The ZX-6R is probably the fastest bike you’ll find for less than $10k

Kawasaki’s Ninja lineup made a well-deserved impression on the sportbike sector, and the factory elevates its game with the ZX-6R. This mid-size Ninja “636” added last year carried a host of improvements that range from vanity-to-vroom with spruced-up looks, LED lighting, and new instrumentation, just to name a few. The electronics were upgraded as well, and the new features stack with the incumbent power modes, traction control, and Kawasaki’s own Intelligent Brake System.

  • 2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
  • Year:
    2019- 2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Displacement:
    636 cc
  • Top Speed:
    175 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    10199
  • Price:

Kawasaki ZX-6R Design

  • LED lighting
  • Multi-function LCD display
  • Revamped styling
  • Economical ride indicator
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811237
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811242

The factory freshened up the look of the ZX-6R, starting with cutouts in the front fender that lessen the unsprung weight at the front axle. Dual LED headlights still abut the central fairing vent, but the recesses are lower and flatter for a much different look that is more angular and edgy than the relatively graceful swoop of the previous gen. It’s a recurring theme throughout the bike, but it’s most pronounced at the upper engine cowl and at the subframe panels just below the lead edge of the p-pad.

Out back, the mudguard shows a more compact design. It’s cut down lengthwise, but uses the license plate as an extension for that last little bit of coverage. The rear blinkers, as well as a tag light, are mounted below the new LED taillight where it rides in the new tail cowl. The 4.5-gallon fuel tank looks about the same as last year with a pronounced flare ahead of the narrow knee-pocket area so you can count on having room to throw some English around.

A narrow seat rides at 32.7-inches high, and it meets tank and bodywork which are equally skinny to give the 636 a slim waist that won’t interfere with your thighs when you deploy your Fred Flintstones. New mirrors adorn the front fairing where they bracket the bubble screen that punches a minimal hole in the wind, and a redesigned instrument panel behind the glass houses a single analog clock for the revs and LCD screen for the rest.

The rider triangle remains the same with short bars that pull the rider forward over the tank to encourage an aggressive riding posture with jockey pegs to complete the ensemble and keep your feet clear of the tarmac, even when dragging a knee. To make the bike fit a range of body types, or hand sizes as it were, the factory made both the clutch and front brake lever adjustable with five detents from which to choose. Overall, I feel like the new look is a good hit; certainly it’s more attractive than the outgoing model to my eyes.

Kawasaki ZX-6R Chassis

  • Showa SFF-BP fork
  • Agile, decisive handling
  • KIBS ABS
  • Traction control
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 947462
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811250
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811246

A pressed-aluminum perimeter frame on the ZX-6R forms the main structure with a die-cast, two-piece aluminum subframe and impressively beefy swingarm to finish out the bones of this beast. Symmetrical, 17-inch cast rims come covered with Battlax Hypersport S22 hoops, and they run with a fat 120/70 up front opposite an even beefier 180/55 out back.

A bottom-link Uni-Trak shock tames the big swingarm and delivers stepless compression-damping adjustments along with a 25-step rebound-damping range and, of course, the ubiquitous preload tweak to complete the package. Up front, a set of 41 mm usd Showa SFF-BP forks do their thing with the full trinity of adjustments, so the ride-quality controls are all well represented, and they should give all you would-be bike tuners plenty of tools with which to work.

Suspension travel measures in with 4.7 inches of travel at the front axle and 5.3 inches at the rear, and that should be sufficient for even the most dramatic corners. Plus the frame and front stems are tuned to give increased chassis stability as you decelerate ahead of a turn and the front end starts to squat.

A pair of four-pot Nissin calipers bite dual, 310 mm discs to slow the front wheel with a single-piston anchor and 210 mm disc out back. Kawi offered front and rear KIBS ABS as an option last year, but now comes standard for 2021 on both the base and KRT Edition.

