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2003 Kawasaki ZX-6R Comaprison

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Kawasaki ZX-6R
Despite top-shelf components, the ZX-6R didn't feel perfectly composed on the track.
The ZX-6R used to be the sport-tourer of the 600 supersport class, but now with bits like its trick fork and brakes, Kawi must've turned it into a rack, right?

"The riding position is excellent," says Editorial Director Ken Hutchison, somewhat surprisingly. "The bars are positioned comfortably for my 5'-8" frame and it gets nothing but praise from me in this area; the seat was also comfy." Hutch also had props for the attention to detail lavished on the ZX, noting its standard seat cowl, polished exhaust canister, and the nicely finished cockpit. One universally despised aspect of the rider interface is the Kawi's attractive but flawed instrument cluster. "The light gray LED indicator on the digital tach is nearly impossible to distinguish from the plastic housing around the gauges when you're hauling ass in the daytime," he scorned.

No such problems for the three-year-old Suzuki, whose digital speedo and analog tach is the model of simplicity. But it wasn't all good for the Gixxer Sixxer. "The area the Suzuki lacks most is in its styling and attention to detail," gripes Chamberlain. MCUSA contributor Jeff Buchanan chimes in, "Sitting on the bike and having to look at the clunky exposed fairing mount makes the bike feel less sophisticated than its peers."

Also drawing jeers to the GSX-R was its wide tank that made the bike feel like the fatty patty. But when it came time to eat up highway miles the group was happy to be aboard the Suzook. It not only offers the best fairing protection (closely matched by the ZX-6) but also has the plushest seat. Whaaa? Is this really a hard-edged GSX-R? How times have changed.

The Yamaha turns out to be the best compromise for most riding situations, despite its diminutive size and feel. "The riding position is more upright than I would've predicted," notes fast guy Roberti. "It's actually a more comfortable bike to ride than the ZX-6R."

2003 Kawasaki ZX-6R Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Ballsy motor.
  • Trick components.
  • Nicely finished.
Lows
  • Nervous handling.
  • A face only a mother could love.
  • Tach is nearly unreadable at speed.
For the 5'11" rider to pay such a compliment to the little R6 might be a little suspect if it weren't for the agreement of the 6'0" Buchanan. "The Yamaha is the most comfortable seat, pegs, bars the best for long rides, yet it retains a racing feel. The tach and speedo are exactly where they should be and easy to grab a quick look at when you're blazing." Buchanan also noted that windblast would hit him mid-chest, but buffeting wasn't much of an issue for our shorter riders.

Go!

Despite the trick brakes and fork on the ZX, it's the big-cube engine that everyone wants to talk about. "Awesome motor!" says Korf, a writer normally adverse to exclamation points. "Great power up top, on bottom, in the middle, everywhere!"

The Bottom Line
Rider:
Kevin Duke
Age:
38
Height:
5'8"
Weight:
140 (with cast)
Years Riding:

25
Skill Level:
 Faster than Ken

For My Money...
I was raised to be frugal, and the bike here that packs the most per dollar is the ZX-6R. A top-line 600 can't be had for less, and yet you get the added features like the stellar radial-mount brakes, inverted forks and, most of all, more motor.

The CBR, while great on the track, has a dearth of steam until revs get into the quintuple digits. The R6, with its sexy frame and swingarm and all-over goodness nearly swayed my vote, but the brawny motor of the ZX is its trump card; I can make better, more frequent use of its extra power more so than I can explore the slightly better handling of the R6 or CBR.

Some may deride it for its funky looking nose and scrappy attitude, but people say the same things about me.

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