Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Supersport Comparison

Monday, June 17, 2013

Videos Our Sponsor
2013 Kawasaki ZX-6R Track Shootout Video
Click to view video
Kawasaki wants another Supersport Shootout crown and its using its larger 636-powered Ninja ZX-6R to get it – will it work? Check out the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Track Shootout Video.
No other brand has won more MotoUSA Supersport Shootouts than Kawasaki with its Ninja ZX-6R ($11,699). This year Kawasaki further alienates the competition by upping displacement of its Inline Four engine to 636cc. In addition to its more powerful engine specification, it also sources updated suspension hardware, monobloc-style front brake calipers and traction control. Will this be the year Kawasaki reclaims Supersport supremacy?

Seated at the controls the Ninja’s cockpit resembles that of the R6. A tall seat and low bars equate to a more demanding stance as compared to the Suzuki, Honda, and even the Triumph. Although it is a bit of a stretch it is an attractive platform for going fast at the track says Zemke:

“The seating position on the 636 is a little bit different. A lot of the bikes you sit down in them. But the 636 is a little bit higher and it feels more reminiscent of a race-style seat position. I think that’s allowed them to lift the pegs a bit which gives you a little bit extra ground clearance. It’s a little bit more aggressive, but for me it felt very comfortable out on the racetrack and that what’s important.”
The Kawasaki responded well during deep trail braking maneuvers demonstrating the effectiveness of its fork and brakes.
The suspension lacked the road feel and response of the Triumph but still offered superb chassis balance.
More top end power helped the Ninja achieve high top speeds down the straightaways earning it valuable points on the score sheet.
(Top) The Kawasaki responded well during deep trail braking maneuvers demonstrating the effectiveness of its fork and brakes. (Center) The suspension lacked the road feel and response of the Triumph but still offered superb chassis balance. (Bottom) More top end power helped the Ninja achieve high top speeds down the straightaways earning it valuable points on the score sheet.

But not everyone agreed, with our smallest test rider voicing similar concerns as experienced with the Ducati and Yamaha.

“It was a hard bike for me to ride,” complains Dunstan. “It sits so tall and felt a little top heavy. Ergonomics are so important to me so I really couldn’t get this bike on the side of its tire no matter what I did. It’s because I didn’t have the confidence to move my body around.”

As Dunstan notes, the Ninja feels more top heavy at a standstill, however, in motion it is more athletic than you’d assume based on its 421-pound, fully-fueled curb weight. This gives it title to third-lightest bike in the contest behind the CBR and GSX-R600. Although it didn’t serve up the sheer agility of the Honda, it wasn’t far off, especially through Turns 8 and 9 where it logged the fourth-fastest flick rate score.

Of all the bikes in this shootout the Kawasaki offered the most linear handling, with it transitioning into corners in a predictable and linear manner—an area which Honda’s CBR historically shines. Through Turn 4 the Kawasaki held a corner speed that put it toward the back of the field. Conversely, in the fourth-gear Bowl turn it carried the most mph with the fourth-least degree of lean angle. In the second-to-last corner (Turn 16) it again impressed registering the second-fastest speed at apex.

Much of the credit goes to its fresh suspension components. While aimed at improving handling and road comfort on the street, the ZX suspension made the bike devastatingly easy to ride at the circuit, too. Despite lacking the precise damping feel of the Triumph’s Ohlins hardware or the Honda’s new big piston fork, the Kawi’s suspension performed flawlessly, letting fast laps come with ease. Also of note is how improved the Ninja’s suspension performed compared to our initial test at Thunderhill during the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R First Ride test.

Despite not generating excessive braking forces into Turns 1 and 8 the Ninja’s Nissin-sourced monobloc-style calipers were hands down the
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Settings:
Height: 9mm
Preload: 9 (Turns in)
Compression: 5.5 (Turns out)
Rebound: 4.5
Height: 10mm spacer
Preload: 6 (turns)
Compression: 2.25
Rebound: 1
Engine Power: Full
TC: Off
favorite of the test, offering not only tremendous power and feel but smooth actuation – especially during deep trail braking maneuvers.

“Now I understand why it went so good compared to the GSX-R750,” Pridmore recalls. “The lap I did on that bike was the fastest one I did on any of the bikes here. It was probably one of my easiest, even though it was 110 degrees and it was the last bike I rode. I was pretty whipped at the end of it.”

