Kawasaki ZX-9R-C Ninja
Liquid cooled, four stroke, transverse four
cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
75 x 50.9 mm
4X 40mm Keihin CV40 carbs
Digital / electric
143 hp 104.2 kW @ 11000 rpm (rear tyre 129.4 hp @ 11000 rpm )
101 Nm @ 9000 rpm
6 Speed / chain
40mm Telescopic forks, preload, compression and rebound
Uni-Trak piggy-back monoshock, reload,
compression and rebound damping adjustable.
2x 296mm discs 6 piston calipers
Single 220mm disc 1 piston caliper
Dry-Weight / Wet-Weight
183 kg / 202 kg
Braking 60 - 0 / 100 - 0
12.8 m / 37.5 m
10.3 sec / 221.6 km/h
For 1998, Kawasaki completely
redesigned the ZX-9R. The basic roadgoing bias of the bike, with
the relaxed riding position and generous chassis dimensions
remained, but the character of the bike was fundamentally
stroke and redline remained unchanged; everything else was
completely new. The clutch was changed from hydraulic to
cable-operated. The generator was moved from behind the cylinder
to the more conventional location at the left end of the crank.
There was now no balance shaft. The valvetrain switched to
direct valve actuation, and the cylinder head was plumbed for
then-new plug-top ignition coils, replacing more conventional
remote coils and high-tension leads. Notably, the new engine
also featured a Hall-type cam position sensor on the exhaust
camshaft. Cam position sensors are typically used in conjunction
with electronic fuel injection. As the ZX900C featured induction
by Keihin 40 mm CV carburettors, a cam position sensor wasn't
necessary. Its inclusion could indicate that Kawasaki had
designs to include fuel injection on the engine in the future,
but this did not happen until the 2003 introduction of the
Z1000, which uses a bored-out ex-ZX-9R engine with a
side-draught cylinder head.
The frame lost the steel engine
cradles, but also its bolt-on subframe and the rear ride height
adjuster. The swingarm was a new unbraced, rectangular-section
extruded design. The wheel sizes were the same, but the wheels
were a new, lighter design. The brake calipers carried over, but
the discs were smaller and lighter without stopping power being
affected. New 46 mm right-way-up KYB forks replaced the heavier,
though stiffer 43 mm USD's on the B model. The rear shock
changed from a remote-reservoir to a lighter, more compact
piggyback design. The wheelbase dropped 30 mm to 1410 mm.
Overall, with a factory-quoted
dry weight of 183 kg, the C-model weighed less fully fuelled
than the first B-model weighed dry.
Visually, the new bike retained
the rounded, voluptuous, organic look of its predecessor, but
became sleeker, with a slimmer tail unit and a smaller fairing.
As a consequence of the smaller engine and shorter wheelbase,
though, the fuel tank became wider and intruded more on the
riding position than before.
At launch in late 1997, the
ZX900C caused a sensation. The total redesign resulted in a bike
which thoroughly outclassed the modest update of the FireBlade
Honda introduced for that year. The two bikes were now evenly
matched on weight, but the ZX-9R retained its power advantage
and was universally acclaimed as the better sport bike; it was
faster, it handled better and possessed a raw, involving feel
for the rider. By contrast, the 1998 FireBlade was widely
criticised for its uncommunicative handling. In addition,
Kawasaki chose simple, single-colour paint schemes for the
ZX-9R, offering the bike in the house colour of lime green,
candy metallic blue and, in some markets, candy metallic black.
Unfortunately for Kawasaki, late
1997 also saw the introduction of the Yamaha R1. While flawed in
several respects, this completely new sport bike design offered
performance and styling which rightfully went on to capture the
imagination of the motorcycling public.
The 899cc donk is of an
oversquare design allowing for big valves while providing a short
stroke which in turn helps to reduce piston speeds, and increase
engine longevity. This stock 5000 kilometre ZX9R pumped out 128 SAE
corrected rear wheel horsepower. A standard Yamaha
R1 had registered 131 horsepower on the same
dyno a week previous to our run.
Kawasaki, the masters' of
ram-air, have endowed the ZX9R with two ducts under the single lens
headlight which feed cool air to the pressurized (at speed) airbox.
The brilliance of Kawasaki's
ram-air system is demonstrated by virtue of the fact that even though
R1's normally show a couple more horsepower on the
dyno', the ZX9 tops the R1 by a few
kph in timed top speed runs. Both bikes will break a genuine 170
mph. Lower RPM roll-ons however show the advantage an extra 100cc
makes with the R1 getting the better of the
ZX9R in that department.
