Review: Kawasaki ZX-6R - The Ballerina Boxer
Posted at 02:00:00 PM
File under Kawasaki Product Review
Author: Damien Bertrand
Location: Paris, France
Since this is a translation directly from French, some of the colloquialism may seem a bit strange at time, for which I apologize. It's not easy to translate. Any mistakes below are mine, and mine alone. As far as translations go, this was the most difficult one.
Kawasaki ZX-6R - The Ballerina Boxer
A sports icon, the Kawasaki ZX-6R symbolizes a raw performance. Optimized in 2013 by efficient electronics and a fork made to the latest standards, the legendary warrior did not evolve much for 2014.
Certain of its mastery, Ninja is its name, 636 its number.
The cutting Soul
A genuine brand within the Akashi firm, the name Ninja symbolizes the ultimate sports bike. The GPZ 900 R was the first representative, introduced in 1984 in the US market. 2014 therefore celebrates 30 years of the green warriors. To mark this special event, Kawasaki have prepared celebrations that will take place throughout the year and have created a special anniversary logo.
The success of the GPZ went on through all the displacements. Starting the first year, already a 750 version existed. In 1985, the GPZ 1000 RC, 600 R, 450 R, 250 R and FX 400 R flesh out the supersports model range. The 600 is presented as a compact and aerodynamic motorcycle. Unlike the 900 built on a diamond frame, it has a conventional double frame composed of rectangular steel tubes.
Five years later the ZZR 600 appears, modified in 1993, and classified as fast touring. A ZX-7R sees the light of day, incorporating a Ram-Air system (present as off 1993 on the GPZ 1100). We will need to wait 10 years before the arrival of the Ninja ZX-6R (636 cc) and Nina ZX-6RR (600 cc) to permanently anchor the model range, the 750 having disappeared. Derived from the disappeared machines, the 600 benefits of numerous equipment reserved normally for competition motorcycles. They particular adopt the famous forced air duct positioned centrally.
The 2005 version is radicalized, with a new block (cylinder head, cylinder) and secondary egg shaped butterflies, powered by two injectors improving admission. The larger diameter valves, actuated by retweaked profile cams, contribute to the overall increase in performance. Finally, an exhaust valve, integrated to the silencer, improves engine response at low and midrange. The chassis is also evolving with a new aluminum frame, strengthened swingarm, a new fork and improved rear suspension features. The wheelbase is reduced and shifts the pivot axis of the swing arm forward to improve the corner entry liveliness. Now firmly focused on the circuit, the hypersport adopts elements directly from the race: direct drive master brake cylinder, radial mounted calipers, and torque limiting transmission. The design follows more and more the elder ZX-10R.
All that remains in 2007 is the ZX-6R (end of 636). On the menu, more rigid crankcases, short skirt pistons, anti dribbling clutch, new ultra fine spray injectors ... etc.. Retouched two years later, the pocket athlete evolves becoming more masterful than raw performance. The response of the throttle is meant to be more precise and progressive. Strengthened for medium speeds, the torque allows you to extract yourself much stronger out of tight turns. But above all, chassis and reduction are the keywords. The little one loses (again) 10 kilos! It borders on anorexia, with a dry weight of 157 pounds. Her geometry optimizes her behavior: engine mount and optimized swing arm. The steering column goes back 10 mm and the rake angle is reduced from 25 to 24 ° ...
Result: a boxer ballerina.
2013 marks the return of the 636 cylinder, but always more character at low revs. The style is always more radical, chiseling the front, sides and fuel tank. The little ZX evolves mainly in the electronics and fork, an optimization which we find in our 2014 model. Note that installments prior to 2012 remain in the catalog due to competition regulations for 600cc machines.
The new vintage only changes in colors, with that instantly recognizable green, just differently. Therefore compared to the 2012 machine, the fork head stretches with more angular lines, almost devoid of any curves. Its slender look governs the gap of the Ram-Air that covers a very short bubble.
Its sides become lighter, become more refined, seeming to bind to the frame by a simple green wing. Similarly, the fuel tank looks more slender, surrounded by two plastic elements covering much of the frame's perimeter with stamped aluminum. A choice optimizing some of the flowing lines at the expense of its character. The rear integrates LED lights like the Z roadsters and the exhaust's silencer shows a triangular section to optimize the ground clearance.
Our review model has a performance pack consisting notably of a carbon-titanium Akrapovic. Placed under the chassis, the plenum chamber reduces the volume of the pot while contributing to a better mass centralization.
This discreet plumbing receives the furious blast of the four-cylinder with two ACT and 16-valve 636 cc. Super squared, 67.0 x 45.1 mm, this heart is resolutely sporty. An injection with double butterflies allows the engine to deliver its torque at low and midrange. The use of these secondary elements, controlled by the computer, in fact artificially reduces the passage section of the mixture in order to optimize the filling of cylinders irrespective of engine speed. The Kawasaki block thereby develops a maximum power of 106 hp (78.2 kW) at 13,500 rpm and 6.1 da.Nm torque at 10,800 revs. In the free world (Ed: In France, motorcycles are limited to 100 hp), 137 hp but above all 7.1 da.Nm at 11500 rpm are available.
