Don’t think there’s any plan for a 2021 “600 Shootout,” as the only two left are the Kawasaki and Suzuki. Sad, really. With modern quickshifters and things, these bikes might’ve evolved into something great. The Ninja 636 H2 should be along any minute now… While you’re waiting, here’s the track portion of the Supersport Shootout from a decade ago, complete with Fonzie video, starring the evergreen Troy “Trizzle” Siahaan, the Dukester himself, and Pete Brissette.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the state of the motorcycle world lately, sportbikes in particular, you’ll notice that the middleweight category has been largely overshadowed by its 1000cc counterparts. It makes sense for those manufacturers who make a literbike, as resources should be spent on a company’s flagship machine.But for those of us who like the slightly more unassuming qualities of a 600cc machine, the choices have remained the same for a few years now. Heck, we didn’t even bother doing this test last year since the game hadn’t changed much except for a slightly longer exhaust canister on the Yamaha YZF-R6.
For 2011 however, Suzuki has whet our appetite with an all-new GSX-R600. Pete had a chance to test the all-new Gixxer at its press launch, held at Barber Motorsports Park. If you haven’t read that yet, take a peek here. Keeping in line with tradition when it comes to new model revamps, the newest 600 on the block is lighter, stronger and more powerful than the model it replaces. Pete came back optimistic about the new GSX-R’s chances in the face of the current 600 king, Kawasaki’s ZX-6R.
We really liked the Green Machine back when we last tested it against its peers in 2009. Two years on and the ZX-6R is largely the same motorcycle, save for bold new graphics. But every champ’s stay at the top must come to an end eventually, and who better to see if the new Suzuki can topple the ZX than us, right? And, to give each Japanese manufacturer a fair chance, we also brought in the Yamaha YZF-R6 and Honda CBR600RR to see if either bike could be a wildcard in this battle.
So we loaded up and headed to the tight and twisty Streets of Willow for a racetrack comparison test. We reunited with our friends at TrackXperience for a day of lapping at their well-run trackday. For more on TrackXperience, check out this feature article we wrote.
To ensure each machine was on equal footing as we churned out the laps, we spooned on sets of Michelin’s latest DOT racing tire, the Power One. With its dual-compound 2CT technology and near-slick tread design, the Power One tires were about as close as we could get to a slick racing tire while still being street legal. So needless to say, we loved their grip. What was even more impressive was that the buns stayed consistent the entire day. You can read more about the Power One in Pete’s review of the tire here, but for now let’s get to the good stuff.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering where the Triumph Daytona 675 is, we felt this test was best suited to pure 600s. But don’t worry, we’ve got something up our sleeve for that bike as well.
Similar Yet Different
Each of these four machines obviously displaces 600cc (599cc to be exact). Each also has the same bore and stroke measurements of 67.0 x 42.5mm, dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Despite these similarities, the four powerplants are distinctive in their own ways.