: flick left, then right, -- this FZR turns really quickly and has moderate power to boot. Twist the throttle to the stop, descending along a gradual slope; now hard on the brakes and the 400-pound bike hauls down from speed with alacrity. 'For a bit over six grand,' I think to myself, 'it's not bad.'

And then, just as the excitement of getting out to the canyons wears off, I have to make the 25-mile commute back to the MO offices. Five miles down the road, my wrists are killing me, and my mind wanders: 'Assuming most people interested in these bikes will finance their purchase, is this bike really worth a thousand dollars more than the Katana?'

The answer, at least for the older members of our staff -- we were clearly divided along age lines in this test, with the young guys outnumbering the old fuddie-duddies -- is a resounding "no."

I don't like riding down the road in pain anymore, so the Katana's nice seat, high bars and low pegs -- combined with Suzuki's attractive zero-down financing -- make it the clear winner in my book.

2. Shawn Higbee, Contributing Writer

Confidence is my number one priority whether I'm street riding or road racing. When a motorcycle is predictable and requires little effort to ride, that makes me feel in total control. The narrow cockpit, light weight, quick and easy steering input make the FZR600 feel like a toy. Within a few minutes of riding I felt confident in pushing the FZR to its limits. I could back the FZR into turns and spin the tire on the exit. The chassis is nimble with quick steering, and screams "flick me!"

I rode the FZR and Katana back-to-back a few times, and this solidified my choice of the FZR. I adapted to the Katana's quirks after riding it for a couple of weeks and was able to become content with the Suzuki as a street bike. But then I jumped back on the FZR, and thought, "oh-yeah!"

3. Billy Bartels, Graphics Editor

We've had these two bikes for awhile. I rode them both nonstop at the end of the summer, and grew to like them. I then hopped off them to go review a Kawasaki ZX-6 and a Buell Cyclone. When I jumped back on the Katana a month later, I thought someone had let the air out of the tires. It was just that heavy and unresponsive by comparison. To check the difference I rode the FZR the next day, and was pleasantly surprised by its light feel and reasonable comfort. I went back and forth to make sure I wasn't just a jaded squid at this point. Nope, I genuinely like the FZR and did not quite click with the Katana.

The Katana has low cost in its favor, and unfortunately it shows. Other than the handling, there's a buzz right at the bottom of the power band (not a great place for one), and the transmission occasionally popped out of gear on hard acceleration. By the way, it's heavy too. The FZR by no means is the clear winner however. The seat is useless if you're over 180 pounds, or carry a backpack (as I found out the hard way). The driveline lash is excessive, causing it to occasionally unload the suspension in a turn (not fun). Also the mirrors could be described as vestigial, as they offer you no more than a look at your sleeve. Other than those little quirks, a very capable little bike. Faster and better handling, in a well-put-together package that bridges the considerable price difference.

4. Gord Mounce, Associate Editor

While these two Value 600s are in the same category, they possess quite different personalities. The Katana is user friendly and makes a great streetbike. However, when the pace picks up its slow turning speed and extra weight limit the fun. Yamaha's FZR isn't as easy to hop on and feel immediately familiar with, nor is it as comfortable as the Katana. But when you get a few miles on the odometer the FZR's chassis starts to inspire confidence, you find yourself carving through corners at a pace that would be impossible on the Katana. To me, that's what owning a sportbike is all about. The FZR gets my vote. 5. Tom Fortune, Managing Editor Numbers are numbers. And in this comparison, those numbers equal dollars. Dollars I'd rather have in my pocket. Hey, the whole gist of this story is supposed to be which bike delivers the best performance value for the buck, right? And at zero $$ down plus a $400 lower purchase price to boot, the Katana's my choice.

For the money I'd save, I could live with the little Kat's shortcomings, which really weren't that bad. In fact, on a twisty back road I thought it handled pretty damn good, thank you. You wouldn't really notice any handling quirks at all unless you jumped from the Katana to the FZR, and then went back to the Katana. Only then did its high weight and slow steering seem wrong. And for taller riders like myself, the Suzuki was way more comfortable than the racer-boy ergos of the FZR. I'm not so sure we should be talking about which bike has more horsepower or can carve a corner quicker -- if you go to buy one of these, remember that the Katana is very user friendly, an important consideration for a beginning rider, and delivers the best bang for the budget buck.

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