Kawasaki ZX-6R

Itching To Find Twisty Highways
What’s New With the Kawasaki ZX-6R
by Staff Writer

The radically revamped 2005 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R definitely gives its challengers a run for their money. This bike is full of positive impressions, whether referring to its more stable chassis, improved suspension, impressive motor or sexy new styling.

First off, this may probably be the best looking Ninja since the original GPz900 came out in 1984. Remarks are exceedingly positive about the ZX-6R appearance, pleasing the cognoscenti and neophytes alike. It is one of those rare Japanese sportbikes that look cool even without all the multicolor boy-racer decals.

The cockpit – with one notable exception – is a pleasant place to spend some quality supersport time. Kawasaki pulled back the steering head assembly. This reduces the distance between the handlebars and footpegs, which provides the rider with an idealized position for performance riding. Combined with the new frame, seat and fuel tank, the rider sits “in” the bike, rather than “on” it.

The racing-style instrument panel features a bar-type LCD tachometer, digital LCD speedometer, stopwatch-style lap timer and adjustable shift indicator lamp, which includes Off, Low and Bright settings. A digital temperature gauge, clock and tripmeter are also included. But there is a flaw. The circular sweep of the LCD tachometer is impossible to read quickly at a glance in daylight hours. Plus, the upper edge of the windscreen blocks the view of the top end of the tachometer.

For the past two years, people have raved about the so-called cheater motor in the ZX-6R, but the bike was let down by its sub-par chassis and suspension. For ’05, Kawasaki has tamed the beast with slightly less radical steering geometry and by switching from Kayaba to Showa suspension components. The fully adjustable Showa fork delivers improved ride quality and outstanding cornering performance. At the rear, new UNI-TRAK linkage ratios provide more linear action, and new shock settings improve ride quality and track performance.

The chassis is less nervous than before. The matte-black aluminum frame features a shortened wheelbase and the swingarm pivot point has been moved forward. Combined with a longer, braced aluminum swingarm, the new chassis gives an improved cornering performance and high-speed stability. The ZX-6R steers quick yet does not have that nervous feeling of last year’s bike.

Contributing to the aerodynamic efficiency is the new under-seat muffler, which gives a slim, racy look. The radiator is now 40mm taller and features more-tightly packed cores for increased cooling capacity. The ZX-6R features a more durable, smoother-shifting six-speed transmission, and includes a taller third gear ratio. It also utilizes a back-torque limiting clutch, which helps to reduce rear-wheel hop that may occur when downshifting a high-rpm. The thicker castings used for the engine cases improve engine rigidity and reduce vibration and feature improved lubrication. Despite these benefits, the all-steel underseat exhaust, larger radiator, new slipper clutch and thicker engine castings all cause the ZX-6R’s weight to go up compared to last year’s model.

Of course, the talk surrounding the ZX-6R always gets around to a discussion of power. Larger intake and exhaust valves, revised cam profiles and an exhaust valve integrated with the muffler improve low and mid-range response of the 636cc engine. It is even more of a beast up top than before.

Overall, the 2005 Ninja ZX-6R exemplifies Kawasaki’s commitment to developing the world’s leading-edge sportbikes, strongly reaffirming Kawasaki as the brand of choice for hardcore sportbike enthusiasts. The ZX-6R is oriented toward serious sport riding and track performance. With all its new and improved features, it will leave riders itching to find their local twisty highways.