When Kawasaki reintroduced its 636-powered Ninja ZX-6R for 2013 it was aiming to score a homerun with the street-riding crowd. With its beefier mid-range and more supple suspension components it did, finishing runner-up to the Triple cylinder-powered Triumph Daytona 675R in this past summer’s 2013 Supersport Shootout X Street. It also surprised us on track by reclaiming the top spot in the 2013 Middleweight Supersport Shootout X. Still we wanted to see what the Kawasaki was like to live with so we piled nearly 4000 miles on it this year.
We were so pumped on the Ninja after riding it at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway (the site of the track portion of our Middleweight Supersport Shootout) that we wanted to keep flogging at the circuit. So we loaded it in the truck and headed to northern California’s Sonoma Raceway (aka Infineon or Sears Point) for a Zoom Zoom Track Day.
(Top) CT Racing is an equally opportunity tire service provider. Although it sells Pirelli’s it is happy to fit any brand of tires on your motorcycle. (Bottom) Although it won the Middleweight Supersport Shootout at Chuckwalla, the results might have been very different if we conducted the test at Sonoma Raceway.
We began by peeling off the OE-fitted Bridgestone Battlax S20 road tires and swapping them for a pair of R10 race take-offs from our Chuckwalla test. Although they don’t sell Bridgestone, the folks at California Pirelli race tire vendor, CT Racing, are always willing to lend a hand, mounting and balancing our tires for $40. After setting the tire pressure at 30 psi in the front (cold) and 26 (cold) at the rear we were ready to ride.
For optimum performance and tire life it’s best to use tire warmers, however this time we forgot ours. This means caution needs to be exercised during the first few laps as racing tires offer minimal grip when cool. Fortunately, the R10s warmed-up quickly and we were able to get to a knee-dragging pace in just a handful of laps.
As mentioned in the Bridgestone Battlax R10
Race Tire Review, the R10s require a quite a bit of carcass heat to get most out of ‘em so it was virtually impossible to get the tires fully up to peak temperature in a 20-minute track day session. Still we were happy with the sure-footed performance of the Bridgestones, not to mention the tires favorable flex characteristics over Sonoma’s bumps and rough patches of pavement.
Compared to the fast and flowing nature of Chuckwalla’s 2.68-mile course, Infineon’s shorter 12-turn layout is more stop-and-go putting a bigger load on both the suspension and tires. Before turning a wheel we adjusted the suspension according to the final Supersport Shootout set-up (see Settings box in the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Supersport Comparison). In spite of this the Ninja still felt spongy with it gliding over bumps and pitching quickly during hard braking and acceleration. We continued to add damping to the fork and shock in an effort to get the chassis to the point where we could ride it quickly and confidently. Still it was clear it doesn’t offer the racy road holding of its predecessor.
After a fun and exciting day at the track we returned the Kawasaki to street duty by fitting Battlax BT-003RS tires. The RS hoops are perhaps the most versatile sport tire in Bridgestone’s line-up. It is of higher specification than the standard S20’s that came on the motorcycle. While they don’t offer quite as much surefootedness at crazy high lean angles compared to the R10s, they are better suited to heat cycling and everyday life on public roads. Over the years we’ve spent a considerable amount of miles on them and love their quick warm-up times, neutral handling and pleasant bump-absorbing qualities on rough pavement. If you’re looking for the ultimate all-around street and sport tire from Bridgestone the BT-003RS is it.
(Center) The BT-003RS offer improved road feel compared to the S20 which make them better suited to faster paced rides. (Bottom) Adaptiv Technologies TPX radar detector let’s us focus on the ride and helps avoid harassment from law enforcement.
Considering the extra ‘oomph of the Ninja’s 636cc Inline Four motor, not to mention the raucous intake, it’s downright difficult to adhere to the speed limit on public roads. That’s why we fitted a radar detector from Adaptiv Technologies. One of the greatest features of its TPX-series unit ($299) is it’s modular design, meaning it can be installed on virtually any type of street bike. Previously we ran it on a BMW F800 GT. For the Ninja we sourced the same $85 handlebar mount but used shorter Allen bolts since the ones supplied were too long for the Ninja’s clutch lever perch. Installation was a snap, just like on the F800, requiring nothing more than some clever wire routing to the motorcycle’s battery for power.
On the road the radar detector helps take one-less worry from the riding equation. Instead of worrying about police around every corner you can simply ride. A variety of detection modes are offered but we preferred the ‘Cty NoX’ setting best, as it reduces the number of false alarms from buildings and other erroneous radar sources within a big metropolis like Orange County, California. We love the bright LED warning light that we mounted directly in our line of sight, above the instrument display. There is an audio warning too but it’s impossible to hear at speed. Adaptiv offers a Bluetooth-enabled transmitter ($55) which allows for audio warnings inside your helmet but we haven’t had a chance to use it yet.
With 3923 miles on the clock our green Ninja continues to look, run and feel as good as the day we took delivery. Even with its bigger engine it still nets decent fuel mileage (for a sportbike). We’ve recorded fuel mileage as high as 42 mpg on moderate paced all-freeway commutes but have also seen it dip as low as 32 mpg during spirited canyon blasts. And that in essence is the beauty of the Kawasaki. It is as adept at fast pace sport rides as it is as a freeway commuter. Although it gives up a little bit of that hardcore track edge, unless you’re strictly riding trackdays, you might not miss it.