Frame: Tubular, diamond frame
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm inverted Showa SFF-BP fork with top-out springs, stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Bottom-link Uni-Trak® with gas-charged shock, stepless compression damping adjustment, 25-way adjustable rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload/5.9 in
Rake/Trail: 23.5° / 4.0 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 310 mm petal discs with dual radial-mounted Nissin 4-piston monobloc calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 210 mm petal discs with single-piston caliper, ABS

Kawasaki ZX-6R Drivetrain

  • 636 cc inline four-cylinder engine
  • 52.1 lb-ft @ 11,500 rpm
  • Adjustable clutch lever
  • Selectable power modes
  • Assist & Slipper Clutch
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 947458
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811243
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811236

The beating heart of the ZX-6R is a liquid-cooled inline-four mill, so not only is the plant relatively thermally stable, but the water jacket helps to attenuate the mechanical noises coming out of the cases. Dual over-head cams time the 16-valve head, and to meet Euro4 emissions standards, the factory chucked on a set of 60-micron fuel injectors and 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies to deliver the juice in an ultra-fine spray that quickly vaporizes in the combustion chamber ahead of the ignition.

A 67 mm bore and 45.1 mm stroke gives the engine its 636 cc displacement, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the compression ratio is a sizzlin’ hot at 12.9-to-1. Yeah, top-hook gas is the order of the day, but that’s the price you pay for those 110 ponies that come on at the top end.

Torque generation benefits from the staggered-length intake funnels as well as the 5.09-liter airbox. The 636 claims 52.1 pound-feet of torque at a lofty 11,500 rpm to make this an engine that prefers to be wound up tighter than Dick’s hatband all the time. The new tuning meets Euro4 emissions standards, and all that power flows through the Assist-and-Slipper clutch and six-speed transmission before it heads to the rear wheel via the O-ring chain.

Wheel-speed sensors allow the traction control to monitor both ends with three levels of intervention when a speed differential is detected, plus the 636 comes with a power-mode feature that lets you switch between “Full” and “Low” to suit the available traction. Kawi threw on its Quick Shifter for a final bit of fandanglery, but it’s actually only half a shifter ’cause it only delivers clutchless shifting up the range, not down.

Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 636 cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 mm x 45.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Maximum Torque: 52.1 lb-ft @ 11,500 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies (4) and oval sub-throttles
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain

Kawasaki ZX-6R Pricing

2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 947461
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811250
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 947454

The 2021 Ninja ZX-6R runs $10,199 in a fair drop from last year’s ABS model. New colors this year are Pearl Nightshade Teal and Metallic Spark Black or a Pearl Crystal White/Pearl Storm Gray/Ebony tri-color. The KRT Edition is available in a Lime Green/Ebony/Pearl Blizzard White colorway for $11,499.

Electronic Rider Aids: Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC), Power Mode, Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS), Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS) (upshift only)
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Colors:
└ 2019: Pearl Storm Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Spark Flat Black
└ 2020: Candy Steel Furnace Orange/Metallic Flat Spark Black, Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black, KRT: Lime Green/Ebony
└ 2021: Pearl Nightshade Teal/Metallic Spark Black, Pearl Crystal White/Pearl Storm Gray/Ebony, KRT: Lime Green/Ebony/Pearl Blizzard White
Price:
└ 2019: non-ABS: $9,999, ABS: $10,999
└ 2020: non-ABS: $9,999, ABS: $10,999, KRT: $11,299
└ 2021: $10,199, KRT: $11,499

Kawasaki ZX-6R Competitors

2017 - 2020 Yamaha YZF-R6
- image 750518
2019 - 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R
- image 811264

The mid-size supersport market really is a game of inches at this point with a fairly rigid formula that most players adhere to, so I wanted to grab a product from one of Kawasaki’s domestic foes since they’re the most likely competitors. With that in mind, I grabbed the YZF-R6 from Yamaha to see how the Tuning Fork Company stacks up, so here we go.

Yamaha YZF-R6

2017 - 2020 Yamaha YZF-R6
- image 750514

Yamaha’s look it a bit less angular, and if I’m honest, I kind of prefer it to the Ninja’s mug. The edges are a little bit softer, and the whole bike has more of a feminine vibe, which is fitting since I tend to think of bikes the same way as boats and plane; in the feminine. But, that’s just what’s skin deep.

