2013 Kawasaki Sportbikes | First Look

WORDS: Marc Cook  ****PHOTOS: Kawasaki

Kawasaki took the wraps off two new models today, the Ninja 300 and the ZX-6R, which actually displaces 636cc, marking a return of the “cheater” middleweight that debuted in 2003. The company also announced an ABS option for the mighty ZX-14R.

First off, the ZX-6R, which receives a 2.6mm increase in stroke to bring displacement to an actual 636cc. According to Kawasaki, the engine benefits from this revised bore/stroke ratio—bore remains 67mm while stroke grows to 45.1mm—to provide better low-end and midrange torque. A raft of cylinder-head modifications join the stroke increase: Intake and exhaust ports are wider, the intakes near the 38mm Keihin throttle bodies and the exhausts near the valves; an intake cam with more duration works with an exhaust cam with increased lift. New pistons take the compression ratio down a few points, from 13.3:1 to 12.9:1. A larger airbox feeds the oval throttle bodies while the exhaust system gains balance tubes on all four header pipes and a new muffler with a triangular cross section. Clearly, this was not a case of “new crank and done.”

On the chassis side, the ZX-6R gets lighter Nissin monoblock calipers up front, hung at the end of a new Big Piston Fork featuring separate functions. That means the left fork leg gets preload adjustability while the right leg has the damping adjusters; there are springs in both legs.

Upgraded electronically, the ’13 ZX-6R features Kawasaki’s traction control with three modes along with two selectable power modes. Finally, ABS will be an option for the first time on a Kawasaki middleweight supersport. The Bosch-made system is similar to that used on the ZX-10R; it adds 4.4 pounds to the base bike’s 423 lb. claimed curb weight. Kawasaki has set the MSRP at $11,699 for the base model and $12,699 for the ABS version.

Down the displacement scale is the new Ninja 300, a bike long rumored to defend the Ninja 250R’s crown in the quarter-liter segment. Wrapped in edgy new bodywork, the Ninja 300 features an upgraded version of the 250 motor, now at 296cc through a stroke increase to 49mm. (The old dimensions were 62mm x 41.2mm.) Big new for those tired of carburetors is the addition of digital fuel injection to the smallest Ninja. Dual 32mm throttle bodies feed revised (mainly wider) intake ports and 1mm-larger valves. The new compression ratio is actually a full point lower than before (now 10.6:1). At the other end of the power cycle is a new two-into-one exhaust system with revised silencer and integrated catalyzer.

Kawasaki could have boosted displacement and made everyone happy, but the Ninja 300 also packs a new frame with high-strength main tubes claimed to be 150 percent more rigid than before. Other chassis updates include 10-spoke, 17-inch wheels, the rear now wide enough to accommodate a 140/70 tire. ABS brakes are also an option on the Ninja 300, boosting claimed curb weight to 384 lbs., a 5-lb. jump from the non-ABS bike. MSRP for the base model is $4799 and $4999 for the Special Edition. The ABS Special Edition has an MSRP of $5499.

Finally, Kawasaki has given the ZX-14R optional ABS, but the beast is otherwise unchanged for 2013 except for new colors: Passion Red, Pearl Stardust White, and Metallic Spark Black/Golden Blazed.