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Church of MO: Prime 600s, 1997


Twenty-five years in the past was three years earlier than Al Gore conceded a too-close US presidential race to George W. Bush, as we collectively determined to kick the worldwide warming can down the street a bit additional. Honda’s first bike with a catalytic converter was additionally three years sooner or later – the VFR800FI. Simply earlier than all that hit the fan, 600cc Japanese inline four-cylinders had been all the trend: carbureted, primary, low-cost, and expendable. Ninety horsepower in a 420-pound bundle was all you actually wanted. And in 1997, the highest 600s had been nonetheless even fairly good streetbikes. The MO crew was positively giddy over all of them.

Neglect 750s or open-class sportbikes, the actual battle for supremacy is waged within the 600 class — these are the best-selling sportbikes made. Right here, producers pump big quantities of cash into analysis and improvement to provide the quickest, quickest, best-handling machines potential. This space-race for the 600 title has led to machines that out-perform liter bikes of only a decade in the past. However which 600 is greatest, and extra particularly, which is greatest for you? Learn on, and be a part of us for an intensive thrashing of the world’s greatest 600cc sportbikes.It was the perfect of occasions, for positive: Bike On-line just lately rounded up the perfect 600cc Sportbikes produced, dusted off our leathers and fired checks out of the company account like an inexpensive six-shooter, appropriating funds to hire Los Angeles County Raceway’s quarter-mile drag strip, Willow Spring Raceway’s Streets of Willow, in addition to taking on Graves Motorsports’ store for the higher a part of per week to have the bikes dyno’ed and monitor prepped. Lastly, we introduced in AMA Superbike star Shawn Higbee and reigning Willow Springs Method One Champion Chuck Graves to help Editor-in-Chief Brent Plummer and Affiliate Editor Gord Mounce within the testing. The purpose? To carve as many canyons as potential, shred a bunch of tires and fry three clutches on the drag strip? That’s what the 4 of us thought till Managing Editor “Huge” Tom Fortune introduced us all again to actuality: “This can be a avenue bike take a look at. Keep in mind, tens of 1000’s of individuals all over the world are going to plunk down their hard-earned cash on considered one of these machines, and in lots of circumstances, it’ll be their solely bike that they must dwell with for years to return, by means of numerous situations resembling sport touring, commuting and canyon using. And fewer than three p.c of the machines will ever see a racetrack. You will consider these bikes with that in thoughts!” That mentioned, we headed to Palomar Mountain, and the testing started…

 

The testing Begins: Kawasaki ZX-6R

When these 4 sportbikes of the apocalypse started assembling for our shootout, early predictions rated Kawasaki’s ZX-6R as a possible victor. We had all loved the ZX6 examined final month, so the 6R’s shorter wheelbase, totally adjustable suspension and 29 fewer kilos promised to make for an excellent higher experience. So how did the Kawasaki come to seek out itself relegated to fourth place?The reply lies within the obscure suggestions provided by the 6R’s entrance finish, an issue that’s compounded by the low-profile inventory Bridgestone tire that offers poor traction at full lean. The cumulative result’s a entrance finish that “pushes” and “tucks” in corners. Having a poor reference to the entrance destroys confidence, which in flip slows lap occasions and canyon cornering speeds. How unhealthy is the suggestions from the 6R’s entrance forks? “I knew that the entrance was there,” quipped Graves after his first monitor session on the 6R, “as a result of on the finish of the straight you pop up and hit the brakes, and one thing slows you down.” Higbee additionally discovered the ZX-6R’s entrance missing: “Even at a average avenue tempo I had hassle preserving the entrance tire from sliding out underneath me, which isn’t my thought of enjoyable.” This lack of entrance finish really feel was chargeable for 5 of our seven testers (Graphic Artist Billy Bartels and Visitor Commentator John Slezak additionally participated on this take a look at) choosing the 6R final on this comparability.

