ZZR600 as a first time bike
First appearing in 1990, the ZZR600 “D
always billed as a sports tourer by Kawasaki. Although a
powerful faired bike (The fastest 600 at the time) it was
never quite small and light enough to compete in the pure
sports class. It had an aluminium frame but was still fairly
heavy at almost 200kg dry.
There were minor revisions for 3
years until, in 1993; Kawasaki almost completely re-created
it from the ground up. The total weight stayed the same but
the engine internals was completely re-worked and ram-air added
bringing the engine power up to a claimed 100BHP, improving
the low end torque and increasing the throttle response throughout
This, “E Series”, although having
minor updates over the years (the last one in 1995 - one of
the two trip meters was changed to a clock) has by and large
stayed the same since and is still on sale now.
Note for anyone across the pond:
In the states and Canada the ZZR600 was instead named ZX6D
and ZX6E. There were 2 revisions of each, a “California” model;
and “49 state” model. While the California model had improved
emissions for the tighter laws, the 49-state model is identical
to the bike the rest of the world received, just with different
paint schemes and decals. From 2005 onwards Kawasaki started
selling a bike called the ZZR600, but it is not the same bike
and is instead the same as the 2002 ZX-6R.
inline four, 16 valves
x 46.6mm (2.52 x 1.83 in.)
||100.00 HP (73.0 kW)
@ 11500 RPM
Nm (6.4 kgf-m or 46.3 ft.lbs) @ 9500 RPM
CVKD36 x 4
speed with Positive Neutral Finder
97 mm (3.8 in.)
fork w/adj. preload 4-way rebound damping
with threaded preload adjustment and three-way rebound
||119mm (4.7 in.)
||120/60 x ZR17 tubeless
x ZR17 tubeless radial
||Dual 300mm semi-floating
discs w/dual 4-piston callipers
Disc w/single-piston calliper
||780 mm (30.7 in.)
kg (429.9 pounds)
litres (3.96 UK gallons) (4.76 US gallons)
||4.20 litres (0.92
UK gallons) (1.11 US gallons)
mm (56.3 in)
HP/kg (0.37 kW/kg)
My bike is a 1999 E7 Model, I got
it with less than 6000 miles, I have had it for just over 2
months and so far done just over 1000 miles on it.
This is my first “big” bike. Previous riding
experience had been an SR125 for CBT, Honda CG125 for a year
or two to prepare for and do my test on and then a Moto Guzzi
V35 for my 33Bhp “restricted period”. None of these bikes were
mine though – it pays to have a mum who went though the same
bike license route shortly before I did! I had been off of
2 wheels for a couple of years though, so not only was it my
first big bike, it had been a while since being on ANY bike.
Due to not having a bike when I bought it (so
no bike insurance) I hadn’t been able to ride it before buying
After handing over my hard earned
money to the previous owner, we both filled in the V5 docs
and I finally got to put on my gear, strap my helmet on, start
the bike up and ride off heart pounding!
My very first impressions were it
was huge, heavy and I felt like I had to lift my feet up miles
to get them on the pegs!
In the first few minutes I was terrified,
and having serious doubts that I had bought the wrong bike.
The throttle was far too sensitive causing me to surge back
and forth in town, my wrists were killing my and the armour
in my (new) textiles was digging into my knees when I finally
managed to get my foot high enough onto the peg.
Once I got out of the 30's and into
some National Speed Limits it started to make more sense. I
was taking it very easy, slowly getting to about 40-50 while
the other half followed in the car doing anti-harassment duty
to make sure no cars tail-gated me.
I pretty soon discovered that I
could leave it in a high gear and it still had enough torque
to be completely responsive on the throttle even coming back
down to 20-30 for in town. No surging and it gave me a chance
to get used to the rest of the bike.
The only problem I encountered was
that it seemed to track every little groove/over banding in
the road - I really had to “fight it” out and do everything
I could to not getting stuck in another. Not easy when it seemed
to snake all over the lane!
About 30 miles later I was getting
used to the steering and although still surging a bit in town
I no longer felt like I was a hazard to both myself and anyone
who got near! Unfortunately this was just as I got home!
I came in and relaxed as I think
my whole body had tensed up due to the stress and gripping
everything far too hard in the blind panic of the ride back!
