If you’ve never ridden a modern 600cc sports bike, you are missing out on an experience that a few short years ago was open only to racers or owners of unaffordable motorcycle exotica. Modern 600’s are light, fast and possess the razor sharp handling that used to be the exclusive domain of GP250cc racing machines, so it’s not difficult to understand why they are such a popular choice for many experienced riders. If you are used the ‘grunt’ of a 1000cc superbike, jumping on a 600 for the first time may surprise you. What they lack in outright top end performance is more than made up for with their generally outstanding ability through the twisty bits. As a compromise between outright power and handling, a modern 600 is the perfect bike for many riders, but not for beginners. If you’ve just passed your bike test, gain some experience on a lower powered machine first.
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In a class dominated by the ‘Big Four’ Japanese manufacturers, it is difficult to pick out an outright market leader. Honda offers the superb CBR600RR, Yamaha’s R6 is an ever-present contender, whilst Suzuki’s GSX-R600 and the Kawasaki ZX6-R are both outstanding machines.
If you are looking to buy a used 600, take the time to check it out very carefully. Whilst many are cherished, others have had a hard life. Make sure that it hasn’t had any accident damage, and that it hasn’t been raced. 600cc sports bikes are popular track day tools, so watch out for any evidence of hard use. From a mechanical point of view most modern 600’s are strong, but serious mechanical work can be expensive. A 4-cylinder 600cc bike will cost almost as much to repair in the event of a serious mishap as a 1000cc superbike. If you are in any doubt at all, make sure you have the bike thoroughly checked over by an expert before parting with your cash.