Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja


Make Model

Kawasaki ZX-6R Ninja




Four stroke, transverse four cylinders, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder


598cc / 36.5 cub in

Bore x Stroke

66 x 43.8 mm

Compression Ratio


Cooling System

Liquid cooled


4 x 36mm Keihin CVKD36 carburetors





Max Power

78.1 kW / 107 hp  @ 12000 rpm

Max Torque

65 Nm / 47.9 lb-ft @ 10000 rpm


6 Speed

Final Drive

Chain 525, 15-40T


1466 mm / 57.7 in

Front Suspension

46mm Showa telescopic forks

Front Wheel Travel

120 mm / 4.7 in

Rear Suspension

Showa sing shock, adjustable preload and rebounding preload.

Rear Wheel Travel

135 mm / 5.3 in

Front Brakes

2 x 300mm discs, 6 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 220mm disc, 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre

120/60 ZR17

Rear Tyre

170/60 ZR17

Wheelbase 1400 mm / 55.1 in
Seat Height 820 mm / 32.3 in

Dry Weight

176 kg / 388 lbs

Wet Weight 203.0 kg / 447.5 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

18.00 Litres / 4.76 US gal


After a month with the underrated ZX-6 it came time to return it to Kawasaki, and Editor-in-Chief Plummer asked: "Who's been riding it?"

Over in the corner of MO Central sat Graphics Editor Billy Bartels with a big smile on his face. "That would be me," he replied, in a rather surly tone. What happened? Had our de-facto cruiser guy gone over to the dark side? Or had he just come to his senses? Read on, grasshopper, and learn the truth.

I don't drag knee. The only reason I know who won the 600 Supersport title last year is because Miguel DuHamel wears a fat #1 on the front of his Honda F3. Kevin Schwantz is just a guy who raced dirt track for my dad in the late 1980s. Get the picture? No hablas calamari. Yet from the time we picked up Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-6 from their Southern California headquarters until we gave it back there was no prying the keys from my clutches. The Kawi's combination of powerful motor, comfortable ergonomics, compliant-yet-sporty suspension and excellent handling manners were just too much to resist. Ergonomics of the Six were both roomy and comfortable, even for my six-foot-tall frame.

The relationship between pegs, bars and seat was spacious and well thought out. Seat quality is another good combination of sport-serious and freeway-friendly. A wide base allows hours to pass in comfort while the sloping front lets you lean forward to place more weight on the front wheel during aggressive cornering. For the first couple of weeks our ZX served as a general purpose commuter bike, a role in which it shines. With rebound and compression settings on "slug" and "pillow" respectively, there was no pothole tough enough to daunt the Ninja. Even a cross-town courier trip through the darkest recesses of L.A. failed to overwhelm the Six as it soaked up bumps and road creases like a champ.

"The ZX is certainly not lacking in power."

Kawasaki has always been known for building high-horsepower engines, and the Six is no exception. After spending the last few weeks with our slightly anemic Bargain 600s, I was instantly hooked by the engine's flexibility and high-rpm pull. Good power starts as low as 4000, and builds through a healthy midrange to an arm-stretching rush as it soars to its stratospheric 14,000 rpm redline. Adding to the fun is Kawasaki's ram-air system. You feel the rush even at triple-digit speeds, and it just keeps pulling.

When I prepared to face the more challenging environment of the canyons, I enlisted the help of our resident racer, Shawn Higbee, to help dial-in the suspension. Shawn propped the bike up on its handy centerstand and cranked up the preload, compression and rebound settings. It still had a bit of sag, but Shawn believed it would increase cornering prowess while retaining the bump-soaking ability that I enjoyed. It did. In the twisties the ZX-6 was capable, but not ideal. You could certainly have a good time, but hustling through corners required more effort than we'd like, due mostly to the Six's heft.

It took an extra push here, a little more lean there, than you might find on another more sport-oriented 600-class machine. Our Ninja had its share of the legendary Kawasaki drive lash too, but its mild manners and smooth power delivery made up for it. Higbee offered that he felt the average canyon-carver wouldn't be able to out-ride this bike, although he thought they might be irritated by its lack of flickablity. "Very stable and predictable -- altogether more of a street bike," said Higbee, "with plenty of motor."

