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2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R Project Bike - Part I

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Kawasaki ZX6R Project Bike: Exhaust & Power Commander

2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Project Bike
Without a doubt the Leo Vince SBK Factory Race Exhaust System is a great addition to our ZX-6R Project bike, don’t you think?
It’s difficult to find a flaw in the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. After all it took top honors in our 2009 Supersport Shootout. But, as they say, even the best can get better. It’s the same mentality that pushes the OEMs to fine-tune their motorcycles year after year and it’s the same mentality that keeps the aftermarket performance accessories companies in business too. We are here to bring you the scoop on installing a few key bolt-on components, what you might want to look out for if you are doing it yourself and what you might expect to gain from these particular pieces of hardware.

One of the most common performance upgrades is the exhaust and fuel-delivery systems. In the past, with carbureted street bikes, jetting changes were the norm: But these-days motorcycles feature fuel injection, so the Power Commander has become the FI-accessory of choice. The tastiest piece we added is a Leo Vince SBK Factory Race Exhaust System ($1,169.99) replete with our own MotorcycleUSA logo etched into the side of the titanium canister.

You too can get whatever you want etched on a Leo Vince of your own. Maybe your mom’s mug shot or your inmate ID number would be a nice addition to your pipe? The truth is, they envisioned racing team logos or favorite graphics would be popular with riders. If you’re interested, the bad news is you can only get the stainless Leo Vince Unlimited Slip-On engraved at this time. But that’s still pretty cool. Basically any late model sportbike with a side-exit exhaust is a candidate. Once you get your pipe you simply ship it off to Leo Vince and then go to their site, find your bike and upload the image of your choice. Cost is negligible at $100 plus shipping and typical turnaround time is under two weeks.

Leo Vince prides itself on building systems that work well with the stock ignition/FI mapping but we went full-bore on our bike by installing a Power Commander 5 ($279.99) from Dynojet as well. The PC-V allows you to install customized maps so you can tune the power delivery to your needs plus it is possible to add in a Quick-shifter, speed sensor or any other of a half-dozen gizmos available from Dyno-Jet for the PC-V. We also added the Dynojet Auto Tune ($279.95) which allows the PC-V to automatically adjust the fuel mapping while you are riding. Pretty cool but the real added bonus is the range of tuning it offers when used in conjunction with the PC-V. Technophiles will have a field day with these electronic upgrades. Check out the details on Powercommander.com

The Dyno Jet Power Commander PC-V and Autotune components are a nice compliment to each other. It takes a while to install but the range of tuning options these components open up is endless - 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Project Bike
The Dyno Jet Power Commander PC-V and Autotune components are a nice compliment to each other. It takes a while to install but the range of tuning options these components open up is endless.
Before you begin swapping the exhaust system, be sure to get your tools in order. A small ratchet with 10-12-14mm sockets and an assortment of Allen-wrench-drivers or T-handles, size 4-5-6mm will keep you from going back and forth to the tool box. Oh yeah, and a small flashlight can be helpful too. The light will help you get the right wire picked out when installing the PC-V.

Installing this system was relatively easy. It took approximately 2.5 hours, including removal of the bodywork and the OEM exhaust system. The most difficult part is disassembling the ZX-6R bodywork. These days, everyone is limiting and hiding fasteners in an effort to make the bikes more-sleek, so it becomes a real pain in the butt. Our best advice is to be patient, look at every angle as you’re tearing the bike down and make sure to tape the fasteners to the pieces they belong to, or screw them back into the bosses on the frame so you don’t lose track of where they all go. After that, removing the stock exhaust is straight forward. Start with the muffler and work your way to the header. Take note of the flapper-valve drive cable down by the brake pedal. You’ll need to re-install that later on.

The nuts that bolt the header to the head are easier to get to if you remove the lower radiator bracket so you can swing it up and out of the way a bit. The Leo Vince system comes in eight pieces that are individually stamped and marked so it is very easy to follow the instructions step-by-step. It’s like a model kit and the instructions are very easy to follow and are clearly represented in the diagrams. First, you bolt the head pipes in place loosely. Then slide the two 2-into-1 couplers onto the end of each pair of head pipes. After that the main 2-into-1 collector slips on. Although this part requires a little effort to get it all to line-up, take your time, tap it into place and it is air-tight and very tidy.

The Leo Vince SBK System titanium cannister normally is not available for etching but they hooked us up with our MotoUSA logo. You can get the same service on the Leo Vince stainless slip-on - 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Project Bike
Be sure to check your placement of your logo several times before it is etched into place. It still looks sleek and sexy though.
Finally, the tail pipe goes in place followed by a bit of alignment to get it all perfect. Now ours has a carbon fiber hanger, which is cool, but once we bolted it up, the hanger conceals part of our logo that’s etched on the side of the pipe. If you pay for etching, be prepared to experience this same thing if you don’t take care to pin-point exactly where you want the graphic placed – you can’t exactly give it a do-over.

The stock air-fuel sensor screws into a boss that comes on the Leo Vince system. Make sure to get that in place. We had difficulty getting the 2-into-1 collectors to slide into each other so we used a light tapping from rubber mallet to guide the pieces together. Be careful not to dent the pipe though, these are precisely machined parts that simply need a little nudge to slide into place. After the exhaust installed, go through the bolts from head pipe to muffler and torque them down per the manual specifications.

