Used ZX-6RS

Cheap speed with a punchy mid­dleweight Kawasaki

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Dan Suther­land ACT­ING CON­SUMER EDITOR @MCNNEWS mo­tor­cy­cle­news

What we said then

‘The ZX-6R’S rear shock is so hard that on any road that’s not as smooth as a race track, the rear tyre strug­gles to grip and will kick side­ways, which dents the rider’s con­fi­dence. Com­fort is not the Kawasaki’s forte – it has a track-friendly bum-up, head-down rid­ing po­si­tion and looks and re­sponds with­out he­si­ta­tion to ev­ery in­put, so rid­ing is not a re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It looks like a race bike and goes like one, too.’ MCN, 2003.

But what is it like now?

De­spite being 14 years old, this Kawasaki ZX-6R still feels sharp and mod­ern. With jagged, ag­gres­sive styling, fan­tas­tic han­dling and one of the best in­duc­tion notes I’ve heard of any bike, the 2003 ZX-6 is still more than ad­e­quate for most rid­ers look­ing for a su­per­sport thrill.

Much like many early noughties Ja­panese sports­bikes, this one has been treated to a hand­ful of ad­di­tional bolt-on ex­tras that aren’t to ev­ery­one’s tastes. Fin­ished in the tra­di­tional Kawasaki green, the bike is sprin­kled with neat touches, from HEL braided brake lines at the front and rear, to a rather blingy set of golden Ren­thal chain and sprock­ets.

Sit­ting on the bike, the track­fo­cused na­ture of the Kwak be­comes im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent. It’s a nar­row, cramped po­si­tion (even for me at 5ft 7in) and forces you into a hunche­do­ver po­si­tion, which can get very heavy on your wrists. Knees bent and toes on the pegs, it feels racy and com­mit­ted – if any­thing it is slightly too ex­treme for ev­ery­day rid­ing.

Due to this body po­si­tion, your el­bows oc­cupy al­most all of the mir­rors and of­fer lit­tle to no vis­i­bil­ity of the traf­fic be­hind you. This means reg­u­lar life­saver checks are a must, which can grow tire­some.

Our test bike fires up with no he­si­ta­tion – de­spite hav­ing had its choke ca­ble re­moved at the time. Spout­ing a deep, throb­bing sound from its af­ter­mar­ket SP En­gi­neer­ing slipon ex­haust can, it’s an intense sound and one which can get a bit too much on long stints of con­stant throt­tle. You could al­ways stick in a baf­fle or switch to a qui­eter can if it was up­set­ting the neigh­bours. Rid­ing at a con­stant speed, there is also a no­tice­able vibe through the pegs and bars, which can cause fur­ther ir­ri­ta­tion and dis­com­fort.

Out on twisty B-roads, the Ninja comes to life. Wind the throt­tle back to the stop and the 636cc in­line-four mo­tor starts to scream as you climb to­wards the red­line, with the front end get­ting lighter and lighter.

On a smooth road, the front end feels planted and both swoop­ing and tight cor­ners are dis­patched with ease. Our test bike is on Bridge­stone Bat­t­lax S21 rub­ber, which – de­spite being slightly squared off – feels right at home when pushed on a warm, dry day.

Any ob­vi­ous faults?

One of this bike’s big­gest com­plaints has al­ways been its rear shock. From factory, it was far too harsh for the road and many own­ers have since made the log­i­cal step of fit­ting an af­ter­mar­ket one. This model still has an original shock and, un­for­tu­nately, this shows on the road. On a smooth sur­face, the ride is per­fectly plush; how­ever, tak­ing bumps and pot­holes at speed could see you launched off the seat.


The 2003-2004 Kawasaki ZX-6R was, and still is, a hugely ex­cit­ing ma­chine, of­fer­ing great han­dling and a fan­tas­tic sound­track in a tiny, fo­cused pack­age. The en­gine has bags of char­ac­ter and the Kawasaki is great fun when the go­ing gets twisty. How­ever, this track­fo­cused na­ture means rid­ers must make com­pro­mises when rid­ing on the road ev­ery day. The ride is harsh over bumps and the turn­ing cir­cle is mas­sive. It is im­por­tant to bear in mind though that a su­per­sport bike is not de­signed for the ev­ery­day – and there­fore you must put up with the draw­backs, in or­der to ex­pe­ri­ence its full po­ten­tial when the roads get fun.

Flaky paint The gold fin­ish on the front and rear calipers can fail, es­pe­cially on bikes rid­den in win­ter. Poor main­te­nance can also cause the brakes to seize.

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