Kawasaki's ZX-6 is a motorcycle whose suspension is supple enough for day-to-day riding, yet sharp enough to hustle through corners at a spirited pace. Ergonomics are roomy and comfortable, allowing ZX pilots to spend hours in the saddle if required. Power is abundant, with more midrange and top-end punch than you have a right to expect from a 600. Although the ZX-6's few extra pounds will allow F3 or ZX-6R riders to leave it behind at racetracks, in real-world riding the Six is hard to beat.

Source Motorcycle.com

Supersport shootout

Highly anticipated and hard fought, it is an annual event with weighty social, political and economic implications. Sort of like Chelsea Clinton's coming-out party with knee pucks and Z-rated rubber. Inked with the same blood-red Sharpie(R) we use to mark Pamplona's running of the bulls, Indy's 500 and Eddie Lawson's birthday, it is Motorcyclist's annual 600cc supersport skirmish. And it is time.

Unlike the near-three-mile-per-minute proclivities of Honda's CBR1100XX or the focused, hormonal purity of Ducati's 916, the archetypical 600 sporty bike shines brightest not from any single facet. Instead, following the wonderfully (if you're Honda) frustrating (if you're not) tire tracks of the CBR600 series, the conventional middleweight paradigm aims at that elusive point where the marketeer's price and performance curves cross. That's why the reigning 600cc champion, Honda's F3, spreads its broadband brilliance over most any sort of riding the Great Unwashed Sporting Hordes can think up. It is the proverbial jack-of-all-trades, and master of some. >

Thus, traditionally, middleweight warfare is a game of inches--millimeters even. But watching Honda kick the can a bit farther than everybody else every year was becoming an exercise in predictability--predictably monotonous.

Then, Suzuki shrunk its 750cc GSX-R track-scalpel to 600cc scale and blew the game wide open. It is the first real deal--a no-apologies, no-regrets, take-no-prisoners 600cc racer replica. The 1997 GSX-R600, odds-on wild card in this year's deck, provokes a new question: Does unadulterated sporting brilliance beat all-around aptitude? Is the latest F3 strong enough to keep Honda's middleweight CBR dynasty alive? Can the revamped YZF600R hold its own? Will Sister Ruby overcome brucellosis and a bad NyQuil habit to rejoin the roller derby? Oops, wrong story. What about Kawasaki's highly rapid ZX-6R, then? Keep your shoes and socks on, boys and girls. The answers are just around the corner.

The path to conclusive answers starts with knowing where to look. On the advice of Feature Editor Burns's parole officer, we began with a Track Flog at Willow Springs International Raceway. Otherwise, exploring all four corners of a current 600-classer's performance envelope can land you in solitary confinement or intensive care in an L.A.P.D. minute. From there, we hammered the middleweight Class of '97 over the surface streets, interstates, back alleys and Taco Bell drive-thrus of Los Angeles, which led to perfect Sunday morning rides straightening out serpentine blacktop. But first, take a few seconds to get your mind straight.

Look closely. Move beyond the obvious similarities in engine size and mission statements. After a few days and miles, each combatant will assert its own distinct character. As the once and future king of seamless, digital refinement, Honda's latest F3 feels small, tight, narrow, agile and ergonomically correct. At 459 pounds soaking wet, it is seven pounds heavier than Kawasaki's more compact ZX-6R. The Ninja's rider and passenger accommodations are less capacious than the Honda's as well, making the Kawasaki a more comfortable ride for the sub-six-foot set. Adjustable brake and clutch levers are exclusive to the Ninja, as is the idiot-resistant neutral finder.

On to the Suzuki. Everything from the steep, rakish windscreen and low clip-ons to the high-mount aluminum footpegs and slippery tail section, peg the 440-pound GSX-R as a narrow-focus, no-apologies sporting weapon. Planted on its wide, flat seat, you're further from the pavement than on any of the others. The Suzuki is a track spike among training shoes. Neither short of leg nor faint of heart need apply.

