Usually the track portion of the comparison is a lot closer subjectively, but the new ZX-6R blew everyone out of the water this time. Not only did it turn the quickest lap time, but every rider who finished riding the Kawasaki at the end of a session had nothing but praise for the little green Ninja in nearly every aspect of performance. It was a stunning turnaround from last year, where the old ZX-6R brought up the rear in lap times.
The '09 Kawasaki's powerplant is not only the strongest on the dyno (even over the 675cc Triumph), but its quick-revving character translates to fierce acceleration all the way from the beefy midrange to its screaming top-end. Even though the Triumph gets the initial jump off the corner, the ZX-6R quickly makes up that ground and then some on the way to the next bend. "What an awesome bike!" wrote Olsen, "the ZX-6R is so exhilarating to ride, it doesn't seem in the same class with the others." El Jefe concurred: "All I can say is ‘Wow'! It's pretty easy to tell this is the strongest engine of the lot."
Despite being the heaviest bike here, the Kawasaki's handling is surprisingly agile while remaining surefooted in nearly every situation. "The 6R feels like it's 20 pounds lighter than the CBR, even though it's that much heavier," said Olsen. The Showa Big Piston Fork proved its worth over Buttonwillow's bumpy pavement, remaining poised and communicative through the gnarliest corner entries that would be doubt-filled on the other bikes; "I knew this would be the real test for the Showa BPF," wrote Kunitsugu, " and it passed with flying colors. The aftermarket will have a tough time improving on this." Even the brakes received accolades, with every tester's ratings sheet scoring the Kawasaki highest; "Best brakes I've ridden with on a 600 in quite a while—superb feel, excellent power and progressiveness," said El Jefe.
Fantastic engine and chassis
Superb suspension and brakes
A little overweight
Umm, we're thinking…
What a difference a year can make
|SUGGESTED SUSPENSION SETTINGS
||spring preload: 15 turns out from
full stiff; rebound damping: 3.5
turns out from full stiff; compression
damping: 6 turns out from full stiff;
ride height: 11mm from triple clamp
to fork tube cap top
||spring preload: 12mm thread showing;
rebound damping: 6 clicks out from
full stiff; slow-speed compression
damping: 2.5 turns out from full stiff;
high-speed compression damping:
3.0 turns out from full stiff