Meaner than a junkyard dog. The ZX7R Ninja is an old school gangster of a bike; crude, out of style, but still brutally effective in the right hands.
A proper 750 in fact. It’s been around for over a decade now, with a succession of updates to try and keep it on the pace with the GSXR750 Suzy – its main rival. If you like your bikes big, brutal and rev happy, the ZX7R Ninja will fit the bill perfectly.
It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does; every time I ride the Kawasaki ZX7R Ninja. I can’t help but let Mr Hyde take over and misbehave on the road once again. The sheer buzz you get from caning the nuts off the 750cc four, especially above 10,000 revs, is utterly addictive. And illegal once you’re out of second gear…
This example was a used model – three years old in fact – but you wouldn’t have known it once out in the countryside around DK Motorcycles Staffordshire warehouse. The thing went like the proverbial off a shovel and had the screaming banshee noise to match its devilish performance. In a nutshell, it felt brand, spanking new and more importantly, like a genuine 1990s designed motorcycle.
Well yes, because the ZX7 of course, can trace its ancestry back to the late 80s, in the shape of the ZXR750. Remember the ’Hoover’ intake tubes? Yeah, that’s the one. But a series of regular tweaks have managed – just – to keep the bike on the same level as the GSXR750 – so long as you stay away from a racetrack. Then, the Kawasaki suddenly shows its Achilles heel, or rather Achilles beer gut – for this is one heavy old blunderbuss of a bike.
It is still fast, handles well on a smooth road, and looks the business to my eyes – especially in its electric blue paint scheme. But time marches on and the ZX7-R carries a heavy legacy of its roots; excess weight. This biking Rottweiler tips the scales at 203Kgs dry, or 446lbs in old money.
How porky is that?
Well, its big brother Kawasaki ZX9-R is only 215Kgs, an anorexic R1 is 177kgs and the GSXR750 is a Kate Moss-like 179Kgs. Makes you wonder whether the Kawasaki 750 has cast iron cylinders and solid gold pistons…
The good news is that the ZX7 carries all this excess baggage very well at speed, in fact it gives the bike a stability on fast corners that gives you 100% confidence in the thing. Totally planted, the Ninja almost ploughs a line through corners. The trade-off is that you need to shift your bodyweight pretty radically to make it drop seriously low on slow, tight corners, or roundabouts. If you like working out, the Kawacker’s fine – if you like an easy life, the ’Blade, R1, Suzy 750, Duke 748 etc. will all feel easier to ride hard, especially at a track day.
All credit to Kawasaki for making a bike this heavy handle so well. The only weak spot the Ninja has in its corner entry, where the bike tends to get all waggly at the back if you push things too hard on the road. Hit a bump whilst hard on the brakes and the sheer mass begins to unsettle the bike – slowly of course, because a bike that outweighs George Foreman won’t exactly feel twitchy.
There’s nothing wrong with the 43mm upside down forks on the Kawa, or its multi adjustable monoshock at the rear. But the suspension simply can’t deal fast enough with all that weight when the roads throw a few 70mph bumps at it mid-corner. Everything loads up, then it gets a bit interesting…
The saving grace that the ZX7R has is also at the front end however, in the shape of two superb stoppers. Time and again, as you begin to learn the lines along a fave stretch of curvaceous A road, the six piston Tokico calipers will slam the front of the bike towards the tarmac with unerring precision and control. Literally lifesavers.
For a three year old bike, that braking performance was nothing short of amazing and streets ahead of the slightly spongy feel on both the Suzuki GSXR750 and the Ducati 748 I rode on the same day, which were brand new bikes. To be fair, the Duke and in particular, the GSXR Suzy, had better brakes by the end of the day as they got a rapid 50 miles or so of running-in. We did run them in…honest. So is the ZX7R still a 750 worth buying?
Consider this; the Duke 748 is as gorgeous as the 916/996 and sounds as good with Termignonis slipped on. It has a crisp, even spread of power that can catapult you in fourth gear from one 80mph sweeping bend to the next, with Swiss knife precise handling to get you through those corners. Yet it costs just £9750 on the road – a whopping two grand less than the 996.
But then again the two Japanese 750s are a lot cheaper than the Duke – at around £6300 on the road, the Kawasaki is good value, and as good as the Ducati is, it isn’t worth three-ish grand more. The Suzuki GSXR750 comes in much closer, with the new GSXR600 promising to be just as quick, much sharper handling and probably as cheap as the relatively ancient Kwak. Indeed Kawasaki’s own ZX6R basically blows the 750 version into the weeds for my money.
Fact is, for all its raucous, bovver boot style, the ZX7R’s day is done. A completely new model – from the ground up – should be at the shows ready for 2001. But it isn’t, as Kawasaki Heavy Industries gradual slide into bankruptcy has probably put any new model programme on the back-burner. That’s a shame, because one day, we’ll look back at the ZX7R as one of the last great rocker’s bikes, a hooligan.
Comfort? Forget it. Fuel economy? Hopeless, you have to rev it to enjoy that 13,000rpm engine, which then glugs petrol at 35mpg. Pillion friendly? Only in a way that a member of the Spanish Inquisition would recognise… The ZX7R is a relic, but still glorious, anti-social fun. Something your mother wouldn’t like and sometimes, being out of fashion is the only way to go.
Get Kawasaki motorcycle insurance for the kawasaki zx7r.
Engine liquid cooled, 4 cylinder, four stroke
Claimed power (bhp) 122bhp@ 11,800rpm
Compression ratio 11:1
Frame; Twin spar alloy beam type
Front suspension; 43mm USD forks, multi adjustable
rear suspension; Kayaba monoshock, multi adjustable, gas reservoir
Front; Twin 310mm discs, Tokico 6 piston calipers
Rear; Single 230mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Fuel capacity; 18 litres
Estimated top speed; 160mph
Seat height; 790mm
Colours; Electric blue, Lime Green, or Red
Top speed – mph
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Current price £6,300 OTR (Import)