The ZX-6R meets one of Thunderhill's corners

The ZX-6R meets one of Thunderhill’s corners

With the much anticipated UK public show launch of the 2013 Ninja ZX-6R 636 due at Motorcycle Live in November, the world press launch of the new middleweight Supersport from Kawasaki has just taken place in California.

Based in the northern part of the Sunshine State at a racetrack facility – and roads specially selected for the event – a group of nearly twenty European motorcycle journalists were among the first ever to ride a machine which is set to re-energise the mid-weight sports capacity class.

Following a presentation of the 2013 machine’s features and benefits, the media experienced the machine in perfect weather conditions at the Thunderhill motorsports facility near Chico. Chosen for its many turns, rises, descents and challenging cambers, Thunderhill was voted by many present as the ideal venue for a machine that has been created to offer lithe handling and mid-range power characteristics superior to its four cylinder competition.

Preparing the ZX-6R fleet for the track

Preparing the ZX-6R fleet for the track

With track sessions throughout the day on high grip tyres, each journalist had ample time to learn the track, experiment with various suspension settings and riding approaches. For some, it was a matter of riding across the course of the day and making notes on the track settings suggested, for others experimenting such as riding the course entirely in an upper gear to experience the ZX-6R’s wide power band and torque characteristics.

The following day was equally eagerly anticipated as it promised a sinuous road riding route under the expert eye of the California Highway Patrol officers who had been engaged to ensure that sections of road were closed for the many photography stops.

Leaving the parking place at Lake Oroville two groups of riders enjoyed perfect roads and a mixture of tight, medium and long corners along a route that represented the sort of ideal “real world” riding that many potential Ninja ZX-6R owners all look forward to on a weekend ride.

While the ample mid-range meant that gears could be held for longer at the track, on the road the chance to experiment meant that progress was swift yet relaxing with little need to constantly change gear to keep in the power band.

Equipped for the first time with monobloc front brake calipers, the stopping power of the Ninja was noted as being exemplary and the ergonomics praised by many including those such as Roland Brown who – at over six feet tall – admitted he found competitor 600cc machines cramped in comparison.

Suspension settings too were highlighted as being more compliant and offering a plusher ride than previously while having the range of adjustment on the new Showa front forks to perform admirably on track.

While it did not rain on the test, the new traction control settings of the 2013 ZX-6R 636 were singled out as offering reassurance in their most sporting mode. As Adam Child of Motor Cycle News commented “You can ride really hard and you know it’s working at the limit but it’s just not intrusive”.

Admired as much for its new styling approach as the numerous rider aids such as KTRC traction control, power mode selection and monobloc that now come as standard features – and KIBS sport ABS as an option – the final launch afternoon of the 2013 Ninja ZX-6R produced one universal enquiry from the three UK journalists present – “how soon can we ride it again?”

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