First Ride

Kawasaki ZX-6R Review

NOW WITH 36cc EXTRA FREE! If you can't beat 'em, cheat. Works for us and there's a decent chance it'll work for Kawasaki as they wheel out their new oversquare 636cc ZX-6R. Any good or dead horse flogged?

Handling was always a ZX-6R forté, and it still is. Kawasaki have stiffened the fork action somewhat in the 636 and you can feel this straight away. It's dead precise around the track, although from stock all Kawasaki sportsbikes benefit from having the rear ride-height jacked right up (see set-up boxout) to make them turn faster. Once we'd spent the morning messing about with the 636's settings, it fair scuttled around Pau at a rate of bleedin' knots and never got out of shape or threatened to do anything untoward. Stability comes as standard with all ZX models, and despite setting the geometry head-down and arse-up for the track, there was never any slapping to write home about.

Perhaps the simplest vindication of the 636's handling is that you don't even think about it. At the circuit, the limit on lean angle was defined by the Dunlop 207 tyres and certainly not on any handling limitations. The 207s were batting it out manfully and totally predictable, but they're a standard-compound road tyre (as they should be on a roadbike) and a swap to stickier 207RR or 207GPs for the track would have meant you could have gone utterly bananas. There's no doubt the 636 would have loved every minute of it.

Kawasaki remain the very last of the Japanese manufacturers to still insist on using a fuel tap instead of a simple reserve light on the dash, and a good old-fashioned analogue speedo. Re-live the 1990s with Kawasaki 600cc sportsbikes are seemingly difficult things to evolve over the years. Until someone produces a 600 that weighs 139kg dry and makes 120bhp at the back wheel, they'll continue to eke progress along a smidgeon at a time. As such, the ZX636 is evolving nicely.

I wouldn't expect to see the other manufacturers tripping over themselves to squeeze another 40ccs out of their 600s, 'cos on the strength of this example there doesn't seem much point once you take all the expense of re-tooling into account, but it's a refreshing way of developing an existing model. The 600 class remains as close as it's ever been.

Verdict:

If you were expecting massive changes to midrange or performance, forget it. The 636 is a decent evolution
of an already-decent bike, and will be right in there with the others when the 600 Group tests kick off this Spring.

Kawasaki ZX-6R Specifications

SPECS - KAWASAKI
TYPE - SUPERSPORTS
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £6695
ENGINE CAPACITY - 636cc
POWER - 106bhp@12,700rpm
TORQUE - 48lb.ft@10,100rpm   
WEIGHT - 172kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 820mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - 158mph   
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A

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