To deliver this passion , the ZX -R has a " Assist & Slipper" clutch using two types of cams, a locking and the other a sliding. This system allows to compress or separate pressure plates. The first relieves the clutch spring, softening the command. When there is an excess of engine braking (downshifting too fast), the slide cam comes into play. It separates the pressure plate from the clutch bell. This relieves the force exerted on the disks, limiting rebounds and blocking the rear wheel.
The latter is retained by an imposing swingarm, banana type, matte black coating, as indeed the rest of entire chassis. Its oscillations are assigned to a combined Showa, adjustable in all directions. The guidance of the front wheel is entrusted to a 41 mm inverted fork from the same manufacturer. Of the SFF / BPF type, it uses a large piston and separates preload adjustments (left tube) and damping (compression and relaxation of the tube).
When things speed up a little too much, the green hag can count on 310 mm petal discs, bitten by monobloc front brake calipers (four pistons) and radial-mounted, as master cylinder. The opposite decelerator, single piston, clamps a component of 220 mm. Optional, a Sport ABS (€ 1,000 and only 2 kg) is highly recommended ... you will understand later.
In The Saddle
On paper, the pretty little bomb seems mounted on stiletto heels. Reality is quite different. Extremely narrow, the 830 mm seat height seem unlikely with its crotch arch so reduced. Backside placed on a slender base, the body tilts forward, wrists coming to support marked by the narrow handlebars. The flexing of the legs and ankles is also important, in support of sympathetic black anodized footrests. Although narrow, the hyper-sports from Akashi provides plenty of back space in order to lay flat on the 17 liters tank.
On the cockpit side, the ZX-6R 636 also looks after its looks. A texture effect dresses the surfaces surrounding the well fork. Particularly neat and rewarding finish all top triple / fork is a pleasure for the eyes. Thus, in contrast with the matt black surface, the red anodized fork caps bear the hydraulic adjustment knobs and spring. Off axis, the barrel of the starter is coded key. Finally, the brake lever is adjustable in spacing. The spirit of competition-refinement is definitely placed on the little Japanese.
Overlooking the central Ram Air duct of air blowing generous shots, the instrument console is also made for efficiency. An analog tachometer is completed by a multifunction LCD screen. On the side of the tachometer and gear position indicator, are displayed traction control modes (KTRC) and power, controlled via the left stalk. Simple and easy to modify. Adjustable to three intervention levels, deactivated, the traction motors has two engine maps: Full and Low. The latter limits the power to about 75 to 80% of the "full power" mode. The engine response is thus modulated with a more gentle curve.
On the dashboard, you can consult the clock selection, odometer, two partials, instantaneous and the average fuel consumption. Finally, an indicator of economic riding continuously monitors the fuel consumption, regardless of the vehicle speed, the engine speed, the throttle position and other parameters. When, for a given speed, fuel consumption is low (that is to say that fuel efficiency is optimal), a label "ECO" appears on the LCD panel. However, this function borrowed by the brand's touring bikes does not make any sense here, as is the thirst in real-time of the four cylinders ... A gauge would have been much more useful, however.
Rewarding at all angles, the Kawa sets a very high bar in terms of finish, surpassing even the Honda CBR 600 RR on this point. However, we regret the visible ducts in the yoke well and a lack of covers at this level as well. Finally, its open dress leaves oil pump and guard box exposed to falls. The addition of a buffer protection is essential.
In The City
Rather quite at low revs, the Akrapovic tenor warms his voice discretely for the moment. However, we can already foresee the absence of inertia of the Kawasaki block and the vivacity of its reactions to the slightest rotation of the right handle. The 636 is a warrior with which we do not mess around. Its reduced morphology also reflects this genetic high performance summarized in one word: efficiency.
Therefore, urban sessions are hardly significant. The Kawa, however has the advantage of a high availability engine. Even more filled than its competitors, the 636 block provides a significant pleasure starting at the bottom of the tachometer. So we rarely touch the gearbox, which by the way is very gentle and quick to lock into gear. Finally, its pocket size allows it to infiltrate into the smallest space available. Similarly, with only 192 kilos (194 kg with ABS), the Ninja is almost furtive.
Apart from this, the ZX-6R makes the rider pay heavily in the city: a large turning radius, a prominent fuel tank makes maneuvers annoying and a delicate wrist position which is abused with each braking. This is also the most sensitive point. Between the walls and without the optional ABS, we'd forget any attempt at reflex braking. The callipers provide an immediate bite which prohibits the unexpected, a surprise. Otherwise, the "economy" of anti-lock system will cost you a much higher price later. We do not knit with such a knife without getting hurt. Especially since the four-cylinder asks only to bring forth its watts, turning every green light into a GP start. Difficult to keep a cool head at all times. The small Japanese warrior calls for more independence and undeniably asks to slash into wider spaces.