Next door, the 485-pound YZF-R is a roomier, more comfortable, everyday fit for most riders--especially tall ones. Along with the extra mass and room comes more faring protection and real space for two. Call it the GT of the bunch.

Now start the engines. Blip the throttles. The practiced ear can tell one 600 from another with no help from the practiced eye. The CBR's familiar, veiled gear whine dominates its aural signature. Then there's the throaty, ram-air bark of the otherwise eerily quiet Ninja engine. The GSX-R is a cold-blooded warrior, only settling into a loping, cammy, metallic-raspy idle after it warms up a bit. In contrast, the calm precise-idling YZF four recalls nothing more than a 16-valve Rolex.

Once clear of the driveway, all our contestants happily suffer the necessary indignities of urban commuter duty with the sort of athletic moves you'd expect. Still, some suffer more happily than others. Blessed with the lightest steering, bump-erasing suspension, roomiest rider accommodations and marvelously accessible midrange horses, the YZF wins the war between 8:00 a.m. Monday and 6:00 p.m. Friday. The Yamaha's only glitch (and a minor one) is a fragile-feeling clutch with a narrow, sometimes grabby, engagement band.

A much-improved transmission cleans up the '97 CBR's urban report card. The Honda's carburetion and driveability are dead-on perfect. Still, this year's more sporting HMAS suspension is a bit less compliant over the post-apocalyptic moonscape of L.A. city "streets." Even less-compliant suspension bits conspire with an exasperating off-idle lean stumble to drop the quicker-steering ZX-6R behind the F3 in urban warfare. In traffic, the GSX-R is a Navy Seal at High Tea: uncomfortable.

Despite more humane ergos than its '92-spec predecessor, the GSX-R's warlike riding posture overloads tired wrists around town, enforcing a tuck that, for anybody over 5 foot 9 inches, is too near fetal for comfort. Factor in a nasty 4200-rpm lean spot, a lashy driveline and you have a bike that's (much) happier beyond the stop lights and city limits. No surprise there.

Once traffic lights give way to the appropriate on-ramp, the YZF wins again. Plying rain-grooved freeway at a silky-smooth 75 mph, scanning crystal-clear mirrors for Officer Speed, the Yamaha's artfully sculpted one-piece saddle and sport-touring-size fairing let you drain well over 200 miles from every 4.9-gallon tankful. No other 600 comes with a longer leash. With those comfy suspension bits along for the ride, the YZF is the 600cc solution for interstate twisty-road exploration.

Second place in the interstate battle is a tie you can settle for yourself. Choose less wind protection and more vibration on the CBR, or the less roomy, slightly better-protected cockpit of Kawasaki's smoother, more powerful ZX-6R. At or around legal freeway speeds, a handful of Kawasaki throttle delivers the most convincing forward thrust of the foursome. Most sub-six-footers will go with the smooth and fast Kawi every time.

Despite the least wind protection of the foursome and relatively cruel ergos, the Suzuki's reasonably smooth engine and humane seat make it a survivable freeway ride for the sub-six-foot set. Relatively unforgiving suspension and precious little wind protection make it our port of last resort for high-mileage, straight-line missions. Again, no surprise.

But if touring is your central joy in life, try the Gold Wing aisle. All those "practical," comfortable, commuter considerations serve only to begrease, beguile and otherwise mollify the significant-other/live-in loan officer. It takes horsepower to open the doors of your dirty little weekend kingdom. Lots of it. But more, as Pamela Anderson Lee's plastic surgeon has proven, is not necessarily better.

Judged on dyno curves alone, the GSX-R and ZX-6R rise to the top with identical outputs of 96 rear-wheel horses apiece. The Suzuki's arrive at 12,000 rpm; the Kawasaki's 250 revs earlier. Differences end there. The GSX-R's steeper trace concentrates the real muscle above the 9000-rpm point, whereas the torquier Kawasaki delivers potent thrust from 7500 rpm, followed by another surge of Green Meanness at 10,000.

Source Motorcyclist 1997