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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2012 Suzuki GSX-R600

Find out why it’s so popular with women

By Rachael Westfall, Photos by Salvador and Maggie Maltbie
9/4/2012

There’s a reason why so many women choose the Suzuki GSX-R600 when shopping for a sportbike. The chassis and seat are narrow and relatively low, allowing for an easy reach to the ground for even the shortest of riders (that includes me, at 5-foot-2). Throttle response is smooth but powerful enough to feed the jollies fluttering around in your stomach in anticipation of a ride on this bike.

Rachael rides the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R600, a popular sportbike among women riders.
Rachael rides the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R600, a popular sportbike among women riders.

The GSX-R600 handles as nimbly as a bicycle and dips into corners with little prompting. If I could build an ideal sportbike for a woman rider's needs, the "Gixxer" (the nickname fans have given the GSX-R models) would nearly fit the bill. This sportbike embodies most, if not all, of the qualities that a woman rider wants.

The most important factor for me when it comes to any motorcycle is how well I can manage its weight with my petite frame. With the GSX-R600's seat height at 31.9 inches, I’m able to touch the ground with the balls of my feet. Typically, comfort features would be sacrificed to enable a reduction in weight and bulk, but that's not so with the Gixxer. The seat is plush and derrière-friendly on longer rides. 

Rachael was very impressed with the seat, which was plush and comfortable and nowhere near the typical "brick" that comes stock on a lot of sportbikes.
Rachael was very impressed with the seat, which was plush and comfortable and nowhere near the typical "brick" that comes stock on a lot of sportbikes.

Because the seat is positioned lower in the chassis, Rachael manages to touch the ground with the balls of her feet. And she’s only 5-foot-2!
Because the seat is positioned lower in the chassis, Rachael manages to touch the ground with the balls of her feet. And she’s only 5-foot-2!

Adjustable hand levers allow the rider to adjust the brake and clutch lever to fit the reach of her fingers.
Adjustable hand levers allow the rider to adjust the brake and clutch lever to fit the reach of her fingers.

Weighing in at 412 pounds, the bike is a bit on the heavy side for a 600cc motorcycle, but it carries its heft remarkably well and has a low center of gravity. The front end feels light and eager for input from the rider, with user-friendly turn-in capability nearly as flickable as a bicycle. The Bridgestone BT016 tires provide plenty of grip and make handling a dream on both smooth highways and rough city street pavement.

The Suzuki GSX-R600 is a winner on the racetrack, so many of the components have been tested there, including the lightweight Showa Big Piston front forks and the Showa rear shock (shown here). On the rear, the rebound and compression damping is adjustable to accommodate different rider weights and/or the addition of luggage.
The Suzuki GSX-R600 is a winner on the racetrack, so many of the components have been tested there, including the lightweight Showa Big Piston front forks and the Showa rear shock (shown here). On the rear, the rebound and compression damping is adjustable to accommodate different rider weights and/or the addition of luggage.

The overall seating position was comfortable compared to other sportbikes I’ve ridden. The reach to the bars was fine—I didn’t have to overextend myself to reach them—and though the footpegs are positioned upward and slightly aft, I didn’t feel cramped like I do on some other sportbikes. Another thing I love about the Gixxer 600 is how the rider sits into the chassis as opposed to on top of it, as the seat is positioned lower than gas tank level. Because of this, I feel more a part of the machine and therefore able to maneuver it without that forced feeling I’ve experienced with motorcycles that feel top-heavy to me.

The GSX-R600 brakes are very sensitive, with just two fingers needed on the lever of the Brembo brakes to slow the bike down.
The GSX-R600 brakes are very sensitive, with just two fingers needed on the lever of the Brembo brakes to slow the bike down.

Make no mistake, the 599cc engine is no slouch. Though the throttle felt tame and gradual during early rpm, the punch from the engine was obvious from 6,000 rpm on and had plenty of get up and go while negotiating congested city streets and freeways. In the canyons, the smooth powerband made exiting curves easy, and I found the absence of a twitchy throttle refreshing. Riders looking for a fun bike to take to the canyons on weekends will love the GSX-R600. With a claimed 44.6 mpg, the motorcycle makes a decent commuter bike as well.  

The bike is equipped with a compact instrument cluster with a built-in lap timer/stopwatch and programmable engine RPM indicator.
The bike is equipped with a compact instrument cluster with a built-in lap timer/stopwatch and programmable engine RPM indicator.

Shifting was almost effortless on the butter-smooth, 6-speed, constant mesh transmission. Even without pulling in the clutch, the transmission slipped into upper and lower gears with a mere nudge of the boot on the shifter peg. 

The toggle buttons on the handlebar (instead of on the dash) are a convenient feature on the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R600, enabling the rider to switch between trip meters.
The toggle buttons on the handlebar (instead of on the dash) are a convenient feature on the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R600, enabling the rider to switch between trip meters.

This mode switch on the left handgrip allows a rider to change between two racing-developed engine control maps to suit road conditions and personal taste. Also on the left controls is a button for easily flicking the high beam on (or off) to make the bike more visible in traffic.
This mode switch on the left handgrip allows a rider to change between two racing-developed engine control maps to suit road conditions and personal taste. Also on the left controls is a button for easily flicking the high beam on (or off) to make the bike more visible in traffic.

For riders who desire hot looks in a motorcycle as well as performance, the maroon red on black with matte black carbon fiber flair made the Gixxer as salaciously desirable as a little black dress in the window—at least for me. 

The carbon fiber accents on the fairing really caught Rachael's eye, as this was the first factory bike she'd seen with aftermarket-looking plastics. Very cool.
The carbon fiber accents on the fairing really caught Rachael's eye, as this was the first factory bike she'd seen with aftermarket-looking plastics. Very cool.

The 600 made such an impression on me that I tried to go buy one. Unfortunately, this motorcycle is so hugely popular that it's hard to find one being sold at its MSRP. At the time of my test ride (in spring 2012), there were only five available in California. I was unable to locate one to purchase, unless I was willing to pay $1,000 more than the MSRP of $11,599. Guess I’ll have to wait until the next model year.
 
Specs At A Glance: Suzuki GSX-R600 
Displacement: 599c
Seat Height: 31.9 inches
Weight: 412 pounds
Price: $11,599
Colors: Glass Sparkle Black; Metallic Triton Blue/Glass Splash White

WRN Recommendation
For women who want a sportbike that oozes attitude and wins races at the track, the Suzuki GSX-R600 is it. Don’t be fooled by the 600cc engine, though. We don’t recommend this bike as a beginner motorcycle. There is plenty of power here, and only experienced riders ready for the challenge and thrill of riding the twisties the way they are meant to be ridden should consider owning this motorcycle. 
  
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