You can get yourself a very nice new or nearly-new 599cc ZX-6R for a lot less than the 636’s £6990 asking price.
The ZX-6R is listed at £6895, but people are buying them new for £4795, which is a real bargain. But even that should start to look expensive when dealers are trying to make space for 636s.
If that still falls outside your budget, scan the secondhand ads. The ZX-6R has been around for seven years and there are plenty to choose from. One example picked out at random from MCN BikeMart is a W-reg 2000 model for £3800 with 5600 miles, datatagged with a Kawasaki service history. Add a Dynojet kit and a good aftermarket can and it would be tough to tell the performance difference between old and brand new.
We recently tested all the Japanese 600s as used bikes, and the Kawasaki’s finish was only bettered by Honda’s CBR600. Look out for knackered head bearings caused by heavy wheelie landings, especially on pre-2000 bikes which have tapered roller bearings. The 1998 G1 models had dodgy camchain tensioners, but many bikes will have had that sorted. The 1999 G2s were cured with a new part.
The brakes will need a service to stop them seizing after 8000 miles or so, which will cost £50 at a dealer. If you ride in all weathers you might need new header pipes after 15,000 miles – aftermarket ones cost £200 upwards. Check the frame for crash damage by making sure you can get two or three fingers between the tyre and the bellypan.
Go prepared to haggle and you’ll get a bargain.