Final: 25 years of the Kawasaki GPZ 900 R

Final: 25 years of the Kawasaki GPZ 900 R
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Final: 25 years of the Kawasaki GPZ 900 R

Fire under the bum

It opened a new era: strong, fast, stable. The GPZ 900 R, Kawasaki’s first ninja with the first water-cooled, four-valve four-cylinder. She still acts as a role model today.

It was a picture you won’t forget. Had to present a real milestone Kawasaki invited the journalists to Laguna Seca in the USA.

There, in December 1983, editors from Germany competed with super-cool American sprint pilots who wore tight leather and casual scarves. Photos of smoking burnouts and tortured rubber went around the world. They carried a myth into the hearts of motorcyclists.

Glowing fire red stood there a motorcycle on racing asphalt that was a single announcement: Speed. The half-shell fairing, drawn out to the left and right of the rectangular headlight, looked like the lower lip of the villain Darth Vader "war of stars". In 1977, this space epic reinvented science fiction films. Now Kawasaki has reinvented the sports motorcycle with the GPZ 900 R. An era without cooling fins began. Kawasaki’s first four-valve engine with a cooling water jacket formed the basis for unimagined liter outputs. 115 hp from just 908 cc, that sat.

Allegedly called "Kawah" in Arabic "force". Would fit. How old, how old, on the other hand, looked like a Honda CB 900 F Bol d’Or, which just a few years earlier had been considered the sports motorcycle par excellence. And the Yamaha XJ 900 F, released just a year before the GPZ, immediately faded away. In Germany at the beginning of the 80s there was a voluntary self-restriction to 100 HP, but the nags of the GPZ were good at feeding. The muscle man achieved the best acceleration values ​​straight away. 


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Where there is smoke, there has to be fire: MOTORRAD editor Jupp Schmitz steps on the gas.

3.6 seconds from zero to one hundred, 11.5 seconds for the sprint over the quarter mile. Simply cool. So Kawasaki wasn’t that wrong with the presentation via sprint races. The certificate of his participation still hangs on the wall of the motorcycle veteran Franz Josef Schermer. "Our hearts jumped up to our necks", the ex-MOTORRAD editor recalls. Not just because of the whimpering, spinning rear tire. But because the GPZ 900 R "was one of the best motorcycles ever born". The blue ribbon for the highest top speed of the series machines took the GPZ by storm: Tempo 241 lying solo, 232 sitting solo. Respect. Kawasaki had gone back to uncompromisingly strong machines with an unmistakable character. And a displacement of 900 cm³. In the style of the legendary Z1.

However, despite the impressive 85 hp, it embodied another, traditional era of motorcycle construction. Already in the cylinder head of the Z1, around a decade before the GPZ 900 R, two overhead camshafts were rotating. But "Frankenstein’s daughter" rather continued the existing concept of the Honda CB 750 Four. Strong motorcycles as a leisure device, not as a means of transport. Unlike its ancestor, the GPZ 900 R did not focus on evolution, but focused on revolution. Even the type code, "R." like racing, a clear message. Open to a great R experience.

At the beginning, this 900er established the name affix 25 years ago "Ninja". Since then it has adorned all super sporty Kawasakis between 600 and 1200 cm3. A ninja (in German: "More hidden") is an elusive shadow warrior, next to the samurai one of the most famous figures of ancient Japan. Cheap films of the 80s put the black masked fighters a dubious monument; Four-cylinder ninjas have left their mark on the streets of the world since 1984. And what kind of. In contrast to the Z1, the first ninja already had a chassis that was equal to the engine. From the beginning, the GPZ was able to do more than catapult its driver towards the horizon.


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"Old" and "Young".

"Exemplary driving characteristics" MOTORRAD certified the 900 series in numerous comparative tests in 1983 and 1984: "Unwavering straight-line stability at maximum speed and high cornering stability" that was not a matter of course at the time. A "successful combination of caster, steering head angle, wheelbase (1495 millimeters!) and weight distribution" the editors certified her. The superbike weighed a whopping 257 kilograms. But had a rather elaborately made chassis. The actual tubular steel frame was a simple backbone construction that held the engine in place.

But the rear made of aluminum was really innovative. Screwed in for easy repair, just in case. State-of-the-art: the box swingarm, welded from generously dimensioned aluminum profiles, whose practical eccentric makes it easier to tension the O-ring chain. "monotony" At the rear, a progressive central spring strut with a progressive deflection system prevailed at Kawasaki "Uni Trak" called. The air-assisted GPZ fork was pure luxury in 1984, despite the slim 38 mm stanchions. Anti-Dive turned out to be fashionable frills. Just like the small 16-inch front wheel and the 18-inch rear wheel. But the focus of the GPZ phenomenon has always been the newly designed four-cylinder engine. In 1985 the GPZ left all big bikes with at least a full liter of displacement behind them when it was burning on the open track (MOTORRAD 14/1985). The "small" The 900 series was the culmination of its class.

