2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R: MD First Ride – Supersport or Superbike?
Kawasaki has completely redesigned its Supersport models for 2005, the ZX-6R (636) and the ZX-6RR. The model introduced on this occasion and at the challenging Almería track is the 636, which looks exactly like its more racing-style brother.
With the goal of increasing power, improving aerodynamics and control, the Japanese engineers have created a machine that offers incredible performance and has an aerodynamic coefficient that will be difficult to surpass.
They have accomplished their objectives by creating a broader midrange power and a higher engine redline (now 15,500 rpm), as well as a lighter-weight and stiffer frame with a riding position that perfectly integrates the rider with the motorcycle.
The muffler is now stylishly placed underneath the seat, and the front end looks very similar to the ZX-10R.
The redesigned engine features a new fuel injection system with dual injectors (the first operates from zero rpm, and the second kicks in upwards of 6,000 rpm), a new Ram Air design, which increases the air intake velocity, valves that are one millimeter larger in diameter, an exhaust power-valve that does not kick in until the engine reaches high speeds and which is installed in the first stage of the muffler (in the side of the tail unit), and a new oil pump. The clutch now incorporates a new back-torque-limiting system, which means that the rear wheel does not hop during braking or sudden downshifting. Kawasaki claims the new engine produces 130 horsepower at the crank (expect about 112 HP at the wheel).
The frame is all new, lighter in weight, stronger and more rigid. The Showa suspension is also new, and more comfortable without losing effectiveness and sportiness. The steering stem and the handlebars are a pure racing design.
So is the swingarm, which is asymmetrical to accommodate the exhaust pipe, and the lighter rims adopt the style of its big brother the ZX-10R.
The brakes are out of this world. An improved master cylinder in front operates calipers radial-mounted with four Tokico radial pistons and lobed discs. The rear brake features conventional double-piston calipers and a smaller disc, which is also lobed.
Ergonomics and aerodynamics have obviously played a vital role in the design of the new ZX-6R. The rider’s lower body is almost fully protected by the fairing (up to the knees and elbows) and creates less turbulence between the tail unit and the back. The seat is flatter and is well padded.
What appears to be the fuel tank now consists of two parts: the rear portion is the tank and the front portion is the “air box”, i.e. the air filter housing. The tank fits perfectly with the rider’s knees and stomach.
The appearance of the bike has also been much improved. The sharp-pointed front end is spectacular with a triangular central air intake so that the overall shape recalls the beak of a bird, and continues with the pair of almond-shaped headlights characteristic of Kawasaki. The windshield is minimal, and the truth is that it doesn’t do much to protect the upper body without crouching.
The turn signals are very well located; in the front they are recessed in the sides of the fairing and in the rear they are integrated into the plastic support of the license-plate frame. This makes them invisible from the front and prevents them from causing any aerodynamic resistance.
The instrument panel is small, complete, compact and 100% digital. The tachometer is difficult to read as it has poor contrast and very small numbers. The LCD panel displays the speedometer, engine speed red-line indicator, lap time, double trip meter, engine temperature and low-fuel indicator.
Our test bike featured Bridgestone Battlax BT-014 radials, 120/65 on the front and a 180/55 on the rear, on 17″ rims. These tires perform well on both dry and wet surfaces.
The 6RR model looks like the R with lower displacement (599 cc) and suspension set up for racing.
Another special feature of this bike is the number of optional carbon accessories that are available from Kawasaki to reduce the weight even further, improve performance and enhance its already attractive appearance.
As soon as I got on the bike that had been assigned to me, I had a good feeling. I rode it for one session on the road and six sessions over two days on the track. On the road, the bike responded with excellent mid-range power that let me ride it fast, with very little effort.
The suspension is highly effective and produces a ride of superior comfort. It is very easy to turn the bike due to the geometry of the new frame.
The 2005 ZX-6R has brakes that are simply brilliant, because you can control their full power with one finger, although you have to be very careful because the lever is very sensitive, and the tiniest movement can produce enormous braking action.
The engine is superb, and above six thousand rpm, when the exhaust valve and the second injector kick in, it sounds like a lion in heat in the jungle. Second and third gears cover broad speed ranges, and the bike runs easily and gracefully at midrange rpms, although you can keep it in a high gear with no problems. The bike recovers revs quickly.
On the Almería track, with its varied layout and even paving, the Kawasaki took the curves easily, maintaining good speed, control and stability, even when you scrape the footpegs. The acceleration is fierce, at times feeling almost like that of an open-class bike.
While it accelerates energetically up to six thousand rpm, above that point, and without any dead spots, the bike keeps accelerating powerfully and progressively until it reaches 15,500 rpm, where the tachometer tells us we have to shift. If we continue to accelerate, we cut off the electronic fuel injection at 16,000 rpm. Thanks to this broad power curve, you can stay in one gear for five turns in a row at Almería by keeping the engine at medium and high rpms, which results in very fast and fluid riding.
In braking, the bike is very effective, because the brakes are extremely powerful, and have a good feel and the braking can be easily modulated by applying more or less pressure, as appropriate. The braking, combined with downshifting, is very secure, because the clutch system keeps the rear wheel from hopping. When the back-torque-limiting system is actuated, the clutch lever pulses slightly.
It’s a strange sensation at first, but it’s easy to get used to.
The suspension is superb. You can feel it working in every curve, because in acceleration and deceleration, the bike doesn’t shake at all and remains stable without excessive squat or dive. Very balanced.
This introduction has made it clear that the evolution of the Supersport bike has reached previously unimaginable levels. If we thought that the performance of the 2003 ZX-6R could never be surpassed, now we have proof that we were wrong. Kawasaki has built a bike that is more powerful, more controllable, more comfortable, more aerodynamic and more efficient, with performance characteristics that approach those of a Superbike.
We will follow this report from our Spanish friends with our own street riding impression early next year. For now, it looks like Kawasaki is taking full advantage of the extra 36cc, and has developed an extremely powerful and balanced machine. The 2005 ZX-6R should be available in the United States next month at an MSRP of $8599.
Take a look at Kawasaki’s web site for additional details and specifications.
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