Striking his "A.T.'s personal pincushion" pose
The all-new Kawasaki ZX-6R finally discovered the balance it had been seeking for the past few years. The ZX takes point with a smoke'n fast motor and some very trick hardware (forks/brakes). I must admit that the Kawi is a bit hard on the eyes styling-wise, and that's where the sexy Suzuki gets major props.
When I crunched the notes and numbers after street testing I had the CBR and ZX neck and neck. Kawi fun factor versus Honda practicality.
The closed-course portion of our evaluation changed my opinion dramatically. After being put through its paces, the updated Honda was upended, relegating it to second on the box. The latest-generation CBR started a trend towards more midrange, and I applaud the forward thinking of the engineers at Honda R&D. But when pushed to the upper-end of the rev-range, the RR literally fell on its face and sacrificed top-end-power. Team Green has done their homework and the results reflect the company's efforts. Nice to see Kawasaki is shaking things up again.
One very fast data acquisition geek
To me the winner of this test is a clear-cut one. It's a matter of evolution versus revolution, and one bike of this bunch is a truly revolutionary machine.
The GSXR, while not a bad bike, is just dated compared to the others. It doesn't excel anywhere and is in need of a re-design. Although the Honda came out with a few minor updates, it lost something from last year—mainly its engine. Much improved from last year, the Triumph feels like some of its quirky issues have been tuned out. The R6 is the same one we've come to know over the past few years: a track-focused middleweight full of compromises. But all these bikes are evolutions of the same basic package.
The ZX-6R is a truly revolutionary machine. It does everything so well that it doesn't seem fair to compare it to the others in this test. It's an exhilarating ride, a fact backed up by all the measurable data, but who cares? The size of the smile it gives you is all that matters.
Please ask me about my new leathers
Last year it was close between three bikes, with the Suzuki being my pick. This year it was pretty close between just two, the Triumph and the Kawasaki. On the street, the Daytona's midrange power made it very friendly to ride and I've always loved the sound of the Triumph triple. Both braking and handling were a big improvement over the previous Daytona 675. On the track I loved its narrow feel although I occasionally ran out of revs because of the relatively low redline. But once I switched directly between the Triumph and Kawasaki a few times, the choice became clear. This year, the Kawasaki ZX-6R is definitely the package to beat. The powerful brakes give a huge amount of feel, and together with the front suspension inspires major confidence through any corner. A surprisingly strong engine, smooth transmission, and a riding position that was immediately comfortable with better wind protection…hats off to Kawasaki for developing a truly great motorcycle.
Do not pass this man when he's working
The last time I had to choose a middleweight sportbike, the field was somewhat smaller, consisting of the Honda 500 Interceptor, the Kawasaki Ninja 600R, and the Yamaha FZ600. Then and now, the choice wasn't easy.
The Triumph looks great, and its almost-V-four-sounding engine has an addictive tone. But the 675 just didn't do it for me on the track, and its seating position was too awkward. The Yamaha, alas, is just too track-oriented for my tastes, and while the Suzuki fit me great and was an easy bike to ride on both street and track, it was noticeably down on power. The Kawasaki is obviously a great bike with amazing handling and power, but the overall feel of quality isn't quite up where it belongs, and the styling is a little too boy-racer for me.
In '85 I chose the Honda 500 Interceptor, and in '09 I would go with the Honda again. The CBR wasn't my favorite on either track or street, but it's a very balanced bike with no glaring deficiencies. And that's enough for me.
Dear A.T.: Please hurry back, Mikolas needs insulting
It appears that a couple of manufacturers got caught with their pants down by the now more-strictly enforced EPA fly-by noise test. After getting stung by the test with the last generation ZX-6R—where the woefully underpowered engine put the Kawasaki at the back in last year's test—Team Green was prepped and ready with the new model, and the results showed. Where some of the other bikes displayed curiously flat power curves compared to last year, the new ZX-6R is stronger than ever, with a monster engine that positively rips. You can be sure that the manufacturers will be paying a lot closer attention to exhaust noise from now on.
I was a little skeptical of the Showa Big Piston Fork after the riding the bike at the Autopolis International Racing Circuit in Japan at the world press launch, but after railing through the bumps and gnarled pavement of your typical American track, I've become a convert. Its superb action works with excellent brakes and a very flickable chassis to create what is hands down the middleweight to beat in '09.