Dealing with manners improved after the Metzeler MEZ1 race-compound tires changed the inventory Bridgestones for testing at The Streets of Willow. Now we had extra confidence that the tire would stick, however suggestions and turn-in manners remained poor. This led Higbee to query the 6R’s geometry: “The entrance finish suggestions informed me that it was delivering an excessive amount of, an indication that it wants extra path. I additionally seen that the triple clamps are slim, which could clarify why the 6R refused to show correctly — there’s not numerous leverage there.”

The nail in Kawasaki’s coffin comes from the value tag. At $8299 it’s $500 greater than the second most-expensive bike, Honda’s CBR600F3 — and a whopping $900 greater than Yamaha’s YZF600R.

Within the 6R’s protection it did put up the quickest quarter-mile time of 10.79 at a smoking 126.78 mph — and at 92 bhp its engine swings the most important stick. It sounds higher than its challengers too, with a deep and throaty howl that belies its displacement. Consolation was wonderful with a fairing that directs wind previous the rider’s shoulders and creates a relaxed pocket of air behind the display. Seat high quality can also be excellent for a sportbike with a large, flat platform that enables a number of hours to cross in consolation.

There’s at all times some poor child who’s the final to get picked for baseball, and that child is the ZX-6R. It’s a nice bike with unhealthy entrance geometry. Sadly on this robust crowd that is sufficient to relegate a motorcycle to final place.

3. Suzuki GSX-R600

We’ve been anxiously ready for Suzuki’s new GSX-R600 ever since all of us fell in love with the GSX-R750 final 12 months. Would the 600 be the identical knockout mixture of superior energy and light-weight weight, or wouldn’t it be a sleeved-down, chubby dud just like the final GSX-R600? Hypothesis and rumors abounded.

Final month, when Pascal Picotte topped the SuperSport subject throughout tire testing at Daytona on a GSX-R600, we knew that Suzuki had achieved their homework. However after lastly getting our grasping mitts on a GSX-R we had been initially upset. Midrange energy was horrible, and extreme driveline lash made avenue using a chore, each made worse by excessively lean low- and mid-range carburetion that “lean surges” the bike at cruising velocity. Additional limiting the enjoyable was a using place that folded the Suzuki’s pilot right into a pretzel to suit the uncompromising using place.

On the dragstrip the Suzuki’s wimpy midrange energy and obscure clutch dropped it to final within the rankings with an 11.31 cross at 123.1 mph. Dyno testing reveals the issue — at 8,000 rpm the Suzuki trails the Honda by a staggering 12 bhp. Even on the prime finish it fails to prime its competitors with a peak of 88.7 bhp.

Four-piston calipers and a conventional fork are fitted. The GSX-R750 uses upside-down forks and six-piston brakes, costing about $1300 more.

With its full-on race method, we thought the GSX-R would rule within the canyons. However a full day spent lowering the world’s provide of knee-sliders left us questioning the Suzuki’s function in life. An F3 is a match for the GSX-R when issues flip twisty, however it received’t beat you want a rented mule on the experience residence. And at $7,799, the Honda is barely $100 greater than a GSX-R.So why put up with all the Suzuki’s shortcomings? As a result of on the seventh day, MO raced (MO is what we name Bike On-line). And for as soon as, all of us agreed: it’s the greatest monitor weapon. A quicker circuit would have allowed the Suzuki to press residence a bonus greater than the tight and twisty Streets of Willow. Its gentle weight (435lbs stuffed with fuel), lets it carry the best cornering velocity and biggest turn-in velocity. Graves described the Suzuki as “feeling just like the entrance was instantly beneath your shoulders.” Higbee was much more sort: “It felt like I used to be coming close to the bounds of the Honda however the Suzuki had heaps left. Add some new tires, a Yoshimura pipe for extra energy, have Race Tech do the forks, Fox rear shock and be careful Miguel Duhamel. If you happen to can experience the Suzuki to its limits, you’ll win nationwide races.”