On The Motorway
After 7000 rpm,the ZX-6R 636 can be heard singing a different song. Metallic, powerful, feverish, its vocals rip into the air while the Ninja jumps towards the higher speeds. The Ram-Air begins to binge oxygen in its steel heart, greatly increasing its enthusiasm. It is always amazing to feel its thrust almost never stopping before the limiter. The Kawa is ready to jump out of traffic, to ride twice as fast as the average...
Relieved, the arms at rest while now the cervicals are suffering on longer trips. There again we find the limits of these kind of machines. Although the absence of vibrations is a good point. Devoted to piloting and taking angles, the 636 hyper-sport does not like straight lines apart for gaining speed for a while. Its battlefield is the curve.
On Country Lanes
One the secondary roads, the Ninja cuts her trajectories with a scalpel, with Japanese precision. Reacting finely to the handlebar and feet, the ZX-6R places herself instinctively in the right angle, and then switches to the opposing side. Her 23.5° rake angle and 1395 mm wheelbase gives her a great liveliness.
Perfectly healthy in large curves, my reproach is the lack of feedback from the front. The Bridgestone Battlax S20 tires are probably not unrelated to the impression of silence. Regarding their adherence, these tires are reassuring, even in the wet but climb a bit high in temperature in daily use.
A model of efficiency, the Ninja likes to cut through the countryside with sound and the pace of a 636 cc aggressiveness. Torque and power agree to the best to devour the asphalt. Exploitable and how ... from 7 to almost 14 thousand rpm, the Kawa is a screaming missile, hardly reasonable to take on the road. Past 10,000 rpm, the effect of orbiting is striking. Especially as the efficient anti-skid further optimizes the natural abilities of the edgy green one. However, the machine is not as obvious as a CBR 600 RR and requires a good riding experience to take a great delight in it. Less conciliatory than its counterpart from Hamamatsu, the Akashi plague calls for a master, a trainer. Similarly, the injection can show a certain brutality.
Braking also takes a habit. As fierce as its engine character, the decelerations will please the experienced track riders. The Ninja will brake first class without forcing. At the first millimeters for the brake lever, the clamps bite hard, almost attacking the brake discs by surprise. Not enough to fault the fork which takes it without weakening. The rear brake then performs role her well, stabilizing the motorcycle in the curve.
Rigid, balanced and lively, the ZX-6R is a precision blade that does not fit just anyone. The green one flourishes more easily at a good pace and is more gracious on road surfaces of good quality.
You would be almost afraid as its implementation is powerful. The attack of the front calipers is immediate, with a limited progressiveness. The Sport-ABS is a "mandatory" option to avoid surprises, and it will be a legal requirement as off 2016.
Two outlandish words for our chrono fighting green. Carved from a fossil sponge, the saddle encourages wiggling, also alleviating the wrists. However, the suspensions effectively filter defects in the asphalt. On the track, care must be taken to strengthen the whole, a too flexible basis.
Under the pillion saddle is enough space to store a little anti-theft disc. It's better than nothing. As for riding with a pillion ... start fast to avoid your passenger from suffering too long.
With 6.2 liters on average, the 636 engine is economical, allowing 250 kilometers before running out. On the track, add two units. Looking at dynalic performances, these numbers are very good.
Uncompromising, both in design as with the chassis, the Kawasaki ZX-6R 636 is a fighter. Elegant, fine and a sharp blade, its torque is higher than its competitors, giving it a special character. Reserved for experienced riders, she needs a bit of adaptation, of taming: yours. After getting started, the Ninja will be the extension of your riding skills. And with its easy-to-use electronics, it allows the mind to focus on the essentials. The empirical perceived nosewheel will be confirmed with other tire mounts.
Asking for €12,199 (€13,199 ABS), the Kawa is paid dearly for the surcharge for her soul, but is justified for its price by its prominent electronic and technology offering. The Performance Pack (windshield - Akrapovic exhaust - seat cover) will cost you an extra €1,000.
Opposing philosophy for the Honda CBR 600RR, costing only €10,690 ( C-ABS: €11,690), but relying more on the "Total Control" than on the embedded chips. The same for Suzuki and her GSXR 600 at €10,999. At Yamaha, the YZF R6, costing €12,799, has a anti-slip clutch. Asking for €13,690, the Triumph Daytona 675 R is the most expensive of the lot, though with less electronics and equipped with high end chassis parts (Ohlins, Brembo).
|Strong Points||Weak Points|
- Engine character
- Quality finish
- Brakes (on track)
- Tiring in urban areas
- ABS as option
Via: Le Repaire des Motards