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Hoodie Kawasaki KLR650 2022-2023
The sport bike market continues to thrive at Team Green, where Kawasaki's lightweight sport bikes like the Ninja 400 and the newly introduced ZX-4RR are disappearing rapidly from dealer showrooms. While Kawasaki acknowledges that the 1,000 cc superbike segment isn't a growth area, they're pleased to report that the ZX-6R supersport has remained a consistent seller over the years, and the 2024 ZX-6R, which we were about to test ride, was already exceeding sales expectations.
The ZX-6R can be considered the epitome of the supersport 600 cc class. Even non-riders can easily recognize its electric lime green design and its iconic "Ninja" name. With its 636 cc engine, it has found its place in stunt shows and professional racing grids, offering a slight edge in displacement over its competitors. For enthusiasts of sport bikes, the ZX-6R is a well-known choice, but a new question lingers: should they opt for the ZX-4RR instead?
For now, let's set aside that comparison and focus on what's new in the 2024 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. What changes have been made to this year's middleweight offering from Team Green?
Minor Updates to the ZX-6R
The most apparent update is to the ZX-6R's bodywork and styling. The front cowling has been revamped to align with the aesthetics of the latest ZX-10R, featuring new LED headlights and turn signals.
Additionally, the 2024 ZX-6R receives an upgrade to a TFT dash, along with technical features such as pre-coded rider maps and compatibility with Kawasaki's RIDEOLOGY mobile app.
Finally, subtle adjustments to the cam profiles, intake funnel, header pipes, and O2 sensor are aimed not only at meeting Euro 5 emission standards but also at enhancing low-to-mid-range power delivery from the 636 cc engine.
While it may not represent a complete overhaul of the Ninja ZX-6R, it's understandable that Kawasaki hasn't felt the need for drastic changes to an already beloved supersport in a 600 cc class that has been shrinking and stagnating. After all, its primary rival, the Yamaha YZF-R6, has been retired from street duties, replaced by the YZF-R7 parallel twin.
On the Track
Kawasaki brought the media to The Ridge in Washington state to put the ZX-6R's racing DNA to the test. This "newish" track boasts thrilling elevation changes, blind crests, and a corkscrew-like turn reminiscent of Laguna Seca's famous feature. However, there was a slight hiccup—persistent rain in the Pacific Northwest.
The riding schedule was rearranged, and we were granted a special after-hours riding session while the track was still dry. The accelerated timeline added an electrifying tension to the atmosphere. A Kawasaki technician fine-tuned my settings, Pirelli slick tires warmed up, and my Dainese D-Air suit indicated "armed," giving me pre-race jitters I hadn't experienced in years. This time, I was on an unfamiliar bike, on a track I'd never seen before, and racing against the clock.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, the pace on the track intensified. We embraced full-send knee dragging, deep trail braking, and rapid upshifts. Surprisingly, I quickly found my comfort zone on the ZX-6R, maneuvering around The Ridge with sheer delight. While it may lack the advanced IMU electronics of the ZX-10R, the equipped traction control, ABS, quickshifter, and slip-assist clutch proved more than adequate for the average track-day rider. Regrettably, dusk descended, and we returned to the pits, guided only by the light of our headlights among the dark pines.
Overshadowed by the Younger Brother
The shadow of the ZX-4RR looms large in any discussion about the ZX-6R. The ZX-10RR comfortably occupies the top tier of the racing Ninja lineup, benefiting from advanced technology and high-end components befitting a powerful superbike. The ZX-6R undoubtedly outshines the Ninja 400, boasting a racing pedigree and features to justify its place in the Ninja hierarchy.
However, the ZX-6R now finds itself in a tug-of-war with its new younger sibling, the ZX-4RR, which is stealing the spotlight. The fact that the latest addition bears the "RR" racing designation, while there are no immediate plans for a ZX-6RR, speaks volumes. In an unofficial poll, many riders and Kawasaki representatives expressed the view that the ZX-4RR is the better choice for serious track-day enthusiasts. There is a consensus that the ZX-6R makes a more practical street option due to its controlled throttle response and additional horsepower for freeway commuting. For now, the ZX-6R remains a stalwart in the Supersport class in the club-racing scene, bolstered by generous contingency support from Kawasaki and an extensive aftermarket catalog.
#ZX6R #Sportbike #Ninja