One cuppa later and I was feeling much better, chatting with
SWMBO I discovered that I had felt far more dangerous than
I looked, although a bit wobbly in town I hadn’t been “all
over the road” like I felt I had.
Getting to know one another
Over the next few weeks whenever I got
the chance I was back out on the bike steadily building
up my confidence and getting used to riding again. I
was still having problems with it tracking any minor
groove in the road until I had new tyres fitted (the
old ones were still the factory fitted originals and
starting to border on the illegal), A Bridgestone 014
on the front and 020 on the rear completely fixed that
so it now has to be quite a deep rut to cause problems.
Taking it easy to get used to the new bike, and break
in the new tyres I just steadily built up my confidence
and started wearing the rust off my biking abilities!
Gradually the confidence appeared
and instead of struggling to reach the speed limits I was more
struggling to stay under them!
It’s quick, damned quick, quicker
than any vehicle I had been on before (The closest being pillion
on a guzzi 1100).
It took a long time before I was willing to
even get slightly close to opening the throttle to anything
near its potential, and the first time I did it felt like it
tried to rip my arms out of their sockets. The bike seems to
have 2 engines strapped together - From 1000-7000 RPM its quite
steady and perfect for just plodding alone, my initial ham-fisted
ness passed and if I just want to get from A to B with little
fuss its all I need. Either in second or third around town,
or in 5th or 6th in NSL its responsive enough for most needs
but very forgiving if your occasionally clumsy - basically
its much like driving a pretty damned fast car.
However, if your feeling a bit adventurous,
or want to go for an overtake, drop it down a gear or two and
it takes off. From 7000 all the way up to the redline at 14k
it just takes off dragging you along for the ride. It just
seems to keep pulling giving you the insane urge to just keep
feeding more gears and keep going. Unfortunately by the time
you’re out of second and into third you’re already passed 90mph
and still accelerating like a madman. Top speed is reportedly
around 150mph although red-line in top gear would equate to
around 170mph if you had a strong enough tailwind (or a big
enough steep slope!)
I haven’t been anywhere near that
but it certainly gets up to license loosing speeds fast enough
- its not unusual to accelerate for an overtake and find your
doing a ton and still accelerating as you pass the car. It
is also perfectly stable at whatever speed you wish to travel
at, whether trundling along in town, or bombing along the motorway
it just does it all without fuss.
I had never ridden a faired bike before but
it really makes such a difference. I'm 5"9 and the wind
blast is directed at about shoulder height making it effortless
to cruise along at speed. It’s not quite the “bubble” you would
get from a full on touring screen but it’s more than enough
Me ‘n her ‘n her
We have done a little 2-up riding, and that
was certainly an interesting experience, the other half (my
main pillion victim) was completely terrified of being on a
bike, and although not my first time riding with a pillion,
it was the first in a while and the first on this bike. The
first few rides consisted of up to the end of the road and
back with her with her eyes closed muttering about too fast,
and we didn’t even get above 20!
We both got used to it however and
have done a fair bit more although no long distance stuff.
Its more than adequate for 2-up stuff, a bit more throttle
is required but it’s still got more than enough oomph to out-accelerate
almost all cars. Certainly it’s got far more acceleration than
required according to the pillion anyway!
The main issue we have is the rear
suspension doesn’t quite seem up to the task of having to keep
sprung over 25 stone of combined weight. (If I don’t want to
be sleeping on the sofa tonight, I will have to admit a good
proportion of that is mine!) With the pillion seat being rather
flat and slippery it felt like she was being bounced up into
the air on bumps. The worst example of this being the joints
between blocks on dual carriageway/motorway giving the feeling
she was being bounced up out of the protective bubble of calm
air then ripped backwards off the bike by the wind blast. We
are still trying to experiment with different seating positions
for her but it might require an aftermarket rear shock. Although
personally as the rider it has never felt uncomfortable other
than rather jarring if we hit a sunken manhole cover.
At low speed the suspension is not
as much of an issue although the bike does feel very top heavy
and a bit wobbly. I don’t know if that is true of all bikes,
but it means filtering, while possible, requires a bit more
planning and care.
Speaking of low-speed, the full lock is atrocious.
