Just like smartphones, the price of middleweight sportbikes has steadily increased over the years. Finally, Kawasaki says enough is enough, slashing the price of its Ninja ZX-6R supersport ($9,999 without ABS), while giving it a face-lift and adding a batch of small updates for riders who want to leave a rubber mark, whether on the road or the track.

Kawasaki’s clearly not reinventing the wheel, sticking with the more street-oriented and still plus-sized 636cc formula that it unveiled six years ago for the 2013 model year. Unlike some of its competition, the ZX-6R is a civilized sportbike that’s as at home on the street as it is on track.

It’s powered by Green Team’s stroked 636cc inline four—engineered to offer a broader and more robust spread of torque than a typical supersport. Yes, the engine still performs best with revs, but is less gear-position sensitive. The engine doesn’t have to be screaming to flex its muscle, adding a degree of flexibility when squirting off corners. Rev ’er up toward redline or short-shift it and ride its plump (for a middleweight inline-four) torque wave. The choice is yours.

The last time we dyno tested the ZX-6R (2013 MY), it belted out just over 112 hp at 13,500 rpm and 46.37 pound-feet torque at 11,375 rpm.

Ninja ZX-6R

Kawasaki looks to put its Ninja ZX-6R middleweight back in the limelight with a series of updates and, most importantly, a return to a sub-$10,000 MSRP.

Kevin Wing

An electronic quickshifter adds to the fun, allowing for full-throttle upshifts through the six-speed gearbox. A one-tooth-smaller countershaft sprocket (15 teeth) reduces the final drive ratio and further increases acceleration. Yet, in top gear at 65 mph, the engine isn’t spinning excessively, registering right around 6,000 rpm on the tach needle. Shorter gearing certainly helps acceleration, especially in the first three gears, but the speed of the e-shifter could be faster, as there’s a noticeable pause between gearshifts. It’s certainly better than a manual configuration, but most aftermarket setups we’ve tested recently function better.

Kawasaki ZX-6R

Kawasaki clearly shifted its focus from track to the street during its last major overhaul for 2013 MY. Even still, the Ninja ZX-6R proves a fun and friendly track steed.

Kevin Wing

Although we didn’t miss it during our street ride, the addition of an auto-blip downshifts functionality would be welcome coming off the fastback straightaway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Classic Course—where a rapid succession (three) downshifts are made before pouring into the infield and finishing a lap. To be fair, the transmission rows through each of its six gears smoothly, with responsive and light clutch action. The position of the clutch lever is also now adjustable, just like the brake lever, though we never had an issue with the nonadjustable setup.

636cc inline-four

The Ninja ZX-6R benefits from a stroked 636cc inline-four that offers a more broad spread of power. Wheelies come by proxy.

Kevin Wing

Instrumentation is updated adding a fuel meter and economy functions inside the LCD letting you keep tabs on the capacity of the 4.5-gallon fuel tank. The tach needle also integrates a nifty shift light into it. It can be set in 250-rpm increments to let you know when it’s time to grab another gear.

Kawasaki’s three-way-adjustable traction control (KTRC) carries over as does its two-way-adjustable engine power modes. We rode the bike in “full” power mode, but we’d recommend the low power setting for a new rider, or perhaps a new owner who wants to get a hang of their new bike in a more manageable way. During our street ride, we never rode the bike hard enough to necessitate TC, still it’s nice to know that it’s there.

Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R

Weighing in at 428 pounds with a full tank of gas, Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R is agile with a chassis that’s easy to place exactly where you want.

Kevin Wing

Aesthetically the ZX-6R uses a new upper and tailsection that resembles its smaller Ninja 400 brother. We appreciate the addition of twin LED headlamps and other subtle touches like the muffler’s new finish, however we don’t want a 10 grand motorcycle to look like one half its price (Ninja 400). Hence, while we appreciate its family lines, it would have been nice if KHI designers went with a unique and more aggressive appearance.

three-way-adjustable traction control

Kawasaki’s three-way-adjustable (plus off), traction control carries over. The programming allows for wheelies (Level 1, least restrictive).

