Such was the impact of the first Ninja ZX-6R in 1995 that it contributed to a whole new class of motorcycle, the Supersport 600. Challenging the efforts of other manufacturers in the class, the Ninja ZX-6R was the first aluminium beam frame in its class. Pretty much straight away all other Japanese manufacturers accelerated development of true Supersport 600’s; but the Ninja from Kawasaki, is for many, the definitive mid-weight Supersport machine.
Now 25 years since the ZX-6R first wowed the motorcycle world with its incredible performance and power to weight ratio, here we take an affectionate look at a quarter of a century of innovation, racing success and engineering excellence.
But what was life like pre-6R?
Well – appropriately – Kawasaki were already big players on the mid-weight performance scene so it was natural that this experience would spawn the ZX-6R. First true sports model in this segment for Kawasaki was actually a member of the GPz family, the GPz550 of 1981.
Offering quite stunning performance the Kawasaki advertising of the time told a very accurate story, this was truly a “Red Revolution”. The first bright red air-cooled, four-cylinder GPz550 twin rear shock models made way for Uni-Trak suspended machines and – certainly in terms of four stroke motorcycles – the rule book about cubic capacity and performance was more or less torn up.
Then in 1985 – a full ten years before the first Ninja ZX-6R - the GPz600R appeared. Water-cooled with a 16 valve cylinder head and a perimeter style frame plus16 inch (40cm) front and rear wheels, the stunning GPz was for sure a “line in the sand” and an indication of things to come from Kawasaki.
The experience gained over those intervening years allowed Kawasaki engineers to dream of a logical next step, a true Supersport mid-weight machine with racetrack looks, race track handling and race track performance; and in 1995 the Ninja ZX-6R was unleased onto the world stage.
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