I don’t know how it compares to other faired bikes, but a U-turn
in all but the widest of roads is next to impossible. We have
a patio in the back garden where the bike is locked up and
turning it around involves a complex dance of multi-point turn
- the only saving grace being that the low seat height gives
plenty of leverage to lug the bike around while you’re on it.
Just as well really as I certainly wouldn’t try to lug it around
from the side, it’s too easy to drop it!
Fat bottomed girl
And that brings us on to weight, it’s definitely
a heavy beast if you’re not used to it, almost 210 kilos with
a full tank of fuel. I have had a couple of almost drops where
it teetered, the only thing saving it (and my wallet) being
the excellent leg leverage offered by the low seat. I can stand
with my knees slightly bent and both feet flat on the ground
very easily - not something I can do on most other bikes. At
5"9 I’m not short but I certainly appreciate the lower
It was only really after riding
with the other half on the back exclusively for a few weeks
that really got me used to the size and weight, although I
was confident enough to filter before, it still felt a heavy
bike. The first solo ride after the pillion riding was such
a shock though; the bike seemed so light and fast in comparison
that I felt like I could just throw it around with abandon!
The brakes I’m unsure about, the front seem
to be on the good but certainly aren’t awe-inspiring, they
certainly stop you but it can require quite a bit of force
applied to the lever during heavy braking. The rear however
is next to useless, it seems like I have to almost stand on
it just to feel any effect whatsoever. It doesn’t feel spongy;
it just doesn’t feel like it actually does much whatsoever.
Compared to the guzzi V35 which, although not a sports bike,
had excellent brembos front and rear the brakes department
just seems somewhat lacking compared to the speed and power
difference between the bikes. It’s just as well then that the
engine braking is so immense compared to a smaller bike or
a car. Most of the time out of town I find myself only using
the throttle to control speed and have to often just nudge
the brakes to make sure I have shown some brakes lights to
any cars behind. The engine braking is enough that I have skidded
the rear during a miss-judged change down slowing down to a
halt for a T junction where the road surface was crap.
On a full tank of fuel I’m currently getting
around 200 miles to the tank (150 to reserve) equating to around
50mpg. The lowest mpg I have had was 45 (135 miles to reserve
or 177 in total) which was due to some extensive in-town 2-up
riding (Isn’t Christmas shopping wonderful? :/ )
I haven’t actually reached reserve
yet as the tap is a bit stiff and fiddly to try to turn with
gloves on. I certainly don’t relish the thought of trying to
grope around under my knee to try and turn it while going along
the road with a spluttering engine.
Tarting her up
Since getting it I have had new tyres fitted,
done and oil and filter change, fitted a rear hugger and changed
the light bulb.
The oil filter change wasn’t too
bad, complicated by having to remove the lower fairing and
loosen off the oil cooler to get access to the filter. The
rear hugger was completely painless as the only thing that
needed removing was the chain guard it replaced.
The light bulb however - what a
nightmare, it took a good 3 hours to do in daylight, I don’t
think it would have even been possible at the side of the road
especially not at night where you are most likely to discover
the bulb is blown. The job wasn’t helped by the Haynes manual
being wrong and having the entire fairing removed (not required)
but not mentioning having to remove the tank and rear side
panels (required!). The standing joke in the house is that
if/when the bulb goes - I sell the bike and buy another - it
will be simpler!
The reason for the light bulb change
was I replaced the standard one with one of the Philips GT150
+50% brighter for the same wattage bulbs. Although on main
beam the factory bulb was adequate, on dipped I found I was
having a great deal of difficulty. Where the dipped pattern
was light wasn’t a problem, but beyond that “line” it looked
pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything. I have yet too really
try out the new bulb to see if it has made much of a difference
or not but what little I have it does seem to have helped.
It also has a slight blue tinge (not like the HID ones as this
doesn’t disappear when you get close) which can only help in
trying to achieve contrast with any car headlights behind.
It’s a great “stepping up” bike
- I love it. It’s large enough to get used to a big heavy bike,
but the low seat height has been enough (touch wood!) to mean
no drops. The engine is brilliant with the power to scare the
pants off of you if you give it some, but happy and docile
if that’s all you want. The brakes and suspension could be
better but are adequate enough for my purposes. I do have plans
to upgrade both in the future but right now I'm just enjoying
it for all its worth.