I am in third gear and the motor’s spinning at 10 000 r/min. The Kawasaki is bearing down on a constant-radius left-hand corner that’s about to open up. As my left leg gets closer to the tarmac, I rest my right arm on the fuel tank to stabilise my throttle input. I exit the bend and pursue the red line. Depending on the distance to the next corner, and how brave I am in delaying the braking point, the revs will keep rising unabatedly in increments of 2 000 r/min. 12 000 … 14 000 … 16 000 r/min. A small orange light on the instrument cluster signals that a gear change is required. Is this the closest I will get to experiencing an F1 engine?
Throughout the years, 600 cm3 superbikes have been known for their stratospherically high rev capabilities and the ZX-6R is no different. Although peak power of 94 kW is achieved at a low 14 000 r/min, the engine pulls even stronger as it passes this mark, almost giving you a false impression that there is more to come after the red line. After all, the analogue display acknowledges the rev range only between 8 000 and 16 000 r/min; the numbers below 8 000 r/min are printed in an insignificant size. If you take into account the ZX-6R’s 191 kg weight, the Kawasaki’s power-to-weight ratio of 494 W/kg is almost 40 per cent higher than that of a McLaren MP4-12C.
On road as well as on the track, this little green monster, a colour that has been linked to Kawasaki for years, won us over. Apart from the power output, low weight and nimbleness of the bike, our test unit was fitted with super-sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tyres. Considering the grip level of these tyres in conjunction with the Showa suspension, you are always assured of significant traction from a standing start as well as through corners.
Not that it is of much importance on such a performance ‘cycle, but the ride quality is relatively good. Compared with an even more serious track bike such as the MV Agusta F4 RR Corsa Corta we featured previously, the ZX-6R absorbs imperfections on the road very well. That said, the suspension is adjustable for riders who wish to explore the fine art of suspension setups.
The Kawasaki, with its ferocious appetite for 16 000 r/min, is the ideal way to graduate from a smaller-capacity bike to an entry-level superbike. A 1 000 cm3 superbike will be faster in most scenarios, but the lightness of this bike (or any 600 cm3 superbike for that matter) makes it less intimidating to ride.
Track test: the expert
We asked ex-racer Robert Cragg to post a lap time with the ZX-6R around Killarney Raceway. Rob has raced at provincial and national levels for several years. Throughout the early- and mid-2000s, he was the Western Province champion (including two years in the 600 cm3 Supersport class and four years in the 1 000 cm3 class). At the time, he also set lap records, meaning he was the ideal guy for a lap on the Kawasaki. In perfect track conditions, Rob set a blistering lap time of 1:24,63. Watch his lap around the track after the click.
Nicol Louw: 94 kW, 16 000 r/min red line lightweight supersport … need I say more?
Wilhelm Lutjeharms: The perfect bike with which to make the transition into the world of superbikes
Engine: 599 cm3, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Power: 94 kW at 14 000 r/min
Torque: 68 Nm at 11 800 r/min
Frame: pressed aluminium
Fuel capacity: 17 litres
Mass: 191 kg
Seat height: 815 mm
Price: R107 900 (Note: new 636 cm3 now available)
Warranty: two years/unlimited km
Thanks to Kawasaki South (also an Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Suzuki dealer) for the test bike. Visit www.kawasakisouth.co.za.