Completing the ZZR dynasty of the early 1990s was the smallest of the trio, the ZZR250. It shared the same sleek looks of the bigger, 600 and 1100cc, ZZR models and was the perfect stepping stone for those fresh from passing their bike test. There was no end of sporty 250 models on the market back then, most of which were high revving two stroke models. The ZZR250 appealed to those who still wanted a sporty looking first big bike, but which also benefitted from a four stroke, twin cylinder, engine. In 1992, the ZZR250 (factory codename EX250) replaced the less popular GPX250R in the Kawasaki range and went on to stay in the Kawasaki line up for over a decade with little more than only the obligatory colour and graphics changes.
Visually, the ZZR250 gave the impression of being bigger than its 250cc displacement. The bodywork echoed the design of the ZZR600 and ZZR1100 perfectly and adding extra big bike feel were the twin chromed exhaust silencers. Kawasaki quoted 40bhp from the water cooled twin pot engine, although this was a tad optimistic as a real world figure is nearer to 35 horses. These sporty little four-strokes have done well for the Big K over the years, with the successive Ninja 250, 300 and 400 all being big sellers in the small bike sector.
What’s it like to ride?
The beauty of any twin cylinder machine is it makes for a skinny motorcycle and any rider hopping on board a ZZR250 can’t help but notice how narrow it is. The seat height is 760mm and the saddle is super comfy. The ZZR250 likes to warm up before the off, a juggling act of hitting the starter, thumbing the choke lever and blipping the throttle soon gets the needle on the temperature gauge moving but, once away, there’s plenty of low down torque and the gearbox is worthy of a mention too. It’s super slick and adds to the pleasure of the baby ZZR. Find an open road and the ZZR250 is more than happy to play. There’s power right through the rev range and the red line is a heady 12,500 rpm. The harder you thrash it, the more you’ll notice the vibrations.
The 18 litre tank is another big bike feature that’s a welcome addition to the spec sheet. Given the correct conditions the ZZR250 will creep over a 100mph, but it’s much happier sitting at around the 70 to 80 mph mark. The chassis is more than capable of keeping you out of trouble and handling and braking are both very good, especially if the front and rear brake calipers have been well maintained.
What to look for when buying one?
We spoke to Vinny Styles, Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles, a Kawasaki main dealer in Cambridgeshire. He says: “We don’t see too many ZZR250s these days, instead it’s more likely to be one of the subsequent Kawasaki 250 models that come our way. Kawasaki have always been strong in this part of the market and their Ninja 250 models are still a sought after machine. The ZZR250 usually appears on the private market as they are too old for main dealers to handle. This doesn’t mean they aren’t any good. The dream ZZR250 purchase would have a stainless exhaust system fitted and have covered no more than around 20,000 miles. The engine is good for more miles than that, but not too many bikes get the love and servicing that they need and deserve the older they become. The finish on the ZZR250 was pretty good, but you have to accept that many of these bikes have been owned by people who will have dropped them at least once, maybe more!”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson from Grumpy 1260, they service and repair motorcycles at their workshop in Norfolk. “Neglect is the biggest issue, followed by their age. The earliest ZZR250 models are now almost 30 years old. Unlike the two stroke 250s from the 1990s, not too many people are restoring ZZR250s and even less seem to service them! Servicing the twin cylinder engine is pretty straightforward, though the front four valves are tricky to get to for setting the valve clearances. Some people therefore only adjust the inlet ones! If a bike feels clunky during gear changes firstly adjust the chain, if it continues you’re looking at replacing the cush drive rubbers. On the plus side, it’s a cheap and easy job. The suspension is the biggest issue as there aren’t that many used spares about so owners look for parts from other models that might get them out of trouble. We’ve even seen a ZZR250 that had been fitted with a Kawasaki ZX9R rear shock!”
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