If you plan to have the system installed at the dealership or a shop, you can expect to pay for three hours of work or roughly $200-$250 to have the system installed by a professional. But where’s the fun in that? We weighed the entire stock system at 25 lbs compared to the Italian crafted Leo Vince which tips the scales at a scant 6 lbs. That’s a weight savings of 19 lbs and big difference on a motorcycle that competes in a market where the three heaviest bikes are all within three lbs of each other. Changing the exhaust alone drops the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R to 377 lbs, which would make it the lightest of the bikes we tested in Supersport Shootout VII.
Leo Vince SBK System headers look great - 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Project Bike
Leo Vince claims an average 10% increase in horsepower over the stock system and doesn’t require any changes to the stock fueling system. But if you want to get the most out of your full exhaust, you should invest in a Power Commander or some variation thereof.

Now it’s time to install the Power Commander V ($279.99). This ECU-supplement works in-line with the existing wiring harness and while it’s more technical than the exhaust install, it also takes about the same amount of time as the exhaust, and it is very compact compared to the previous generation PCIII. Follow the Power Commander V installation directions closely and you shouldn’t have any trouble. It’s not rocket science but you have to pay attention and not be afraid to dismantle a few key pieces of your motorcycle to make the install process go easy. It took approximately two hours from start to finish to complete this project.

Beware: When you unplug the stock wiring harness it seems that disconnecting the tip-over switch has become a very common oversight. If you do this, the bike will run for a few seconds and then die. We did it and thought we screwed something up. It turns out we unplugged one thing we shouldn’t have unplugged. It’s back by the taillight, so is clearly not the taillight plug. The moral of the story being, don’t undo it if it’s not on the list from Dyno Jet.

Vortex Rear sets in the black finish look real sharp on the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Project Bike and they offer loads of grab and added clearance.
Now that we added some goodies, it's time for the real work to begin.
Once the exhaust and PC-V are installed it was time to run the ZX on the dyno and see what we gained. In stock trim the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R horsepower was 105.8 @ 12,200 rpm and torque was 42.7 lb-ft. With the Leo Vince horsepower increased to an impressive 114.8 hp @ 14,200 rpm and torque climbed a bit to 44.6 lb-ft. Out on the track the bike feels even stronger than the dyno reveals. The system itself is not significantly louder than stock, which is nice, plus it seems to rev-out a lot better with peak power coming later than it does with the stock system, so when you are screaming in the upper end of the rev-range you have a bit more over-rev to work with.

After adding the Power Commander and full Leo Vince exhaust system we are happy to report that there is a noticeable increase in power, yet throttle response is still quite smooth. Not dealing with an abrupt throttle is always important when you are trying to pare tenths off lap times. Overall, we are satisfied with the performance gains associated with the additions and the associated performance advantage it gives our 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R Project Bike.
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Highs & Lows - Leo Vince SBK Factory
Highs
  • Looks Great
  • 19-lb weight savings, 9-hp boost in peak horsepower
  • Sounds Great!
Lows
  • Is $1300-$1600 worth nine horsepower and 19-lb weight reduction?
  • Our etched logo placement is partially obscured by the hanger
  • One more thing you don't want to damage!
Highs & Lows - Power Commander V
Highs
  • Ability to create your own ignition maps
  • This ads another dimension to owning a performance motorcycle
  • You can keep adding so many gadgets its crazy!
Lows
  • You have to upload your maps
  • Sometimes a map doesn't work as well as advertised
  • Endless additions and tuning can be addictive
  • Addition is hard on the wallet

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Comments
Juan -Original plastics  January 14, 2010 02:44 PM
I want to know if you can sell me all the original plastics, lights and footrests that you took out of the bike My e-mail is juandemotos@hotmail.com I'm really interested
Peter -weight savings  November 14, 2009 12:19 AM
How much weight was reduced buy replacing the street plastics and headlights with the race fairings?

Thanks

Lloyd -Autotune answer  October 23, 2009 08:11 AM
The autotune, can only give a co readout to the PC V. Then the PC V takes that information and adjusts the injector timing etc...to get you to the map you have programmed. I do believe.
So running a map is essential, because that is what the PC V is working off of, in order for the values the autotune sends it (via co2 sensor) to mean anything and adjust accordingly
dave -autotune  October 22, 2009 01:18 PM
why would you use any map at all if you're running the Autotune accessory?!
sykes -comment  October 22, 2009 10:25 AM
thus bike is so sexy and im going to get one in the next couple of weeks
MCUSA -Re: Leo Vince Map  October 22, 2009 10:06 AM
We used the map provided on the leo vince site. We intend to fine tune our map to try to get another couple hp out of it too.
thewall -Very nice  October 22, 2009 09:58 AM
Nice laymans article and very usable information. Very surprised by the weight savings and even more by the power increase the full Leo's gave the new Kawi. I thought we were pretty much at the point where stock exhaust could only be imrpoved on by a handfull of hp, 3-5hp. But nearly 10hp more is something to take notice of. Not ot mention 19lbs lighter. Go LV. Have always liked their work and the pipe they made for your MCUSA bike is pretty dang trick looking.

Did you use a Leo Vince provided map or did you get a custom map made?