A 600cc machine that felt much more than the sum of its parts, the Kawasaki ZX-6R G was physically big for a middleweight. It had a half decent pillion pad and pumped out over 100bhp. It made a lot of sense then and is still a viable option since it arrived in 1998. Kawasaki had been building 600s since 1985, a mix of semi sensible machines like their ground breaking GPz600R and more sporty offerings like the first ZX-6R, the F model, which appeared in 1995. The G model was the result of all that they’d learnt over the preceding 13 years. The biggest leap was the use of a revised ram air system. Kawasaki was among the first to explore this dark art of making raw power out of fresh air and the result of this was a 600cc motor that claimed 108bhp. The clever part was that the chassis was perfectly matched to ensure you got to enjoy every galloping horse at your disposal. The suspension is worthy of a mention too. Despite sticking with conventional style forks, it didn’t compromise handling in any way. Fat three spoke wheels gave you access to the latest race rubber as well, and the Ninja had plenty of race track credentials too. Fast Scottish racer won three races in the 1999 Supersport World Championship on a ZX-6R, finishing second in the overall standings.
This generation ZX-6R wasn’t all about performance, though. The fairing is well designed and unlike other sports 600s it works brilliantly even when you aren’t crouched over the tank. Kawasaki had a reputation for building physically big bikes at the turn of the century and the fact that the ZX-6R looked exactly like the ZX-9R was no coincidence. Indeed, many who have ridden both bikes prefer the 600 over its bigger brother for everyday use. In fact, this 600 is so good it made people think twice before looking at 750 machines. The ZX6-G ran for two years, it was then given a facelift. The year 2000 saw Kawasaki sharpen up the looks, fit a larger twin headlight and squeeze a few more bhp from the engine. Beyond that it was pretty much still the G model. The funny thing is the G arrived in 1998 with a price tag of £7,298, yet the reworked J model wore a price tag of £6,820 less than two years later, largely as a result of the effect cheap grey imports from the EU had on the British bike market.
What’s it like to ride?
In many ways, the ZX6-G doesn’t feel like a sports 600. First up it’s very roomy, bars are sensibly mounted and the pegs aren’t stupidly high. Adding to the first impressions is the ample saddle, it’s a riders bike for sure. Well placed mirrors and a decent sized top cowl complete the well thought out design. This really is a town and country bike and is happy being used in both environments. The engine is a peach, plenty of power wherever you happen to be in the rev range. The wow factor increases with revs, the needle will willingly bury itself beyond the 14,000 redline. The ram air creates extra power, it also creates a gorgeous induction roar, it’s a win win. Brakes are more than up to job. Upfront there’s a pair of Tokico six pots that are borrowed from the ZX-7R and ZX-9R models.
What to look for?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, a Kawasaki main dealer in Cambridgeshire. He gave us some pointers on what to look out for when buying a ZX6-G/J model.
“They don’t crash too well so check that there’s no fresh paint on the frame. Bikes that have had frames straightened will pull on the welds. If there are no horror signs here, then hopefully it’s not been a crashed bike. It’s a case really of usual Kawasaki issues with bikes from this era. Painted parts suffer at the hands of British winters. It affects everything from swinging arm paint to foot rest hangers. The rear shock and linkages rarely get attention with age and the linkages are prone to seizing if unloved. Engines are bullet proof, but check that the carb icing mod was carried out. Standard bikes finished in green are always popular, these are getting tougher to find. There’s no shortage of bolt on extras, things like aftermarket shocks and quality exhausts add value, anodised bits will detract!”
What goes wrong?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson at Grumpy 1260. They run a motorcycle breakers and also service bikes. We still see plenty of these, they are cheap to buy and even cheaper to keep going. We break these on a regular basis. Things like good calipers sell fast as the Tokico six pots are a pain to maintain. One weak spot is the radiator, they are pretty flimsy and prone to stone damage. Good used ones are getting harder to find. Clogged up radiators will lead to overheating issues and head gasket dramas. We’ve seen ZX6Gs with well over 50,000 miles on them and engines rarely play up.”
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