8. Kawasaki ZX-6R, 2013-current

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It’s been such a long time since the other Japanese OEMs upgraded their 600s, MO hasn’t even done a big 600 comparison in years. But I do remember the last 600 I rode and loved: Kawasaki’s new-for-2013 636 version of the ZX-6R. (Troy’s launch report is here.) While they were giving it a tad more displacement, Kawasaki also bolted on a Showa Big Piston Fork, KTRC, ride modes, great brakes, a slipper clutch … Mostly though, I remember remembering how much fun it is to scream a four-cylinder up to 15,000 rpm – something you just don’t do much at all on a BMW S1000RR or any literbike – and I remember thinking I’d rather have a 600 than a 1000 about 98% of the time. All the ZX-6Rs from 2009 are great bikes, but if you seek out a clean 2013 or later for around $7K, you’ll be riding an absolute state-of-the-art sportbike with unparalleled handling, less engine vibration and a smoother, more supple (except maybe for an S1000RR with ESA set to Soft… —Ed.), more comfortable ride than any of the current literbikes – and better ergos – for less than half the price.

The last time we rode a 636 at MO, we didn’t bother to compare it to the other 600s it surely would trounce, but threw it in a comparo against the Suzuki GSX-R750 and Triumph Daytona 675R. Guess what? It won. A fantastic, under-appreciated sportbike that will have you remembering why 600s were the biggest-selling sportbike class in the world for many years.