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Old June 16th, 2014, 08:40 PM   #1
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[sportrider - features] - Kawasaki ZX-6R Racebike Build | Seeing Green

The 2013 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike series has been dominated almost entirely by Cameron Beaubier, and if not by the Northern California native, then by one of the comparably prepped Yamaha R6s that make up the majority of the field. A Suzuki-mounted James Rispoli has shown significant speed at certain tracks, as has the GEICO Motorcycle Honda team and Triumph Daytona 675Rs. Noticeably absent from the fray is Kawasaki, a company that’s pulled a disappearing act only David Blaine himself could top, though Team Green recently went through the trouble of homologating its 2013 ZX-6R for competition. It wasn’t until we put these two points together that the lightbulb above our keyboard went on. What if we built a 636 racebike and signed up for one of the AMA Daytona SportBike rounds? Enter Sport Rider’s 2013 Kawasaki ZX-6R project bike, the by-product of that…er…bright idea.

That we’ve volunteered to race in the SportBike class rather than the less-intimidating SuperSport class might come as a surprise. AMA Pro Racing announced earlier in the year, however, that the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race—which was to be held during the FIM Superbike World Championship event— would not include a SuperSport race due to time constraints. Having already decided to see this project through to the finish line, we signed up for the more competitive of the two classes. Our associate editor says he’s up for the challenge, despite having only raced one AMA Pro Racing event in the past. On a Harley

As was the case with our Ninja 650 project bike (“Green Streak,” March ’13 and “Green Streak: Part II,” May ’13), the Kawasaki ZX-6R that graces these pages started life as a display bike; maybe you’ve seen photos of it sitting proudly in the middle of Times Square as part of Kawasaki’s Times Square Takeover, or maybe you haven’t. Regardless, this is that exact bike—a cool point that hasn’t been lost on us. Perhaps the only more interesting point is the bike’s VIN ends in 000003. Talk about early production…

A display bike with a little bit of history is one thing, and a competitive AMA racebike something entirely different. And that’s where Cyclemall Motorsports comes into play. A Southern California–based shop that’s located just miles from our new office in Irvine, CM Motorsports has made waves in the AMA this year by putting its rider, Jeff Tigert, on the podium in multiple AMA SuperSport races. Cyclemall has also built its own 2013 ZX-6R racebike, with the help of local racer Chad Lewin, and agreed to lend us a hand on the grounds that it could codevelop the 636s. As for Kawasaki, its motivation comes in the form of that already-mentioned void in entries. “We really just want to see more Kawis on the grid, and we think that once people see how competitive the 636 is, they’ll start to look more seriously at it,” Kawasaki’s Brad Puetz says.

And so there we stood with a bike, CM Motorsports’ support, and Kawasaki’s blessing to break a leg. Oh, and how could we forget about our ever-growing parts list? Bodywork, electronics, brakes, and fork cartridges have suddenly become buzzwords around the SR office.

Our very first e-mail went out to Catalyst Racing Composites, and the conversation that ensued would set the stage for our project. “We don’t actually have any bodywork for the 636 on the shelves right now, just because there hasn’t been a high demand. And we don’t have a Superbike kit for it yet,” the Catalyst staff replied. No worries as they had the mold ready and could get us a Supersport kit ($797 plus shipping and necessary Dzus fasteners) in a matter of weeks. In the meantime, we’d use a set of early-production fairings that Kawasaki had fitted prior to the Times Square event.

Concept Five painted the fairings that we’ll use for the race weekend and did a flawless job by all accounts. “We kept it simple with the paint scheme and basically cloned the stock design, just like you wanted,” Bert Silos says as he hands over the ($750) made-up panels. Stock ZX-6R graphics and emblems came courtesy of Kawi and will be added at a later point, as will a set of Concept Five–printed decals and headlight graphics from DrippinWet. Yes, we said headlight graphics! Cool, right?

Kawasaki was a huge help in getting our project bike on its…well…tires and provided us with an assortment of parts from its race catalog in addition to some spares. Relocation brackets for electronics equipment were shipped straight to CM Motorsports, as were a few of the parts we could potentially damage or wear out during forthcoming test days—wheels, brake rotors, brake pads, and a green chain, naturally. Vortex Racing supplied the sprockets that’ll pair to that chain ($70.95 for the F5 Hardcoat rears and $28.95 for the fronts) in addition to a set of ($165.95) clip-ons and ($418.95) rearsets. Each of these products will allow us to tailor the bike to Bradley’s needs, with the rearsets offering 12 positions of adjustment and the clip-ons a ton of freedom in regard to span and handle tube position.

CM Motorsports didn’t take our build lightly and began tearing the ZX-6R apart almost hours after it rolled into the shop. “We went through the wiring harness and basically just went over the whole bike checking for any safety issues. Rewired the ignition switch, rerouted lines, and moved the regulator rectifier,” Tige Daane says. One glance into the bike’s tail section is proof of the time the crew has spent; the ($379.95) Dynojet Power Commander V and ($359.95) Ignition Module are routed nicer than anything we’ve seen on recent project bikes. As is the ($219.99 plus shift rod) Dynojet quickshifter that CM Motorsports installed.

