Rear tire grip is rarely ever a concern aboard the 636, but when the tire does start to slide, Kawasaki's traction control system quickly steps in. The KTRC system works so well in fact, that we never saw any reason to toggle to the Off position at the track. And we're not too proud to admit that in colder conditions and on wet mornings, we gladly set the system to Level 3 while simultaneously toggling over to the bike's Low power mode; both settings provided a level of control that our right hand simply couldn't.
It'd be easy to assume that the laptime-motivated 2012 ZX-6R would outshine the 2013 model when ridden aggressively. And the 600 does indeed feel like it could shatter a few more lap records than the 636 in the hands of a racer, but the disparity between the two bikes when ridden at anything less than a World Supersport-winning pace is far too large to ignore. The 636 is a less demanding bike to ride, and beyond that it's a more comfortable bike to ride on a daily basis. Put simply, it's proof that you don't have to sacrifice comfort and enjoyment for outright performance.
So has Kawasaki's bold change in pace resulted in a better package? Absolutely.
The newer ZX-6R coasts down the interstate with few wrinkles in the chassis and absolutely no buzz through the handlebar
The 636’s gauge cluster is...
The 636’s gauge cluster is a bit busier with the addition of KTRC and ride modes, but still easy to read at a glance. Typical Kawasaki mirrors provide a clear, unimpeded view of who’s in tow.
Showa’s Separate Function...
Showa’s Separate Function Big Piston fork has preload adjustment in the left leg and damping adjustment in the right leg. Springs are .50N/mm softer and provide an unparalleled level of comfort over rough patches of road. The Nissin monobloc brake calipers deserve equal praise, and offer great power through the pull but no overly aggressive initial bite.
Shock spring is 7.5N/mm lighter...
Shock spring is 7.5N/mm lighter and equally as centered on comfort as the front end.
2013 Kawasaki ZX-6R
||Bike is less physically demanding to ride
||Smooth power delivery matches plush suspension
||Brakes are less intimidating, but still powerful
||Power tapers off quickly up top
||Steering on the brakes feels heavy
||Kawasaki took a chance on its 636 platform, and it's paid off!
|Suggested Suspension Settings
|Front: Spring preload — 7 turns in from full soft; rebound damping — 4 turns out from full stiff; compression damping — 5.5 turns out from full stiff; ride height — 8mm showing above top triple clamp
|Rear: Spring preload — 6mm thread showing; rebound damping — 1 turn out from full stiff; compression damping — 1.25 turns out from full stiff
Kawasaki's Original "Cheater" Bike
The 2004 ZX-6R was hard motorcycle...
The 2004 ZX-6R was hard motorcycle to fault, and that bike’s success has clearly influenced Kawasaki’s decision to return to a 636 platform for 2013.
Between 2003 and 2006 Kawasaki sold a 636cc ZX-6R alongside a purpose-built, 600cc ZX-6RR that was offered more for race homologation purposes than anything. And while the 636 lasted just four years on showroom floors (Kawasaki ultimately decided to refocus its energy on the 600cc model), it managed to gain a cult-like following that's difficult to overlook. "A lot of the pre-orders we've had for the new ZX-6R are actually from guys that owned one of the original 636s," says Kawasaki's Brad Puetz. "These guys just love that bike." After throwing a leg over the mostly stock '04 ZX-6R belonging to Sam Ho of Rosemead, California, we can't blame them; Kawasaki definitely hit the nail on the head in its first go at a "cheater" bike.
The '04's engine feels midrange-biased, and especially stout from 8000 to 10,000 rpm, but at the same time the bike's not completely opposed to higher revs. Unlike the newer ZX-6R, it also feels more partial to an aggressive riding style; suspension is on the stiff side for instance, plus the brakes and chassis (despite being almost ten years old) act as though they'd be right at home on the track. That's the big difference between the '04 and '13 model though: Kawasaki designed the original 636 knowing that it would eventually end up competing in one race class or another (and it did, with great success). Kawasaki designed the '13 model, on the other hand, knowing that racing is no longer a priority for most motorcycle enthusiasts.
The bikes' different design briefs have resulted in a pair of 636's that are undoubtedly common in certain ways, but also very different. And despite those differences, you can't help but think that the first-generation's success had at least some influence on Kawasaki's decision to return to a 636 platform for 2013. It's a good model, clearly, and with advances like traction control and ride modes, we wouldn't be surprised to see the new bike stick around for a bit longer than Kawi's original "cheater" bike.
Avon 3D Ultra Supersport Tires
Avon's new 3D Ultra tires were levered onto our 2012 and 2013 Kawasaki ZX-6R test mules for the track portion of our test, and were subsequently tested on the street. More specifically, we spooned onto each bike a set of 3D Ultra Supersport tires, which are constructed from a softer compound than Avon's 3D Ultra Sport tire and marketed as a street/track tire. Compared to the track-specific Xtreme, the Supersport features more grooves for better performance in myriad conditions.
Avon's 3D Ultra lineup of tires share multiple technologies, including a 3D siping that uses interlocking three-dimensional points in thin grooves to limit carcass flex and enhance warm-up capabilities. The Supersport tires also make use of Avon's Advanced Variable Belt Density (A-VBD) and Reactive Footprint (RF) technology, which combine to provide better stability when the bike is vertical and a larger contact patch when the bike is leaned over. What's more, the tires are constructed with Avon's Front Groove technology, which is intended to prevent uneven front tire wear over the course of the rubber's lifespan.
The Supersport tires in particular proved plenty capable at the track and especially proficient through the entrance of the corner, a trait we attribute to the tires' quick steering characteristics and compliance on the brakes. The rear tire is equally as admirable and offered enough performance to get us through a full day of aggressive riding. We'll say, however, that the tires' soft carcass was immediately apparent and allowed the tires to get hot after an elongated on-track session. Smaller slides at the exit of the corner weren't exactly a rarity by the end of a 20-minute stint.
The Supersport tires performed well around town as a result of that soft carcass, and absorbed bumps masterfully on LA's finest roadways. Warm-up time was plenty quick during even the coldest of mornings, and while tire wear at the track wasn't overly impressive, we feel that the Supersports provide an adequate balance between track and street performance.
Avon 3D Ultra Supersport fronts are available in two size options and retail for $182.33 to $197.08. Rear tires are available in four size options and retail for $255.09 to $297.01. For more info on sizing and a list of retailers, log onto www.avonmoto.com.