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Great ride from Kawa's ER-6f

2012-07-04 07:38

MID-SIZE HANDLING STAR: The ER-6f and its naked sibling, the ER-6n, are two of the hidden gems in this very competitive sector of the market.

DRIES VAN DER WALT

The launch of Kawasaki's impressive new ZX-14 earlier in 2012 somewhat overshadowed the fact that the brand also put another completely redesigned bike on the market – the ER-6f, Team Green's entry in the mid-size commuter market.

Having been around since 2006, the ER-6f and its naked sibling, the ER-6n, are two of the hidden gems in this very competitive sector of the market.

Check the specs.

Pretty much everything except the engine has been changed in the latest incarnation of the venerable ER-6. The styling, at first glance very similar to the previous model, is in fact quite different and shows influences of its big brother, the Z1000SX. The revised plastics hang on an also-new double-pipe frame and swing arm that’s slimmer and lower than that of the previous machines.

CHOOSE YOUR INSTRUMENTS

A new paper-filter air-cleaner element replaces the older bike’s foam one and a new muffler was designed for added mid-range torque. The front and rear suspension offer 5mm and 2mm extra stroke and spring rates and damping have been revised. Even so, the bike’s overall dimensions remain essentially the same as those of its predecessor – it's still very much a compact and easy-to-handle motorcycle.

Image gallery.

For 2012 Kawasaki has opted to drop the previous model's bar-style rev counter in favour of an analogue tacho combined with a multi-function display for the speedo, fuel gauge, odo and clock. The odo can be replaced by two trip data meters, instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption and distance-to-empty displays. It also sports an ECO symbol that comes on when you are riding the bike economically.

One of the first things I noticed while getting on the bike was that the foot pegs seem to be too far back. This works well with a sport bike's forward-canted seating position but it was mildly uncomfortable on the ER-6. My cursory inspection of the pegs revealed that they apparently lack adjustability, leaving me with no choice but to grin and bear it.

Fortunately, grinning is something for which the ER-6 gives ample cause. The inline-twin 650 mill is beautifully responsive, with a real torque punch coming in from around  6000rpm. Once there, the Kawa performs eagerly until you reach the 10 000rpm mark where power starts to drop off rapidly. This wide band means it is easy to keep the bike within its peak torque range without having to push the rev counter into five figures.

SWOP TO BRAIDED HOSES

The inline twin engine is unusual in that it has a 180° crank, which results in an uneven firing interval giving the engine note a distinctive "throbbing" quality. At idle it sounds rather uninspiring (almost like a small single) but at higher revs the engine sound and the that emitted by the air box combine to endow the bike with a distinctly sporty howl.

Handling is more than up to par. The narrow frame combines with a 25-degree fork rake – similar to that of Kawasaki's ZX-10R – to make the bike extrememly nimble through traffic. The rake also makes it eager to tip into corners at speed, endowing the bike with a much sportier feel than one would expect to find in this class. Although the ER-6 is probably aimed more at those stepping up from smaller bikes, its handling makes it a very rewarding ride for an experienced rider.

Brakes have never been the ER-6's strong point and Kawasaki has again missed the opportunity to address this. Although stopping power is not too bad, the brakes lack feel. This is nothing that braided hoses and sintered pads wouldn’t fix but it would have been nice if Kawasaki had attended to the problem and not left it to  buyers. The problem here is that not everybody in the ER-6's apparent target market would have the technical savvy to realise that the braking could be improved with very little effort.

Kawasaki's mid-size commuter faces stiff competition (there are a number of excellent bikes in this market sector) but despite its minor drawbacks it should comfortably hold its ground and build on the success of its predecessor. In the final analysis, the ER-6f is a bike that proves you needn't sacrifice lively performance and sporty handling for everyday practicality.

Check the specs.


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