Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997-2000): Review & Buying Guide

Kev Raymond
By Kev Raymond

Kev's been riding since acquiring half shares in a CZ175 field bike back in the seventies, passed his test in a blizzard on Christmas Eve 1985, and got his first job on a bike mag in 1990. Likes: long distance touring and short-distance twisties. Currently owns a 1987 GSX-R1100, a 1992 Ducati 400SS, a 1973 Honda SS50, a 1978 Honda CX500, a 1988 Honda Bros special, a 1957 Mobylette and a 110cc pit bike. None of them work.

Suzuki

 

In the 90s, the 600 class was hugely important to the Japanese factories, and although Suzuki's Bandit 600 was a massive success, they didn't have anything to mount a proper challenge in the increasingly competitive Supersport category. Until 1997, that is, when the GSX-R600 SRAD (Suzuki Ram Air Direct) appeared. Based heavily on the previous year's 750cc version (the only real visual clue was the conventional forks in place of the 750s upside down forks), but with a high-revving, hugely oversquare engine, it was built to win supersport races almost straight out of the box. That should have made it a bit of a nightmare on the road, but not a bit of it. Yes, it was a bit flighty on seriously bumpy roads, and yes, the engine was a screamer and you needed to work the gearbox hard to keep the revs in the sweet spot, but its 750-class dimensions made it relatively roomy, and because the chassis had the potential for World Superbike levels of power and handling, it had no trouble coping with the 600's genuine 100bhp at the back wheel.

 

Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997-2000) Price

At launch in 1997, buying into 600 SRAD ownership would have cost you £7274 on the road – the equivalent of around £13,300 today. The other Supersport 600s were pretty much exactly the same price (Kawasaki's ZX-6R was a couple of hundred quid more), or you could have had a Ducati 750SS for the same money. These days you can pick up a roadworthy example for under a grand, but beware bikes needing tyres, chains and sprockets, brake pads and a full service all at once – you can easily end up spending five hundred in parts alone, so you'd be better off spending a bit more and getting a nice, clean, tidy example with plenty of life in the consumables, for around fifteen hundred. Dealers will be looking for anything up to £2500 for something really shiny with sub-20k miles (with a few chancers wanting even more), but we'd say somewhere around two grand should find you a really good one if you're patient.

 

Power and torque

If you want to ride round in top gear, overtaking effortlessly with a twist of the throttle and grunting your way out of bends without troubling clutch and gearbox too much, walk away now - the SRAD 600 is not for you. But if you're used to modern 600s it'll probably seem relatively supple and useable – it's all about perspective. It makes a genuine 100bhp at the rear wheel (assuming everything's working as it should) and provided it's been rejetted for any mods to exhaust and airbox, those Mikuni downdraught carburettors provide a lovely smooth power delivery that fuel injection struggles to replicate. Peak power is at around 12,000rpm, before tailing off to a redline at around 13,500rpm, which seemed high back in 1997 but compared with more recent 600s it's fairly relaxed – the current Yamaha R6 makes its peak at a heady 14,500rpm. 1998-on models had a few mods to give slightly better midrange, but there's not a lot in it.

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

It may be revvy and need a good thrashing, but even so the SRAD's motor has proved pretty reliable over the years. It's based on the 750 but with lightened internals, and designed to be reliable even when race tuned so it's largely over-engineered for the job as standard. There'll always be the odd major problem caused by neglect or abuse, but if it starts, runs, doesn't rattle and doesn't smoke (a puff on start-up is ok, but it should clear quickly as it warms up), you're unlikely to have major problems. Noises from the top end might just mean the carbs need balancing, but might also be signs of a worn camchain tensioner - fortunately that's an easy fix. Rumbles from the bottom end might be more serious, indicating crank problems. Suzuki have always been pretty good at gearboxes, and this is no exception - it should be light and sweet to change, which is just as well given how often you'll be changing gear. If it's tight or notchy, check the gear lever pivot is free-moving and the rose joints aren't rusty. You can also get a build-up of crud on the input shaft where it runs through the sprocket cover, so that's worth cleaning up. If none of that sorts it, walk away unless you're confident to remove and strip the engine to get at the source of the problem. The clutch can give trouble – too many racing starts and you'll soon burn plates. Fine in normal use though. The standard exhaust has stainless steel downpipes and it's pretty good quality, although the black finish can look tatty. Few owners go to the expense of a full replacement system, but aftermarket cans are common, with Yoshimura being the holy grail. Make sure the carbs have been set up to suit though – changing the can often means a leaner mixture, making for flat spots and other problems.

 

Suzuki

 

Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997-2000) Economy

If you'd asked most SRAD owners about economy back in the day they'd have looked at you like you had two heads. In fact, I did exactly that once and one reply was, 'Why should I care? If I was worried about fuel consumption I'd have bought a diesel.' But that was when you didn't need a mortgage to fill your tank. Thrash one of these and you'll be slurping through a gallon of unleaded in 30 or so miles, which means you'll be looking for fuel before 100 miles. The good news is that if you take it a bit more gently you shouldn't have any trouble getting 40+mpg on a regular basis. Incidentally you'll almost certainly find it runs better on 98 than 95 (carb icing can be a problem in particular on cheap fuel), and on posh branded 98 at that, and you'll probably get better fuel mileage to offset the extra cost.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

