VMAX V´s Kawasaki 600N – Short comparison

IT’S tough out there. The credit crunch has crippled many businesses and forced commuters to readdress their methods of transport in an attempt to save some much-needed cash.

These Kawasakis have been reasonably priced since their introduction four years ago. But for 2009, the Japanese have decided to keep the cost to buyers competitive while offering us a little more for our money. So this year’s bikes have subtle, but effective, improvements.

They certainly make sensible commuter machines, but are more than capable of providing some weekend fun.


The ER-6f is an unpretentious, capable bike. Aside from the obvious addition of a fairing, it also has different suspension to its naked brother to allow for extra weight over the front. When riding both bikes back to back as I did, it seemed marginally heavier on the steering than the 6n, but no more than you would expect, and certainly, in isolation, the ER-6f can provide a rewarding and weather-protected ride.

The styling has been bought up to date with a fresh, sharper look. Ninja-styled headlights, a new dash and a taller tank, among other changes, make the ER-6f look neater and definitely more attractive. But although both are relatively comfortable models, I found that the close relationship between the low 790mm seat height and footpegs cramped my style – and legs. For the majority of riders considering these models, I suspect the fit will be just ideal.

The parallel-twin engine that powers both bikes has been accused of being vibey in the past. Rubber mounts and pads now cushion the effects of the engine on the frame, handlebars and footrests, and the reduced vibrations feel like character rather than being irritating. During my test ride around Bedfordshire, I was impressed by the smoothness of the engine and tractability of the power delivery.

There’s nothing unexpected or unpleasant about either bike, just a reliable performance in all areas that’s bound to encourage novices and nurture their biking skills.

And at the other end of the spectrum, you can push the bike harder for an involving ride and never feel as if you are about to open Pandora’s box.

But you can run with the big boys, as the ER-6n proved. Somehow, I’d found myself chasing a 197bhp VMax down a bumpy country lane, being ridden within an inch of its life – by a copper.

I know, don’t ask. The thing is, as I watched his bike bucking under the pressure and firing clear of corners like an oversized bullet, my little «Kwacka» stuck to his behind like a strip of persistent parcel tape.

Its lightness, agility and ample ground clearance make a mockery of tightening bends, and when the going gets tough, the suspension feels almost plush. It’s this ease of riding which impressed me so much, especially when in hot pursuit of the law.

Of course, there was no way I could match his acceleration, but I didn’t really have to. The smooth mid-range has a confident surge which revs freely and progressively to at least 9,000rpm. There’s plenty of torque, too, which is ideal for rolling the throttle on and off for endless bends while keeping enough punch on tap for determined acceleration.

Don’t get me wrong, you won’t break the sound barrier, but you can carry good corner speed and hit the speed limits with plenty in reserve for nifty overtakes. What’s more, it feels like fun and you don’t have to risk a jail term to get your kicks.

If you do plan on riding as if you have just been stung in the butt, it might be wise to bring your braking markers forward a tad. The brakes are adequate for both bikes under normal conditions, but I took the ER-6n for a brief outing on track at Bedford Autodrome. As I grabbed the lever to scrub speed for a fast right-hander, I had to check if I had accidently rolled the throttle on again with my thumb.

There’s little engine braking, which is beneficial for inexperienced riders chopping down the gearbox in a hurry, and on the road, the anchors seem perfectly acceptable – just don’t expect too much from them. ABS is an optional extra which is worth the money if you can afford it.

Both bikes have received minor, but apparently significant, changes to the engine and frame which could be overlooked on paper. On the road and in leathers, the ER-6f and ER-6n are still highly competitive in a genre that has welcomed an updated Yamaha XJ6 Diversion and a new Suzuki Gladius. We’re truly spoiled for choice.

Model: Kawasaki ER-6f, £5,075 (£5,425 ABS); ER-6n, £4,699

Engine: Liquid-cooled parallel twin of 649cc, producing 71bhp at 8,500rpm and 49lb/ft at 7,000rpm

Transmission: Chain drive through six-speed gearbox

Kerb weight: 204kg (ABS 208kg)

Seat height: 790mm (ER-6n 785mm)

Fuel capacity: 15.5 litres

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