Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Staffers' Rides

By Ari Henning, Photography by Dito Milan/Got Blue Milk, Ari Henning

RINGLEADER: Ari Henning
MSRP (2009): $9799
MILES: 3860-5213
AVERAGE FUEL MILEAGE: 39 mpg
ACCESSORIES & MODIFICATIONS: Zero Gravity windscreen, Galfer brake pads, Vortex sprocket

I was sad to see it go. Just eight months after taking delivery of "my" ZX-6R, it was headed back to Kawasaki. With 5213 miles on the odometer, I was only halfway to my 10,000-mile long-term goal. But the miles we logged together were excellent-mainly on the racetrack and exploring California's twistiest back roads. Thankfully the good folks at Kawasaki were kind enough to give me a month's notice, and I took advantage of our remaining time together with a weekend trip up the coast and a couple of track days.

Touring rig it is not, but when the 500 miles between home and the evening's lodgings are littered with places to scuff a knee slider, the ZX-6R is the bike to be aboard. In preparation for the trip, I swapped the Ninja's sticky track rubber for the OE Bridgestone BT-016s and installed a Zero Gravity Double Bubble windscreen ($89.95 from www.zerogravity-racing.com). The DB's taller, wider shape cuts a more accommodating hole in the atmosphere while maintaining the Zed Ex's aggressive appearance. Also in anticipation of the trip and the Ninja's eminent return to its maker, I decided to re-install the stock exhaust. Even with the optional decibel-reducing tip in place, I felt the Two Brothers pipe I'd been running was too loud, and glares from my neighbors confirmed my suspicions. Returning the Ninja to its sewing-machine stealth mode helped me avoid unwanted attention, and yanking the fuel controller apparently restored my gas mileage as I averaged 41 mpg over the course of the 1100-mile trip. The journey did however, put the final nail in the BT-016s'coffin.

The phenomenal front-end feel from the Showa Big Piston fork encourages hard (and late) braking, and as a result the stock pads were roached by the 4000-mile mark. I installed a set of Galfer G1375-compound pads ($69.99 per side; www.galferusa.com) before heading to the Streets of Willow with Track Tactics (www.tracktactics.com), a newly formed, not-for-profit organization aimed at introducing riders to the joys of track riding. I had intended to shorten the final gearing with a one-tooth-smaller countershaft and two-teeth-larger wheel sprocket, but I didn't have access to the 3/4-inch impact gun I needed to remove the countershaft sprocket nut. I went ahead and mounted a Vortex aluminum rear sprocket ($79.95; www.vortexracing.com), which weighs a full 2 lbs. less than the OE steel cog, but I stuck to the stock tooth count because going bigger would have required installing a longer chain.

With just a week to go before saying sayonara, I headed to Buttonwillow Raceway for one final track flogging. The ZX-6R has been an inspiration on the racetrack; it's the most well-rounded sportbike I've ever ridden. Its composure on the brakes, crisp throttle response and superb slipper clutch gave me the confidence to push harder every time I rode it. There's no doubt that my time on the Ninja elevated my game, which is exactly why I chose it in the first place.

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