There's nothing quite like the smug sense of satisfaction you get when you slice your way through peak hour traffic snarls, as the cage-bound masses sit in gridlocked misery, each driver's blood pressure rising in line with their engine temperature.
Cars have their place of course - I'd find it pretty tricky doing the weekly shop without one - but to my mind we've only got one shot at life (Buddhists aside), and there's plenty of things I'd rather be doing with mine than spending it in a queue of fumes and metal.
Mid-capacity nakeds really come to the fore in these circumstances, and Suzuki recently released a real good 'un - the GSR600.
Now when that model name rolls off the tongue it seems to have something missing, and that of course is the 'X' we've become accustomed to in the marque's sporting GSX-R line-up.
But rest assured the 'X Factor' is still present in this compact, minimalist package, because the GSR600's heart - a 599cc, 16-valve, fuel-injected, in-line four-cylinder - has been ripped from the 2005-spec GSX-R600, which makes it quite a potent little beastie indeed.
Suzuki, like many manufacturers these days, remains coy about specific power and torque outputs (c'mon guys, just lay your cards on the table!), but fear not - there's plenty on offer here to turn big cars and trucks into small dots in those mirrors, if indeed the mirrors didn't blur to the point of uselessness (curses!).
Ed's note: We pickled up these figures from the UK model -- Power: 98 hp at 12,000 rpm; Torque: 6.6 m-kg at 9600 rpm.
It's been retuned (or detuned, if you're a glass-half-empty type) for more low-down and mid-range mumbo, and while there's enough oomph under 6000rpm - where you'll spend most of your time around town - that sporting heritage really shines through, because once you hit five-figure revs you'll really know you're having fun.
It feels like it has a completely linear power delivery, with no steps, bumps or flat spots, all the way to its 14,500rpm rev limiter. On a winding road, where its decent suspension, light and agile handling and crisp acceleration come to the fore, this makes for a very involving ride - you'll be revving the ring off it, but you'll laughing maniacally all the while...
The four-piston front brakes are a great match for the engine's performance, while the twin-spar alloy frame holds the entire plot together without a worry, bumps or not. It is a little vibey (hence the blurring mirrors), but not enough to detract from the experience.
Back in the confines of the city, it can be as sedate as you want it to be. It's a supremely easy bike to ride, with an upright ride position, light and precise controls and a very manageable dry weight of 183kg. If you're looking for a mid step between learner bike and big bike, it's ideal.
FLAT AND PINPOINT
Its flat 'bars are broad enough to offer pinpoint steering, while narrow enough to allow it to slip through small gaps with ease - although I would have liked it to take a little more advantage of its nakedness, by offering a bigger sweep from lock to lock.
It sounds good even with a stock muffler; it'll take a pillion (although they'll need a strong constitution - and backside - for anything longer than a half-day ride) and the nifty digi display gives you everything you need, including a clock and a two trip meters.
Its styling is probably one of those 'love it or hate it' type affairs, and while I'm still undecided about the front, I think the rear - with its underseat pipes and smart LED tail lights - looks really neat.
Best of all, this GSX-R derived performance isn't going to cost you a bomb, relatively speaking. You can park one in the shed for $10,990 plus ORC - which is a fact you might like to pass on to the driver of the next megabuck 'prestige' car you come across, as you're threading your way past in the rush hour.
So here's to smugness, and Suzuki's GSR - and long may the latter cause drivers to reassess their lives.
- Great commuter
- Nice handling and performance
- Good value for money
- Useless mirrors
- Limited steering lock (for a naked)
- Sidestand could be a touch shorter
When its comes to the Japanese competition, the GSR is firmly squaring off against Yamaha's four-cylinder middleweight roadster, the FZ6-N - which incidentally, will set you back a whole extra $9.
Honda is currently well down the track of having its CB600F Hornet reintroduced to Australia after ADR compliance issues forced its withdrawal in 2002 (when production shifted from Japan to Italy), but as this issue of MT went to press it was selling that model's big brother, the CB900F, at a red hot $11,990 plus ORC (normal price is $14,290 plus ORC).
Over at Kawasaki the closest match is the $11,290 (plus ORC) Z750. Team Green also has the $9990 (plus ORC) ER-6n, but with a parallel twin engine, that's a different bunch of bananas.
Then of course there's also a host of V-twin offerings from Italy, including Cagiva's 650 Raptor and Ducati's Multistrada and Monster 620, the latter available in a variety of guises and price points.
|SPECIFICATIONS - SUZUKI GSR600|
|Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, four-stroke, in-line four cylinder|
|Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 42.5mm|
|Compression ratio: 12.5:1|
|Fuel system: Electronic fuel-injection|
|Power: 98 hp at 12,000 rpm (claimed - UK model)|
|Torque: 6.6 m-kg at 9600 rpm (claimed - UK model)|
|Type: Six-speed, constant-mesh|
|Final drive: Chain|
|CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR|
|Frame type: Twin-spar (aluminium alloy)|
|Front suspension: 43mm telescopic forks, adjustable for preload|
|Rear suspension: Link-type monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound|
|Front brakes: Twin 310mm discs with four-piston Tokico calipers|
|Rear brake: Single 240mm disc with single-piston Tokico caliper|
|DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES|
|Dry weight: 183kg|
|Seat height: 785mm|
|Fuel capacity: 16.5 litres|
|Max power: MT's estimate: 100hp at 12,500rpm|
|Max torque: MT's estimate: 6.5kg-m at 10,000rpm|
|Price: $10,990 plus ORC|
|Colour: Candy Red|
|Test bike supplied by: Suzuki Australia, Laverton (Vic); tel: (03) 9931 0500,|
|Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres|