It's not a 'superbike'? Sure looks like one...
At first glance, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R may look 'super', but it technically isn't. It is what many bike fans have come to identify as a middleweight 'supersport' – slightly smaller, less powerful and more affordable sport bikes. A 'baby' superbike of sorts, if you will.
Underneath, the Ninja ZX-6R's chassis and powertrain formulas does go a long way back, but it has undergone plenty of evolutions, sporting a myriad a new tech and features plus slight tweaks to both its chassis and powertrain to form the version tested here, which has been in production since 2019.
In a sense, you can call it quite an 'oldie' if you want, but Kawasaki has kept on updating it over the years to keep it as current as possible, and the results were very telling when we legged over into its hot seat for an entire weekend recently.
Okay, it's not a 'superbike'... but does it go like one though?
Almost, but not quite. Although, we will admit that the thrills of riding it are similar as to what you'll get from bigger litre-class and up sport machines. Much of this stems primarily from the Ninja ZX-6R's 636cc in-line 4cyl heart that churns out a claimed 134bhp and 70.8Nm of twist.
Though it may not sound like much, you've got to remember the Ninja ZX-6R only tips the scale at 196kg (kerb). Do the math and the power-to-weight ratio is still rather bonkers to say the least. On top of that comes the experience of milking it all out from a mill with a red-line that starts at 16,000rpm – crikey!
In other words you'll still break every – yeah, ALL of them – speed limit present in the country with just the first two gears easily at full twist. You'll perhaps even shame a few Porsches and Ferraris along the way too, until a litre-class or bigger-sized superbike comes crashing this party that is...
If it's not superbike-quick, where's the fun then?
Truthfully, supersports like the Ninja ZX-6R shine brightest on twisty canyon B-roads, as well as twisty and more technical type circuits. In the right hands, the Ninja ZX-6R can offer the same sort of thrills as delivered by its bigger brother the Ninja ZX-10R, and the likes of which (i.e. BMW S1000RR, Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, Ducati Panigale V4S).
Much of the Ninja ZX-6R's agility is borne out of its sport chassis design and hardware. The latter features adjustable 41mm Showa front forks and rear monoshock suzzies, beefy twin Nissin 310mm rotors with quad-piston monobloc calipers up front, not to mention the rather sticky set of Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22 tyres our tester came shod on with.
So as long as you've got the fitness – and skills – for it, spanking the Ninja ZX-6R can be equally as joyous as being on a bigger sport machine. Sure, it makes do with lesser bits (no Öhlins suzzies, Brembo anchors, or even stickier Pirelli tyres), but there's enough here to keep weekend corner-carving Spartans chuffed, not to mention its rather mean 'Sugomi' (predator-like) styling it sports.
Is this easier to ride than a full-sized superbike?
No, not exactly. For starters, you'll need to deal with the superbike-like racy ergonomics dictated by the 830mm tall seat, low clip-on handlebars, as well as the aggressive position of the footrest and controls – they're swept up high and back.
That, plus the stiff spring and damper setup means daily riding the Ninja ZX-6R will be a back-straining affair to say the least. Though not impossible, what with the revised 636cc mill's sweeter and more 'streetable' mid-range torque delivery band, it's a labourous chore one can do without.
Despite Kawasaki brimming it with a three-mode selectable traction control suite, intelligent ABS, as well as a quickshifter plus an assist and slipper clutch for the close-ratio six-speed box, the Ninja ZX-6R can still be quite a handful for the uninitiated, more so when Mother Nature rains on your parade...
Yes, it may be slightly smaller and lighter, but you'd still need superbike-like skill set and fitness level to properly master it.
Tell me then, why should I buy one?
Want a sporty-looking middleweight that's easier, cheaper and, to an extent, 'safer', to ride? You’d want the Kawasaki Ninja 650 sport standard for that. The Ninja ZX-6R, on the other hand, was built for riders graduating out of said middleweight (or even the Ninja 250 and 400), but want to ease into superbikes more gradually.
If you've set your motorcycling path as such, then the Ninja ZX-6R's RM79,900 base sticker price sans on-road costs makes sense. Notably, it does come with a 2-year or 20,000km official warranty, and is perhaps the only one of its 'species' (Japanese 4cyl middleweight supersports) currently on sale with official after-sales support – Read: NOT a grey import.
Yes, pricey indeed, especially considering a bigger, faster and better-equipped 'basic' 1,000cc superbike costs just RM12,000 more. But like we said, the Ninja ZX-6R has enough to keep aspiring weekend warriors occuppied before switching to a bigger, faster machine...
Near-superbike levels of speed, performance and fun at a not-superbike-like price. Also very stylish and well-equipped too.
|ENGINE||636cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke 4cyl|
|POWER||134bhp @ 13,500rpm|
|TORQUE||70.8Nm @ 11,000rpm|
6-speed return-type manual with
|FUEL TANK||17 litres|
(base price excluding on-road costs)