Used Bike Guide : Suzuki GSX-R600 K2

Don’t just think of Suzuki’s GSX-R600 as a single-minded, uncompromising sportsbike only suitable for riders in a hurry. The original 1997 model might have fit that bill, but since then it’s become more refined and usable. It’s even quite comfortable...


Following on from the successful launch of the GP racer-inspired GSX-R750WT in 1996, the first GSX-R600 arrived in dealer showrooms the following year.

Clothed in almost identical bodywork, the smaller carbed machine weighed 174kg, with its engine producing a maximum of 106bhp. That may have been impressive enough, but the peaky motor needed to be revved very hard to get it to produce anywhere near that; later, updated versions made 110bhp.

The bike was given a thorough makeover in 2001, with the 163kg machine featuring fuel-injection for the first time, while mid-range power was significantly improved, making the bike more rideable. Bar colour changes, the 600 then stayed pretty much the same until the 2004 season when another all-new version arrived. Bodywork was more sharply styled, a retuned engine made 120bhp and with a completely new chassis, including upside-down forks and radial calipers, cornering performance was boosted appreciably. Updates continued with an all-new bike arriving in 2006, with its even more tractable engine now making 125bhp.

The trend to improve the flexibility of the in-line four was repeated once more in 2008, with the freshly-styled GSX-R featuring a three-position power switch, adjustable footrests, electronic steering damper and slipper clutch. The final incarnation of the bike to date appeared in 2011.

Again the usability of the engine was boosted, though peak power stayed at 125bhp. Big piston forks improved handling, with braking getting a similar boost thanks to the fitment of one-piece monobloc calipers. Since then, the Suzuki has only changed its colour.

What's It Like To Ride


Context is an important word to consider when riding a 2002 GSX-R600. The machine being over 13 years old is something to particularly bear in mind. Do that and your expectations will be met by most aspects of the Suzuki’s performance, and happily exceeded by several others.

The engine and, more importantly the way it delivers its power, will easily be the most influential factor when it comes to making a decision on the suitability of the 600. There’s no doubt that back in 2002 it was fair to describe the in-line four-cylinder motor as flexible. Bottom end and mid-range power were useful enough not to need to reach for the gearlever too often – unless you were in a real rush. These days, the story isn’t quite the same. Advances in technology have ensured the latest spec 600s produce surprisingly good levels of drive at all rpm. This GSX-R isn’t quite that versatile.

To be fair to it though, as long as you’re not too lazy with your efforts and are willing to choose roughly the right gear, then pulling power at lower revs is acceptable. Just don’t expect a surge from as low as 3000rpm in fourth for example.

What perhaps emphasises the obligation to keep things more on the boil is the strength of the acceleration higher up the rev range. Get more towards 8-9000rpm and the serious pick up in pace is such that relatively speaking at least, the drive below it seems quite weak. It’s not. It just feels that way. Similarly, once you get to 10,000rpm and above, then the mid-range you’ve just considered healthy, will seem less so. The more revs you give this engine, the stronger it is.

Now whether this level of involvement is something you’ll feel happy with will be up to you. I didn’t find it too taxing, and as I’m normally more critical of engine character like this, I was surprised by my tolerance. I guess that’s because there were some compensations to this ‘shortcoming’. Firstly it makes the engine more involving and exciting to use, and when you do that and increase the pace of your riding, the benefits offered by the rest of the bike can be appreciated.

There’s no doubt, even though the Suzuki can’t boast the high specification components of the latest machines on the market, it’s still what I’d describe as a fine handling bike. Still light by current standards, the 600 also has manageable dimensions; it might well have a sporty riding position, but it’s relaxed enough to be reasonably comfortable. Unless you’re especially lanky, longer nonstop trips of around a couple of hours are not going to pose a serious problem. The same roomy nature provided by the sensible position of the seat and bars isn’t quite matched by the height of the footrests, but there’s still enough leverage to dominate the bike and flick it around with authority.

