The Nineties were a golden time if you loved 750cc sports bikes. Every Japanese manufacturer upped their game and churned out some of the most memorable bikes from the last few decades. The world superbike series would eventually turn its back on the three quarter of a litre bike , which would in turn lead to their demise from the showroom floor. Kawasaki had a fat 750cc range in the 1980s but this thinned out as they headed into the 1990s. In 1989 Kawasaki created the ZXR750H1, it looked stunning but behind its painted smile, it was heavier and slower than the duller looking GPX750 that it replaced. Kawasaki stuck with the ZXR750 tag and there were several model updates. These included the gorgeous ZXR750J that came with a power capped 100bhp engine and the ZXR750L, which eventually found those lost horses. By 1994 Kawasaki needed something fresh, and the ZX-7R was that answer.
What is a ZX-7R?
Arriving in 1994 the ZX-7R P1 model was bang on trend. It had a fairing inspired by those exotic Suzuka 8 hour race bikes and came in the traditional Kawasaki green livery or a stealthy black option. There was also a red version, but that was always the bridesmaid of the trio. The beauty of the bike was more than skin deep; the alloy spar frame was all new. Fat upside down forks clamped a 3.50×17 front wheel that came with massive 320mm brake discs. Hauling it all up were some Tokico six pot brake calipers. The rear end of the chassis was equally chunky; a fat six inch wide rear wheel was shod with a 190 section tyre. The ZX-7R was an instant favourite with both road and track riders. The engine was good for anywhere between 110 and 120 bhp, depending on the luck of the draw.
UK models were full power but some imported bikes lacked poke. The mid 1990s was the height of the parallel import craze, with the list price for a UK bike being £8,795 in 1994. After a period of parallel wars, all manufacturers had to respond and lower their asking prices but, before then, many bikes were imported from mainland Europe and were sold new in the UK. When the kmh speedos and headlights were changed, most buyers never realised they were buying a bike that had been destined for a different country, sometimes with a 100bhp power cap. The ZX-7R stayed in the Kawasaki range until 2003 and lots of bikes remained unsold beyond then. This was mostly because they were no longer the cutting edge bike it had been 10 years earlier.
The amazing thing about the ZX-7R is it survived for a decade with no more than a few colour changes. The biggest change was to a black frame and swing arm on the P4 model in 1998.
What’s it like to ride?
Jump on board and you are greeted by a head down and butt up riding position, the pegs are quite high too. The equipment is pretty basic, the speedo is crammed with digits and other than a trip, there’s nothing fancy to see on the clock set. The fairing is low and wide and this theme is continued by the alloy frame that hugs the four cylinder water cooled engine. This pushes your legs out a fair way and it’s not the comfiest perch either. Pillions get a pretty bad deal with a mix of high pegs and high saddle. This is not really a bike for two up jollies though and once you’ve worked that out it makes more sense. The engine is a gem, it makes decent grunt low down for a 750 and it’s also a very reliable unit. Most issues with running come from poor maintenance and dodgy power upgrades. Any ZX-7Rs that are fitted with race exhausts will need the carbs setting to suit. The brakes aren’t that wonderful with Tokico six pots having a pretty poor reputation, they don’t wear well. That wide fairing means the mirrors are well placed for seeing where you’ve been. It’s still a capable bike, but you will need to keep it tip top condition.
What goes wrong?
There are no real nasty areas; it’s more a case of parts that are prone to wearing out. Fuel pumps are prone to packing up on high mileage bikes but it’s a quick and easy fix. Build quality isn’t the ZX-7Rs strongest point, exhausts rotted from day one. Likewise things like radiators also deteriorate with time which can lead to hot running issues. The engine is pretty solid.
We asked the trade.
We spoke to Vinny Styles from Wheels Motorcycles to find out what he looks for when a ZX-7R turns up in a deal. “We don’t see too many of these nowadays. People tend to hold on to them. They don’t crash too well. The frame might look chunky but those upside down forks are really strong, which means that any front end impact tends to be transferred to the headstock area which bends the frame, while forks will often remain straight. Build quality is the biggest issue; bikes used all year will never sparkle again. There’s very little paint on those wheels and they give the game away. Non standard parts detract from values, though any ZX-7R with a fresh exhaust is a good thing.”
What parts are in short supply? We called Chris at Grumpy 1260 to find out. “The brakes are the biggest issue for people who ride on a regular basis; many chuck the six pots away and fit four pots from the GSX-R750K models. Electrics are pretty sound, coils can cause the odd issue on high mileage bikes. Radiators corrode, if not caught early you could end up doing damage to your engine thanks to poor cooling. Bodywork is hard to find secondhand, as those big fairings don’t crash too well.”
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