Horsepower: 105.87 hp @ 12,200rpm
Torque: 42.75 lbs.-ft. @ 11,200rpm
Weight: 422.3 lbs w/fuel, 396.7 lbs w/o fuel
Superpole Time: 1:20.23 (Atlas)
¼ Mile: 11.11 @ 133.74mph
Top Speed: 164.25 mph
Overal Ranking: 1st-place!
Had the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R not been green, it’s doubtful any of us would have even recognized it!
Remember that total nerd in high school? Coke-bottle glasses, spent way too much time in the library on his ‘computer,’ played Dungeons and Dragons… You know, the one all the cheerleaders laughed at and the only reason you would invite to parties was to be the butt of practical jokes? Now fast forward to your 10-year reunion. Here comes that total nerd, though almost completely unrecognizable. He’s a mega-buck-making, Ferrari-driving, far-better-looking, computer genius with the hottest chick in the place at his side. Look who’s laughing now…
For Kawasaki and their ZX-6R, they left last year’s shootout as the high school nerd. But they came back this year as the computer genius with the babe on his arm. What a difference a year can make! This must have been said multiple times by nearly every rider who threw a leg over the ZX, yours truly included. For complete technical details check out our First Ride of the green machine in Japan, but in a nutshell, it’s totally new from the ground up. Say hello to the ZX-6 on a MotoGP-inspired binge. It should be noted it’s still the heaviest of the group in terms of wet weight, but they have just made it much more compact and less noticeable and by no means does this hurt performance. In fact, check out the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R video for yourself and see how the Ninja stacks up against the competition with your own eyes.
All-new styling from the ground up highlights a vastly improved ZX-6R. It’s hard to even grasp the difference from ’08 to ’09 it’s so drastic.
While without a doubt everything about the machine was impressive, first and foremost is the engine. From the bottom of the pack last year to the top this year, both on the dyno and real life, this motor just plain rips!
“Wow, what a difference a year makes, Kawi has done extensive development in the motor department!” exclaims Sorensen of the new ZX. “This bike has low end grunt that carries all the way through the top end power; very useable and extremely tractable.”
“This year the Ninja takes the prize,” Hutchy says. “It feels fast, has a healthy mid-range and a strong top end.”
As a result of this motor, when it came time for performance testing out in the Mojave desert the Kawasaki proved it was right on pace. Despite still being 422.3 pounds wet, the plentiful amounts of horsepower and slick aerodynamics allowed it to record a ripping top speed of 164.25 mph, third-best of the group. As for the quarter-mile, the Kawasaki clutch wasn’t the best for launching – though it wasn’t as bad the Yamaha either. As a result it only laid down a 11.11 @ 133.74 mph. While this still may have been good enough to be tied for third, with a better launch that beast of a motor could have been battling for the top spot.
In fact, not a single tester in the group had one bad thing to say about the new 6R powerplant, including Dhien, who sums things up, saying, “Kawasaki’s engine was amazing! It felt like I was on a bigger displacement machine!”
One could argue that Kawasaki has always been known for their monster motors, it’s the sheer size and chassis of their sportbikes where they sometimes struggle. But as mentioned before, just like its ZX-10R big brother, the 6R went on a serious gym regimen this off-season and came back much smaller and meaner looking, with a whole bunch of trick parts to boot.
Atlas laid down the fastest lap of the Superpole session on the Kawasaki and was instantly at home on the all-new Green Machine.
Headlining that list of trick parts and widely praised was the BPF (Big Piston Fork), though it took some time to get used to in the beginning. Due to its design it has little to no dive when you’re on the brakes. When this is something you are trained to feel, once taken away it’s almost strange. That is, until you get used to it. Once up to speed, the gold 41mm Showa suspenders provide loads of feel, tons of feedback and soak up anything the bumpy Streets of Willow can throw at them with ease. At that point you wonder why everyone hasn’t gone this route. Actually most all race suspension is already this way, as are a few production bikes (Suzuki’s all-new GSX-R1000), but this is the first production 600 to have it and I can guarantee more will follow.
“This was my favorite fork of the test,” adds Sorensen. “Next time you are in a dealership look closely at this unit. These came straight from Factory Showa. Once again they have raised the bar to what a street bike comes with stock. Joey Lombardo (Kawasaki technician) made a two click adjustment to the fork and it felt like the equivalent of 7 to 10 clicks on a normal fork. For racing you probably don’t need the Ohlins cartridge kit anymore, these are that good!”
In fact, they are good enough for Jamie Hacking to take fourth-place with them in the 2009 Daytona 200 – bone stock! No re-valving, no spring changes, nothing. Straight out of the box Hacking nearly put the Kawasaki on the box in the biggest AMA race of the year. If that doesn’t say enough right there, we’re not sure what does.
“Along with new power, the Kawasaki has a totally new chassis that feels more compact and more agile,” continues Chuckie. “The bike turns in quickly and is very precise with quick transitions left to right. It’s also very positive mid-corner, with great feedback from both front and rear. Where the old chassis used to have numbness and a feeling of not knowing what is going on, this new package is now a racing machine.”
This extremely capable all-around package proved to be number one in our outright Superpole Session lap times by a tenth of a second over the race-bred Yamaha. In Atlas’ hands it laid down an extremely respectable 1:20.23, while for Sorensen it was his first bike of the group, recording a 1:24.66, which dropped it back to third in the average time standings. Though there is no doubt as the session progressed so did Sorensen, hence riding the Kawasaki first may have been a disadvantage. That’s just the luck of the draw.
But where the Kawasaki solidified its place at the front of the pack was on the roads. Where the Yamaha is a pure-bred racer first and foremost and suffers on the street, the Kawasaki truly does it all, competing toe-to-toe with the Honda and Suzuki for best street bike.
“It has the size of the ZX-10 and me being 6’5″ means every bit helps,” Kennedy comments. “Immediately it put me in a good place just sitting on the bike. But getting going sealed it for me. Plenty of power, especially on the street, probably even got too much, but it’s addictive. And the stock suspension set-up seemed to support me and my 205-pounds quite well.”
“By far one of my favorite bikes of the day!” added Simon after our street ride. “Overall this motor had everything I look for in a bike – tremendous amount of torque coming out of corners and continuously pulling from the bottom to the top end so much harder than the rest of the bikes. The way the bike turned through all the tight corners was sensational. It really leaned over and seemed to stay down and go where you wanted it to go better than the rest.”
This is the view the competition had of the ZX-6R in 2009. Say hello to the 2009 MotorcycleUSA.com Supersport Shootout champion!
On the street, the bikes which riders like and dislike quickly become apparent. Usually this is noticed by how quickly riders try to snatch up the keys when leaving a rest-stop or gas station. The Kawasaki and Honda keys were always gone first…
“For me the Honda is still the best street bike, though the Kawasaki is right there now. But with how good it is at the track plus nearly Honda-level streetability just puts it over the top,” sums up Waheed.
There it is ladies and gentleman, the numbers are in and for the first time in two years a new Supersport Champion has emerged. By virtue of one awesome engine in both the real-world and on the dyno, plus solid performance numbers, overwhelming subjective marks on the track and a street ranking a mere two points shy of the Honda, the nerd has returned to the high school reunion as the stud, hot babe in tow and sports car in the parking lot. Game, set, match – Kawasaki’s all-new ZX-6R is the new Supersport Shootout King.
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