The quartet of Keihin CVKD 40mm
carburettors feature a Kawasaki Throttle Response Ignition Control (K-TRIC)
throttle position sensor which adjusts ignition timing for all
throttle settings. Throttle response is very good, but not
8500 rpm is the start of the
sweet spot, it maybe a factor of the ram-air, but at 8500 rpm things
take a definite trip on the wild side.
The ignition system uses compact,
plug mounted ignition coils. In other weight saving endeavours
Kawasaki have made recyclable magnesium covers for the cam, clutch,
generator, pulser and drive sprocket.
A brushed titanium muffler caps the four-into-one exhaust system. The
bike is reasonably light (183 kilos dry - 211 kilos wet) but does not
feel as light as say a GSX-R 600 which is
only a few kilos lighter, but then again it feels nowhere as heavy as
Aluminium triple clamps secure
the 46mm, predictable and fairly compliant, conventional forks. Racer
boys will definitely want harder fork springs though. The rear shock
copes admirably when trying to put the power through to the rear tyre,
high speed bumps don't seem to unsettle the rear at all, but the front
does become very light. However, it never seems to get out of hand
and is predictable.
The handling has a definite road
bias, but can still be hustled quickly through the tight stuff. Some
short-shifting is necessary if the bends aren't too far apart, in
order to arrive at the next bend with the front wheel on the deck.
Very amusing indeed.
Through really tight stuff, a
well ridden ZX6R, GSX-R 600, R6 or
CBR6 will eat the ZX9 alive, as is the case for most of the
high powered road-burners. Handling nirvana is a 600 and if corner
speed is everything to you they may be a better choice. However, If
you get off on sheer adrenaline thrills, the major league power
delivery of the ZX9R will win your heart. On the ZX9 150 kph wheelies
are too easy, 200 kph wheelies are not out of reach. But monos are
very irresponsible readers', and of course they are no fun at all. Geez
I am a bad liar.
The standard fitment of
Bridgestone BT56R tyres provide awesome stability but this comes at
the expense of nimble handling and fast turn in. I prefer to use the
aggressive 207GP Dunlops which seem to transform the ZX9R into a much
more nimble mount. Stability of course suffers - but luckily the ZX9
has stability to spare and it never really gets out of hand.
The front brakes consist of 296mm
discs clamped by powerful six-piston calipers. Out back a 220mm rear
rotor is employed. The brakes have great bite with no fade. I have
heard people say that the brakes are too powerful. The fact is with a
bike capable of the sort of speed the ZX-9R can get to - the more
brakes the better as far as I am concerned.
Clutch take-up is good and
progressive. The gearbox is very smooth, only giving a false neutral
when you are bit too limp with your shifts.
Instrumentation is quite good -
an electronic speedometer/odometer is driven by sensors located on the
countershaft sprocket nut (so you know how fast your wheelies are),
electric tachometer, LCD clock (oh yeah !), odometer, trip meter, and
coolant temperature gauge with LED warning light.
On the more practical side of
things the Ninja has nylon bungee straps attached under the pillion
Simply remove the pillion seat
and poke the straps over the fairing and re-install the seat. Now you
have 4 perfectly adequate tie-down points for your swag etc. No need
to worry about taping the bodywork up at the sides to protect them
However if you are carrying
anything at speed, and what you have used to tie your gear to the
straps can stretch... It does pay to put a piece of tape on the
paint-work just behind the pillion seat in case of rubbing as your
load moves backwards.
The Ninja is also quite
comfortable, I would say it is nearly as accommodating in this respect
as a VFR for the rider. Pillion's are not
so well catered for but still not too badly done by when compared to
The tank range is very good. I
ran it dry at 321 kilometres but have heard reports of people getting
350 kilometres out of a tank on long stretches. The advertised tank
capacity is 19 litres, however this figure is closer to twenty, after
switching to reserve you have about 50 kilometres to find fuel.
Normally hard riding will see you get around 200 kilometres from the
tank however if you really get stuck into it the tank can be drained
in as little as 140 kilometres.
Quality of finish is quite good.
The fairing below the screen seems very resistant to stone chipping
(much more so than the VFR).
The Ninja is great on the road
and no doubt one of the fastest road-burners on the market, but it
would not make a great track tool. The 600 set, Blade and
R1 are faster on the track. Road riding is of course a
different matter and the tides turn in favour of the ZX-9R. Where do
you ride most ?