TESTED: Kawa's ZX-6R superbike
POWER AT YOUR FINGERTIPS: Traction control and power modes on Kawasaki's new ZX-6R 366 can be adjusted on the roll.
Author: DRIES VAN DER WALT
Kawasaki is on a roll again. in 2012 Kenan Sofuoglu won the World Supersport championship on a ZX-6R (the first Supersport World championship victory for a Kawasaki rider since 2001) and Tom Sykes missed becoming the World Superbike champion by the narrowest of margins.
On the heels of its race track successes, Team Green has introduced its latest ZX-6R as a completely new bike which, the Japanese bike maker says, "is revolutionary rather than evolutionary".
Interestingly, the new bike’s engine capacity has increased to 636cc, which renders it ineligible for World Supersport homologation (World Supersport four-cylinder bikes are limited to 600cc).
Kawasaki justifies the capacity increase on the grounds that the 60c limitation on supersport engines is for racing only, so there's no need for tens of thousands of everyday riders to be restricted by it.
The previous-generation ZX-6R was an attractive machine in its own right but Kawasaki’s designers have pulled all the styling stops on the 636.
GREAT LOOKING RACING MACHINE
From the ZX-10R-inspired front end to the somewhat rounded tail, the 636 is a good-looking bike. A single swooping line flows from the fairing through to the tailpiece to draw your eyes front to back across the bike’s decidedly assertive contours.
The plastics integrate seamlessly with the tank and the frame to keep the whole design coherent, while the lime green and black on the review bike contrasted beautifully to draw attention to the design highlights. On the downside, much of the plastics are coated in a garish gloss black finish. Matt black would have been a better choice and looked much more stylish.
Instrumentation is standard fare for a modern supersport, with an analogue rev counter flanked by a digital multifunction display. The MFD contains the usual functions: speedo, gear position indicator, odo, trip meters, fuel consumption readouts (but no fuel gauge), clock and indicators for the power mode and traction control.
Power and traction control modes are selected with a rocker switch on the left handlebar. The ZX-6R’s traction control is closely modelled on the KTRC system used on the latest ZX-14R, allowing riders to choose from three modes.
The first two settings allow a degree of wheelspin to prioritise maximum acceleration (similar to the S-KTRC system of the current ZX-10R) while the third, adapted from that of the 1400 GTR tourer, helps riders virtually tip-toe across treacherous, slippery surfaces in or after bad weather.
Kawasaki claims that this is the most advanced electronic control system in its class.
Seating position remains assertively canted forward as that of its predecessor. The 636 tells you that it is a track bike more than anything else, and this has the expected discomfort penalty in everyday riding. It is only at speed approaching the national speed limit that air pressure on your chest relieves the weight on your wrists.
'A PAIN' AS A DAILY RIDER?
This means that while the bike is reasonably comfortable on the open road, it is (quite literally) a pain in commuting conditions.
The effect of the increase in engine capacity is immediately noticeable from a discernable boost in low-end punch. The power band in quite linear, but it has a slight increase above 9000rpm. This means you don’t have to rev the daylights out of the motor to get access to its performance – it remains lively across almost the entire rev range.
The fuelling is spot-on too: there is not a single flat spot to be found anywhere on the rev counter.
Handling is as sharp as a tack – the bike feels light and nimble, and as sure-footed as a speeding cheetah. It responds extremely well to aggressive riding and never feels out of sorts when you push it hard.
As on all modern sport bikes, most of us will reach our own bravery limits long before we reach the 636’s grip limits. It is a hugely enjoyable bike to ride because it responds instantly and enthusiastically to your every input.
Apart from its unsuitability for the commuting role to be fair few – if any – sport bikes work well as commuters), there is almost nothing negative to be said about the ZX-6R. Used in its intended role, it is a fast, competent bike that is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to ride.
Kawasaki ZX-6R - R121 995.
For full specifications, click here.