First released in 1995, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R is one of the longest-running 600cc production machines in the Supersport market. The 95-edition saw the second-ever 600 to get an aluminum frame (Suzuki’s GSX-R600 got one in ’92) and revolutionary-for-the-time low dry weight of 401 pounds.
Since its last major redesign in 2009, Kawasaki’s middleweight ZX6R sportbike has reigned supreme establishing itself as the benchmark in terms of outright racetrack performance.
Fast forwarding to recent years, 2002 saw an unorthodox change for Kawasaki and the ZX-6R. Faced with the issue of creating more mid-range power, they instated a 636cc engine in the base ZX-6R, much to the dismay of other manufacturers. To stay in racing series’ worldwide they also made a limited production run ZX-6RR, which had a 599cc engine as well as a host of trick parts including an adjustable swingarm pivot and slipper clutch.
With 2003 came many new changes to both the Ninja ZX-6R (636) and ZX-6RR. Both the 636 and 6RR received fuel injection for ’03, as well as a redline 500rpm higher. Radial-mount front brakes now graced the front end as did an inverted fork. Totally-new styling saw a much more radical-looking Ninja, with a center-mounted air-intake and dual bug-eye-style headlights. The machines were also much smaller overall, a big improvement compared to the previous generation middleweight Kawasaki. A minor restyling came in ’05 as well as an updated frame, swingarm and center-up under-seat exhaust. Kawasaki continued to make both a standard 636 and ZX-6RR Ninja supersport model.
But after four years of producing both machines, in 2007 Kawasaki joined the rest of the Japanese manufacturers by returning to the middleweight fray with only one machine, the standard 599cc ZX-6R. Along with this came an all-new engine that was 40mm shorter front to rear by virtue of a new stacked-internal-gearing set up. Equally changed was the Kawasaki’s frame, swingarm, suspension and brakes, all designed with a more track-focused feel. The Kawasaki ZX-6R remained unchanged for ’08 with the exception of a few new color options.
For ’09 a totally new bike came from Kawasaki, modeled after their ZXRR MotoGP machine and its big brother, the ZX-10R. Much more angular styling wraps around a retuned engine, which gained a healthy amount more power and a right-side-exit low-mounted exhaust to aid in mass centralization. Also, highlighting the new machine is an all-new Showa Big Piston Fork (BPF). This is technology derived straight from the racetrack and is the first time it has been implemented on a production 600. The result of all these changes was the top position in Motorcycle USA’s 2009 Supersport Shootout!