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"Fast Bikes", January 1, 2013

Kawasaki ZX-6R

JOHNNY ‘THE GAWLER’ GAWLER

The Mamba is a big fan of the ZX-6R. It’s easy to see why it has done so well in supersport racing when the base package is so spot-on.

Beaky’s big money transfer this year is the Dymag wheels, the first set to roll off the production line, and they’re stunning. Wheeling the bike round the paddock is a breeze, and if the bike becomes this easy to handle stood still you can imagine how it will react as speed. Well, imagine no more, because once out on track the Kawasaki gets properly stuck in.

It certainly feels like a big bike in the class. It has presence and changes of direction are conscious actions rather than the simple premonitions needed by the Honda. This is all good, if you like that sort of thing, but the effortlessness not required by the CBR is hard to beat. If the track was made of Llandow’s tight sections, or if that Japanese car park Gymkhana sport suddenly becomes WSB then the Honda’s dimensions will always have it in front. But biking is about balls, and finding those corners that require them, and this is where the ZX-6R comes into its own.

With little consideration for the Mamba’s welfare, Beaky stuck on a fresh set of Dunlop GP Racers to scrub in round the ice rink, but once the heat seeps into them they provide ample grip to get the party started.

Everything initially feels a long way away because the bike perches you up high, the Showa BPFs feel recalcitrant and the tyres slowly scrub off their release agent, but imperceptibly gives way to unadulterated ability with its Dymag dancing shoes on.

But you can’t help but think it needs a bit more shove – even at its fabled top end. The Yoshi can supports this, along with a lovely map to sit alongside it, but the redline seems to come round quicker and with less effect than on the Yamaha. There’s a flat feel to it at the top end, like the Ducati. If only Kawasaki would revert back to 636cc…

Saying all that, the ZX-6R still possesses enough shove to get the front end unsettled on the way out of Llandow’s faster turns. Even with the damper ramped up, the front end was still kicking off bumps hard as weight transferred rearwards leaving the forks to fend for themselves. Some set-up time should sort this, but the drama never turned into a crisis. The DTC system (Dunlop Traction Control) works well, and essentially it’s the grip that gives the bike such a hard time.

The braking left a little to be desired, with the feel from the pads too distant to inspire heroics on this cold day and the ASV levers are all about the show, but in not addressing the power question, at least Beaky has lopped off unsprung weight. The jury’s out as to which offers better returns, but the Mamba takes handling over horses any day.

The ability of the ZX-6R, its feedback from the front, and that substantial, but sensational stocker, gives it the nod over the R6. The wheel bill plumps up the price, but they aren’t crucial given its innate ability elsewhere, so don’t sweat it if the bank raid isn’t going to plan…

PRICE NEW: £8,599

MOD’S: £5,205

MODS/PRICE RATIO: 60.5%

ENGINE

The ’08 motor was tweaked for more midrange and a smoother throttle. New internals include lighter, different profile camshafts and new profile pistons, while revised cylinder porting aids performance across the rev range. New double bore velocity stacks with twin height inlets allow for power gains from mid to top. Revised collector pipes and an all new end-can improves low-end performance.

CHASSIS

Curb weight is reduced by a claimed 10kg. The frame structure remains similar, but with a steeper caster angle for quicker steering (hence the Öhlins steering damper), and changes to rigidity for better feedback and flex. The engine is remounted in the frame for better mass centralisation, with the centre of gravity being 16mm higher. The highlight has to be the Showa Big Piston Fork for a new feel in cornering.

Highlights

Dymag carbon wheels

Promach rearsets

Yoshi exhaust

GB Racing protection

113bhp

157kg

TRACK 8

Seriously sorted as stock

FAST ROAD 9

Built for A to B, via C

HOOLIGAN 8

Not bad for a Ninja

NEW RIDER 4

Halve the capacity…

DESIRABILITY 7

Not on many bedroom walls

DON’T BE FOOLED BY

Weight loss. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, a lighter bike will always be a better bike.

Verdict 8/10

Riding on new rims gives it a new kick, but there wasn’t much wrong with it in the first place.

+ UNSPRUNG WEIGHT LOSS, BTC, FUELLING

- NO SHIFTER, STILL FEELS BIG, NEEDS SET-UP

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