Once the fastest production motorcycle that money could buy, Kawasaki’s ZZR1000 is now a bike that’s fast becoming a modern day classic. Launched in 1990, it reigned supreme as the king of speed until the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird arrived and stole its crown in 1996.
The ZZR1100 lived on in the Kawasaki range until just after the turn of the millennium. The earlier C model was improved when Kawasaki launched the revised D model in 1993, and these are the ones to go for. Everything from the general finish to its on road manners are just that bit better than on the original 1990 model. The ZZR1100 isn’t just about big mph figures, it’s a genuine sports tourer that’s more than capable of emptying its full tank of petrol between stops on any long distance jaunt. The D model only received the odd colour change throughout its lifetime and solid colour paint schemes tend to be more popular than some of the flashier two tone paint jobs. The 1052cc water cooled engine gives you a genuine 140bhp, although UK bikes were originally restricted to only 125bhp. This was achieved by using carb restrictor tops that weren’t fitted to derestricted bikes sold in other markets.
What’s it like to ride?
There’s no hiding the fact that the ZZR1100 is a big bike and weighs in at a tubby 233 kilos. The riding position is relaxed, unlike sports bikes from the same era, which means that the pegs are quite low and it’s a bit of a reach to the bars. On the move it hides its bulk well. The engine is bursting with torque from 4,000 revs and beyond, so it’s easy to see why the ZZR was the king of speed. Braking is pretty good, but the older these bikes become the more important it is to keep those four pot calipers up front in tip top condition. For its day, the ZZR1100 was kitted out with a great set of clocks. The speedo and rev counter dominate the view and there is also a fuel gauge and a pair of trips to reset. The mirrors are excellent. They are plenty wide enough and sturdy too with no shaking mirror bodies at any speed. Fuel consumption varies dependant on use, so ride it sensibly and 45mpg can be obtained. Wringing its neck everywhere will see that tumble to the low 30s.
What to look for when buying one?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Kawasaki dealership Wheels Motorcycles in Peterborough. He says: “They might be getting long in the tooth, but the ZZR1100 is still a popular bike. Finding good ones is still possible, though locating exceptional ones gets tougher with each year that passes. A service history is a good starting point, so is finding a bike with fresh consumables. The weak spot is the exhaust. Standard systems are rare now, even if the silencers look shiny and in good shape, you’ll need to lie on the floor and examine the collector box and down pipes. Repairs rarely last and aftermarket exhausts often require the centre stand to be removed. The rear shock is another area that can make or break a ZZR1100 and by now they should be wearing a replacement to the original equipment item. Hagon shocks are popular, they work well and aren’t too expensive. You really need to ride one before parting with any money as poorly set up carbs only show up on a test ride. The deep red and black D series bikes never hang about, but the two tone blue ones take a little longer to shift.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260. He services and repairs motorcycles at their Norfolk based workshop and added: “Get a good one and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about, but buy a bad one and you’ll wish you hadn’t seen it. The engine does have a few well known issues, for example, gearboxes can provide headaches. Abused bikes can jump out of gears and the only way to investigate and fix it is to strip it down. Regular oil and filter changes are advised. Low oil levels can lead to thrown rods which results in a scrap engine. Build quality is pretty good but the radiator and oil cooler are prone to weathering which leads to poor cooling of the engine. Brake calipers are the main reason that we see ZZR1100s come in to the workshop. You can rebuild the stock front calipers, but many owners use the calipers from other models that are a straight fit. The GSX-R600K four pots are by far the most common conversion.”
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