- Attack from below
- Conclusion: Kawasaki ZX-9R
- Conclusion: Kawasaki ZX-6R
- Conclusion: Yamaha YZF-R1
- Conclusion: Yamaha YZF-R6
Comparison test between Kawasaki ZX-6R and Kawasaki ZX-9R, Yamaha YZF-R6 and Yamaha R1
Attack from below
Technically unchanged, the Kawasaki ZX-9R and Yamaha YZF-R1 start the new year. Does that make them vulnerable? With the heavily revised models ZX-6R and YZF-R6, a first attack from within the ranks starts.
With radically new concepts and extensive model updates, the 600s from Kawasaki and Yamaha want to show their big sisters that small is not only pretty, but also fast. An eternal round table topic should thus get fresh topicality. Which is better: a 600 or a 1000?
The Kawasaki ZX-6R is full of energy when comparing it with its big sister. Graceful, but aggressive, the 600 stands next to the ZX-9R, which is downright massive. Upside-down fork and radially bolted brake callipers do the rest to make it clear what ambitions it has. What the Yamaha R6 embodied in the 600 class in the previous year is now defined by the ZX-6R: uncompromising sportiness. The ensemble of deep handlebar stubs, a short tank and a relatively high seat cushion that rises towards the rear forces the driver into a racing posture.
The ZX-9R is completely different. As the only bike in its class, it has not allowed itself to be infected by the technology arms race of its direct competitors. She still relies on a conventional fork and a carburetor system for mixture preparation. Highly attached handlebars, low-positioned footrests and the massive tank result in such a relaxed seating position that you could speak of a sports tourer rather than an athlete. Very comfortably designed spring elements also go well with this, which diligently collect plus points on the country road, but reach their limits on the racetrack. Although the damping on the fork and shock absorber is almost completely closed, the chassis looks rather spongy. Slight pumping movements on the hindquarters clearly show the limit area when accelerating in an inclined position. Fast laps on the racetrack require maximum concentration and full physical effort on the 9 series.
The little sister is made of a completely different cloth. What still seemed bumpy on the country road impresses on the racetrack with extreme steering precision, razor-sharp feedback and exemplary stability in corners. Even the smallest slides are reported to the driver immediately and unadulterated when looking for the limit. The settings that Kawasaki specifies for use on the racetrack make the 600 even tighter than in the everyday setup, but are definitely recommended. With this chassis and the powerfully hissing four-cylinder, the 6 Series kindles blazing enthusiasm on the racetrack. Simply ingenious, how the ZX-6R is accompanied by a greedy tube, the mixture sucks into the channels and the rest roars out at the back.
The fact that the 25 hp more powerful 900 cannot lose many meters on the straights is due to the very harmonious and powerful development of the 636 cm³ engine and the low weight of only 188 kg when fully fueled.
When accelerating, the 6 series rushes through the upper speed ranges so quickly that the driver has trouble not missing the shift points because of the difficult-to-read digital tachometer. We look forward to the first exchange of blows with the very sporty CBR 600 RR.
The omens are completely different in the Yamaha family. The R6, which once embodied uncompromising sportiness, turned into an all-rounder and everybody’s darling. Of course, the extremely designed 600s from Kawasaki and Honda also contribute to this, which shifted the standards. What seemed super sporty last year is now proving to be a good all-rounder. In contrast to the 636, the R6 offers a very comfortable seating position and conveys confidence from the very first few meters. Observed with a certain envy by the shaken R1 driver, the soft R6 chassis swallows even the roughest bumps on the country road and almost automatically draws a clean line. Anyone who now thinks that the new 600 is no longer suitable for the racetrack is wrong. At least at temperatures around ten degrees in Rijeka, the chassis was not to be embarrassed. However, with an almost completely closed compression stage on the fork and shock absorber, it no longer offers any reserves. While the R6 with this setting burns quick times on the cold asphalt in a relaxed manner and is only braked by a small moment of thought, which the injection system allows itself to switch from pushing to load operation, the R1 pilot has to do a lot more.
