2009 Kawasaki ER-6n first ride review

The budget twin designed to look like a traditional Japanese theatre mask gets a useful update and manages to be more than the sum of its parts

Click to read: Kawasaki ER-6n owners reviews, Kawasaki ER-6n specs and to see the Kawasaki ER-6n image gallery.

Skiing or beach holiday. Plasma TV or LCD. new kitchen or new bike. To wheel out an old cliché, you can’t have your cake and eat it. It applies to bikes too. a learner machine will always be too dull to get an expert rider’s juices flowing. Or so we used to think, but when a group of us riding Kawasaki’s revised for 2009 ER-6n on a twisty coast road spotted another two wheeled gaggle on top end sports tackle, we all agree we’re glad we’re on the easy, chuckable, upright twin rather than head down, arse up monsters.

The original ER-6n, which appeared in 2005, doesn’t appear that different to this updated ’09 version. But the design team have made a significant number of changes which might seem fairly small, but they’re well chosen, focused and as a result the bike’s significantly better.

Owners of the outgoing ER had three main gripes about their bikes. First was vibration from the parallel twin engine. Second was the poor finish and lastly the chain adjusters, which scratched the swingarm when used. Annoying stuff.

Cutting vibration was the biggest challenge, it’s a characteristic of a parallel twin. The solution is simple but effective – rubber mounting. The redesigned frame now incorporates rubber mounts between itself and the engine, the bars are also rubber mounted and the footpegs have rubber inserts.

And it works. There’s still a hint of thrum coming through the seat and tank area when you rev the bike fairly hard (about 7,000rpm upwards) but it’s enough to let you know it’s a living, breathing engine and it’s not intrusive or problematic.

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The weak finish has been addressed by using better quality paint and making the frame welds neater. and new chain adjusters have been designed which shouldn’t scratch the (new) swingarm.

Engine wise there’s almost no changes between this and the outgoing model, but the exhuast is new as is the fuel injection mapping and ignition timing. The Kawasaki guys claim this helps reduce vibration slightly and midrange power is boosted slightly.

How does the thing ride? really nicely. We tested it in an ideal environment, Majorca. Tight twisty roads plus plenty of villages and towns are where the new ER-6n excels. It’s compact, manageable and very nimble - a real ducker and diver of a bike. Flick flacking along the zig zag coast road between Andratx and Port de Soller was a dream. The bike handles precisely and predictably, dropping smartly into turns and pinging swiftly out of them too. The engine’s really flexible considering it’s a mid capacity twin. It’ll even pull 30mph in top, but give it some revs and it’s much, much faster.

Pulling way from a stand still there’s that definite twin thrum and a healthy dollop of low rev torque to get you moving briskly with no effort. You kind of expect the power to wither and die after that but there’s a decent, useable if slightly anonymous midrange. Then there’s a zappy bust of teeth and claws when you take it from 7,000rpm to the 11,000 red line. When revved hard like that the exhaust note changes and the bike shows it’s got enough go to be an exciting ride for anyone, even those who’ve been riding for decades.

The only slight criticism is that it steers a little too fast and this robs it of some mid corner stability. It probably wouldn’t be an issue once you’re used to it, but at first you notice it’s always slightly nervous feeling when leant over in a long, steady corner, unlike something heaftier with more conservative geometry like a 650 Bandit.

But broadly speaking the 6n’s a little flier on back roads. It’s only on large, open roads it shows any limitations. naturally wind protection’s minimal (there’s an official screen available) so anything above 85mph becomes tiring. and while just over 70bhp is enough most of the time, hit the motorway and you’re merely keeping up with cars rather than making a mockery of them as you would on smaller roads.

Overall the new bike’s a much more polished version of the ER-6n we know. It’s an extremely competent, practical, friendly all round machine plus it’s loads of fun. Okay, if you want to blast to France in a day or blitz the fast group at track days there will be better, more specialised choices but it’s still a machine an experienced rider can enjoy as well as the target audience newbies.


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