Review of "Kawasaki Ninja ZX9R"

published 29/10/2003 | KneeDown
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"Kawasaki ZX9R F1P"

Smug fat bloke atop new toy !

Smug fat bloke atop new toy !

If you have read any of my stuff you probably have already realised that I do love my ‘bikes.

So no surprise that this is about a ‘bike then – again. I warn you it rambles a bit as well as I am totally over the moon with the bike.

Finally, the “CanIhaveanewbike ? CanIhaveanewbike ? CanIhaveanewbike ? CanIhaveanewbike ? CanIhaveanewbike ? CanIhaveanewbike ?………..” approach worked (got the idea off the telly) and my lovely, witty, intelligent wife finally relented sufficiently to prevent pangs of guilt when arranging the purchase of my new steed.

SOooooooo, as you may have gathered, this is about my new bike !!!!!!!

This will basically be a set of initial impressions and I’ll then update later when the newness of the whole gig has worn off a bit and I’ve finally come back down to ground level from the high I am currently on.

So wot is it then ?

A bike that no doubt is not top of the fashion stakes for most people, is not the fastest or most nimble handling and again, for some folks, is not the sexiest looking thing on two wheels – if you believe any of the dross in the bike mags that is – step forward the much maligned Kawasaki ZX9R.

My machine is a 2002 F1P model in a lovely silver colour with 9800 miles on the clock – barely run in. A piccie will appear in my profile shortly – check it out – I think it is beautiful ??????

A few facts and figures for you to get them out of the way. The engine is a Kawasaki stalwart 899 cc across the frame four cylinder nutcase. It runs very noisily at tick over which apparently is a result of the airbox/ram air design letting quite a few internal noises escape and also the fact that it runs the highest compression ratio of any standard road bike may play a part in that also. It does make a fabulous noise when you are out riding it though.

It supposedly weighs 186kg dry (without oil, water or petrol) an dI can tell you that after wheeling it around my garage I think that's accurate. It is far easier to shift under your own power than my previous Honda VFR750.#

Kawasaki claim it makes around 150bhp at the crank, ( which is around 127bhp at the rear wheel) which is good enough to take you up to the heady heights of the best part of 170 mph.

In this era of lunacy among the judiciary that’s good enough for a month or two in the nick, a total driving ban, hefty fine, loss of your job, potentially the loss of your house and partner and the stigma of having a criminal record as per the recent cases highlighted in Motorcycle News – if you get caught and you don’t happen to have the good fortune to be an international footballer that is !

The one I am thinking of basically got a slap on the wrist yet was also p1ssed when caught at twice the national speed limit in his flash car.

Sorry – rant mode off ! Anyway, no-one can really use all of that performance on the road………can they ?

For tyre freaks, and I know there a surprising number of rear tyre/rubber fetishists out there, the back is shod with a 190 section tyre – all I can say is -

“PHHHHHWWWWOOAAARRRR look at the girth on that willya !”

Original fitment are Michelin Pilot Sport efforts and I have to say that I was originally quite impressed by them. I normally swear by Avon Azarro II’s and I’ll probably try them on the ZX9 once the Michelins wear out. However, last coupla times out, I thought the front didn’t feel that planted. Must check the tyre pressures and do another test through my favourite twisties !

The bike has a gorgeous look to it due to the front twin headlights (which are really excellent at night), and the relatively subtle black and silver paint job – no, it’s not the usual Kawa green in yer face style. I feel that the ZX9 range has always had an air of menace about it, something purposeful in the way it looks at rest which the competition, for me anyway, just doesn’t have.

Recent Fireblades and R1’s look a bit too trendy and too much like the latest must have thing to me. As far as Suzuki is concerned, they lost a lot of individuality when they changed the GSXR’s frames to the now conventional geometry perimeter frame rather than the more high level thin rail frames they used to have. Don;t hassle me about the fact they were bendy - I know !

I have ridden Fireblades and had a brief stint on an early R1 and I think that on the road the ZX9 is easily every bit as good as these other superbikes. No-one in his right mind can claim to want more performance or handling out of a road bike.

On the track, the ZX gives away between 50 and 100cc and a few kg in weight to the comparable opposition so you’d expect it to get done over and that’s why nobody races them in the top short circuit classes.

In the real world though, I think the extra weight helps your confidence as the bike is stable yet also has pretty sharp handling without you thinking there is the constant threat of tankslapping – a frightening experience. However, I’ve read conflicting reports regarding tankslapping and can only surmise that either I am not pushing it enough to experience this or my 6 foot 2 inch 18 stone frame is helping to keep it all together somehow. All in all I think the handling is pretty faultless, and with the range of ajustment available you;d be hard pushed not to be able to find the right settings for yourself if you put the effort into twiddling with the adjusters. Preload, compression, rebound adjustments are all available at the front. Not totally sure about the back yet.

This stability I think is a result of Kawasaki not being drawn into the “lightest, fastest, latest rocket” development war that seems to go on in most sportsbike classes. The ZX is almost thought of as a sports tourer in most circles – which is ludicrous quite frankly.

