By Marissa Baecker
Supersport (aka “crotch rocket”) bikes are historically designed for one purpose – racing. Built for speed, the rider triangle is intentionally compact and not necessarily conducive to taller riders and being that I stand at 5’11”, I have intentionally shyed away from these type of bikes.
I wrapped up last riding season spending two days with Keith Code and California Superbike School on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway learning the parameters of supersport motorcycling and developing high speed cornering and braking skills. I pushed my limits well beyond what I have been comfortable with and gained invaluable knowledge about what bikes can do as well as what I can do riding one. Naturally, this season I wanted to utilize my new-found abilities and give supersport riding another shot.
West Kelowna’s Valley Moto Sport owner, Barry Wellings, handed me the key to a 2014 Kawasaki ZX-6R ABS and said, “There are no miles on it so watch the tires. The guys just put it together. They don’t stick around very long, riders love this model.”
Standing before me was a brand new, sexy, full fairing motorcycle in pearl flat crystal white (which matched my Alpinestars leathers and Arai helmet beautifully) with flat black accents. Other ABS colours for 2014 include that signature Kawasaki lime green and candy burnt orange. Metallic spark black is available without ABS. However, with the recent 2015 announcement, it appears that the staple lime green with ebony accents is rider’s only choice.
Once seated in the 32.7” saddle, I was pleasantly surprised how well I fit the bike. My thighs molded right below the beveled tank as my knees gripped either side. After a few road miles, I was even more surprised with the comfortable angles of my wrists while my gloves gripped the bars and how natural it was to keep my elbows tucked in. Steering was effortless and I truly felt like one with the bike.
A quick $13 fill up (when was the last time $13 filled anything?) of the 17 litre fuel tank and I was off for a two and half hour ‘lap’ around Okanagan Lake. The grand finale – 70 km of twisties along the thrilling rider favourite, Westside Road.
Opening throttle on the highway, and with the Kawasaki traction control switched off, this middleweight was quick to let me know that despite being the smallest sibling of the ZX lineup (10R and 14R), this 636cc liquid cooled in-line four, four-stroke produced enough torque to kick start my heart. “Let the good times roll!” all of a sudden had a whole new meaning.
A half hour of sweeping curves and spectacular scenery riding the hills above Kalamalka Lake, I settled in without any complaints from my body. Another ZX rider appeared in my rear-view and remained flanked to my right all the way to Vernon. At the first stop light, he pulled along-side, and while ogling the bike from behind his full face queried, “Is that the new 6?” New because in 2014 the ZX-6R is known as the 636 referring to a displacement boost from the previous 599cc. Our bike conversation continued at each traffic light until we headed in opposite directions as I made a turn onto Westside Road at the Head of the Lake.
There are several warning signs along this lakeside stretch reminding travelers of tricky navigation while enticing riders to the point where the road is listed as a favourite in popular rider travel books. Riding mach III with your hair on fire is not required to fully enjoy this piece of fresh pavement. Those that have tried, and failed, are marked at several points on both sides with make-shift memorials.
I kept a good pace within my limits and was exhilarated with the handling and performance of the ZX-6R. Kawasaki Traction Control gave me peace of mind knowing it was easily activated with a the quick thumb push of the button and a quick confirming glance at the digital instrument panel. ABS evenly slowed the bike down entering the curves and the low-mid range torque consistently pulled me out of the tight corners no matter what gear.
The bike weighs in at 192 kg (about 428 lbs.) but rides like it weighs half that amount. I pulled back into the parking lot after about 150 km of fun where Wellings was standing with an eager rider. “The tires are warmed up,” I smiled and I handed the key to Wellings as he walked the eager rider over to the bike.
I later called Wellings to make arrangements to do some riding photos with the ZX-6R as the sun went down and wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear the bike had been sold. MSRP is about $12,500 after manufacturer incentives.