Buyer Guide: Kawasaki ZX-6R

The ultimate buyers guide to the Kawasaki ZX-6R written by the people who actually own the bike…

Click to view: Kawasaki ZX-6R owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re after a hard nosed, cutting edge track weapon, a mid price sports tourer or cheap but rapid wheels: there’s a ZX-6R for you.

This big selling bike leapt to the top of the 600cc sports class when it appeared in 1995. The 13 years since has been a roller coaster for this rorty CBR600 rival. It started as a hard hitting but usefully versatile sports 600 in ‘F’ form, become more polished and gained personality though its ‘G’ years, matured into a road practical sports-tourer in ‘J’ guise and grew an extra 37cc as the ‘A1P’ variant. At this point Kawasaki bosses gave the company a shake up and the next incarnation of the ZX-6R was a real shock. The ‘B1H’ was an evil eyed, ultra sharp track weapon and once again, after years in as a sports also-ran, the Kwak was a very viable contender for best-in-class.

The more refined ‘C1H’ followed. Which was even faster and finer handling but some die hard Ninja fans prefer the ‘B1H’ for its undiluted lairyness. The current P7F version’s slimmed back to 599ccs. It’s a blinding track bike but a bit too focussed for many road riders.

Every ZX-6R’s been a bike with character. The characteristic intake growl’s there on all models and every one’s a machine with more personality than the rival Honda CBR. If you’re thinking of buying a ZX-6R, you need to get to grips with the model codes. We’ve listed them all over the guide.

Kawasaki ZX-6R Specifications

1995 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Engine l/c, 16v, carburated, in-line four, 599cc Power 100bhp @ 12,500rpm Dry weight 182kg
Seat height 810mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 150mph

1998 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Engine l/c, 16v, carburated, in-line four, 599cc Power 106bhp @ 12,000rpm Dry weight 176kg
Seat height 815mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 155mph

2003 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Engine l/c, 16v, carburated, in-line four, 636cc Power 112bhp @ 13,000rpm Dry weight 161kg
Seat height 825mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 160mph

2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Engine l/c, 16v, carburated, in-line four, 636cc Power 128bhp @ 14,000rpm Dry weight 164kg
Seat height 820mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top speed 165mph

2007 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Engine l/c, 16v, carburated, in-line four, 599cc Power 124bhp @ 14,000rpm Dry weight 167kg
Seat height 820mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top speed 165mph

Tyres
With all the latest rubber to choose from there’s a huge range fitted to ZX-6Rs. Here’s the five most popular:

Michelin Pilot Power 24%
Bridgestone BT-015 9%
Michelin Pilot Road II 9%
Bridgestone BT-014 7%
Metzeler Racetec K1/2 7%

The Pilot Power’s Michelin’s current sporty road tyre and an excellent choice. It comes in a dual compound version which is slightly more track orientated and called the 2CT. The Pilot Power was OE fitment on some 2003/04 bikes.

The Bridgestone BT-015 (and 014) were Bridgestone’s equivalent – a good sports tyre with all round ability, very capable of track days too. They’ve been replaced by the new BT-016.

Michelin's Pilot Road II is an excellent sports touring tyre which works well on any ZX-6R intended for mainly road use.

The Metzeler Racetec K1/2 is a road legal race tyre. Great if you mainly do track days but they won’t work well in the cold or wet on the road.

Average tyre life is front: 5,208 and rear: 3,685. The owners of earlier (pre 2003) bikes seem to get a few more miles than this as although their machines are heavier, they’re also less powerful and seem to get used more gently and fitted with more distance orientated rubber.

Consumables and expenses
Fuel consumption varies massively. Just over half the owners in the survey didn’t know what their bike did per gallon. The overall average was 37.3mpg. Hats off to Chris Wren who rides his B1H hard enough to get just 27mpg (or maybe it’s running horribly rich!). Several owners report 50+ mpg on a range of different models including the G series and C6F so fuel consumption’s clearly very much down to riding style.

Servicing follows a slightly irregular pattern: First service - 600 miles; minor service – 4,000 miles; major service – 7,500 miles; minor service – 12,000 miles; major service – 15,000 miles. Valve clearance inspection is carried out separately to the services every 26,000 miles on 2005 onwards bikes (C1H). Earlier models require valve clearances to be checked at 15,000 miles. Owners who took part in our survey combined the valve clearance checks with a service.

Average prices paid for a service are: Minor £13; major £218 and major with valve clearances £353.
Chain and sprocket life depends on care, use and quality of parts fitted but several owners have got 15,000+ miles from a set.

Standard Kawasaki brake pads are by far the most common and the people using them rate them highly. To be honest all ZX-6Rs have good brakes so any half decent pad should be fine. EBC are the next most popular, with SBS, Vesrah and Bendix all having small followings including Emma Williams who does quite a few track days and says Bendix MMR are the best.

Owner Case Study: "I’ve owned about ten ZX-6Rs"

Kevin Mulholland started with an F3, had two J models, two or three Gs, two A1Ps, an RR and is now on his second P7F model.

