Ninjas have been around for a long time, we’re talking about the two-wheeled Kawasaki type although admittedly the two-legged Ninjas have been around even longer. Both have a reputation as fighters. Both have an aura of strength and power, and both command respect wherever they are.
Kawasaki first developed the Ninja range of sportbikes back in 1984 with the GPZ900R and they had a fierce reputation. They were powerful, well-built and manageable rides despite the power and lack of riders aids at that time. This was the era when riders had to ride the bike and control it through feel and experience (seat of their pants) not reliant on electronics.
Fast forward to 2017 and the modern day Ninja’s have evolved with technology and their experience dominating the World Superbike and Supersport series. The current ZX-6R is a direct result of the experience Kawasaki gained from the likes of Kenan Sofuoglu, 5 times World Supersport Champion, on the Kawasaki. In such an intensely competitive championship Sofuoglu has shown that the Kawasaki has its place at the top of the table whilst in the Superbike series Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes continue to dominate with the ZX-10R.
We put in about 600km on the 2017 ZX™-6R over a weekend in the UAE. First impressions, judging this book by its cover is spot on. It's a good-looking bike and looks are not deceiving in this case!
Day one was spent in the city streets and highways where the Ninja felt superbly planted on the road and well balanced. The riding position, power delivery and braking are all at the top of the game in the 600 range of bikes and for tricky conditions the bike of loaded with a range of rider assist controls.
Seat of the pants riding is still possible with the ZX-6R because it comes with switchable 3-Mode KTRC Traction Control, Power Mode selection and ABS giving a wider range of control over the bike and power that allows riders of varying experience enjoy the bike without cause to worry.
Power is switchable from Full to Low and with variable levels of Traction Control available the ZX-6R can be setup as a full power ride for sports riders or a lower power more manageable ride for newcomers, those just getting into sportbikes and for wet/ slippery conditions.
Overall handling is well-balanced and rock steady. In a straight line there is enough wind deflection from the fairing and visor at all speeds to maintain a comfortable ride and in the corners, well, that’s another thing altogether.
The rest of the weekend was spent on the mountain roads around Ras Al Khaimah and Hatta. The bike had already proven itself in straight lines and city traffic and it was time to hit some twisties and for more technical riding.
Cornering the ZX-6R around the tight, twisty mountain backroads to Hatta and Jebel Jais was a blast! The ZX-6R sits rock steady like its on rails and mid-corner adjustments to steering and braking are immediate and easily managed.
Twice we came around corners to face oncoming traffic in our lane. First was a Toyota Landcruiser on the wrong side of the road, the second was something only slightly less predictable, a herd of goats! On both occasions getting on the brakes whilst still in the corner and the steering adjustments needed didn't unsettle the bike and built a great deal of confidence in the incredible handling it has to offer.
Hitting bumps and different road surfaces didn’t phase the Ninja in the slightest either. That was it. What went from being a gentle ride around the backroads became a blast hitting the corners and the Ninja fought on in style. Pushing harder into corners the Ninja took all the punishment we threw at it and it was clearly capable of more but that’s not something we’re going to be doing in public roads.
Kawasaki have proven themselves capable to championship winning performance within this region and internationally and have taken that experience to develop the latest ZX-6R. It’s a compact, lightweight and highly capable package that had us talking to ourselves the entire day inside our helmets.
A sign of madness? Maybe, but the message was clear. When you have to keep telling yourself “don’t do anything stupid” over and over again you know you’re on a bike that most definitely has the ability to get you in a lot of trouble whilst having an immense amount of fun doing it!
Ps. We were planning on testing the ZX-10 as a follow-up but a customer at Kawasaki managed to crash it on a test ride (not one of us). We hope Kawasaki have another one ready soon.
Specifications 2017 Ninja® ZX™-6R ABS KRT Edition
Engine 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, Liquid-cooled
Bore x Stroke 67.0 x 45.1 mm
Compression ratio 12.9:1
Fuel System DFI® w/38mm Keihin throttle bodies (4) and oval sub-throttles
Ignition TCBI with digital advance
Transmission 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive Sealed chain
Electronic Rider Aids Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC), Power Mode, Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS)
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel 41mm inverted Showa SFF-BP fork with top-out springs, stepless compression and rebound damping,
adjustable spring preload/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel Bottom-link Uni-Trak® with gas-charged shock, stepless compression damping adjustment, 25-way
adjustable rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload/5.3 in
Front Tire 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes Dual 310mm petal discs with dual radial-mounted, Nissin 4-piston, monobloc calipers and KIBS ABS
Rear Brakes Single 210mm petal discs with single-piston caliper and KIBS ABS
Frame Type Aluminum perimeter
Rake/Trail 23.5°/4.0 in
Overall Length 82.1 in
Overall Width 27.8 in
Overall Height 43.9 in
Ground Clearance 5.1 in
Seat Height 32.7 in
Curb Weight 427.8 lb**
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal
Wheelbase 54.9 in
Color Choices Lime Green/Ebony
Warranty 12 Month Limited Warranty
Kawasaki Protection Plus™ (optional) 12, 24, 36 or 48 months