Comparison test between Kawasaki ZX-9R and Yamaha YZF-R1

Comparison test between Kawasaki ZX-9R and Yamaha YZF-R1

Motorcycle hike

Green versus red, ZX-9R versus YZF-R1. Motorcycles as they are in the book. High quality material, aerodynamically packaged, almost 150 hp. Which one implements the brute thrust best?

Hazy clouds of mist waft over the wild Ardeche valley, not far from the Mediterranean coast of southern France. The turtlenecks turned up under the racing leather, the fingers still a bit clammy, but otherwise – everything is palletti. Sonor, the two power guys hum to themselves, play on the steep uphill passages with the gravitational pull of cat and mouse. Pulling the gas cable to half-mast, the two big bike athletes sprint from curve to curve. Power in abundance, on the Yamaha from the full liter even more full than with the agile Kawasaki unit. And still a very entertaining way to ride a motorcycle. Because the grenade push shortens the boredom of straight lines to the blink of an eye, curves and hairpin bends melt into a compact comedy.
Each one stages the curve frenzy in its own way. Although its dimensions are rather broad and plump, the ZX-9R twirls lightly around corners like a ballerina. The tourist grafted helmsman doesn’t have to ask the Greens twice. Windy hairpin bends or lightning-fast lean changes – the Kawasaki does it with the left. But there is also something going on on the right. Shrill, screaming, with a slight delay to the gas command, the ZX-9R tears forward eerily fast. Gearshift, drive, everything is fine. Braking like throwing anchors, dosing razor-sharp, keep the whole thing in check. A comfortably designed chassis tuning soothes rough road surfaces, but somewhat disrupts the flow of information between man and machine. In other words: you would like to know more about what goes on between tires and asphalt. Any information that the soft suspension does not eliminate is stifled at the latest in the soft, somewhat unstable seat cushion. The wide cladding dome pushes a pleasantly wide swath into the atmosphere, protecting it from wind and weather. Good times for touristic ventures – bad times for a tough smoke. Because the Kawasaki has not gotten rid of its annoying fork flutter on bumpy terrain and when braking, even to this day.
While on a level road and with average delays, at best, slight
If the fork vibrations indicate a vibration problem, the impulse of a pothole during hard braking maneuvers on an uneven road surface is enough to suddenly trigger a motorcycle tremor of frightening proportions. In some corner passages, this can drive the truck onto the opposite lane due to limited deceleration and maneuverability. And now at least the fun has a hole. Quite a big one.

The Yamaha rider in tow shakes his head incomprehensibly. What’s going on now? Cock the tap and speed away. Despite the eleven kilogram weight advantage, it is not quite as handy as the XZ-9R, but it is beautifully integrated with the road. Not as comfortable as the green one, but firmly locked in place behind the slim, now slightly lower tank, the stubs loosely in the grip. And that’s a good thing, because when the EXUP engine kicks in, it smokes. No matter where and when, it presses in all situations. A real push cart. But be careful: hold the handlebars. The famous Dunlop D 207 tires with special identification (front Q, rear N) dampen well, but not well enough to completely dampen the dreaded handlebar slap on undulating country roads. Especially with the sporty, tightly adjusted damping, it twitches tremendously, and the committed curve robber asks with full justification: Why is the steering damper still missing here? No racing machine in the world can be driven without such a sedative. And the R1 is not that far away from a real superbike. Another question? Why did all three YZF-R1s available to the editorial team have a noticeably large radial play in the rear suspension bearings when they were new? No broken leg, sure, but not necessarily nice for a high-tech bike. Why the well-proven, one-piece brake calipers with the beautiful blue lids lost their bite is easy to explain: new pads, no longer biting, rather subtle. Especially when it is cold, it is more dull than usual, because of overbraking when it comes to startle reactions and so on. When warmed up properly, the pliers grip noticeably more forcefully and build up a reliable delay.
Otherwise there’s nothing to complain about on the R1. Class, the millimeter-sharp steering precision, the infinite ground clearance (on the country road), the grandiose engine, the loving details and the noticeably improved wind protection. It’s also nice that the new R1 has hardly lost any of its radical sportiness and its independent character.

Change of scene. The wheelchair under the station wagon has had its day, and the test pilots squeezed into the leather shirt-sleeved. Lukewarm spring weather at the Ledenon race track in the morning, finally time to really pull the cord.
Doesn’t go badly with the Kawasaki because handling, brakes and engine power are all right. One could now also go into the subtleties of the tuning, the correct air pressure for the grippy Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the best setting of the vehicle level via threaded spindle, and the last click on the shock absorber. But none of this brings us a step forward when, of all places, in critical braking zones, the fork shudder shakes the entire stem and rider. Not always and everywhere, but just when the pilot is already prancing on the last groove anyway.
As a final attempt, we replace the new rubber mountings of the engine on the 2000 model with specially made aluminum bushings in order to integrate the engine into the frame in an absolutely rigid and therefore rigid manner. With the knowledge that all efforts to love are in vain, this modification does not help either.
What‘s next with the ZX-9R? An official statement from the technicians has not yet been received. MOTORRAD remains in dialogue with Kawasaki, however, and we’ll see.
And the Yamaha? Burns round after round in the asphalt of Ledenon. Weird, fast, good.
The qualities of the country road are confirmed on the mountain and valley railway. Here the driver is also a thinker and has everything under control. Thanks to sticky Dunlop rubbers, the tighter fork and the wonderfully compact, concentrated sitting position, the new R1 fires quickly and safely around the track. Even when the aluminum pegs scribble fine lines on the asphalt, it stays tightly on track, without any deviousness, without question marks. Under these driving conditions, dangerous banging of the handlebars remains in the green area as a slight twitch, nevertheless: a steering damper is needed.
And the shock absorber could use a little more damping reserves during the sporty pursuit. For a radical supersport device, everything is a little too soft, a little too much movement when changing loads, the hindquarters pulls into the spring when the force is brutally accelerating outwards. In the end, almost all of the damping wheels are on stop. Please, if there is an adjustment, then with a broad, usable effect.
Und now? Waiting patiently for Honda’s new CBR 900 RR. Kawasaki eliminated itself in the battle for the big bike crown, Yamaha did its homework nerdy, and all other manufacturers are still looking for a powerful concept. The reference in sports clubs is called YZF-R1 – or CBR 900 RR?

2nd place street: Kawasaki ZX-9R

2nd place street With a high degree of suitability for everyday use, from catalytic converters to usable pillion seats, the ZX-9R would be ideally equipped. But because fork flutter emerges as a safety-relevant problem, only the red lantern remains.

2nd place race track: Kawasaki ZX-9R

2nd place racetrack The set-up for comfort would be manageable. But the fact that horse and rider can occasionally find it difficult to stay on the slopes due to the barely controllable brake flutter is simply too much.

1st place street: Yamaha YZF-R1

Uncompromisingly sporty, but not agonizing, the R1 shows how it’s done. Modeled with a fine hand and without great defects, the best R1 ever fought for the crown. The wishes for 2001: catalytic converter and steering damper.

1st place race track: Yamaha YZF-R1

Crazy birds with a penchant for sophisticated technology get their money’s worth. Tea enormous engine thrust is sufficient even for demanding pilots, and the set-up that is too comfortable can be remedied with limited resources.

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