2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R - First Look

Kawasaki’s ZX-6R supersport loses some weight and its underseat exhaust.

2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R - First Look

Kawasaki unveiled its latest, and perhaps greatest, ZX-6R to dealers this past weekend in Texas. Looking at the overall package of changes, it's clear Kawasaki is serious about putting its sponsored racers on the box and giving its customers a hard-edge middleweight sportbike. The passel of improvements is aimed at centralizing mass, improving handling and making fresh-from-the-crate throttle response better than ever before.

First the diet. On a supersport, there's bad weight and worse weight. The worst stuff is located high and far from the bike's center, where it has the greatest negative affect on handling. Binning the formerly stylish underseat tailpipes, the new '09 ZX6R gets a semi-stubby pipe that peeks out just behind the rider's right foot. This dramatically lightens both the actual weight and appearance of the rear of the bike. Up front, supports for the upper fairing and dash were "unitized" with the ram-air intake and airbox to add strength and cut weight. Engine and transmission internals were lightened, and Kawasaki says this was done without cutting overall part-strength or reliability. Race-spec magnesium engine side covers replace the '08's aluminum ones.

Kawi tapped Showa for "the first production use of their revolutionary Big Piston Fork (BPF)." According to Kawi, the larger-diameter piston allows lower damping pressure to get the same net result, allowing better feel and feedback under braking. It's also simpler than a cartridge design, which should allow more DIY fiddling. The main frame was stiffened, the engine rotated a bit to adjust both stress-mount points and the overall center of gravity, and additional stiffness was built into the swingarm mounting points. The swingarm itself is longer, lighter and more rigid than before.

It looks the business too. Far more angular and svelte styling matches the intent of the bike, making last year's model look somewhat portly by comparison. Bars are a tad closer to the rider with a different "bend," ostensibly increasing rider comfort. And Roger Hayden fans can show their support with the sinister Monster Energy paint scheme (for $9999, $200 more than the standard model).

How good? How fast? How light? We won't know for sure until they throw us the keys—which with luck, should be in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R