Just like smartphones, the price of middleweight sportbikes has steadily increased over the years. Finally, Kawasaki says enough is enough, slashing the price of its Ninja ZX-6R supersport ($9,999 without ABS), while giving it a face-lift and adding a batch of small updates for riders who want to leave a rubber mark, whether on the road or the track.
Kawasaki’s clearly not reinventing the wheel, sticking with the more street-oriented and still plus-sized 636cc formula that it unveiled six years ago for the 2013 model year. Unlike some of its competition, the ZX-6R is a civilized sportbike that’s as at home on the street as it is on track.
It's powered by Green Team’s stroked 636cc inline four—engineered to offer a broader and more robust spread of torque than a typical supersport. Yes, the engine still performs best with revs, but is less gear-position sensitive. The engine doesn’t have to be screaming to flex its muscle, adding a degree of flexibility when squirting off corners. Rev ’er up toward redline or short-shift it and ride its plump (for a middleweight inline-four) torque wave. The choice is yours.
The last time we dyno tested the ZX-6R (2013 MY), it belted out just over 112 hp at 13,500 rpm and 46.37 pound-feet torque at 11,375 rpm.
An electronic quickshifter adds to the fun, allowing for full-throttle upshifts through the six-speed gearbox. A one-tooth-smaller countershaft sprocket (15 teeth) reduces the final drive ratio and further increases acceleration. Yet, in top gear at 65 mph, the engine isn’t spinning excessively, registering right around 6,000 rpm on the tach needle. Shorter gearing certainly helps acceleration, especially in the first three gears, but the speed of the e-shifter could be faster, as there’s a noticeable pause between gearshifts. It’s certainly better than a manual configuration, but most aftermarket setups we’ve tested recently function better.
Although we didn’t miss it during our street ride, the addition of an auto-blip downshift functionality would be welcome coming off the fast back straightaway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Classic Course—where a rapid succession (three) downshifts are made before pouring into the infield and finishing a lap. To be fair, the transmission rows through each of its six gears smoothly, with responsive and light clutch action. The position of the clutch lever is also now adjustable, just like the brake lever, though we never had an issue with the nonadjustable setup.
Instrumentation is updated adding a fuel meter and economy functions inside the LCD letting you keep tabs on the capacity of the 4.5-gallon fuel tank. The tach needle also integrates a nifty shift light into it. It can be set in 250-rpm increments to let you know when it’s time to grab another gear.
Kawasaki’s three-way-adjustable traction control (KTRC) carries over as does its two-way-adjustable engine power modes. We rode the bike in “full” power mode, but we’d recommend the low power setting for a new rider, or perhaps a new owner who wants to get a hang of their new bike in a more manageable way. During our street ride, we never rode the bike hard enough to necessitate TC, still it’s nice to know that it’s there.
Aesthetically the ZX-6R uses a new upper and tailsection that resembles its smaller Ninja 400 brother. We appreciate the addition of twin LED headlamps and other subtle touches like the muffler’s new finish, however we don’t want a 10 grand motorcycle to look like one half its price (Ninja 400). Hence, while we appreciate its family lines, it would have been nice if KHI designers went with a unique and more aggressive appearance.
Weighing in at 428 pounds (without ABS), the 6R is a light-feeling motorcycle with pleasing weight distribution and balance. It’s a nimble bike that goes exactly where you point it. The newly developed Bridgestone Battlax S22 tires work well on the street with noticeably more feel than we recall with the S21—an already exemplary do-it-all sport tire with few faults.
The suspension is more cushy than most other sportbikes, yet its ride quality, especially on the road, is one of its best features. Both fork and shock offer damping adjustment, but at an elevated track pace, tweaking the settings didn’t net big gains in terms of lap times. Right away in the morning we recorded 1:22 lap times around the 1.8-mile circuit. For reference, a race-winning lap time in the WERA Superstock class is a 1:17.9.
The Ninja rides like a Cadillac, blissfully floating around the circuit with a fair level of poise and control—especially considering how spongy the suspenders are. Adding more damping made for a more controlled ride, but we didn’t go any faster, matching our morning time in the afternoon.
For the track portion of our ride, Bridgestone swapped out the OE-fitted S22s (which we could have easily done a trackday on) for its newly released Battlax R11 race tire, introduced this spring during a combined Yamaha R-World and Bridgestone press introduction at Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park.
This treaded race rubber is an evolution of Bridgestone’s previous design, with a more simplified compound range, that performs in a wider temperature envelope. Once again, the tires proved nearly flawless, offering tremendous adhesion and stability. The tires are so good that we spent most of the day with traction control disabled as the combination of the tires and the engine’s power delivery made for maximum traction.
Although racy 600cc-class supersports aren’t as popular as they once were, it’s important to remember that the Green Team’s been meticulously building these mechanical masterpieces for 35 years. Tradition is key, and Kawasaki remains committed to the segment, walking the delicate balance between performance, style, and value.
|PRICE||$9,999 / $10,999 (ABS) / $11,299 (KRT)|
|ENGINE||636cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||52.1 lb.-ft. @ 11,500 rpm|
|FRAME||Pressed aluminum perimeter|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||41mm inverted cartridge-type Showa SFF Big-Piston fork; adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping (stepless), 4.7-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Uni-Trak; adjustable spring preload, rebound, high-/low-speed compression damping (stepless), and ride height, 5.9-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Dual opposed four-piston radial mount calipers, 310mm petal discs w/ optional KIBS|
|REAR BRAKE||Single-piston caliper, 210mm petal disc|
|SEAT HEIGHT||32.7 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||4.5 gal.|
|CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT||428 lb. / 430 lb. (ABS/KRT)|