Both bikes are so balanced, with such immediate and stable handling, potent motors, and precise controls, that you feel familiar with them after just a few corners. The Kawasaki’s lower stance, softer seat, and more compliant suspension make it more amicable on the street, and its ultra-light steering (there is no steering damper) makes the bike feel nimble and well-balanced at low speeds. The Triumph stands taller, with stiffer suspension and a firm, narrow seat pad. Both bikes have fairly committed riding positions, but neither machine lacks legroom, and the reach to the clip-ons is reasonable though the Triumph’s bars are noticeably lower and put more pressure on your wrists. As you might expect, the Kawasaki offers a more comfortable ride on the open road, while its wider, taller fairing cuts a bigger hole in the air for its pilot. The Triumph’s short windscreen leaves you wanting more wind protection at highway speeds, making several hours in the saddle feel like it’s longer.
Repositioning the muffler under the engine moved a significant amount of weight off the Tr
Plentiful low-end torque and near-effortless clutch action mean both bikes jump off the line without fuss, while immediate yet fluid throttle response makes it easy to dial in the perfect amount of power. The Ninja’s transmission is wonderfully smooth, but can’t compare to the ease with which you snick up through the gears on the Triumph—its quickshifter is a pleasure to use.
Chuckwalla is quickly becoming our go-to testing facility. It’s a flowing, corner-centric, 17-turn circuit that rewards handling over horsepower, and as such it was the perfect place to expose the strengths and weaknesses of these two supersports. To ensure both bikes were on equal footing, we levered on Bridgestone’s latest DOT-approved race tire, the R10. Shorter final gearing and more midrange power helped the Triumph fire off apexes with more oomph, but the Ninja’s higher redline meant we could hold a gear between turns in several places, which translated to fewer shifts per lap. And with traction control erasing the fear of highsides, WOT off apex became the norm on the Ninja.
The Triumph’s taller, tauter chassis translates to a knife-edge feel on the racetrack. The front end provides pinpoint accuracy and immediate steering response, making it easy for testers to hit their turn-in points and nail (or adjust) their lines. Like its big brother the ZX-10R, the ZX-6R’s handling is inhibited by a sagging rear end. Steering felt a little sluggish on the street and at the track the bike was slow to turn-in and had a hard time holding a line at exit. Kawasaki mechanic Joey Lombardo remedied the problem with a ride height change of down 2mm in the front and up 8mm in the back, plus several turns of rear spring preload. The treatment worked to quicken steering and improve line-holding to a level that was closer to that of the Triumph, but the Ninja still felt slightly vague at turn-in and took more muscle to steer.
Full lean to full lean, the Kawasaki requires a little more effort, but it gets into corners better thanks to its superior brakes. The Brembos on last year’s Daytona 675R were tremendous, but this year’s setup seems to suffer on account of the new ABS. Brake lever pull is soft through the initial part of the stroke, muddying feel. The Kawasaki brakes don’t have much bite, but they offer tons of feel and stopping power that’s easy to modulate. And the Ninja’s wider, contoured tank lets you carry more weight with your thighs instead of your wrists, so you can brace yourself better and brake later and harder.