Riding the ZX6E

I rode Kim’s 1997 Kawasaki ZX6E to Danger today, as my coworker Matt is considering buying it.

I’d never ridden the ZX6E before, and a few things really jumped out at me…

general handling
The bike seemed difficult to turn in quickly. I suspect this has more to do with the old tires than with the bike itself (the tire pressures are correct), but it was disconcerting. The bike definitely holds to a line well; it’s just not necessarily the line I would have chosen.

general ergonomics
It’s a lot more sportsbike-ergonomic than standard-ergonomic, which surprised me. It has clip-ons, but they’re high-mount (sorta like the SVS posture after I added the higher bars), so I expected to be more upright than I was.

It definitely has the Kawasaki signature sloped seat — anything under about 30mph had me crashing down into the tank with regularity. I don’t know how you guys do it.

city streets
Braking and shifting were smooth and easy. Stop lights were stress-free, as was being suddenly cut off by a soccer mom in a minivan. I had a hard time finding neutral when I stopped for gas, but it clicked into place fairly quickly after I shut off the ignition.

Speaking of the gas station, I put about 3.5 gallons in, and the trip meter read 192 miles. If that’s accurate (I didn’t fill the tank up last), that there’s some good gas mileage.

The bike definitely seemed more stable once I got up to freeway speeds (though this might be somewhat due to that sloping seat; an aftermarket comfy one might make city streets more palatable).

I was most comfortable at 70mph in about a three-quarters tuck, which surprised me as I had figured on being more upright. The windscreen and fairing are good — no bobblehead wind tunnels. Aside from my back muscles complaining about being on a different motorcycle, I could have ridden the ZX6E on the freeway all day.

I would like to point out that I could see out of the ZX6E mirrors above 6000 RPMS, thereby convincing me that Kawasaki just hates me in particular. Frickin’ Z mirrors.

other items of note
I really hate clip-ons now. I suspected this after buying my Z, and now it is confirmed.

I need to do a tune-up on this particular ZX6E. I could hear the clicking sound that other test riders have mentioned, which is definitely coming from cylinder 3 or 4 (my money’s currently on a loose valve). The bike also needs an oil change, the brake fluid swapped, and the chain cleaned.

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6 Responses to Riding the ZX6E

  1. Viv says:

    Right on, Carolyn! That’s exactly how I felt about my ZX6E. Really neat that you captured all of that after one ride. 🙂
    As for handling, I don’t think it has much to do with the tires. We put fairly fresh tires on mine, and still, every bike I’ve ridden since seems to turn in much more easily.
    Your post makes me miss my old bike – in particular those extra 2 cylinders. So smooove …

  2. Ken Haylock says:

    The thing about riding poositions – clip-ons vs. flat bars – is that what feels ‘right’ is related to what you have been riding recently.
    Today I rode my recently purchased mid-90’s Triumph 900 Daytona to my current client’s site – and it took me most of the way there to acclimatise to clip-ons after riding most of the last year (and yesterday) on my R1200GS.
    In May last year I dragged the Triumph TT600 out of the shed and did a track day on it after a year on the GS. The first corner I came to I all but went straight on – the angle of the bars meant I instinctively pushed at the wrong direction when countersteering. By the end of the day (well, right up until I lowsided at 110mph when my rear tyre cried enough in Dibeni 2 – a bit of a red mist moment), I was flinging it around to peg/knee/ankle slider scraping angles like I’d never been off it. A couple of weeks later (i.e. once the large area of missing skin had started to scab over), I took the GS out and it felt like a wheelbarrow for the first few miles!
    In other words, I think the ‘right’ riding position is whatever I’ve done the last thousand miles on, assuming it isn’t a torture rack (Ducati 916, anyone?). Clip-ons work, as long as you can get your forearms parallel to the ground and use your abs (plus the wind) to support you.

  3. carolyn says:

    >Clip-ons work, as long as you can get your forearms parallel to
    >the ground and use your abs (plus the wind) to support you.
    The SVS had clip-ons; they never really worked for me, especially after my shoulder injury.
    I totally agree that in general, whatever you’re used to is what works best, but for my shoulder in specific, handlebars give me a more upright seating position with a gentler angle. I can ride bikes with clip-ons, obviously, but I wind up with an ice pack and ibuprofen afterwards.

  4. Kim says:

    Heh, funny that it felt so upright to me and so sport-bike to you. I also felt that the turning was so much easier than the YZF6R had been that it was *almost* Honda-like to me (not quite, though…I swear both the CB-1 and Mark’s old VFR had psychic powers).

  5. Peter says:

    > use your abs (plus the wind) to support you
    Yeah, that’s how I ride my SuperHawk, but I’m not convinced anyone should have to count on wind resistance to help support them. Part of me just screams that’s an ergonomic nightmare.

  6. Ken Haylock says:

    Except that the alternative – sitting upright – means you have 7 foot long arms after a long ride :-). I’ve extensively ridden a bike with a big touring fairing and clip-ons, and that really doesn’t work (the old model K1200GT, the one derived from the K1200RS). Hateful bike.
    My GS is only really comfortable up to a ton – more than that and it’s a constant battle between me and the 100mph wind hitting me in the chest. And you can’t just hang on to the bars, either – that transfers the buffeting from the wind straight in to the bars, which is definitely bad juju. You just have to lean into it with your abs…
    Actually, the bike I’ve ridden that was worst for this was the Honda X-11 – did you even get that in the US? It is (or was – Honda gave up on it) the naked cousin of the Honda CBX1100 Blackbird. The Blackbird would cruise at a ton thirty all day without stressing the rider in the least – well, until s/he looked at the speedo and imagined their licence melting – and the X-11 wanted to go at the same speed, but the human parachute riding position made it actually painful after a mile or so!

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