Church Of MO: 1998 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

In anticipation of an upcoming ZX-6R, we turn to the way-back machine to see what the 1998 edition was like to ride.

Last week, we posted about how Kawasaki is set to reveal 16 new models on June 6, including a revamped ZX-6R (and probably a ZX-6RR). That's good news for the ailing middleweight sportbike contingent and a sign that 600s aren't dead – at least not yet. So, to appreciate where the ZX-6R is going, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back to 1998, and our review of the ZX-6R, to see where the bike has been.

1998 Kawasaki ZX-6R -

by Motorcycle Online Staff

Apparently, California is not the only place suffering under the tyrannical rule of El Niño. Kawasaki recently invited the press to Spain for the introduction of their all-new ZX-6R, and guess who came to dinner? Well, it may not have been El Niño, but whatever it was, it sucked. Here we were at the Circuit de Catalunya, one of the finest in Europe, along with some of the best riding roads on the planet, and they were wasted on our soggy butts.

Of course, some of the press figured they'd push the limits of the abbreviated traction anyhow: Three wadded bikes -- one twit tanked a bike in the opening warm-up laps. Later, they finally understood that dragging knee and splashing around don't mix. Oh yes, the bike.

"The steering geometry has been altered for more feedback, and from what we could tell through the traction-limiting water it felt pretty good."

Riding Impressions from Catalunya.

While the big redesign for the 6R came back in '95, this was a development year, with lots of little changes adding up to a big improvement, much like Honda's '98 CBR900RR.

We took a trip up into the local mountains and saw the sights, including a 500-year-old monastery.

Up here and in the city, the suspension nimbly balances the fine line between high performance and comfort, soaking the cobblestones and holding tight on the mountain roads.

Techical Tidbits.

Weight has been removed from just about everything, including Editor-in-Chief Plummer's no-longer-expanding girth (Plummer dropped about 25 pounds since last years' 600cc shoot-out).

It remains to be seen if the the impression of power stems from the motor or the diets both rider and machine were put on last year. The motorcycle felt much faster than the old one; a sure sign that the new '6R is pulling less cargo than before.

An upcoming full road test -- replete with dyno room and dragstrip numbers -- is the only way to tell. Regardless, the bike is significantly lighter: metal bungee hooks became cloth straps, the engine gained a few magnesium covers, and the dash shrunk considerably.

"Altogether it's a great bike that feels completely different from the one that came before, despite only tweaking the formula."

The net weight loss was only 13 pounds, but that was due to considerable weight spent making the chassis more rigid.

The swingarm pivots were beefed up along with the twin spars of the frame, resulting in (we are told, again the rain was a limiting factor) more control at full lean angle.

Kawasaki has shown with this bike that it doesn't have to be "latest" plus "greatest" plus "newest" to equal "winner." Sometimes a little refinement and experience will prove to be the best.

We'll find out for certain in a test against the other 600s, but that'll have to wait until the new bikes come out this fall.



Manufacturer: Kawasaki

Model: 1998 ZX-6R

Price: 95.00

Engine: Liquid-cooled, inline four-cylinder DOHC; four valves per cylinder

Bore and Stroke: 66 x 43.8mm

Displacement: 599 cc

Carburetion: (4) 36mm BSDR w/K-TRIK

Transmission: Close-ratio 6-speed

Wheelbase: 55.1 in

Seat Height: 31.9 in

Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gal including reserve

Claimed Dry Weight: 388 lbs

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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