The Ninja’s horsepower output ranked it fourth overall, belting out 114.25 hp at 13,500 rpm with another 1800 revs of over-rev to spare. However, power tapers off after peak more dramatically than the R6 and Triumph making upshifts more of a necessity. Fortunately, the Ninja’s gearbox shifts well under load and was rated above both the Ducati and MV despite not employing a quickshifter. It had the fourth-most peak torque figure too cranking out 47.16 lb-ft at 11,300 rpm. That positioned it between the F3 and the Triumph but still between eight and 16 lb-ft less than the mighty Ducati and GSX-R750.
Though Dunstan wasnt a fan of the green bikes ergos she loved its engine.
The Kawasaki offered the strongest and most easy to use braking package.
Despite its more street-focused suspension components the new hardware performed well on the track and was a big improvement over our first ride at Thunderhill last fall.
(Top) Though Dunstan wasn’t a fan of the green bike’s ergos she loved its engine. (Center) The Brembo monoblocs have plenty of power and feel, but they still aren’t as capable as the set-up on the Kawasaki (Nissin) or Honda (Tokico). (Bottom) Despite its more street-focused suspension components the new hardware performed well on the track and was a big improvement over our first ride at Thunderhill last fall.

“The minute I hopped on it I felt right at home,” says Neuer. “The motor on the thing—it feels like a built 600—it rips. It rips out of the corners. It’s great on the brakes and turn-in. It’s phenomenal, very confidence inspiring. They’ve got a great package.”

Much to our surprise the Ninja didn’t record that high of acceleration force numbers off corners. Driving off Turn 10 it registered only 0.53g and 0.34g at the exit of the Bowl. This may be explained by the Ninja carrying more momentum through the corners, so the engine didn’t have to accelerate as hard when the rider dials in full throttle while transitioning the bike from lean onto the center of the tire. This theory can be supported by the fact that the Ninja had top speeds near the front of the pack ahead of everything besides the larger GSX-R, Ducati and MV (down the short middle straight off of the Bowl).

“I spent the least amount of time on the Kawasaki because it was always out on track under another rider,” jokes Wooldridge. “That should say something. The Kawasaki was fast coming off the corner. At lean it was easy to change lines and get back to an apex. Most importantly it was easy to dial in the throttle early on exit.”

“I rode the Kawasaki near the end of the day and was a bit hot and tired, but it woke me up right away,” Carruthers said. “I didn’t do lap times, but I’d have to imagine that if I did, I’d be fastest on the Kawasaki with probably the least amount of effort.”

We fell in love with the Ninja from the second we pinned the throttle. It’s wider powerband let us run higher gears through corners thereby achieving ripping fast drives on exit. Add in its powerful, yet easy to modulate brakes, balanced and superbly accurate chassis and you’ve got a bike that is overwhelmingly simple to go fast on. Top scores in six categories and a ripping fast Superpole time tipped the scales in the green bike’s favor. Best Supersport of 2013? That’d be the 636-powered ZX-6R.

Dealer Locator

Kawasaki ZX-6R Highs & Lows
  • Excellent engine performance
  • Best brakes of the group
  • Easy to ride at speed
  • Still no quickshifter
  • Had to add engine displacement to get back on top

2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Comparison
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Slideshow
Recent Sportbike Reviews
2015 Entry-Level Sportbike Shootout
We gather the field of entry-level sportbikes for a show-down to see which machine is best in the segment.
2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF First Ride
Aprilia updates its proven RSV4 Superbike with a host of subtle internal engine, chassis and electronic changes with its 2016 RF model.
2015 Kawasaki Ninja H2 First Ride
Known for its powerful line of Ninja sportbikes, Kawasaki pushes thrills to new levels with its precision-built and supercharged H2.
2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Specs
2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R.
Engine: 636cc liquid-cooled Inline Four, DOHC
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 x 45.1mm
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Fueling: Fuel-injection, 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Transmission: Six-speed cassette-type
Clutch: Wet, F.C.C. w/ cable actuation
Final Drive: Chain; 16/43 gearing
Front Suspension: 41mm Showa BP-SFF with spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjustment; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Uni-Trak equipped gas-charged shock with spring preload, compression, and rebound damping adjustment; 5.3 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm petal discs, radial-mount monobloc-style four-piston Nissin calipers
Rear Brake: Single 220mm petal disc, single-piston Nissin caliper
Tires: Bridgestone Battlax S20 120/70R17, 180/55R17
Curb Weight: 421 lbs
Wheelbase: 54.9 in.
Rake: 23.5 deg. Trail: 4.0 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Fuel Tank: 4.5 gal.
MSRP: $11,699 ($12,699 with ABS)
Colors: Pearl Flat Stardust White; Flat Ebony Metallic Spark Black; Flat Ebony Lime Green
Warranty: One year, unlimited mileage
2013 Track Map
2013 Supersport Weights

Login or sign up to comment.

