For the 2013 model year, Kawasaki is continuing to increase the displacement of their most popular motorcycles. First it was the Ninja 300 and now the Ninja ZX6R 636.
Performance – Kawasaki increased the displacement from 600cc to 636cc for their entry level superbike and created, what I like to call, a “cheater” bike. It’s not a 600cc bike anymore, like all the other Japanese 600cc bikes, and nor is it a true middle weight like the Suzuki GSXR 750. The extra 36cc of cylinder displacement is not something that an average rider will feel, lucky for me however, after test riding the ZX6R I immediately jumped on my own GSXR 600 and felt the difference in torque at lower rpms and the quicker response of the Ninja engine compared to the GSXR engine. Power is up to 131hp (at crank) and to control all that oomph is 2 power modes and Kawasaki’s own traction control system. The power modes in my opinion are useless because with a bike like that how often will you actually want to ride in the rain with it? The traction control however is something that I like a lot. It can be adjusted on the fly to suit your riding style and it’s just a good “safety net” to have when road conditions get a bit tricky.
Handling wise, the bike feels lighter than it actually is (423lbs) and this makes it very precise and easy to control through corners. The chassis and suspension provide a very stable ride at highway speeds and inspire confidence when pushing it through corners. Stopping power comes from dual 310mm Nissin monobloc calipers on the front and a 220mm Tokico caliper in the rear with ABS as an option.
One small thing that I was irritated with was the transmission, specifically putting it into “N” at stop lights. It has a new clutch which is approximately 1.5lbs lighter than the previous unit and it provides a wider range of engagement for when setting off from a stop. Shifting through the gears while on the move is smooth and precise but finding “N” requires a bit of finesse from your left foot.
Comfort – For a sport bike, it’s not bad. Obviously it’s not a cruiser but the suspension absorbs the bigger bumps in the road nicely while still providing good feel of the road surface through the handlebars and seat. The actual riding position is just the same as any other sport bike… not comfortable on long 3+ hour rides. The new clutch also requires less clutch lever pull which puts less strain on your forearm… the clutch lever can even be pulled with one finger.
Odds and Ends – New Kawasaki bikes have gone through impressive and aggressive looking styling changes and this new 636 is no exception. In my opinion, this is the best looking sport bike Kawasaki makes and quite possibly the best out of all other sport bikes on the market today. In classic Kawasaki green especially, the bike is not only ready for the race track but it can also go into an art gallery. On another note, at low engine rpms, the engine makes a fabulous growling noise as it suck in air through the center ram air scoop. At the top end, it sounds pretty much like any other high revving sport bike.
So as you can probably tell from this review, I didn’t have many bad things to say about it and that’s because Kawasaki arguably made the best 600cc “cheater” bike on sale today. If I was looking for a new bike to purchase right now, I’d be walking inside a Kawasaki dealership and buying this bike right this second. ($12,149 CAD)
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.