2. Honda CBR600F3

What can we are saying about Honda’s CBR600F3 that hasn’t already been mentioned? With its unbeatable mixture of nice velocity, consolation and reliability, the F3 has dominated the 600 class for years. Honda is wise sufficient to not mess with the defending AMA 600 Supersport champion, and due to this fact their technique for enhancing the F3 has at all times been considered one of refinement, moderately than redesign.Honda has continued this pattern in 1997, as a number of minor adjustments have introduced the F3 to an excellent larger degree. Energy is up barely over final 12 months with a peak output of 90 bhp at 11,500 rpm. However what makes the Honda’s engine particular isn’t its spectacular peak horsepower, however the way in which it pulls strongly from idle to redline with no dips or flat-spots. That linear powerband helped the F3 put up the second-quickest drags journey time of 11.00 at 124.61 mph.

Within the canyons the F3’s vast unfold of energy made quick cornering simpler than on the Suzuki as a result of the F3 pilot doesn’t have to do a gearbox tap-dance to remain within the powerband. Much more necessary was that the F3 may get to and from the canyons with out hurting its rider. “There’s no motive for the GSX-R on the road as a result of I can go simply as quick on the F3 in consolation,” Higbee remarked after a day within the canyons.

Changes for 1997 include a redesigned tail section that still pops loose.

Honda’s F3 posted the second-fastest lap time throughout our tire-shredding stint at The Streets of Willow, trailing the GSX-R by simply eleven hundreths of a second. Whereas it was virtually quickest that day, Honda’s F3 did scrape greater than its competitors: “Simply after I was getting severe about going quick on the racetrack the footpegs and exhaust canister began scuffing the asphalt,” mentioned Higbee. Nonetheless, each Higbee and Graves agreed that the F3 was the simplest to hop on and experience shortly. “It’s the most user-friendly bike and most forgiving when pushing it to its limits,” Higbee mentioned. Graves described the Honda as “rider-friendly and simple to slip and really feel comfy on.”Honda got here into this shootout because the reigning class champion. With delicate updates for 1997, the F3 appeared prefer it may spend one other 12 months on the prime. However Yamaha had different concepts…

 

1. Yamaha YZF600R 

Stunned? We had been downright shocked. Yamaha’s YZF600R got here quietly into this shootout with nobody predicting it might win. At $7,399, we knew the value was proper — however we doubted the bike’s capability to match the competitors. Billy Bartels was first to heap reward on the YZF, as he lauded its consolation after a ninety-mile experience from Yamaha’s headquarters. Quickly others started to take a shine to the bike. All of us raved concerning the superior entrance brakes and superior backside finish on the YZF.Within the canyons Yamaha’s YZF was a succesful, if not extraordinary performer. Entrance suspension charges had been on the mushy facet and the inventory Bridgestone tires behaved poorly at steeper lean angles (they’re the very same ones that Kawasaki makes use of on the 6R). Additionally, at 482lbs stuffed with fuel the Yamaha is the category porker. That’s virtually 50lbs greater than the Suzuki, and was chargeable for its barely slower mid-corner speeds. To its credit score the YZF’s torquey motor pulled strongly on nook exits, permitting a great rush to the following nook. Initially, we felt the engine lacked an actual top-end punch, however at 88.5 bhp, it was solely 0.2 off our Suzuki. The bike pulls so cleanly and powerful from down low, it simply feels slower — the highest finish hit, in relative phrases, is much less of a p.c achieve.

Dragstrip testing wasn’t the YZF’s forte both as its weight and grabby clutch left it struggling to maintain up. Graves finally clicked off an 11.21 cross at 123.02 mph, over four-tenths and three miles an hour slower than the Kawasaki. Not precisely the stuff that champions are manufactured from. The Yamaha was, nevertheless, the one bike that didn’t fry it’s clutch on the drag strip. (Many because of Barnett for offering clutches for the opposite three on one hour’s discover.)

The stock Nissin calipers, pads and rotors on the YZF are the best OEM four-piston brakes we've ever tested.

Racetrack testing threatened to drop the YZF to the underside of everybody’s listing, however right here the Yamaha shocked us. Regardless of its weight, mushy suspension and lack of top-end, the YZF proved to be a reliable monitor weapon. Editor-in-Chief Brent Plummer really turned his greatest time of the day on the Yamaha. Though it isn’t as exact as a GSX-R, all of our testers posted good occasions on the YZF.

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