Although the 1000 with a full tank of 200 kilograms weighs just eleven kilos more than the 600, it is a bit more unwieldy due to the wide 190 rear tire and the deep handlebars. Better, but not yet perfect, is the interaction between the chassis and engine when accelerating in an inclined position. The R1 has lost a bit of its bite, but it is still not harmless. Caution is required with such a device. Without a lot of background noise, the engine gives an almost harmless impression, but you should never forget that even at a speed of 4500 revolutions a mighty 90 Nm tear at the rear wheel and just wait to draw black lines on the asphalt. If it comes to that, the stress-free gliding is over. Full physical effort is required to keep the front wheel close to the ground and maximum concentration is required if you want to accelerate out of a curve at a decent speed.
The R6 engine does better than the performance curve suggests. The starting weakness below 4000 revs and the slight drop at 8000 tours are not noticeable on the racetrack. In addition, the load change reactions that plagued the predecessor have become significantly less. The gearbox has also lost some of its boneiness and is easier to shift. Only in the upper speed range is it noticeable that, in contrast to the previous model, the R6 drops more significantly after reaching its peak performance. Due to the playful handling and the easily implementable performance, however, it manages to keep the distance to the R1 relatively small.
UThe bottom line is a surprising result that should provide plenty of fuel at the regulars’ table. While the purpose of the Kawasaki family decides the outcome of the family duel, the R6 plays the trump card of the all-rounder. Comfortable on the country road and sufficient reserves on the racetrack, at least in the low temperatures, make it the R1 alternative and the decision a real family affair. Because the 2600 euros saved when buying an R6 can still be used to finance a feudal vacation for the whole family.
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Comparison test between Kawasaki ZX-6R and Kawasaki ZX-9R, Yamaha YZF-R6 and Yamaha R1
Attack from below
Performance Chart – Measured and Rated
While the ZX-9R shines with a performance curve like from a textbook, the R1 makes a small drop at 7500 revolutions, which, however, is not noticeable subjectively. The 636 uses the displacement advantage and provides over ten hp more at 8000 revs than the R6, which allows itself a short break in this area.
Conclusion: Kawasaki ZX-9R
The ZX-9R can do everything. Nothing perfect, but so good that it feels comfortable on almost any terrain. There is no fear of contact with her little sister. If the big one sets the tone on bumpy country roads and on vacation tours completely stress-free, she has to surrender to today’s youth on the racetrack without a fight. With its powerful engine and comfortable chassis, it prefers more sporty touring. The braking system is excellent.
Conclusion: Kawasaki ZX-6R
If you find it too hard, you are driving in the wrong place. On the racetrack, the sports suspension of the new Kawa spoils you with razor-sharp steering behavior and great feedback. In addition, an engine that not only impresses with its sound, but also mercilessly converts its increased displacement compared to the real 600s into propulsion. The downside of the coin is the loss of everyday practicality. The seating position and suspension elements are too uncomfortable for longer tours.
Conclusion: Yamaha YZF-R1
Clear lines and high quality make the Yamaha R1 an eye-catcher in front of the ice cream parlor. Even if the new R1 is easier to drive than the predecessor model and no longer grabs quite as snappy, it still has a large portion of respect for the enormous torque. It remains a powerhouse that very few can push at the limit. After initial problems with poor braking in the first comparison test, they now work perfectly.
Conclusion: Yamaha YZF-R6
After the R6 had assumed the role of the ultimate super sports car for years, it suddenly appeared as an all-rounder compared to the ZX-6R. The pleasant, relaxed seating position and the comfortably tuned chassis are just as suitable for long vacation tours as on small country roads and the racetrack. The only annoying thing is the blatant starting weakness below 4000 revs. Nevertheless, it is a real alternative to the R1, especially since it costs 2600 euros less.
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