Kawasaki ZX-6R in the test


Kawasaki ZX-6R in the test

Premiere: Kawasaki ZX-6R

The Kawasaki 636 Ninja

Content of

Traction control, two power modes, ABS – the 600s have arrived in the world of high-tech racers. And as an extra there is even more cubic. Is the Kawa the supersport motorcycle of all??

M.With reanimated cubic capacity full steam ahead in the 600s future? What is rolling in for the first test drive at Thunderhill Raceway in California is in any case Kawasaki’s reaction to the status quo that has been paralyzing the Supersport class for so long. Whereby the status quo is almost an understatement, because one really has to speak of the waning of the once so radiant 600s. For years nothing went on in terms of model development, while the sales figures sank into insignificance.

The Yamaha R6 is particularly popular on the racetrack and has been on the market almost unchanged for four years. In the registration statistics, with 260 units sold in 2012, it only ranks 88th in the overall model list in Germany – far behind the Suzuki GSX-R 600 (357 units, 99 of which were registered in September alone, which smells like Suzuki action ) and just behind the Honda CBR 600 RR (262 pieces). Triumph’s Daytona 675, which has always been the measure of the 600 things in the tests since it was released a good six years ago, is even further down the line with 139 vehicles (124th place). A market that is too manageable. And the Kawasaki? 92 600s ninjas sold are devastating. Last place among the athletes and 141st place in the overall list.


The newly designed 636 engine is supposed to deliver more power everywhere compared to the pure 600 ninja. This is clearly noticeable for the pilot, especially between 6500 and 12000 rpm.

The drive

Kawasaki no longer wants to offer that and remembered the times when their 600 ruled the class. Her four-cylinder had 37 cc more than the competition, and that’s where Kawasaki is now returning. Even so, you didn’t just reach out to the shelf and pull out a tried and tested engine. The new four-cylinder got a significantly different bore / stroke ratio. The last “big” 600 from 2005 was 68.0 / 43.8 mm. Today the bore is 67 mm identical to the rule-compliant Racer offered at the same time (in the future as ZX 600 R in the program). But the stroke grew to 45.1 mm – a statement for everyday life and country roads, where good torque in four-digit speeds is required.

Kawasaki also adapted the camshafts to the new dimensions. The inlet valves now open longer and wider. Before that, the mixture flows through longer intake funnels. On the exhaust side, too, including the silencer, everything has been optimized for more torque. There were also new pistons, the airbox grew by over half a liter and a few more minor interventions were added so that the increase in displacement also brings an increase in performance (131 PS should be maximum) and drivability.

This quickly became apparent on the Thunderhill circuit. After the second-gear passages, the easy-to-shift ninja gearbox could be quickly shifted to third, and before one or the other bend you could even skip the next lower gear, provided that the engine speed did not drop below 7000 rpm. In this area, the 636 is already pulling hard and relieves the driver of the otherwise class-standard Georgel beyond the 10,000 mark. However, the maximum power is around 13500 rpm and the Kawa gives itself the powerful 600 power kick that lasts until the end and that greedy revving pleasure, as you experience on the Yamaha R6. The limiter at 14,000 rpm is a little more leisurely a good 1000 revs earlier.


This may create a slight emotional deficit in race training, but on country roads it is a real boon for the driver. The ZX-6R was correspondingly fun on the constantly winding roads in the Californian mountains because its thrust takes place exactly where you can access it on public roads with a clear conscience. But you shouldn’t be too lazy with the shift foot, because the midrange power of a slightly enlarged 600cc four-cylinder is finite at the bottom. Underneath, the tough “Wooooaaaap” threatens to be too slow.


The spring of the 636 Ninja, which is softer and longer than the previous shock absorber, did a good job.