Kevin Wing

Weighing in at 428 pounds (without ABS), the 6R is a light-feeling motorcycle with pleasing weight distribution and balance. It’s a nimble bike that goes exactly where you point it. The newly developed Bridgestone Battlax S22 tires work well on the street with noticeably more feel than we recall with the S21—an already exemplary do-it-all sport tire with few faults.

ZX-6R

The 2019 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R wears a redesigned upper fairing that more closely aligns it with its entry-level Ninja 400 brother.

Kevin Wing

Twin LED headlamps

Twin LED headlamps are a significant upgrade from the previous halogen bulb setup.

Kevin Wing

The suspension is more cushy than most other sportbikes, yet its ride quality, especially on the road, is one of its best features. Both fork and shock offer damping adjustment, but at an elevated track pace, tweaking the settings didn’t net big gains in terms of lap times. Right away in the morning we recorded 1:22 lap times around the 1.8-mile circuit. For reference, a race-winning lap time in the WERA Superstock class is a 1:17.9.

electronic quickshifter

An electronic quickshifter is now standard on the 2019 Ninja ZX-6R. It allows for clutch-less, full-throttle upshifts. The setup performs better than a manual setup, but isn’t as fast as an aftermarket component.

Kevin Wing

Rider's seat

The rider’s seat was tweaked with a tapered front section to make it easier for rider’s to reach the ground. It’s also a tad shorter from front to back, which makes for a more cramped cockpit for taller riders.

Kevin Wing

The Ninja rides like a Cadillac, blissfully floating around the circuit with a fair level of poise and control—especially considering how spongy the suspenders are. Adding more damping made for a more controlled ride, but we didn’t go any faster, matching our morning time in the afternoon.

ZX-6R’s suspension

The Ninja ZX-6R’s suspension is cushy and clearly more street than track focused. However, the setup works well, especially for a sportbike.

Kevin Wing

For the track portion of our ride, Bridgestone swapped out the OE-fitted S22s (which we could have easily done a trackday on) for its newly released Battlax R11 race tire, introduced this spring during a combined Yamaha R-World and Bridgestone press introduction at Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park.

New instrumentation

Instrumentation has been updated and now includes a fuel meter and economy functions. The tach needle also includes a programmable shift light.

Kevin Wing

Battlax R11

For our track ride, Bridgestone shoed on its marvelous Battlax R11 treaded race tire. The tires offer incredible grip with a high level of stability.

Kevin Wing

This treaded race rubber is an evolution of Bridgestone’s previous design, with a more simplified compound range, that performs in a wider temperature envelope. Once again, the tires proved nearly flawless, offering tremendous adhesion and stability. The tires are so good that we spent most of the day with traction control disabled as the combination of the tires and the engine’s power delivery made for maximum traction.

Bridgestone

Bridgestone introduces its updated Battlax S22 tire as OE fitment on the 2019 Ninja ZX-6R. The Japanese-made rubber is designed to boost grip in both wet and dry. We also noticed an increase in ever-precious road feel during our street ride.

Kevin Wing

Although racy 600cc-class supersports aren’t as popular as they once were, it’s important to remember that the Green Team’s been meticulously building these mechanical masterpieces for 35 years. Tradition is key, and Kawasaki remains committed to the segment, walking the delicate balance between performance, style, and value.

TECH SPEC

PRICE $9,999 / $10,999 (ABS) / $11,299 (KRT)
ENGINE 636cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER N/A
CLAIMED TORQUE 52.1 lb.-ft. @ 11,500 rpm
FRAME Pressed aluminum perimeter
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm inverted cartridge-type Showa SFF Big-Piston fork; adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping (stepless), 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Uni-Trak; adjustable spring preload, rebound, high-/low-speed compression damping (stepless), and ride height, 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Dual opposed four-piston radial mount calipers, 310mm petal discs w/ optional KIBS
REAR BRAKE Single-piston caliper, 210mm petal disc
RAKE/TRAIL 24.5°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE 55.19 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.7 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.5 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 428 lb. / 430 lb. (ABS/KRT)

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