Kawasaki SuperSport 600 History: Take It As It Comes

The following is a re-edit of a piece posted by MotorMartin on DriveTribe under the I Love Motorbikes banner run by Tony Yates, perhaps better known as @Xinterceptor.

In Part 1 Kawasaki SuperSport 600 History: Passing The Time the history of Kawasaki’s SuperSport 600 class machines was looked into, with machines from the original GPZ600R to the first ZX-6R F series discussed whilst a respectful eye was also kept on the Kawasaki’s rivals of the time. Maybe it’s the raucous nature of Kawasaki’s 4 cylinder engines, or perhaps the infamous resonance from the different model’s ram air systems, but the Green Meanies have certainly created a dedicated fan base amongst motorcyclists from all manner of different backgrounds. Perhaps the designers and engineers at Kawasaki HQ have always known this as they have historically favoured evolution over radical redesigns and as such, have continued to gain fans along the way. 

With the F series Kawasaki ZX-6R reaching the end of its natural bi-yearly cycle and needing refreshment it was time to return to the drawing board and see what extra power could be squeezed from the engine and instigate a weight loss program with which to improve power to weight and allow suspension tweaks to provide a noticeable improvement.

And launched into the competitive environment that was the SuperSport arena of 1998, the Kawasaki had to be right. 
MotorCycleNews (MCN) said the following regarding the latest 600, With its genuine 163mph top speed, six-piston brakes, low’ish insurance group and evil induction noise the Kawasaki ZX-6R G-series is the bike that overnight made the 750cc superbikes look superfluous. Even today it’s still considered a capable performer, though the suspension and stoppers will doubtless welcome a fettle. With it’s 599cc, transverse four cylinder DOHC liquid cooled four stroke engine producing 105bhp at 12500rpm providing motive power, it was a relatively simple job as horsepower was the same as the preceding F series bike. The big changes however, were elsewhere and added up to be rather more than the sum of it’s parts.  

The new model was sporty yet comfortable which, when matched with a chassis that offered precision matched with stability made for a superb blend of real world practicality and racetrack handling. Impresively, the G2 arrived with six-piston brakes which, if looked after, still work fantastically well today as well as gaining cartridge forks and semi-downdraught carbs to match the revised frame and motor. Overall, the Kawasaki was and still is a great machine, bringing to the table perhaps the first genuine challenge to the might of the Honda CBR600 combining that clever mix of sporting ability and comfort that the Honda has traditionally been good at. 

But time and tide wait for no man/woman and so it came to pass that once again Kawasaki engineers sat down to see where they could take their ZX-6R and whether they could keep their middleweight SuperSport contender at the top of the pile.  

The 2000 Kawasaki ZX-6R J series took all that was good with the previous G1/2 model and moved the design on another step creating a middleweight SuperSport contender that combined cutting edge thinking with up to the minute technology, a mix that was to prove popular amongst Kawasaki’s legion of fans. The revised machine got a new swingarm and revised rear shock designed to help keep the handling in the sweet spot between sporting and comfort and engine internals that upped the power available from 105 to 109bhp which was easily comparable with the best of the rest. The previous G model 600 looked fantastic and the J series continued this tradition by introducing a mild facelift to sharpen the front end with more modern looking twin headlights and a quite incredible new paint job and colour choices.  

In a nod towards increased practicality and ease of maintenance, Kawasaki introduced suspension grease nipples on the J-series ZX-6Rs, giving the shock a better chance of retaining some of its performance for longer than previous efforts. The ZX-6r’s revised frame geometry makes for improved cornering and the machine felt a lot lighter than the G series bike. But it’s still the engine that Kawasaki fans rave about as it was a true powerhouse in the best Green tradition. Contemporary reports of the time stated that the ZX-6R’s carb-fed, 16v four cylinder motor still sounded fantastic with the gruff airbox roar that makes thrashing a Kawasaki 600 so addictive, whilst remaking fast in the best ZX-6r tradition, achieving over 160mph straight from the showroom floor. And then, in 2002, Kawasaki surprised all when they released the same bike but with a 636cc motor bringing even more road-friendly performance to the table. 

Ultimately though, the Kawasaki was not good enough to compete with Yamaha’s stunning R6 on the track, in 2002, with it’s 636cc motor, it made for a quite stunning and much improved SuperSport bike for the road. A position it still holds today in my opinion. 

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