That’s something that’s easy to do, and it doesn’t take long to begin marvelling at the way you can devour corners. Direction changing needs little effort, and the quality of the brakes and suspension is such that choosing, altering, and holding lines is almost instinctive. With its lovely steering, the Suzuki is a pleasure to ride on more interesting back roads. The quality of its handling is definitely more modern than its 2002 vintage might have you assume.

Overall, the 600 is still a rewarding machine to ride. It looks stylish even if things like conventional fork and brake caliper design do ultimately date it a little. The best thing about it though is the fact that its capability will only set you back around just one quarter of the price of a new 600 sportsbike. Pick a good one like the one we tried, and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank – especially if your financial base is at the end of a long and nicely twisting road.

What to Look For


Though there’s still a quite decent choice of early fuel-injected GSX-R600s on the market, you may have to travel to improve your chances of finding the best one. They’re strong and reliable bikes, however there is an important proviso to this being the case – they have to have been looked after. The required amount of TLC to keep them running sweetly isn’t anywhere near the level of something more exotic, but regular servicing and a good clean and polish when needed are important to ensure a long and happy life.

Bikes on the market fall into two distinct groups – those that have been tinkered with, and those that haven’t. Going for the latter types is the best advice. Machines in near standard trimwith evidence of being cared for inside and out, are easy to spot. The finish of the Suzuki is fairly good but you’ll quickly recognise any examples that have been neglected.

Look under the bike around the rear suspension linkages to see if the effects of a bucket and sponge are evident, and do the same with the front of the engine. If there’s heavy corrosion then you might want to reconsider buying, or at least haggling.

Proof of harder riding or less conscientious ownership will also be clear when you inspect the condition of the tyres and transmission more closely. Head bearing notchiness is normally a sign of stunt riding, though it can also come from doing many miles on the motorway.

Suzuki’s smallest GSX-R doesn’t have to be ridden flat out to be appreciated. As a summer hack, or something a bit more long-term, it can be a great value machine if you’re after something a little more involving...


Though generally good enough to withstand all weathers, some components like fasteners and brackets can corrode easily if the bike isn’t cleaned regularly. Riding in winter will require hosing the bike down after every ride. The condition of the GSX-R is a great guide to how often it’s been used, As well as an accurate indication of the care it’s received.


The GSX-R’s fuelling is pretty good, but power, fuel consumption and throttle response can be improved by fitting a Power Commander or remapping the ECU. Certainly the case if you fit an aftermarket end can.

Steering Damper

The standard fitment steering damper is unadjustable. However you can drain its oil and replace with different viscosity to alter its stiffness. Remove the blanking plug, pump out the old oil. Then introduce the new stuff by extending the empty damper with the blanking hole submerged in the new oil.


A taller screen is a quick and very effective way of improving long distance comfort.


A cheap and effective way of making the 600’s engine feel a little livelier, and generally improve its overall throttle response, is to fit a one-tooth smaller front sprocket. Lowering the gearing in this way is effective and very cheap. Doing it yourself would cost a tenner. A dealer would ask £30-40. Speedo accuracy will be altered a little.


Higher mileage GSX-Rs shouldn’t be sniffed at. Earlier bikes are 15 years old now and have bound to have clocked up over 25,000-40,000 miles. However, as the Suzuki’s in-line four motor is a tough one, this isn’t an issue. Proof of servicing is still important to see though.


One of the best points of the bike. But after 10 years of action both the forks and shock will benefit from a service and new damping oil. MCT Suspension can do the job – budget from £150 for the shock and from £200 for the forks.


Pretty good, but there’s no doubt a caliper service, fitting braided lines and fresh pads could make a significant difference to their power and feel.


You can get hold of early 2001 models for less than £2000, but be warned – if you miss any serious faults with these, pricey repairs can be uneconomic. Take care, and you’ll find a good one – there’s a fair few still out there.