Horsepower: 108.3 hp @ 14.000rpm
Torque: 43.3 lb-ft. @ 12,000rpm
Weight: 422.3 lbs w/fuel
Best Lap Time: 1:21.56 (Atlas)
If asked before this shootout which motorcycle was the favorite, all of us would have likely said the Kawasaki. Fresh off dominating our 2009 Supersport Shootout, Kawasaki’s all-new ZX-6R could do no wrong. Its Supersport dominance did come as a surprise as last year it was bringing up the rear, but a year can make all the difference. For this reason, when looking at the machines on paper, a betting man would have been stupid not to put money on the ZX-6R.
“Compact, mean and light – the Kawi is ready for business,” says Dhien. “No doubt the most aggressive ‘feeling’ of the bikes. It’s very sensitive to transitions or any rider input and it is an awesome motorcycle to ride. Also the big tach and roomy cockpit make for a great rider interface. The seating position is very rider friendly as well.”
“There is no disputing how tiny and nimble the ZX-6R is,” agrees Waheed of the Kawasaki’s chassis. “And with its new big-piston fork it feels especially balanced throughout the turns front-to-rear. The level of feel is outstanding, especially when you’re on the edge of the tire. The suspension’s range of adjustability is also quite high for an OE machine.”
Like the unflappable chassis, the Kawasaki’s brakes are on point as well. Loads of feedback and a great initial bite, they are the class leader in this group – all this despite using rubber lines as opposed to the steel-braided which adorn the Aprilia and Buell. Looks as if those clever Japanese have been able to exploit more feel and feedback from rubber lines than steel-braided, something unheard of before.
“The Kawasaki’s brakes are simply on another level in terms of performance as compared to the other bikes,” says Waheed. “Slowing down from warp speed requires just one finger on the brake lever and the amount of feel delivered is exceptional for a production motorcycle.”
When it came time to push the bikes hard it was almost impossible for the Aprilia to keep the Kawasaki at bay.
“Under the hood,” as they say, is a revamped engine; one that went from the back of the Supersport pack last year to the front this year – and by quite a bit. Yet in this trio the power-to-weight ratio slides it somewhere in the middle, with Buell on top by a decent margin and the Aprilia at the bottom, but only ever so slightly.
“The Kawasaki is very rev-dependent,” adds Waheed. “It doesn’t have anywhere close to the low-end of the Buell, but once you reach around 10,000 rpm the engine comes online fast with substantial high-range pull. This will surprise you considering it’s nearly half the displacement of the Buell. Keep the throttle pinned and its top end hit is right on-par with the 1125.”
Says Dhien: “I was just let down with its power compared to that bigger cc motorcycle named Buell. No doubt the fastest 600, but the Buell has it covered easily. I guess it should with double the displacement, though.”
All of this echoed what was said in the Supersport Shootout, thus we knew it would be good coming in. What we didn’t expect was for the Buell to be so damn good. To say it gave the Kawasaki a run for its money would be an understatement. In fact, in terms of outright lap times, it handed the Kawasaki a cold can of ass-whoop. Seriously, although the 1125 is only a half-second quicker, in a group like this it adds up quickly. Over the course of a 20-lap race that would be 10 seconds. Though, to be fair, two of our three riders did set their fastest time on the 6R, it just wasn’t the outright quickest of the test.
Also, had we excluded the objective performance scoring, the Kawasaki would have taken top honors based on the highest subjective track scores of the test. The BPF fork and solid chassis make for a motorcycle that is utterly easy to go fast on for all level riders. No matter what one throws at the Kawasaki, it soaks it all up, looking back at you and saying, ‘that’s all you got?’ Equally as effortless to exploit is the engine, which is the strongest of the 600cc bunch.
As for the racing equation in all of this: No doubt Kawasaki has been the most competitive of the Japanese-based manufacturers right out of the gate in Daytona SportBike at the hands of Jamie Hacking. Considering how good the ZX-6R is and the experience of the Kawasaki team, this comes as no surprise.
In Kawasaki you have a proven crew, championship-winning riders and mechanics, and a giant factory with decades of racing experience backing your every move – all things needed to win races and championships (something Kawasaki has plenty of). Buell has, well, none of these really. They do have a large factory behind them in Harley-Davidson, but it’s one that specializes in making motorcycles based on technology as old as your grandfather – not very conducive to modern racing success. It’s for these very reasons the racing world has been scratching their heads looking for answers to how DMG came up with this equation.