Daane says that, “Kawasaki doesn’t have a kit harness for the 636 yet, so without the Dynojet stuff we wouldn’t have been able to control the fuel and ignition timing the way we are now. Plus, with the Dynojet Power Commander V stuff you’re able to do single-cylinder mapping, so I can map each cylinder separately. We were actually able to get a lot of power out of the engine just with tuning.” That power came, not surprisingly, at the expense of long nights in the dyno room. “We’ve spent roughly 15 hours on the dyno so far, and we’ve got a lot more to work on,” Daane says. “That’s the thing when you’re working on a racebike, you’ve got to try a bunch of different stuff in an attempt to find the best combination,” he adds.

The ZX-6R’s engine has never been pulled apart, though we’ve installed a set of modified Kawasaki velocity stacks in an attempt to move the power curve and get some performance out of the top-end—the ZX-6R’s midrange, as noted in previous tests, is already quite strong. The bike currently makes 119 horsepower and 47 foot-pounds of torque on a Dynojet dyno, but that’s also due in part to new ignition timing and a Two Brothers Racing Silver Series exhaust with long, high-mount muffler and custom-built headers that allow us to tune each cylinder. A reflashed ZX-6R ECU has allowed us to manipulate the Kawi’s riding modes, adjust engine-braking dynamics, and enhance the bike’s traction control intervention. We’ll discuss those changes once we’re able to experiment with said system and delve deeper into the reflashed ECU’s limits.

The 636’s street-oriented suspension setup was abandoned, and in its place we’ve got a K-Tech ($2,423.40) 20DDS front fork cartridge kit and ($1,691.50) 35DDS Pro series rear shock. Courtesy of Orient Express, these components should offer us plenty of adjustment in addition to the exact damping characteristics we’re looking for. “An added benefit of going with K-Tech is that they were willing to help us out with chassis numbers. They have a ton of data from World Supersport, and they were willing to work closely with us on this project,” Daane says. Install was handled by CM Motorsports’ James Morse, who will probably forget more about the K-Tech inter- nals than we’ll ever know.

Our thought—based on the geometry numbers that came courtesy of K-Tech—is that the Kawasaki will respond well to less trail, so we’ve installed a set of aftermarket triple clamps that are adjustable for offset via eccentric inserts. These clamps will allow us to manipulate steering traits and front-tire grip characteristics, plus they should increase front-end rigidity. Other chassis tweaks include a stock Kawasaki steering damper that’s been modified to provide a bit more performance at the track—the 2013 ZX-6R doesn’t come from the factory with a steering damper but a factory-designed Öhlins Steering Damper with 18 settings is available for $695.95.

The list of aftermarket parts trickle off a bit from there. “A lot of this was development. Aside from rearsets, bodywork, and the small stuff, the difference was in R&D and all the time on the dyno,” Daane says.

We’ve installed a set of green Woodcraft hand guards ($179.99), in addition to a double bubble windscreen from Zero Gravity ($94.95) and a Yoyodyne slipper clutch ($848). Install on these parts was relatively painless, though the Cyclemall crew took its time with the slipper clutch and measured stack height, etc., in an attempt to garner the best feel possible at the entrance of the corner. TAW Performance has come through with an exceptionally built Brembo front radial brake master cylinder ($333.94) and Ferodo brake pads ($75.95). We’ll report on the install/performance of those pieces as soon as they go on, but based on our experience with the stock braking system, we’re certain that they’ll be appreciated.

In other news, Orient Express has sent us a GB Racing Protection Bundle ($405.95). This kit includes glass fiber reinforced nylon covers for all engine cases, swingarm spools, and a chain guard. Hopefully Bradley won’t put these to the test. Scroll through the gallery above for more pictures and details about all the modifications to the ZX-6R.

Perhaps the most interesting—or controversial— part about our project bike is its weight. In order to even out the Kawasaki’s displacement advantage over the conventional four-cylinder machines, AMA Pro Racing has implemented a 20-pound weight penalty (the four-cylinder 600s are expected to weigh no less than 355 pounds, whereas the 636 must weigh 375 pounds or more at the end of any qualifying session or race), and this is something we’ll experiment with during our upcoming tests. In addition, we have a variety of suspension setups to try, plus a lot of ride mode settings to look over.

Look for an update on these aspects in the next issue, and in the final piece of this three-part puzzle we’ll find out just how competitive the ZX-6R is in the Daytona SportBike class. Whichever way it goes, we’re just happy to see some green back on the AMA grid…and with Sport Rider logos on it.


Catalyst Racing Composites(760)

Concept Five(619)

Cyclemall Motorsports(714)

Dynojet Power Commander(800)

Orient Express(800)

TAW Performance(888)

Two Brothers Racing(800)

Vortex Racing(800)

Woodcraft Technologies(978)


Zero Gravity(800)

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