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2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R: MD First Street Ride

Courtesy of our friends at Solo Moto, we provided a fairly comprehensive report from the world introduction of the Kawasaki ZX-6R at a race track in Europe. In the meantime, MD has received its own unit for testing here in the United States. This bike will be part of our upcoming supersport shootout, but we wanted to pass on our initial street riding impressions in a brief report.

As you know from our initial report, Kawasaki completely redesigned the ZX-6R for 2005. It still displaces 636cc, but it has a host of engine and chassis changes/refinements described in detail in our earlier article.

We have had a chance to put some mileage on Southern California streets and highways with the new ZX-6R. We have to begin by raving about the engine. This 636cc unit puts out major power, but does so in a very linear, controllable manner.

In fact, the first chance I had to really twist the throttle on the new ZX-6R made me say “Wow!” in my helmet. This bike feels like a much bigger bore unit (more than 636cc), that pulls strongly from fairly low on the tach to a screaming, fierce top-end. Particularly noted was the snatch-free transition from closed to open throttle.

The handling of the new ZX-6R was also impressive on the street, combining very easy transitions from side-to-side with good stability. The standard Bridgestone BT014 tires are very sticky and warm up quickly.

The transmission shifts more smoothly than most Kawasakis I recall, and no shifts were missed. Kawasaki did some good work here, as well.

Glitches? The LED tachometer is still virtually useless. It seems Kawasaki tried to increase the contrast in the bar meter, but it is still almost impossible to read. The instrument panel is also largely obscured by the windscreen, now. You have to look down through the low screen to see parts of the instrument panel (which makes it illegible, of course).

The ergonomics feel much more relaxed and comfortable than last year’s model, with Kawasaki keeping good on its promise to make the new ZX-6R more streetable. Suspension compliance is also more plush and controlled than last year’s model.

Brake performance was good, but nothing to write home about. Contrary to the report we received from the track, although brake power is plenty strong, initial bite is weak, and quite a bit of lever pressure is required to haul the ZX-6R down. Since we received a unit directly from the track press intro in Europe, it is possible that our rotors are a bit glazed.

Overall, our first impressions of the ZX-6R here on Southern California streets are very positive. Stay tuned for our shootout.