Kawasaki’s ZX-6R is fast, noisy, agile, and highly respected within the motorcycling fraternity. Patrick van Sleight recounts the moving moments shared with this desirable machine on their final ride together.
Usually I would keep the throttle steady at around 9 000 r/min, exactly where the angels in my air-box wake up and emit torturous screams. Where that mesmerising induction howl pitches in as the wind is force-fed faster and faster through the ram-air pipes and crammed into the airbox. The resulting pressure adds a useful few ponies to the power in an insane loop, since the faster it goes the more thrust it produces and the more frantic the noise becomes!
This is how I would chase up and down empty highways around the city until the early morning hours, my nose filled with a smouldering cocktail of tar, rubber, oil and exhaust fumes - solitary in my madness and taken hostage by that intake rasp.
But today I keep it to 8 000 r/min and lower, allowing me to savour the sun-drenched, rugged breathlessness of the passing Boland scenery, while dismissing slower traffic with a nonchalant flick of the wrist and a quick lean.
This is my last ride on my ZX-6R. We are parting ways unhappily after a blown engine left me virtually bankrupt. (Never buy an ex-racing machine - even if it apparently belonged to superbike racing champion Greg Dreyer.)
The ascent of Bain’s Kloof Pass is slow. As a long queue of traffic keeps me back, I keep a worried eye on the temperature gauge. Yet the ZX’s (new) engine keeps its cool, and hums smoothly. The exhaust note has that sophisticated whistle that only modern superbikes seem to have – soft yet unrestrained, quiet yet powerful. No doubt, breathing through a dynojet kit and a stainless-steel four-into-one Hindle exhaust is helping matters, but I have heard a few standard ZX-6R’s emitting a similar soft, deep growl, a sound so intimidating that it is no-doubt the envy of many a lion stalking through the savanna.
The sun is scorching at the crest where I pull in the clutch and stop. The far-off hills dance in a mirror-like reflection. It is rarely this hot but I am not bothered. The irregular tick-tick of the hot engine begs me back and I oblige happily, yet reluctantly. I want to postpone the end of the ride; keep riding for as long as possible. Will I make it to Durban?
Will I miss my ZX! I remember the intense anticipation, sleepless nights, the tears of gratitude, and the paralysing disbelief as I awaited delivery of my ZX. Finally, I was about to have a proper high-performance tool, be a part of the superbike elite. I could stop aspiring.
Impressionable as I am, a wide rear wheel, high-swept exhaust can, and bright-coloured full fairing is the business in the all-important superbike show-off stakes. Superbiking is as much about advertising under-utilised performance potential as it is about soliciting affirming stares.
Not that the ZX needed help attracting attention; its appearance is a model of restrained aggression. Those flared nostrils that are the ram-air intakes lend an angry look to a front section that threatens to gobble up the forks and wheel, accompanied by its high rear-end.
I was scared before my first ride. I was upgrading from a GS500, with which I toyed at the far end of the throttle-stop without consequence and fear. It would have to be different on this green beast, so I kept the throttle openings small at first. I was surprised at its docile – friendly even – nature, and to my surprise, it never turned on me to bite me in the back when I was a bit injudicious with it.
But what I remember most of that first ride – even more than the deep exhaust growl – is the smell; a very faint, sweet perfume-like whiff that rose from inside the fairing as the engine got warmer. It was intoxicating and representative of the sophistication and calibre of bike of which I was now the rather unworthy rider.
Will my next machine of this magnitude be another green monster? The ZX-7R perhaps? Dating from the GPx750 of the late ’80s, its engine may be a bit older, but it remains on
Original article from Car