Chassis and brake

In terms of chassis and brakes, the ZX-6R is also a new motorcycle. The chassis itself comes from the ZX 600 R, but the geometry has been changed slightly, the front is slightly lower thanks to the two millimeter longer fork tubes and the steering head angle is 0.5 degrees steeper. The most striking innovation on the chassis of the ZX-6R is the new, 220 gram lighter Big Piston fork from Showa with separate preload and compression and rebound stages, which are distributed over both bars and can all be adjusted at the top of the fork bridge. The system without a cartridge should work better, especially in the first part of the damping, thanks to the larger diameter damper piston. The test revealed a large setting range, because the smallest changes were noticeable immediately, and the easy accessibility clearly encouraged the experimentation.

A spring 25 mm longer is installed on the shock absorber, which is also 7.5 percent softer than that of the racing sister. Here, too, the bike reacts immediately to changes to the setup. With one turn more preload, the Ninja fell even more nimble to lean and took steering inputs sensitively. In the braking zones, she hardly sacrificed any of her convincing stability. The feedback was pleasing and the neutrality in the inclined position left little to be desired for such a serial athlete. The damping is not too tight on the country road, but tight enough on the racetrack – at least for the prevailing conditions, because both the Thunderhill racing circuit and the country roads in the area were characterized by almost perfect asphalt. The first real test has to show how good the landing gear’s response is and how much of the almost criminal road damage is passed on to the pilot everywhere in this country.

In any case, the Bridgestone S20 in special specification fits the Kawa perfectly. And the brake is a force! Snappy, aggressive, but neatly dosed and stable, the Nissin monoblocks on the two 310 millimeter brake discs did a great job. However, when it premiered in California, the test motorcycle was not yet equipped with ABS, which is mandatory for the German market. The anti-lock device will not be available for testing until the end of February.


Power mode and traction control can be set just like on the ZX-10R.


The electronics in particular catapult the 600 ninja into the next generation. Two performance modes and the three-stage traction control from the ZX-10R are new in the class. The point of such expensive toys can be discussed splendidly, because even with 37 cubic meters more in the combustion chamber, the Kawa does not even come close to generating the brutal thrust that makes the TC on the 1000s so useful. On the smooth Thunderhill track we didn’t embarrass the mounted Bridgestone R10 racing skins, and on the country road it was dry and we had great grip. There is some perplexity in this regard, but we will definitely clarify these and other questions in the first intensive test, when we can choose the conditions ourselves.

Changes in detail:

  • new engine with more displacement, noticeably more midrange power
  • new Big Piston fork generation
  • new shock absorber
  • new electronics with power modes, TC and ABS
  • new front brakes
  • Styling similar to the superbike ZX-10R

PS judgment:
A great motorcycle – without a doubt. But there is a catch, the price. If 600s, especially mobile 600s, are to attract new fans to the sports camp, they have to be cheap. That is by no means the ZX-6R with the electronics. But Kawasaki leaves no choice to the customer, who should have it, depending on their budget, from the cheap basic bike without extras for around 10,500 euros to the top package.

PS data


The road conditions during the test in California were ideal. The first real test under self-selected conditions will look for how good the response of the chassis really is.

Four-cylinder in-line engine, 4 valves / cylinder, 96 kW (131PS) at 13500 / min *, 71 Nm at 11500 / min *, 636 cm³, bore / stroke: 67.0 / 45.1 mm, compression: 12.9: 1, ignition / injection system, 38 mm throttle valves, mechanically operated multi-disc oil bath anti-hopping clutch, six-speed gearbox, chain

landing gear
Light alloy bridge frame, steering head angle: 66.5 degrees, caster: 101 mm, wheelbase: 1395 mm, inner fork tube Ø: 41 mm, spring travel from / h .: 120/134 mm

Wheels and brakes
Cast light alloy wheels, 3.50 x 17 / 5.50 x 17, front tires: 120/70 ZR 17, rear: 180/55 ZR 17, 310 mm double disc brake with four-piston monoblocks at the front, 220 mm single disc with single-piston floating caliper at the rear , ABS (not in the test)

Weight (ready to drive)
194 kg * (with ABS) Tank capacity: 17.0 liters Super

Base price
13,200 euros (plus ancillary costs) *

* Manufacturer information

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *