Gilera RC 600C


Make Model

Gilera RC 600C


1992 -


Four stroke, single cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves


558 cc / 34.0 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 98 x 74 mm
Cooling System Liquid cooled
Compression Ratio 10.5:1


2x 30mm carburetor


Starting Electric

Max Power

53 hp / 39.5 kW @ 7800 rpm

Max Torque

51 Nm / 37 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm

Transmission  /  Drive

5 Speed 
Final Drive Chain

Front Suspension

41mm Morzocchi  forks
Front Wheel Travel 160 mm / 6.2 in

Rear Suspension

Boge shocks variable preload
Rear Wheel Travel 260 mm / 10.2 in

Front Brakes

Single 260mm disc

Rear Brakes

Single 220mm disc

Front Tyre

90/90 -21

Rear Tyre

130/80 -17

Dry Weight

145 kg / 320 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

12 Litres / 3.17 US gal

Consumption Average

17.5 km/lit

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.8 sec / 149.5 km/h

Top Speed

164 km/h / 102 mph

Road Test

Road test


WHEN THE EUROPEAN borders come down, one of the biggest plus points for the British biker is that machines currently available on the Continent but not here will suddenly come within reach. Among the tastiest of this year's forbidden fruit is the Gilera RC600, which never came even close to being imported by Heron — but which in 1993 could be yours for little more than its price in French francs and the cost of a ticket through the Chunnel.

The RC600 is the latest version of the Milan firm's tough-as-teak single-cylinder trail bike. Gilera thumpers have been around on the Continent for several years, and this bike's predecessor won the Silhouette class for proddie-based bikes in last year's Paris-Dakar Rally. Now the RC has been restyled — by no less an artist than Gilera's ex-Bimota design chief Fedcrico Martini — and refined to make a more rider-friendly roadster.

The engine remains a 558cc liquid-cooled single, its four valves operated by twin camshafts turned by a toothed belt. Instead the flat plastic flanks of the new petrol-tank cover hide the area in which many changes have been made: the cylinder head. New cams and valves, as well as pistons, airbox and exhaust, combine to lift claimed power output from 48 to 53bhp at 75()0rpm, which compares well with the efforts of Japanese rivals such as Honda's 46bhp Dominator and Suzuki's new 45bhp DR650RS.

The frame is steel, with conventional forks at the front, Gilera's Power Drive rising-rate monoshock at the rear, and a single disc at each end. Steering geometry has been steepened slightly and the forks are now 43mm jobs from Kayaba, who supplied this year's Gilera factory desert-race bikes, in place of the 40mm Marzocchis used before. Like Ducati with the new 900SS, Gilera have abandoned Italian suspension parts for Japanese.

Rear shock is a Bogc unit with its mounts strengthened (another Paris-Dakar tip) and linkages subtly repositioned. Seat height is reduced from 920mm to a much more reasonable 890mm but the RC is still tall and lean, and still sounds mean and rorty through the silencer exiting below the scat on the right.

The nose-fairing gives protection only to the instruments — which now include a tacho in place of the old model's clock — so wind pressure is taken by the rider's bod as the Gilera accelerates away, stonking can keep the front wheel near the ground. At ultra-low revs the engine's a bit rough but smooths at 2500, and by 3500rpm there's enough grunt to lift the front wheel effortlessly.

Come five thou the Gilera lengthens its stride, revving through the 7300rpm rcdlinc in the lower gears if you let it. A balancer-shaft keeps vibes to typical big-single levels at the six-grand, 75mph cruising speed that the bike felt capable of retaining all day (although the rider would benefit from some more protection). Flat-out, with my head behind the clocks, the RC hammered up to bang-on an indicated ton, with a little more to come given a long enough run-up.

Not that an RC600 pilot has to slow too much for the corners. Despite steepish geometry the RC never felt close to producing a wobble even in bumpy bends, and on the straight could be held flat-out with none of the weave with which so many big trail bikes are cursed.

Suspension at both ends was ace despite the long travel, with the non-adjustable Kayabas justifying Gilera's lack of patriotism. The forks dived a little in response to a hard grab at the front disc, but generally gave a refreshingly taut feel on tarmac. The wide bars and quick steering meant the RC could be flicked around with even more ease than its 3101b dry weight suggests.

On rough, gravel-strewn country roads the RC was great fun, and proved ideal for nipping through the traffic. Even on the open road it was happy, floating along with enough comfort to suggest that, although the wind-blast and the buzz through seat and footrests would become annoying after a time, you could happily keep riding until the disappointingly small 2.7-gallon gas tank ran dry.

Ironically, the only time the Gilera was not at home was when I headed into a muddy field to give its off-road prowess a brief test. Here it was soon floundering because the Dunlop Trailmax tyres, which had been fine on the road, filled their shallow tread with mud and failed to grip.

Because of it, the bike's potential could only be hinted at, and you would have to fit a pair of enduro boots to do the RC justice off-road. But the Gilera's competitive pedigree and obvious quality suggest it should still do the business, and with its extra comfort and poise the RC600 has taken a step towards becoming as handy on the street as it is in the desert.

In Italy it costs about £3850, a couple of hundred quid more than the Dominator but £2500 less than Cagiva's 900 Elefant. Never mind buying one in France. Throw in the cost of a one-way flight to Milan plus a few-dozen tankfuls of petrol, and post-'92 you could have a high old time bringing a new RC600 back across the Alps for not much more than four grand all-in. Perhaps this united Europe lark isn't such a bad thing after all. □

Source Bike Magazine 1991