Muzzy   June 24, 2013 09:34 AM
besides Gresini is the only team in MotoGP to use Showa instead of Ohlins, are we to have the same type of doubts about Ohlins just because of that?
Muzzy   June 24, 2013 01:20 AM
It's one thing to get a bike on the side of the tires, another to get it on the edge...that's completely unnecessary for most riders, most of the time. And as far as the brakes go, how much of the performance is due to the calipers and how much is due to good pads, rotors, master-cylinder, lines, fluid and bleeding? You can have everything else right and put in a can of wet fluid that goes all soft the moment the pads get hot. I still would start with the Brembos and then I could worry about the rest. Because I'd know the calipers are almost certainly not going to be a problem. And if you worry too much about "initial bite" anyway you'll be sliding down the road on your face. My first squeeze is never going to be aggressive and I'm happily carrying the brake down almost to apex.
slant2   June 24, 2013 12:02 AM
@Muzzy There is an "if" with Brembo. Not all professional race teams use Brembo [Gresini Honda MotoGP]. I have the opportunity to ride many different bikes and the brakes on my ZX6R are superb in initial bite and feel. BTW, the confidence that Jen Ross couldn't find on the track with getting the bike on its side, I found within the break-in period on regular city streets. No chicken strips over here!
Muzzy   June 23, 2013 07:56 PM
...is there an "if" with Brembo?
Piglet2010   June 22, 2013 08:07 AM
@ Muzzy - "Can you say the same about Nissin and Tokico?" If the calipers are ones that Honda-Kawasaki-Suzuki-Yamaha are putting on race replicas, the answer is yes, no need to upgrade.
Muzzy   June 20, 2013 06:16 PM
The problem is that after a point it's not so much the calipers but the pads, hoses, master-cylinder, the fluid & the bleeding, but Brembo is a known standard. You get those calipers, you don't need to worry about them. Can you say the same about Nissin and Tokico?
Piglet2010   June 20, 2013 06:02 PM
Yeah, but Nissin and Tokico brakes will never compete with Brembo on the all-important Bling Factor™. Just as radial mount brakes offer no advantage unless one wants to run different diameter rotors on different tracks, and two-piece calipers can be stiffer than "monoblocs", but radial mounted monobloc calipers are Better for Selling™.
Muzzy   June 20, 2013 04:17 PM
I stand corrected, the laptimes are on page 10. Would be nice if you guys would use the same track for all the shootouts though this will make for great fodder for the Ninja 300 crowd.
MCUSA Bart   June 20, 2013 02:09 PM
We published Superpole lap-times, which are factored into the scoring. Superpole recorded the laptimes of two control riders - our Road Test Editor Adam and two-time AMA champion Jason Pridmore. They were run on fresh Bridgestone Battlax R10 tires. We flew in Kinelogix tech for data acquisition - using that data for the Objective Performance scores.
Muzzy   June 20, 2013 12:52 PM
"Consistent with previous results"? I guess if you're really concerned with that over everything else then that would be a problem. In fact if you take that into consideration over actual rider-preference then the ranking is clearly unfair. The winning bike got 2.5 votes out of 14 possible, same as the 4th-place bike (the R6). The last bike got 2 votes tied with the 2nd bike and even the 5th-place 600RR got at least one vote. The two Suzukis, which were 6th and 3rd, got no votes; the 8th place Ducati didn't get a vote either. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds...you could also break down each ranking like you did at the bottom of page 10 and ask the riders to rate & weight those categories in terms of importance to them as well...that would at least give you a common point to compare the "objective" and "subjective" ratings. But to not do that makes the results entirely subjective. There's nothing here which shows a correlation between any one category and final performance. The absence of laptimes and any data about the tires on each bike is glaringly-obvious. If this is consistent with previous results then it's likely that all of the previous results are equally disconnected from reality.
MCUSA Bart   June 20, 2013 11:13 AM
Agree that the captions was hard to follow, and it's been edited. The intent was to state that the Nissin and Tokico calipers from Kawasaki and Honda proved just as capable at the track as the Brembos. As for the scorecard, we catch a lot of flack for it - but we feel it is the fairest way to evaluate the bikes, particularly when the performance is so close. It would be easier to not have a scorecard and just rank the bikes, but publishing a scorecard makes us more accountable and helps keep shootout scoring consistent year-over-year. We conduct these shootouts to provide information to our readers, and if one finds a category more or less important - the data is there to make their own ranking. We appreciate that our readers care enough to provide feedback. Thanks.
Muzzy   June 20, 2013 10:40 AM
@carbon yes and if you look at the Triumph brake pic you'll see the same text. The point is clear if presented somewhat awkwardly: they like the brakes on the Kawi better than the Brembo monoblocs. In fact they come right out and say that the Kawi has the best brakes in the test.
Muzzy   June 20, 2013 10:36 AM
...maybe you guys should just abandon the "objective" part of the test and just let each rider rank the bikes and then perhaps average all their rankings. It seems that doing it this way, in the final scoring there's too much emphasis on attributes that apparently don't matter much to the riders.
Carbon   June 20, 2013 10:07 AM
You state in the above right side, center picture: "(Center) The Brembo monoblocs have plenty of power and feel no doubt, but they still aren’t as capable as the set-up on the Kawasaki or Honda". The 636 runs Nissin monobloc's. The above is stated in the exact form, the page (page 8) prior describing the Triumph's binders. Keep up great work. This is an awesome site.