Yamaha runs a Deltabox aluminum frame with much the same temperament in the corners as the Ninja, which is to say it trends toward the stable end of the spectrum, and that’s important since confidence is at least half of the battle. The YZF-R6 rocks a magnesium subframe and aluminum fuel tank to trim a few pounds down to 419 pounds wet versus the 425 pounds of the Kawasaki’s ABS model. Yammy’s stems are derived from the R1 program with a KYB shock out back and the full trinity of adjustments at both ends, and since both rides come with ABS, I’d say they really break even at the end of the day in the chassis and ride-quality department.

Yamaha powers its entry with a 599 cc inline-four plant that claims 122 ponies and 42.2 pound-feet against 110/52.1 for what is ultimately just a fairly-even tradeoff. At the checkout, Yamaha runs $12,199 for 2020, which makes the Ninja look like a good deal. In the end, Kawasaki offers better technology and more cubeage for less money. I’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s worth paying a little more for what is arguably a better-looking machine.

Read our full review of the Yamaha YZF-R6.

He Said

“If you like that angular look, then the ZX-6R is hard to beat. It’s got the inches, it’s got the tech, it’s got the performance to make it a contender in the current mid-range department. Oh, and plus, you get buckets of name-recognition for your vanity as well. That certainly adds a value all its own.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “It’s a new facelift and a lower price, but underneath, it’s basically the same ZX-6R from last year. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. In fact, it’s a good thing because you get that awesome supersport performance at a more affordable price. The facelift puts the ZX-6R visually with the Ninja 400 that was on the receiving end of new bodywork in 2018. While this next-gen version of the ZX-6R isn’t a full makeover, it freshens up the old tried-and-true model to compete in the mid-displacement wars, and honestly, this is the bike with which to do it.”

Kawasaki ZX-6R Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 636 cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 mm x 45.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 12.9:1
Maximum Torque: 52.1 lb-ft @ 11,500 rpm
Fuel System: DFI® with 38 mm Keihin throttle bodies (4) and oval sub-throttles
Ignition: TCBI with digital advance
Transmission: 6-speed, return shift
Final Drive: Sealed chain
Chassis:
Frame: Tubular, diamond frame
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel: 41mm inverted Showa SFF-BP fork with top-out springs, stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload/4.7 in
Rear Suspension / Wheel Travel: Bottom-link Uni-Trak® with gas-charged shock, stepless compression damping adjustment, 25-way adjustable rebound damping, fully adjustable spring preload/5.9 in
Rake/Trail: 23.5° / 4.0 in
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR17
Front Brakes: Dual 310 mm petal discs with dual radial-mounted Nissin 4-piston monobloc calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 210 mm petal discs with single-piston caliper (ABS model w/ KIBS ABS)
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 79.7 in
Overall Width: 28.0 in
Overall Height: 43.3 in
Wheelbase: 55.1 in
Ground Clearance: 5.1 in
Seat Height: 32.7 in
Curb Weight: 425.6
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
Top Speed: 175 mph (est)
Details:
Electronic Rider Aids: Kawasaki Traction Control (KTRC), Power Mode, Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS), Kawasaki Quick Shifter (KQS) (upshift only)
Warranty: 12 Month Limited Warranty (optional Kawasaki Protection Plus™ 12, 24, 36 or 48 months
Colors:
└ 2019: Pearl Storm Gray/Metallic Spark Black, Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Spark Flat Black
└ 2020: Candy Steel Furnace Orange/Metallic Flat Spark Black, Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Spark Black, KRT: Lime Green/Ebony
└ 2021: Pearl Nightshade Teal/Metallic Spark Black, Pearl Crystal White/Pearl Storm Gray/Ebony, KRT: Lime Green/Ebony/Pearl Blizzard White
Price:
└ 2019: non-ABS: $9,999, ABS: $10,999
└ 2020: non-ABS: $9,999, ABS: $10,999, KRT: $11,299
└ 2021: $10,199, KRT: $11,499

Further Reading

Kawasaki

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TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read More
About the author

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, yamaha-motor.com

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