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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Unmistakably Kawasaki, unfeasably cheap
State of the art then, still a decent performer today G-model: nothing fancy, just plain effective