I have to confess though that that’s really why I bought it.

It’s comfy over long distance due to it’s reasonable seat position, and the screen does it’s job in keeping most of the wind blast off you until you are going ballistic that is. The seat could maybe be a bit plusher for the rider, haven’t had a pillion opinion yet on the seating arrangements back there so can’t comment on that particular area.

The bike is incredibly fast without being too scary and also, as I think I was hinting at earlier, looks the biz as well. My last coupla bikes have been Honda VFR750 Fs of one form or another so the step up in performance should have been quite daunting but I just find that although there is more of everything to the Kawasaki it hasn’t proved a difficult step up in capacity/ performance.

This is a smashing bike and I’d recommend one to anyone that has been riding for a couple of years and wants to step up to the big league.

I think that the ZX9 will prove to be a worthy successor to my VFR albeit one with 50 bhp more, and unlimited wheelie/stoppie potential. I could never “get it up” intentionally on the VFR, it always happened at the strangest times on that bike………oooooo er missus, no tittering at the back there.

Again, probably due to Kawasaki’s lack of cutting edge development, the bike has older style analogue clocks for rev counting and speed metering rather than the all new digital style to be found on R1’s and ‘blades.

To me, that’s fine. I like analogue clocks. They also do this brilliant test routine when you switch the ignition on where the needles go right round to the max and slowly die back to zero – little things eh ?

The only slight niggle with this set up is that the ZX has such a range of performance that the figures on the clock faces need to be in a very small font to get ‘em all in.

I’ve had plenty of “wow mister the speedo goes up to 200mph” comments as well !

This can make it tricky to read them in a hurry. One trick in general use in the biking community though is to mentally mark a position on the speedo and rev counter summat like - “12 o’clock noon = jail – back off !” – or in the rev counter’s case – “2 pm = engine implosion soon” – you get the idea…….

Another thing I need to get used to, which I hinted at earlier, is the difference in power between the VFR and the ZX9. On the VFR, I could wind the throttle to the stop knowing it wouldn’t spit me off or wheelie unexpectedly. This is not the case on the big ZX9 – definitely need to show the throttle loadsa respect ‘til I get used to it.

Moving on to braking……..well what can I say ? Grabbing a handful of brakes in an uncontrolled manner can be likened to a hitting brick wall. The brakes are excellent. They will have you off over the handlebars if you don’t act sensibly with them. This may sound like a criticism, but like the throttle, it’s up to you to use them appropriately and a big, fast bike needs proper stoppers !

Muddy250’s mate apparently found this out….the hard way ……

I recently found out that the brakes have been completely changed since last years model and certainly my bike has four piston Nissin brake calipers on the front instead of last years 6 piston Tokico jobs. Given the amount of power in the four piston set up I can’t imagine what the six piston callipers would be like. Must try and get a shot of one of the E models to compare.

Back to the performance. Acceleration is phenomenal, I’m guessing that most super cars couldn’t touch it 0 to 60 and back again, though too much twist of the wrist as on any big bike will lead to poor mpg and the destruction of drive chain and rear tyre. It’s kinda like that bit in StarWars, when the Millenium Falcon jumps to light speed and you’re looking out the front of it – know what I mean ? I haven’t worked out any exact mpg figures yet as I am still getting to know the bike – but I’ll update when I get an idea. This is the only big negatice point for me – it needs either a fuel gauge or warning light.

As far as overall finish is concerned, Kawasaki has a reputation for sometimes letting themselves down over this, and particularly with the paint coming off of the wheels with little provocation. At the moment, my ZX looks absolutely mintola so I’ll have to wait to see how it fares over the winter before passing comment on this. There certainly doesn’t look like there is any evidence of poor finish at the moment.

I’ve also heard that the bike is prone to a bit of low RPM lurch though this hasn’t been reported on F models as much as E models and there is the possibility that Kawasaki have not completely cured the ZX9’s original Achilles heel of carb icing – but I’ll let you guys know as the plot thickens and winter draws on. There’s certainly been no hint of either niggle as yet.

So there you have it – the beginning I hope of a long and passionate fat bloke/fast bike relationship !

When you have a bike in your garage that makes you go out and check it’s ok and just generally gaze at it from time to time then you know you are on to a winner………..



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Comments on this review

  • Mickie26 published 24/12/2003
    Great op ts of detail. I love my motor bikes, but I'd never buy one and I'd never let my husband buy one either.
  • eve6kicksass published 10/12/2003
    This is your most superb op so far. Exceptionally well detailed and written.....outstanding work. Take care!!! Chris xxx
  • meatloaf5555 published 07/12/2003
    Good op i currently have a zzr 600 and were considering the zx9r as my next bike.
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Product Information : Kawasaki Ninja ZX9R

Manufacturer's product description


Product Details

Long Name: Ninja ZX9R

Bike Type: Sport

Type: Motorbike

Manufacturer: Kawasaki

Stroke: 4


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