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This Kawasaki is now considered cheap transport, but in its day it was Kawasaki's top sports bike, mixing it in reviews and road tests with lofty models like the Honda VFR750 and Suzuki GSXR750. Sadly at the time it was frankly poor in comparison to either of these bikes. The Honda trounced it in every area, whilst the Suzuki was definitely more sports oriented.
Reviews of the time suggested the Kawasaki was outdated as soon as it was introduced, leading to something of a sales flop, a short model life, and some real low priced bargains.
The GPX 750 was introduced to the UK market as the replacement for the GPZ900R, a bike that ultimately outlasted it by a good ten years.
So what was wrong with it? And how does it shape up now?
The answer to the first question is not much; it was just two years late to market. The other big Japanese 750 models from the years the GPX was produced were simply a year or two ahead. Yamaha had the FZ750 with five-valve head trickery. Honda had the best road bike ever, the VFR 750 complete with V4 engine, gear driver cams, and wrap around alloy frame. And Suzuki had sports honours with the GSXR750. That left no market niche for the Kawasaki to occupy. For example, it has a double cradle steel tube frame, cutting edge in 1982, but by 1986 when the bike was introduced this was already old hat. Another example is that the engine was lighter and more powerful than the GPZ900 it was supposed to replace, but just wasn't as trick as those in the opposition despite making similar power output. The rest of the running gear was also already old too. Electronic anti dive on the forks was a fad that had already passed, and the monoshock rear was pretty basic.
So how does it shape up now?
Time is a leveller. The GSXR750s have all but gone. Boy -racered to death, I can't remember the last time that I saw a tidy one. FZ750s similarly are now rare; that complex engine and poor build quality has seen most of them off. The VFR has gone on to become a motorcycling legend, regarded simply as the best and still effectively in production today in modified form. But the advantage the GPX has now is price. A similar age / condition GPX can be had for half the price of the equivalent VFR, making the GPX a worthwhile option for cheap transport with a few thrills bunged in.
================== Techy bit ========================Engine and transmission __________________
Displacement: 748.00 ccm (45.64 cubic inches) Engine type: In-line four Power: 100.00 HP (73.0 kW)) @ 10500 RPM Compression: 11.2:1 Bore x stroke: 68.0 x 51.5 mm (2.7 x 2.0 inches) Valves per cylinder: 4 Fuel control: DOHC Cooling system: Liquid Gearbox: 6-speed Transmission type final drive: Chain
Chassis and dimensions __________________
Weight incl. oil, gas, etc: 223.0 kg (491.6 pounds) Front tyre dimensions: 110/90-16 Rear tyre dimensions: 140/70-18 Front brakes: Dual disc Rear brakes: Single disc
Other Specifications ___________________
Top speed: 230.0 km/h (142.9 mph) Fuel capacity: 21.00 litres (5.55 gallons)
================= Owning and riding =======================I've owned a 1986 model for two years; I use it as a spare bike and in winter to save my beloved Triumph from the ravages of salt and ice. The bike is reliable, starts exceptionally easily, and has does everything asked of it with some ease. Staring the bike involves the left hand handlebar mounted choke lever - in common with many Kawasaki's this seems to be an on / off choke rather than a progressive affair. Starting the bike from cold makes it rev to 4000rpm, easing the choke back makes it stall. As a consequence the bike needs warming up before riding (don't we all). Setting off is painless, the gears are positive; despite the side stand fouling my size 12s and the gear change on the left hand side. The clutch is hydraulic and as a consequence smooth, this really should be compulsory fitment to all bikes. The engine is smooth; perhaps too much so, short changing can make reasonable progress to 70 without ever making the bike break into a sweat. There is a definite step up in power at about 6500 rpm, an engine speed which when passed transforms the bike from pipe and slippers to, well, something a little more spirited if not quite rip snorting. It goes quite well from there to the redline at 11,000 rpm, power tails off right at the end of the rev range. Fuel economy is good; I average about 45mpg and 50+ is easily possible. Tyres also seem to last well, mine came with good tread at both ends and the 10,000 miles I've put on has not seen off either. Perhaps the sedate riding in winter conditions explains this! The conditions may also explain the brake rot, something that needed attending to for this years MoT. The rear caliper had seized, not quite fully but enough to fail. The seals had been pinched against the pistons, and the calliper pins were also rotten. All resolved by a good clean and some new seals. Comfort on the bike is good, even two up. I'm 6'4" and the layout is plenty big enough for me. The bars are sit up and beg compared to a modern sports bike, but I have heard others complain that the riding position is too radical. I have no idea in comparison to what though... The seat is well padded and firm, while the fairing keeps off a surprising amount of wind and weather. The instruments are clear; there is a fuel gauge but no clock. The speedo and tacho are clear though. Handling is fine without begin too exciting, the small front wheel off setting the long wheelbase to make turn in balanced enough. The GPX is definitely no flickable though; the big weight and length can't be completely disguised. The brakes are generally good for the age, certainly better than the skinny and stupidly anti dive equipped forks can cope with. The last thing to mention is the headlight, this is bright enough for lowish speeds but I wouldn't fancy 140mph in the dark seeing by this alone. Reliability on mine has been excellent, people keep telling me to expect cam chain trouble, premature cam wear and so on, but I haven't experienced any of these yet. At this price any problem like this would be terminal for the bike, as they would cost more to fix than the bike is worth.
========== Buying ================ These are probably too rare now for the local paper, MCN, Bike Mart or Ebay almost always have more than one for sale on each.
Prices range from £250 for a tatty nail up to about £1000 for a tidy late registered example. Mine cost me £700 two years ago, and with 53,000 miles on is probably worth around £500 now.
At this age of bike buying is as much about the owner as the bike, try and buy unmodified if possible, replacement exhausts are ok but don't touch anything 'tuned'.
There are no differences between model years other than colour schemes, you may find one registered as late as 1990 on an H or even a J 91 plate. These younger bikes are not worth any more than the 1986 ones, the condition is the most important factor.
========= Summary ===============
The GPX is great as cheap transport with a turn of speed, and as such makes itself excellent value for money at current market prices. It just doesn't stand up to a similar age VFR750 on any other account.
PS - The bike this review was based on is now for sale on ebay - £349 starting price and no reserve! Get in quick for an early winter bargain!
Pictures of Kawasaki Ninja GPX750R
My red and white one
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