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2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 Preview


by Pascal Bastien ,

When revising the Ninja ZX-6R for 2013, Kawasaki used a different approach than in the past three years. Here's a Japanese middleweight that will prove less radical and more rider-friendly to the average track day enthusiast.

With a 37cc increase in displacement, a softer suspension, and ergonomics that make it more engaging on the road, the new 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 looks like one of the world's most sensible superbikes -- ever.

2013 Kawasaki ZX-6R

Brawnier engine
Engineers went to work on the 2012 ZX-6R powerplant to boost mid-range torque. Among other things, they've shortened the connecting rods by 1.5 mm and increased piston stroke by 2.6 mm (bore remains unchanged). As a result, the bike produces more than 52 lb-ft (+3) of torque at 11,500 rpm. Meanwhile, power is up to 131 hp (+3) at 13,500 rpm -- or 137 hp with the available Ram Air system.

Other key modifications to the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 include a lowered compression ratio (from 13.3:1 to 12.9:1), longer intake funnels, increased valve lift, molybdenum-coated pistons (to reduce friction and facilitate engine break-in), and a larger air box (560 cc). The upgraded injection system and the joint pipes that connect all four header pipes also work to deliver increased mid-range torque.

Same frame, with a few upgrades

Similar to the outgoing model's, the frame of the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 boasts a steeper rake angle and friction-reducing steering stem seals. With regard to the overall chassis, there's something to be said about the excellent Bridgestone S20 tires and the innovative new Separate Function Big Piston Fork (SFF-BP) with spring preload adjustability in the left tube and damping/rebound adjustability in the right tube. Thinner fork tube walls also enable a weight saving of 220 g.

In the brakes department, the new 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 uses lighter monobloc Nissin callipers and 10mm larger discs. For the first time, the midsize Ninja also offers electronic rider assist in the form of the highly praised Kawasaki Intelligent anti-lock Brake System (KIBS), which comes from the ZX-10R and does so much more than a conventional ABS technology. It relies on multiple sensors and various information from the engine ECU to precisely control the pressure on the front brake (based on weight transfers) and rear brake (based on the engine brake), thereby minimizing kickback and also preventing wheel lock-up and rear wheel lift.

What's more, the 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 gets a new slipper clutch that does a great job of coping with the extra torque while demanding 25% less effort at the clutch lever.

Kawasaki ZX-6R 2013
(Photo: Kawasaki)

Unprecedented safety
For sure, the increased displacement and revised styling (inspired from the ZX-10R) are the main headlines, here. One cannot dismiss, however, the addition of Sport-Kawasaki Traction Control (S-KTRC).

The 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 becomes the first middleweight superbike from Japan -- and the second in the world (after the MV Agusta F3) -- to come standard with electronic rider assist. S-KTRC even offers three selectable modes to go along with the two different power delivery modes.

Bottom line
With the new 2013 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636, Team Green restores a dominating family tradition that started ten years ago with the first 636. It will likely prove friendlier and more usable in everyday street-riding situations while displaying the same impressive performance potential as the outgoing model -- a combination that rival 600s have yet to achieve. We are extremely anxious to try it out both on the road and the track. Stay tuned!