Harder, sharper and more track focused than ever before. The new ZX-6R challenges you to a fight down at your local race track. He who reaches his limit first, loses.
"Yeah, can I have a few clicks off the mirrors, a softer compound seat and some heated grips please?" Satoshi Edisu leans his head towards me, looks down at his clip board, studies his technical data sheet and replies.
"We added a turn of preload to the forks and raised the rear ride height 2mm. Sorry, no heated grips, best only on touring bikes." Brilliant!
Okay, hands up, I'm out of my depth here. But sod it, I'm enjoying the ride so I'm going to live the fantasy. You see for the launch of the 2007 ZX-6R Kawasaki pulled out all the stops, not only with the bike but also the experience.
'Hardcore.' 'The ultimate track day.' 'Stay on the gas.' These are all terms the Kawasaki marketing people were using during the presentation of the new ZX-6R. This is a bike that is unashamedly aimed at the track day rider, race rep nut and experienced road rider. What they're saying, then, is it's not for novices. So to allow us to experience the new 6R in its best light, i.e. on a race track, Kawasaki unveiled it at Barber Motorsports Park, Alabama, and gave each of us undeserving journalists our very own two-man pit crew. Which is where we came in.
To be truthful Kawasaki didn't really need to go through all this rigmarole to persuade us the bike is track focused. Just look at the changes over the 2006 model.
The engine is now 599cc - gone is the cheating 36cc big bore - so it complies with the supersport rules with no need for a homologation RR version. And along with the new capacity comes a completely new motor, the first time in 10 years the ZX-6 lump has been entirely overhauled. As well as being 40mm narrower and 40mm shorter, the engine has bigger valves, new cams, short skirt pistons and a claimed rev limit of a dizzying 16,500rpm! And this despite using the same bore and stroke as the ZX-6RR. That'll be thanks to the use of lighter components and the reduction of internal friction. All-up it makes a claimed 123bhp and 48.7lb.ft of torque.
What all these changes add up to is a far more track-focused bike. In the same way Yamaha abandoned the less focused, relatively relaxed R6 in 2005 in favour of the aggressive, rev-hungry 2006 model (actually they sold them alongside each other for much of 2006), Kawasaki has retargeted the ZX-6R.
And it works. On track the new ZX-6R is stunning, and for those fleeting few days in Alabama I felt like a proper World Supersport racer. But without the talent...
As with the current R6 you have to understand how to ride the ZX-6R to get the best out of it - and that is quite simply to feed it revs. Lots of revs. This little green beast drinks revs faster than a tramp sucks back Tennents Super. Kawasaki's engineers claim the new bike actually has the same midrange torque as the old 636. Yes it has, sort of, but given the new bike's higher rev limit the 'midrange' is now 4000rpm further up the scale than it was.
To get the motor on song the re-designed - and now readable - rev counter has to be showing over 6000rpm. At 8000rpm things start to speed up (a little), by 10,000rpm it's really getting interesting, at 12,000rpm you're starting to fly and at around 14,000rpm both you and the bike are bouncing off the walls and screaming like a deranged gibbon.
Continue the 2007 Kawasaki ZX-6R Review
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