The GSR, based on the futuristic B-King concept bike unveiled in 2001, which was promoted as a wild, wanton and lascivious street-fighter. Anticipation was heightened by descriptions including "modern art meets race technology". Below is how the B-King concept bike looked in 2001, above is the GSR600 today
The brakes are conventional rather than the new radially mounted variety. The forks are not upside down, which is even more shocking to the pack mentality. The suspension permits only minor adjustment, which is not what your track-day bore wants at all. After all, playing with settings is so much more interesting than actually riding a motorcycle.
The engine is from last year's GSX-R600 and the gearbox from the 2004 version.
A look at its truly innovative appearance confirms that... The GSR600 is chic and sophisticated rather than brutal. Front indicators are moulded into the fuel tank. Twin LED tail lights are styled to look like extra silencers.
Moulded covers blend the tank seamlessly into the twin-spar aluminium alloy frame. Even to an observer who can't tell an upside-down fork from a doughnut it's obviously modern and desirable.
The ride emphasises what the look suggests. The bike is fast and friendly but not arm-wrenchingly aggressive. My first impression was of comfort. The slim, low, two-tone saddle is complemented by a wide set of handlebars offering massive leverage and a relaxed riding position.
I felt in complete control as soon as I sat on it and that confidence-inspiring mood was justified from my first short ride. The GSR has the balance of an alley cat and laser-sharp tracking. High-speed cornering is easy and confident. Point it where you want to go and the Suzuki obeys, whether snaking through a succession of sweeps or tipping hard into tighter turns.
The engine noise resembles a 1000cc sports bike, particularly the sumptuous induction roar. But Suzuki has tuned out the warp-drive effect familiar at high revs on its GSXR range. The GSR is capable of 220 kph and from 10500 rpm to the 14 000 rpm redline it tugs hard. But power is configured to deliver greatest heft in the mid-range.
Stirring the honey-sweet, six-speed gearbox hard on back-road twisties rewards the most adventurous rider with an impressive display of pace and agility.
It does not redefine middleweight sporting standards - the GSXR600 K6 is Suzuki's contender for that title - but the GSR makes everyday riding about as much fun as it can be on with a combination of lightness, striking aesthetics and sheer usability.
A swelling minority of motorcyclists are growing out of hyper-sports performance bikes. The law makes them worthless anywhere other than a race track and in the wrong hands they contribute to alarming accident statistics. A new class of experienced rider seeks machines to be enjoyed to the optimum without scaring themselves.
They appreciate performance but no longer crave racetrack sensations. For such riders, Suzuki's GSR600 is rewarding.
Obvious competitors include Yamaha's 600 Fazer. I would hazard a guess that it might also appeal to riders of more style-orientated bikes such as Ducati Monsters and Harley-Davidson Sportsters. It is a much more powerful machine than equivalent-sized Italian or US twins but its unintimidating feel at modest speeds and in traffic renders it suitable for a moderately experienced rider seeking to develop new skills.
That applies particularly to women and smaller riders who may find the low seat and light weight inviting.
The GSR is enjoyable rather than exceptional but it deserves to be rescued from the conceit that the only gauge of a motorcycle's worth is its capacity to break performance records.
There is a lot to be said for some comfortable riding pleasure and the GSR offers that in spades. The Suzuki GSR600 is civilised, stylish and sensible.
Motor: Liquid-cooled four-stroke transverse four.
Bore x stroke: 67 x 42.5mm.
Compression ratio: 12.5:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Induction: Digital fuel-injection with four 38mm throttle bodies.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Suspension: 43mm conventional cartridge forks adjustable for preload at front, monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound damping at rear.
Brakes: twin 310mm disks with four-pot opposed piston Tokico callipers at front, 240mm disk with single-piston floating calliper at rear.
Tyres: Front: 120/70 - ZR17 tubeless. Rear: 180/55 - ZR17 tubeless.
Seat height: 785mm.
Fuel capacity: 16.5 litres.
Dry weight: 183kg.
Thanks to Adam Butchart and the guys at Suzuki South Africa for the ride,
the Suzuki GSR600 is fantastic little motorcycle.