No doubt, Kawasaki had come up with a clever concept. The timing chain was not traditionally located between the two central cylinders, but moved to the far left. Today standard, this measure makes the crankshaft stiffer and saves a crankshaft plain bearing. In addition, this camshaft drive enables short, straight suction paths. Good for the output. The same applies to the compact combustion chambers with a centrally arranged spark plug. A lot of bore (72.5 millimeters) with a short stroke (55 millimeters) made the engine speed-resistant and fiery; thick pistons allow large (and closely spaced) valves for the benefit of good gas throughput. In order to keep the engine compact, the Kawa engineers relocated the chain-driven alternator behind the cylinder head: the 900 engine was 123 millimeters narrower than the air-cooled four-cylinder of the GPZ 1100. Finally, a balancer shaft ensured that the powerhouse ran smoothly. "The technology of the Kawasaki GPZ 900 R is peppered with clever ideas and detailed solutions", exclaimed MOTORRAD 5/1984 in the first test. And how did the customers rejoice? Lots of people.

In 1984, around 2500 customers in Germany followed the motto "Come to Kawasaki". By the end of 1993, when imports were discontinued, around 11600 officially imported copies of the 900s found their buyers. A successful model that has undergone a remarkable image change in nine years "elder statesman" went through. The 900s matured into a famous sports tourer, not a bad career.

As such, it still looks good today, especially from 1990 onwards. Because the GPZ was changed to a 17-inch tire in 120/70 format at the front and a wider rear flap: 150 / 70-18 instead of the narrow 130 / 80s earlier. From 1990 onwards, befitting four-piston fixed calipers decelerated at the front. Until then, they were simple single-piston floating calipers. You can’t use less disc brakes. In the course of the model upgrade in 1990, the already ineffective anti-dive system, which was supposed to prevent the progressive fork from immersing too quickly when braking, was also omitted. But even machines from 1984 pull themselves out of the affair very well by today’s standards. A GPZ is still a pleasure.


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The Kawasaki GPZ 900 R Ninja gives it all.

She must have been way ahead of her time. Hats off. It starts with the dresser, which was heavily criticized at the time. But today’s super athletes bend their knees and upper body far more; the handlebars are also easy to reach. Okay, behind the tightly cut fairing you have to fold up beyond the 200, but current 1000s offer less wind protection. And torture one more passenger. On the other hand, a not too tall passenger sits comfortably on the 900, at least on short journeys.

Amazing how the proportions and dimensions of sports bikes have changed. The GPZ looks extremely long and narrow when viewed through the eyes of the 21st century. But length runs, the youngtimer bolt stably across the track. And the thump at medium speeds, from 5500 tours, is still considerable. A great engine. The sound from the black-painted, 25-year-old silencers is surprisingly subtle. The Kawa is not a child scare. Typically bony, however: their gear. The hydraulically operated (!) Clutch acts inconspicuously. What cannot be said of the chassis. The Kawa is characterized by wobbly cornering behavior due to the small, knobbly 16-inch tires. High self-damping or not, it stands up powerfully when braking or on uneven ground, looks for its own lines. And it continues to fold on its own from certain inclines. This even applies to the famous Bridgestone BT 45, the universal genius among bias tires.

Left-right curve combinations need to be initiated with force on the handlebars; Handiness was not the Kawa’s forte right from the start. Somehow no wonder that 16-inchers disappeared again into oblivion. Feedback from the front gets stuck somewhere in the anti-dive of the insensitive, responsive fork. The shock absorber springs and dampens more sensitively. Toothless, the single-piston stoppers anchor at the front. Hui, hui, hui, you have to pull like an ox, but hardly anything happens.

How would a copy from 1990 brake? Moved with foresight, the ’84 machine is still a remarkable sports tourer. With luggage hook, main stand and huge 22 liter tank. The only thing you shouldn‘t be confused by the pessimistic fuel gauge, otherwise you will go to a gas station much more often than necessary. Or from the turn signal switch, which you have to push back into the middle position again and again. No matter, because the GPZ 900 made many people happy. What more do you want? Well, good, untampered copies are available for less than 1500 euros. The dream of yore, it is within reach. Author’s note: I bought a GPZ 900 R from 1987 with a 1000 piston from the GPZ 1000 RX. Maybe exactly the right thing to do in 2010 in classic races (www.classicsuperbikes.de)? We will see…

Technical data Kawasaki GPZ 900 R Ninja


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Modern: voltmeter in the dominant rev counter, speedometer up to 260, cooling water thermometer and fuel gauge.

Engine:
Water-cooled four-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, four valves per cylinder, dohc, bore x stroke 72.5 x 55.0 millimeters, 908 cm3.84.5 kW (115 PS) at 9000 / min, 86 Nm at 7000 / min, four constant pressure carburetors (0 34 mm), electric starter, six-speed gearbox, O-ring chain.

Landing gear:
Backbone frame made of tubular steel with screwed-on aluminum rear, telescopic fork (0 38 mm) with anti-dive system, rear central suspension strut with lever system, two-arm aluminum swing arm, double disc brake in front, disc brake in rear, cast wheels, tires 120/80 V 16 and 130/80 V 18.

Measurements and weight:
Wheelbase 1495 mm, steering head angle 61 degrees, seat height 780 mm, weight with a full tank 257 kg, tank capacity 22 liters, top speed 241 km / h Price 1984: 11690 marks (5977 euros)

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