2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Team Green revamps its super middleweight for tighter track focus and better on-road manners

Besides the major induction and exhaust changes, engine tweaks include 1mm-larger valves, reprofiled cams and a deeper sump to reduce internal drag. While Yukikazu Sumitomo, who headed up the engine project, was coy about dyno figures, we can tell you the midrange doesn't disappoint. The 636cc powerplant pulls hard from 8500 rpm. At the top end both a significantly higher power peak and a longer overrun help make shifting seem almost optional.

All that power demands excellent brakes, and the ZX-6R delivers, with progressive initial action, ferocious bite and great feedback. The 1⁄5-turn throttle makes it easy to match revs on downshifts, and the slipper clutch kicks in to correct minor errors, virtually eliminating rear-wheel hop.

One of the chassis team's goals was increased stability, and you can feel it when it comes time to initiate turns at track speeds. This bike is a claimed 6.6 pounds heavier than last year's ZX-6R, making it the heaviest of the current middleweights. The underseat exhaust contributes to most of that additional heft. Engine castings are also thicker and heavier to handle the increased power, while the slipper clutch adds weight, too. That said, the wheels and tires are lighter than before, as are a host of other components.We rode our final sessions on Bridgestone's latest 002 race tires, and the stock suspension can easily handle stickier rubber, at least at Almeria, which is smoother than the average U.S. track. While the 599cc ZX-6RR has a mounting boss for a steering damper, the R has neither one nor seems to need it.

Honda's CBR600RR, Kawasaki's ZX-6RR, Suzuki's GSX-R600, and Yamaha's YZF-R6 all remain Supersport-legal, though Team Green will build only enough RRs to meet homologation requirements. The fight between those bikes and supersized middleweights such as Triumph's Daytona 650 and--especially--this new ZX-6R is sure to be a brawl.For a month or two you can only speculate. But remember the old streetfighting maxim: A good big man will always beat a good small man. We'll see if that applies to motorcycles as well.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
Typel-c inline-four
Valve arrangementdohc, 16v
Weight 361.5 lb. (claimed dry)
Fuel capacity4.5 gal. (17L)
Wheelbase54.7 in. (1390mm)
Seat height32.3 in. (820mm)
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