2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R first ride

Straight from Japan, Jon Urry sends us back the low down on the new 2009 ZX-6R

KAWASAKI'S new 2009 ZX-6R is a bike that will split opinions, because it signifies a move away from a traditional Kawasaki character.

Traditionally ZX-6Rs are screaming monsters that need to be thrashed because they have next to no midrange, but this new bike is different. Kawasaki have re-designed the 599ccc motor to provide mid-range, at the expense of that top-end kick.

Instead of a surge in power at 12,000rpm, as happens with previous models, the engine drives in a smooth, linear and slightly un-Kawasaki fashion from as low (in 600 terms) as 8,000rpm. In short it has mid-range, and loads of it. Is this what riders want? For the road I’m certain it will make the ZX-6R a far more pleasant bike to ride, and on track it’s still blisteringly quick, but does it now lack that Kawasaki ‘character’? I’m sure visordown's forums will be raging on this topic.

Other than the engine, the ZX-6R's frame has received slight geometry alterations to compensate for the altered weight distribution caused by the exhaust being moved under the engine from under the seat. The new 6R features a spanking set of Big Piston Forks. Kawasaki claim they don’t dip as much under braking as conventional forks - and they're right; hard on the brakes the ZX-6R’s front end is excellent, although at first the lack of dive is slightly disconcerting. There's no denying the new ZX-6R is more stable on the brakes than its predecessors. It's excellent in the corners, too.

Mid corner you can roll the throttle on and off and the super chassis simply refuses to be upset. Autopolis racetrack has more than its fare share of long, big-angle, corners and the ZX-6R was super-stable, despite my ham-fisted throttle action as I bottled it mid-corner.

It might be lacking that top-end kick, but the rest of the ZX-6R is very track-focused, it just now comes with mid-range to boot. This, in my book, is well worth the sacrifice.

Watch out for the full report in next month's issue of TWO and a full 2009 600cc test early next year.

2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R Specifications


Type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four

Displacement 599 cm3

Bore and Stroke 67.0 x 42.5 mm

Compression ratio 13.3:1

Valve system DOHC, 16 valves

Fuel system Fuel injection 38 mm x 4 (Keihin)

Ignition Digital

Starting Electric

Lubrication Forced lubrication, wet sump

Overall length 2,090 mm

Overall width 705 mm

Overall height 1,115 mm

Wheelbase 1,400 mm

Seat height 815 mm

Wet weight 191 kg

Fuel capacity 17 litres