2011 Supersport Shootout - Street [Video]
Honda CBR600RR vs. Kawasaki ZX-6R vs. Suzuki GSX-R600 vs. Yamaha R6
2011 Kawasaki ZX-6R $9999
“Lots of good things to say about the ZX, and they all start with motor.”
Directly from Kevin’s video mouth to your ears in the racetrack portion [http://www.motorcycle.com/shoot-outs/2011-supersport-shootout-track-90963.html] of our 2011 Supersport Shootout. Where the Honda is admired for its mid-range, the Kawasaki’s engine is enjoyable for its linear, predictable response, and for having the biggest bang up top. We also deemed the Kwaker has having the best slipper clutch. In terms of serious competition for the ZX’s stout engine, it’s only the new GSX-R600’s revamped mill that gives the Kawasaki a dose of its own medicine.
Despite the undeniable top-end power of the ZX, as mentioned earlier, this isn’t quite the asset on the street as it is on the racetrack. “The top-end of the Kawi trumps everything else here, though the times you’ll use it on the street are pretty limited,” Troy astutely notes.
A curb weight of 421 pounds makes the Kawasaki the heaviest bike of the four. Sure, an 11-pound spread from the heaviest ZX to the lightest Honda isn’t something to stop the presses about, but again, little things matter in this class. More important than sheer weights is how each bike feels transitioning between corners. “I wouldn’t have ever guessed the ZX-6R was the heaviest bike here,” says Tom.
The sure-footedness and high levels of feel the ZX’s front end provided on track were equally welcome and noticeable during aggressive canyon carving. However, as delivered the BPF front seemed firm for most our testers, with sharp-edged freeway expansion joints and sections of rough pavement making known the fork’s firmness. But, with full adjustability, a rider shouldn’t have any problem tuning the premium Showa Big Piston to suit their needs.
The ZX is not only the heaviest bike here, but it also sports the mildest chassis dimensions.
Considering the CBR’s skittish-looking 23.5 degree rake, 3.86 inches of trail and shortest span between the axles at 53.9 inches, the Green Machine’s 24.0 degrees, 4.09 inches and longest of the group 55.1-inch wheelbase might seem to make the Ninja handle less adeptly – at least on paper. However, the ZX-6R gives the rider the impression that it might have some of the raciest geometry for how quickly it transitions between turns. Kudos to Kawasaki engineers for masking so well the Ninja’s extra pounds and modest steering geometry.
“Although we didn’t rate the Ninja’s handling as best,” states Kevin, “it’s still a quick and responsive tool that works well with the Showa BPF to deliver solid and secure cornering manners.”
From our first day with the current generation ZX-6R we’ve raved about the power and sensitivity from its dual four-piston Nissin front calipers. With Suzuki raising the bar bunches in this class as the first Japanese supersport to wear Brembo binders as standard issue, we suspected we might have to squelch our love for the Ninja’s brakes. Wrong!
While the Gixxer Sixxer’s brake performance easily lives up to the Brembo name, the ZX’s equipment still impresses us. Lots, as a matter of fact. So evenly matched to the Brembos in terms of modulation of braking force, sensitivity at the lever and outright stopping power, we deemed the Kawasaki’s now three-year-old brakes – with rubber lines, no less! – on par with the Suzi’s.
Tom found the Ninja’s ergonomic layout nearly as comfortable as the GSX-R600’s (our ergo favorite), while Troy noticed the ZX’s clip-ons were “just a touch lower than the Honda but higher than the Yamaha.”
Of our test riders, I’m likely the biggest detractor of the ZX-6R’s jagged, origami-looking face. And while Kevin found plenty to like about the ZX’s appearance, he, too admits that it isn’t the looker of the group.
“The ZX looks good in its 2011 graphics (including green pinstriping on the wheel rims), offset by consistent black anodizing on all frame and engine components. But buggy-eyed headlights and a bulky tailsection keep it from being the belle of the ball.”
As noted in the Track portion of this two-part tale, the Ninja’s dash is well thought out. With an easily read white-face tachometer (the only one of the four) with graduated numbers highlighted in green to indicate you’re in the powerband’s sweet spot, and a large, clear LCD panel that includes a GPI, we deemed the Ninja’s clocks as the best.
The Ninja ZX-6R is now in its third year in its current form. And the Green Meanie is still relevant as a contender for top dog, just as it was in 2009 when it won our Supersport Shootout that year.