2009 Kawasaki ER-6n Comparison

Aesthetically it’s hard to argue with the shape of the Kawasaki ER-6n. Although it shares identical running gear with another popular Kawasaki streetbike, it looks totally different. It’s a cross between sport and naked with the result being an urban sports shape that definitely stands out on the road. We especially love its profile from any angle and the sleek bullet-shaped muffler tucked neatly underneath. And we’re not alone in our like for its appearance as on the street, as its Candy Blue Plasma paint attracts a lot of stares from vehicles in the next lane.

Climb aboard the ER-6n and you’ll notice it really isn’t much of a climb – the ultra-low 29.7-inch seat height nearly an inch lower than the Gladius. It also feels considerably more narrow between the rider’s legs than the Suzuki, which is surprising considering its Parallel-Twin engine configuration.

Press the starter and the ER-6n engine fires to live with a raspy exhaust note. Pump the throttle a few times and its exhaust bellow is louder and throatier than the Gladius. Reach out to the handlebars and you can’t help but notice its quirky bend. Although the handlebars are mounted at a reasonable height they are far too narrow and have an odd inward sweep at the grips.

Ergonomics are also puzzling, especially if you’re a tall rider. Over six foot and you’ll have trouble fitting on the ER-6n, as it has one of the most cramped riding positions of any motorcycle we have ridden lately. Conversely, its seat is wonderful—being both wide and thick with a decent amount of padding.

While the motorcycle’s instrumentation definitely follows with its futuristic exterior shape, as a package it is difficult to read at a glance. Most of the right elements are there including an analog-style speedometer and a bar graph-style tachometer with double trip meters and a clock. Yet we would have preferred if Kawi had used a more conventional package with a digital speedo and analog tach.

Out on the road the ER-6n definitely seems oriented to beginner motorcyclists. Although on the dyno graph its torque curve is almost identical to the Gladius, the ER-6n feels downright anemic at lower revs. Keep the throttle pegged and the engine does in fact spin up faster than the Suzuki’s, but it isn’t until you reach around 8000 revs until you feel like you get some decent acceleration from the engine. But you’ve got to shift quickly because within a few seconds the fun is over almost as soon as it started. Working through its six-speed transmission also proved to be much more notchy feeling than the Gladius.

Powering the ER-6n is Kawasaki’s trusty 649cc Parallel Twin, the same used in the 650R and Versys, but it just doesn’t feel as lively in this machine. Sure it revs a little faster than the Suzuki and sounds a bit tougher but it just not as inspiring.

“It seems you really have to rev the Kawasaki’s engine to get it to move,” states Motorcycle USA Executive Editor Steve Atlas. “I’m sure a novice rider will appreciate it’s mellow power down low but for those speed demons out there they’ll be a little let down by its performance as compared to the Suzuki.”

2009 Kawasaki ER-6n Comparison
2009 Kawasaki ER-6n Comparison
2009 Kawasaki ER-6n Comparison

However, riders will be surprised by just how smooth the engine runs. Vibration is kept to a minimum due in part to an internal balancer and rubber bushings in the engine mounting points, as well as the handlebars. And it actually works. Cruising down the freeway reveals a near vibration-less ride which ensures rearview mirrors actually stand still enough to actually work.

In terms of fuel economy we averaged about 42 MPG and with the ER’s 4.1 gallon fuel tank a rider can expect right around 175 miles per fill-up. On the freeway the Kawasaki delivers an exceptionally smooth ride as long as the pavement is smooth. Big bumps and rough patches are viciously transferred to rider’s body. This could be due to Kawasaki’s rear suspension uses a linkage-less design in which the rear shock absorber is mounted directly to the swingarm and frame.

When the road starts to zig-zag, however, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to get the motorcycle to turn. Even though it weighs in at 449 pounds with a full tank of gas (2 pounds heavier than the Gladius), you’d think it weights 200 lbs because it changes directions so willingly. The Kawi flicks from side-to-side as if it were a 50cc scooter, yet it is incredibly stabile – never wiggling around beneath you regardless of how easy or hard you ride it. Plus, at an elevated pace you’ll appreciate the slightly stiffer suspension spring rates that the ER-6n offers.

Although the fork doesn’t offer any adjustment it is sprung nicely for both Atlas’ light 150-lb frame and my 180 lbs. Another benefit is the ER’s added ground clearance, which makes it less susceptible to drag hard parts while hustling through corners.

In the braking department the Kawasaki offers slightly larger 300mm petal-style braking discs up front matched to a pair of double-piston Tokico calipers while a single-piston caliper and 220mm brake disc comprise the rear brake. Getting the Kawi hauled down from speed requires a minimum of two fingers on the front brake lever. Plus the ER doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of brake feel at the lever as the Suzuki, and quick stops need to be planned further in advance than on the Gladius.

The ER-6n has a much more mellow feeling powerband than the Gladius.

“Without question the Kawi is lacking in the braking department. Since the hardware is mostly the same between both bikes I’d guess that the brake pads just aren’t aggressive enough,” comments Atlas.
While both motorcycles roll on similarly sized tires, the ER-6n employs the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart tire, designed for more mileage without sacrificing a whole lot of performance. Although we didn’t have a problem with the level of grip or tire warm-up times, we didn’t think they delivered as much road feel as the Gladius’ and they also felt stiffer than the Qualifiers on the Gladius.

Bar none if you’re new to motorcycling than the ER-6n is a solid choice. It’s small, ridiculously easy to ride, handles well and has friendly engine power characteristics – plus it looks awesome. And who can argue with its reasonable price tag that is $500 less than the Gladius? However, if you’re looking for more excitement, Suzuki’s got a motorcycle that might be perfect for you.