Limo com­fort, space rocket speed, numb­ing re­li­a­bil­ity – G-model rules. All you need to know (and more)

A mis­sile, an arm­chair, a fully paid-up mem­ber of the pow­er­ful Kawasaki fam­ily and still cheaper than Del Boy’s af­ter­shave. For­get CBRS. This is the 600 to have

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Inside - WORDS PHIL WEST PHO­TOG­RA­PHY PAUL BRYANT

“Gen­uine 93 rear wheel bhp, in­take roar like no other. Quite sim­ply, no 600 yet built had been so quick”

THE STEEL-FRAMED CBR6 was the de­fin­i­tive early-to-mid’90s 600, the bike that could truly do it all and came to de­fine the era.then the later R6, GSX-R6, 636B1 and CBR-RR rep­re­sented a new world of truly su­per­sport 600s, all scream­ing en­gines and com­pact, no-com­pro­mise chas­sis. But it’s surely Kawasaki’s first, early ZX-6RS, from 1995 to 2002, that were the step­ping stones, the bridges from one era to the next.

Or, to put it an­other way, with­out that first, 100-horse Ninja 6 and its quick­fire suc­ces­sors, su­per­sport life might have been very dif­fer­ent.the route to truly sport­ing 600s would surely have taken a dif­fer­ent turn; land­mark ma­chines like Kawasaki’s own 636B1 might never have been cre­ated. And the whole 20-plus year dy­nasty of mid­dleweight Nin­jas we love so much that live on to­day might never have ex­isted.

For those rea­sons alone, the first Ninja 6 is a his­toric, land­mark ma­chine.

Yet the Kawasaki, plus its sub­se­quent sib­lings, have never quite re­ceived the recog­ni­tion they de­serve, ei­ther.where the later R6 ripped up the rule book, the first beam-framed Suzuki GSX-R600 con­firmed the tem­plate for all GSX-RS to come and the Mo­togp-in­spired CBR-RR quickly racked up six con­sec­u­tive­world Su­per­sport crowns, the ZX-6R was never cel­e­brated quite so loudly.though ap­pre­ci­ated and im­pres­sive it’s glory was short-lived.

But if that’s some­thing of a shame the flip­side is that the early Ninja re­mains some­thing of a ‘street sleeper’, a bike that bet­ters, in most ways, the uni­ver­sally ac­claimed CBR600F and yet is still some­thing of a bar­gain clas­sic, too.and here’s why...


Liq­uid-cooled, dohc, 16v four was the most com­pact and pow­er­ful 600-class en­gine yet. As with its big brother ZX-9R (not to men­tion the orig­i­nal GPZ900R), its cam chain ran down the right side of the block while, in­ter­nally, a nar­row, 25-de­gree in­cluded valve an­gle al­lowed a pent roof com­bus­tion cham­ber and a high 11.8:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio to max­i­mize per­for­mance.

Ram air

One key fac­tor in the new ZX-6R’S class-lead­ing per­for­mance was ram air in­duc­tion. Kawasaki’s ‘Twin Ram Air’ sys­tem, as they called it, fea­tured an in­take in the nose, which fed cooler air through the frame rails into a large air­box mounted above the en­gine. This re­sulted in a denser in­take charge for a more con­sis­tent and stronger throt­tle re­sponse.

Front sus­pen­sion

The ZX-6R’S 41mm Kayaba-made tele­scopic front forks may have been con­ven­tional in hav­ing a tra­di­tional, ‘Right Way Up’ (RWU) lay­out but they com­pen­sated by hav­ing classlead­ing ad­justa­bil­ity, namely 12-way rebound damp­ing ad­just­ment, 11-way com­pres­sion damp­ing plus spring preload. Front wheel travel, mean­while, was 120mm.


One of the last sportsbikes to use con­ven­tional ana­logue in­stru­ments: three di­als for speedo, tacho and coolant temp, with warn­ing lights for oil pres­sure, high beam, turn sig­nals and neu­tral (suc­ceed­ing G-model had LCD tem­per­a­ture and fuel gauges).


An­other key el­e­ment in the ZX-6R’S sporty de­sign was its class-lead­ing aero­dy­nam­ics. An all-new fair­ing was claimed by Kawasaki to of­fer ex­cep­tion­ally low drag for slip­pery aero­dy­nam­ics and yet also of­fer good pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments for

long-range rid­ing com­fort.


As with much of the rest of the bike, the ZX-6R’S wheels were, again, state-of-the (then) sports or su­per­bike art in be­ing hol­low, three-spoke, cast alu­minium af­fairs to min­i­mize weight. These were shod with the lat­est, low pro­file, ZR rated ra­dial tyres with a wide, 160-sec­tion hoop on the rear.


The orig­i­nal F model had semi-float­ing, ra­di­ally drilled, stain­less steel, 270mm twin discs gripped by four-pis­ton To­kico calipers at the front, up­rated to six-pis­ton calipers on the G and J. At the rear, a 230mm disc with a sin­gle-pis­ton caliper.

Rear sus­pen­sion

The ZX-6R’S rear sus­pen­sion was fairly con­ven­tional too – but higher spec than your av­er­age su­per­sports. It com­prised a proven, bot­tom link, Uni-trak, ris­ing-rate monoshock link­age sys­tem em­ploy­ing a ni­tro­gen charged shock ab­sorber with four-way rebound damp­ing, 19-way com­pres­sion and a threaded col­lar spring preload ad­juster. Wheel travel was 137mm.


ZX-6R’S ex­haust ar­range­ment was a black-fin­ished steel 4:2:1 sys­tem with in­ter­nal baf­fles de­signed to im­prove mid-range. In ad­di­tion, Kawasaki’s ‘KCAS’ (Kawasaki Clean Air Sys­tem) routed fresh air to the down side of the ex­haust port in a bid for cleaner emis­sions.


As with the en­gine, the ZX-6R’S all-new frame was more akin to that of a con­tem­po­rary 750 or su­per­bike than a 600. It com­prised an all-alu­minium perime­ter, twin beam frame that was claimed to of­fer ‘ex­cep­tional strength and tor­sional rigid­ity while de­liv­er­ing crisp and sta­ble han­dling’ along with a con­ven­tional box-sec­tion alu­minium swingarm.

State of the art then, still a de­cent per­former to­day G-model: noth­ing fancy, just plain ef­fec­tive

Un­mis­tak­ably Kawasaki, un­feasably cheap

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