Niall's Spin: Kawasaki ZX-6R (1995 - 2005)

Niall gives his verdict on a decades worth of Kawasaki ZX-6Rs

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

KAWASAKI ZX-6R (2005-'06)

The sensible pick of the modern ZX-6RS. The model became incredibly track focussed for 2003/04 and took a few steps back towards reality for this version. Suspension's more pliant which makes it faster and more comfortable on anything other than a perfect, smooth track.

The engine's still the 'cheating but who cares' 636cc and it's a stunner. It's got enough low down power to be useable but wind it up and it's a missile on nitrous. Problems are pretty few but look out for signs of neglect, crash damage and theft. And don't pay OTT dealer prices - old stock of this model left showrooms for around the £5,500 mark.

It's quite a physically substantial bike too.

Variants: Under-seat exhaust distinguishes it from the previous model.
Walk away: If there's any major problem - bikes this new should be near mint.
Also consider: 2005 Suzuki GX-R600, 2005 Yamaha YZF-R6

KAWASAKI ZX-6R (2003-04)

Like a seemingly-dead crocodile, Kawasaki came to life with an evil snap of its jaws in late 2002. The result was this. The tiny, track-focused 636cc engined ZX-6R was nothing like its large road-orientated predecessor. And it's superb, incredibly fast with race-quality handling. As a road bike it's flawed, cramped, snatchy and running on overly-harsh suspension.

But when a 600's this much fun, who cares. Faults are few and problems are more likely due to crash damage, theft or neglect. Over-hard suspension may be due to a lack of nitrogen in the rear shock, a common problem on many bikes. Specialists can sort it for £20. Kawasaki soon started softening later bikes, but this was a head-banger's high point and we love it for that.

Variants: Angry-insect headlights.
Walk away: if it's a thrashed, crashed track mongrel
Also consider: 2003 Honda CBR600RR, 2003 Yamaha YZF-R6

KAWASAKI ZX-6R (2000-'01)

One of the best sports-touring bikes in the sporty 600 class. The ZX-6R grew in size for 2000 so it's ideal for larger riders or those not wanting to be cramped on longer journeys. It's still nimble and rapid when revved too - arguably one of the best road-going 600s you can buy. Even the headlights and mirrors are pretty good. Kawasaki improved the bike even further with the 636cc engine for 2002 then went all race track focused in 2003. Proportions may be bigger than CBR600s but problems are a little more common too. Suspension can need overhauling after 15,000 miles, corrosion nibbles away here and there and the odd engine problem isn't unheard of. A spare £400 should deal with any of these should they occur.

Variants: Previous G models had a smaller, single headlight
Don't fear: Imports with converted lights and speedo
Also consider: 1999 Honda CBR600F, 2001 Yamaha YZF600 Thundercat.

KAWASAKI ZX-6R (1998-'99)

Similar looks but a big dynamic improvement over the previous 'F' model ZX-6Rs. Light and fast enough to be a serious sports and track tool but spacious with a seating position you can tour Europe on. It's a genuine all rounder, unlike most modern sporty 600s. It's bigger than a CBR600 of the same age and like many Kawasakis, much better on fuel too.

If you ride in winter you'll need an additive (like Silkolene PRO FST) to prevent carb icing causing poor running and stalling. Exhausts can rust so check how deep the corrosion is before you buy. Be aware lots are parallel imports - matching fairing panels may be hard to get and other minor problems, so pay 10% less.

Variants: UK G2 has ZX-6R logo on the belly pan
Walk away: If the rear shock and linkage are knackered and the head bearings too
Also consider: 1998 Honda CBR600F, 2000 Yamaha YZF600 Thundercat

KAWASAKI ZX-6R (1995-'96)

ONE TIME KING of the hard-fought class, partly thanks to an aluminium frame and light weight. But, like pets, 600s age faster than people and these first ZX-6Rs share nothing with the latest machines in the class. A good 'F'-suffix 6R is still a decent bike and it's a better all rounder than many more up to date machines. The problem is, like most older bikes, many are shagged. 

Honda's CBR600F tends to last better but a mint ZX-6Rs can be found if you're prepared to look. Keep an eye open for warped brake discs and seized calipers. Suspension will be shot unless it's had some work done. If you ride all year round, carb icing may cause a problem. An additive like Silkolene's Pro FST solves it.

Variants: 1997 bikes had a modified exhaust and frame numbers starting 030 rather than 000 or 017.
Don't fear: Surface rust on the exhaust down pipes - they all have it
Also consider: 1995 Honda CBR600F, 1998 Yamaha YZF600 Thundercat