This is really what the SRAD 600 is all about. With a (for 1997) flyweight 174kg dry weight (just shy of 200kg fully fuelled and ready to go), and sharp steering geometry, it's a joy to flip from side to side, and with plenty of ground clearance and supple suspension feels perfectly composed when you get it leaned right over on road or track. Or at least, it does if everything's absolutely working as it should. In the real world, twenty years after leaving the factory any used SRAD is likely to have a few bits that need attention to restore it to its sweet-steering best. Mostly it's the basics – fresh grease in all suspension pivots at the rear, and head bearings checked/greased/adjusted is a good start. Fork oil changes are often neglected and getting that sorted will make a huge difference – the forks are beefy 45mm stanchions, and although they're unfashionable conventional forks they work very well indeed if cared for and properly set up. If it's still got the original rear shock though, it will almost certainly be getting tired and baggy by now. There are plenty of replacements available, but the most cost effective solution is to get it rebuilt and serviced by a specialist like MCT or K-Tech. All that and fresh pair of tyres and you'll be ready to snap at the heels of bigger bikes on track days and smooth backroads, although you might find yourself wanting to back off a bit as it gets bumpier – they've always been prone to a bit of head-shaking if pushed hard over the bumps.

 

Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997-2000) Brakes

Very strong when new – they may have been four-pots rather than the 750's six-pot versions, but they had a lot of feel, and plenty of power for the road. Twenty-something years down the road, though, time will probably have taken its toll. The rubbers in master cylinder and calipers are supposed to be changed every four years, but it's rarely done. That, added to a build-up of gunge on the outside, and corrosion in the grooves behind the piston seals, leads to sticking brakes, getting gradually worse as they drag, causing heat build-up and potential disc warping. Budget for a complete strip and clean, and new rubber parts. The original brake hoses are supposed to be changed every four years too, but most will have been swapped for less flexy braided hoses by now, so you should be ok.

 

Suzuki

 

Comfort over distance and touring

Well, it's no Goldwing, that's for sure, but by current standards it's fairly roomy. The riding position was based on the mid-90s RGV500 GP bike, so you'd think it'd be extreme, but remember that bike was based round lanky Texan Kevin Schwantz's long limbs, so there's plenty of room for most folk. Again, what seemed extreme back then seems pretty tame now. Pillion accommodation is reasonable too, with a fairly spacious perch – still a perch though, not a throne. Be aware, too, that the maximum permitted weight for bike, rider, passenger and luggage is 390kg. In practice that means unless you're featherweights a rider and pillion in full kit will be close to or over that figure, so no margin for adding luggage.

 

Rider aids and extra equipment/accessories

Nothing to see here, move along please... The SRAD is pretty much analogue – no ABS, TCS, no nothing. They don't tend to get heavily accessorised either – there was an optional pillion seat cover which is worth having, and you do get the odd bike that's suffered from over-zealous application of bolt-on tat, but otherwise the most common mod used to be race replica paintwork. Well-applied it can look great, but don't pay extra for it, and be aware it's a common way of covering up old crash damage, so look for road rash on bits like fork lowers, swing arm and frame spars which might be evidence of a big shunt.

 

Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997-2000) verdict

There's always been a lot to like about the SRAD 600 – light, nimble, quick-steering and searingly quick in the right hands. A couple of decades on and all that's still true, and you can also add proven reliability and a rising appreciation of its modern classic status. Parts supply is pretty good, you can upgrade suspension and brakes using aftermarket parts or bits from the 750, as well as parts from more recent GSX-Rs (Suzuki have always been considerate about keeping things like bearing and spindle sizes common between models, which makes life easier), and a good SRAD will still keep up with most things on a twisty road. There's no dedicated SRAD owners' club in the traditional sense, but the GSX-R owners' club (gsxroc.com) has an SRAD-specific sub-forum which is a bit quiet, but worth a look. You'll also find SRAD enthusiast pages on Facebook but the quality/usefulness is, erm, variable... One great resource for parts for the SRAD (and most older Suzukis). OEM parts supply is pretty variable - anything that's available can be sourced via www.robinsonsfoundry.co.uk – but there's a lot of pattern parts out there for servicing and upgrades. Try wemoto.com for a selection.

 

Three things we love about the Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD…

  • Handling
  • Braking
  • Looks

 

Three things that we don't…

  • Cheap finish on some parts
  • Weak clutch
  • Drinks like a fish when thrashed

 

Suzuki

 

Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997-2000) spec

Original price

£7,274

Current price range

£1000-£2500

Capacity

600cc

Bore x Stroke

65.5 x 44.5mm

Engine layout

Inline four

Engine details

Liquid cooled, DOHC 16 valves, carburettors

Power (claimed)

104.5bhp (77.9kW) @ 12,000rpm

Torque (claimed)

48.6 lb-ft (65.7Nm) @ 10,000rpm

Top speed

150mph

Transmission

6 speed, chain drive

Average fuel consumption

43mpg tested

Tank size

18 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

172 miles

Reserve capacity

None (warning light on dash)

Rider aids

None

Frame

Aluminium twin spar

Front suspension

45mm conventional forks

Front suspension adjustment

Rebound and preload adjustable

Rear suspension

Rising rate monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping

Front brake

320mm discs, four-pot Tokico calipers

Rear brake

220mm disc, twin-pot Tokico calipers

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17

Rear tyre

180/55 ZR17

Rake/Trail

24°/96mm

Dimensions

2065mm x 720mm 1135mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1390mm

Ground clearance

130mm

Seat height

830mm

Kerb weight

199kg

 

Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance

 

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