“I love them. If you cut me in half it’d say ‘Ninja’ down the middle. The older bikes were good but compared to the latest one they’re a like tankers – big at the front and slower.  I’d done about 8,000 miles on my first P7F when it got stolen. I was gutted as I loved it so I bought another one.

“The second one had a few problems. The paint on the forks and swing arm started bubbling up so I took it back to the dealers. They agreed to replace the forks under warranty but umm’d and aah’d about the swing arm so I just touched up the paint on that myself.

“Then the speedo started going wrong. It was all over the place, saying 157mph when I was doing 80 and all sorts. I took it in to the dealer who were happy to replace it under warranty but they told me the engine was seriously sick – it had something like 94psi compression and it should be about 144. I was amazed as it seemed fine to me. They re-built it with a new head and valves and it seems fine.

“I love the bike. But it just came back from the 8,000 mile service which cost £350 and the head bearings were knocking.It’s had its problems but I still think it’s superb.”

What goes wrong
Not a lot. But three owners (out of 45) reported gearbox failures and we’ve heard of this before on other ZX-6Rs. Effected bikes in the survey were a C6F, a J1 and an F3. Third and fourth were the culprit cogs. Two recent bikes in the survey had leaks from the rocker cover gasket.

We’ve heard talk of the odd older (pre 2003) machine needing a new camchain tensioner but it’s not common and no-one in the survey mentioned it and it’s easy and cheap to fix anyway.

Finish
Like so many modern bikes, it’s far from perfect. Just 29% of owners are happy with their 6R’s finish. The consensus seem to be the first bikes were quite durable, then by the turn of the century it had got quite poor as environmentally friendly paints and processes had to be used. Then from 2003 onward things got a bit better after Kawasaki gave themselves a kick up the arse.

Danny Pearson says his B1H is better finished than the J1 he used to own although Natalie Graham says the finish on her B1H isn’t brilliant. She told Two “Paint seems thin, nuts and bolts may as well be made of butter.  Wheel finish could be better.  If left outside rust appears quickly  -lots of polishing is required.”
Most areas of the bike get mentioned by one person or another but the key areas seem to be fork legs, wheels, swing arm, tank near where the riders knees rub, heel plates, fasteners and discs.

It’s a bike which needs care if used in all weathers, especially in winter. An anti corrosion product like ACF50 should make a big difference for year-round machines.

Modification
Exhausts are popular with 73% of bikes running something other than standard. The number one choice by a mile is Akrapovic; 33% of all owners have one fitted and most of them love them. Two reckon they’re not loud enough though. There’s a smattering of Yoshimura, Arata and Remus as well at the upper end of the market. At the budget end, Scorpion’s the number one choice with 9% of owners choosing them – all of whom thing they’re good for the money. Ditto Blue Flame and Carbon Can Company although they’re rarer. eBay is a great hunting ground for cheap pipes and other ZX-6R mods at bargain prices.

The range of other mods on ZX-6Rs in our survey is colossal. The go-faster brigade plump for Power Commanders, velocity stacks, steering dampers, posh suspension, high flow air filters and lower gearing. Some folks say a softer shock works better and that quite a few B1Hs didn’t come with enough gas pressure from the factory – something a suspension expert can detect and remedy easily and very cheaply.

Sensible types opt for double bubble screens, crash mushrooms and fork leg prtectors. ZX-6Rs, it seems, do have a liking for a spot of the old tarmac surfing.

Then there’s plenty of tail tidys, small indicators, short levers, rearset footpegs, braided brake hoses, huggers, seat cowels and more. Even the odd green screen, which sould really be avoided at all costs.
Less usual but highly rated items include Stompgrips (let you hold on tighter with your legs) and a HID headlight conversions (the best mod available on any bike according to C6F owner Simon Miller). Trev Rule grafted a B1H front end (as well as Ohlins shock, wheelie switch, ignition advancer and more) to his J1.

Owner Case Study: "My ZX-6R’s had a new engine "

Kate O’Hare bought her ZX-6R F3 three years ago with  38,000 miles on the clock. She’s added almost 20,000 more...

“I had to replace the engine with a used one at 50,000 miles as the gear box completely lost 4th gear and I only had half of 3rd. It was just as well as the piston rings looked like they were on the way out too.

“I use the bike for everything, daily use, holidays, track days, work and pleasure. The longest journey I’ve done on her was when a bunch of mates and I decided to see if we could do 1,000 miles in one day.

“I’ve fitted LED brake lights, a K&N air filter, a stage one Dyno jet kit,gone down one tooth on the front sprocket, plus three teeth on the rear, changed tyre sizes from 160/60 and 120/60 to 180/55 and 120/70 and my bike’s got one off paint and decals.

“All the mods have their own plus points although the best two have to be the tyres and the gearing changes. With more rubber on the wheel it doesn’t tip in as fast in corners and also gets round without having to be sat up half way. The gearing means that it’s got lots more poke at the bottom end, only lost out on 15mph top end so I’m definitely happy with that.”

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