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2008 Suzuki GSX-R600 Long-Term


by Pascal Bastien ,

While my garage is already well stocked (snowmobile, jet ski, race car and ATV), one particular toy was still missing -- an exciting sportbike for Track Days.

Even a rabbit like me can "attack" corners on the little Gixxer. The ergos fit my slim frame perfectly, and the bike is agile and feels light enough to allow me to commit to the corners with the certitude that I can pull out of it easily if I went in too hot.

Picking « my » 600!
Following a thorough analysis of available sportbikes, I chose a 2008 Suzuki GSX-R600, which is identical to the 2009 model except for the new color and the cheaper price (those "panic" rebates in the currently struggling economy are a blessing).

My comparative analysis and lengthy discussions with 600-cc sportbike “experts” did not cause me to fall instantly in lust for the small Gixxer; it was neither the fastest nor the best-handling of the pack according to the consensus. However, while other manufacturers continue to radicalize 600 sportbikes for the track, Suzuki emphasized comfort and easy riding dynamics. Their 600 offers reassuring steering precision and stability on corner entry, as well as a powerful yet easy-to-modulate braking system that never catches you off-guard. It’s the perfect tool for those who want to learn the art of track riding as I did, little by little.

Of course, styling was also a strong motivator. The 2008 GSX-R600 came with a new fairing that created a sharper contrast with the big GSX-R1000. Sleeker, more aggressive lines gave the bike a neat and sporty look.

First day on the track
With the odometer at 1,600 kilometres and the engine barely broken in, I headed for Mecaglisse in Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, one hour north of Montreal. This track is tight and super technical -- a serious challenge for anyone riding a new machine. I arrived early, my heart beating 10,000 times per minute, still nervous about returning to the track after a 6-month recovery from an awkward high-sided on this very track. It was time to focus and dredge up every ounce of courage I have and get on with the program.

As I had hoped for, the first few laps with the little Gixxer helped rebuild my confidence. It proved to be easy to ride and surprisingly lively when attacking corners. The tenacious grip and stability required extra effort to change direction, and the brakes bit hard yet progressively. When the revs were in the right range, the throttle response was almost instantaneous. I soon regained my old reflexes and felt increasingly at ease with each passing lap.

Radial-mount calipers and a nice, stiff fork mean that I needed to relearn how to brake hard, up to limits I did not know existed until this year. For 2010, I will install braided brake line for a more direct feel of the pads rubbing on the discs.
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