Just as it took a back seat to its Japanese rivals at the track, the Triumph scored low marks in six categories based on street performance and trails the pack by a wide margin. In the plus column, the 675's torquey mill-with its wide spread of usable torque-is ideally suited to street use and sounds fantastic to boot, eh? The abrupt rev limiter and abbreviated overrev are nonissues away from the racetrack, and the smooth-running three-cylinder, oversized engine gives the 675 a big advantage over the higher-revving fours. The light, narrow chassis is plenty nimble and transitions from side to side easily enough, and the bike benefits from the fitment of Pirelli's grippy Supercorsa Pros-a street/track tire as opposed to the other bikes' street-oriented rubber-as standard.
There are several niggling details that keep the Triumph rider from utilizing its engine, tires and light weight to their full potential down a twisty road. The rear suspension presents just as many setup problems on the street as it does at the track. The high seat quickly becomes uncomfortable as well as hot from the exhaust. And the transmission is very stiff, making it almost impossible to find neutral. There's more to fault, but the gist of it is that while the four-cylinder bikes have forged ahead since 2006, the 675 is showing its age in a class that demands steady progress.
While the improvements to the R6 made a big impression at the racetrack and are felt on the street, the bias of the Yamaha toward the closed-circuit arena is still clearly evident. "The Yamaha requires that you haul ass before it feels right," summed up a tired Kento at the end of the day, and the characteristics that helped the R6 post the quickest lap time make for a lot of work down a canyon run. The top-end-heavy powerband is definitely easier to utilize than before but still calls for judicious revs to keep pace on corner exits. "You still have to rev the engine," whined Trevitt. "And when you do it gets loud and busy, to the point that it's a distraction." The stock Dunlop Qualifiers offer excellent grip and enhance the R6's quick steering, but grip and feedback are not on par with the Bridgestones fitted to either the ZX-6R or GSX-R. The Yamaha tips in easily enough but requires some inside bar force to continue holding a line-until it falls into the turn near maximum lean.
More details conspire to put the R6 farther behind its peers on the road: The clip-ons, lowered for this year, put a lot of weight on your wrists. The high-effort brakes are more problematic on the street than on the track. And the stiff suspension may be bliss on the track or on a smooth road, but throw some bumps in the R6's path and it quickly becomes unglued and uncomfortable.
While the GSX-R600's scores tallied up to a third-place ranking on the street, we can't emphasize enough how close the results are. Boy Toy Troy picked the Suzuki as his favorite, noting that, "There may not be any one particular piece that's the best when compared with the other bikes, but as a sum of all the parts the GSX-R600 makes the best streetbike here." Holst likewise chose the Suzuki: "It's still the magic combination of feel and feedback that inspires the most confidence for me. The communication with the front contact patch is absolutely telepathic, and the brakes strike my ideal balance between power, feel and modulation." The engine's beefy midrange is even more apparent on the street than on the track, and the velvety throttle response makes it easy to access that smooth power. One big advantage the GSX-R has is the fitment of OEM variants of Bridgestone's new BT-016 tire. Simply put, the new tire is incredible, offering fantastic grip and feedback; the front especially displays uncannily neutral steering characteristics.
Others were not so enamored of the baby GSX-R, feeling that the tires in fact disguised some of the Suzuki's shortcomings and that its excessive heft was easily noticeable compared with the other bikes, causing it to wallow and feel loose when pushed hard. While the engine's newfound midrange is a welcome addition, top end is still lackluster and not helped by the long-turn throttle. And the drivetrain is clunky and buzzy at low rpm. Both Kunitsugu and Trevitt, killjoys that they are, were underwhelmed and rated the GSX-R accordingly, offsetting the others' rave reviews.