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Review Kawasaki ZX-9R

Trembling game

The first test ride on the new ZX-9R raised serious concerns for the Kawaski technicians. With annoying fork flutter and other small inconsistencies, the performance unfortunately went wrong. Now the first series machine is ready to iron out the mistakes. We are excited.

A look back: In mid-November, Kawasaki presented the revised ZX-9R in Misano, Italy. Everything a little better, a little stronger, a little faster, a little more durable, that’s how the facelift had imagined. Puff cake. Long faces on the test drivers in the trade press, gloomy expressions on the German Kawasaki technicians. The new Ninja suffered from fork fluttering, depending on the driving style, to a greater or lesser extent when braking, in which the fork legs swing back and forth horizontally at high frequency.
Henning Schrader, Kawasaki Product Manager and a private recreational racing driver, of course on the ZX-9R, sets out with his technicians to investigate the cause just a few days later. At the beginning of December the unexpected all-clear from Japan: Everything is okay, no problems recognizable, the delivery of the ZX-9R to dealers and the trade press begins.
While Central Europe is sinking into the snow, the MOTORRAD test team maneuvers the new ninja out of the van in warm Spain. The photographer shines in competition with the planet: "The sun is laughing, watch your f-stop."Minutes later the films rattle through: Kawa from above, from below, Kawa diagonally, Kawa in the mountains, by the sea, Kawa naked and in Plastic. Everything in the box, the photographer in the sun chair and the Kawasaki from now on in the acid test.
Country roads in Spain – a poem. Away from the coast, in wide sweeps up into the mountains. The grippy asphalt shows the Michelin Pilot Sport its teeth, the ninja claws almost immovably on the ground. But that only works when the French tires are warm, they tumble a bit haphazardly through the landscape and run in love after one or the other ruts. But the rubbers are warm in no time. And that is meant literally. Because the bear power from four cylinders is already there shortly after idling speed and from 8000 rpm is ready to ball your shoulders. For the sake of health, we simply leave everything that goes beyond that stuck on the country road. The time for that will come.
The slight jerking when changing loads turns out to be primarily a problem with excessive play in the throttle cable. Adjusted to almost zero backlash, the abrupt use of power with a sensitive hand is reduced to a minimum. Shift and drive work as usual without any problems. So not worth mentioning.
As already known from the 1999 model, the new model also bends lightly around the corners, leans, nothing to me, nothing to you, from one inclined to the other. First-class handling is not only fun, it also helps you get away with it. For example, when the wicked bend in the road closes even further than you thought, and the median wants to push itself under the wheels. A strong leg pressure on the tank, light pull on the handlebars, and whoosh, the ZX-9R threads itself back into the correct lane. Thank you very much. Only the thing about the righting moment when braking is not fair. Because even test professionals sometimes indulge their thoughts and flinch nervously when the Kawasaki tries to incline across the field during braking maneuvers. That should also be taken literally.
Waves, holes, rag carpets, it doesn’t matter, the ninja can do that, ironing as smooth as butter over secondary roads that have not yet been subsidized by the EU, in other words: paved dirt roads. Or was there anything else? Exactly, the tail shoots out of the deep bumps almost unchecked, creates unrest, nods afterwards. Screwdriver pulled out of the bootleg. Click, click click, tighten the rebound on the shock absorber. But you are amazed, at first nothing changes, two clicks later the hindquarters are stuck in the damping. A bit questionable if only three of 25 clicks can be used. If the setting is correct, there is only one problem on the country road. You almost don’t dare to say it anymore. FORK FLATTER. "We don’t know this problem," says the Japanese. Well, maybe the European bignoses are just too stupid. And indeed, when the rider gently applies the otherwise excellent brakes with six-piston calipers and only grabs vigorously when the fork is almost completely submerged, the handlebars shake gently. Braking according to the manual, then? Joking aside and thinking. Assumption number one: The sharp-edged holes in the brake discs could trigger aggressive, irregular biting of the pads. However, 140 brake disc holes deburred in hard work do not bring any improvement. Just as little as driving tests with all imaginable damping settings and push-through fork tubes to reduce the bending moment of the fork tubes. Tire pressures up and down: no reaction. Crap, and for tomorrow, crisp racetrack heating was announced.
Sun, no wind and the Calafat race track from nine in the morning until five in the evening. Curl up, don’t rush, beautiful arches, smooth lines. Goes great with the ninja. Weird and fast works at least as well, because the ninja goes exactly where you want it. Actually a great motorcycle.
So, now all four throttle valves on the stop! Short rattle. Slide up, damn it! With delayed response, unfortunately, but then without mercy. 148 horses cause acute shortness of breath in the rider with subsequent tunnel vision. Very, very quickly the whole thing, actually no more fun, almost a bit stressful. Even if the ninja stays in the lane up to top speed, stable as a bolt and only twitches the handlebars even on corrugated iron slopes, the full throttle ride needs whole guys with at least seven senses.
GAnyway, the reverse thrust, that’s the end of the fun, because hardly on the brakes, and that is relatively important after the full-throttle sprint, the entire front end shakes. Depending on the section of the route and the braking force, the repertoire ranges from subtle, barely noticeable tremors to brutal braking, with everything from the front wheel to the headlights to the rear-view mirrors shaking and shaking. During braking maneuvers on the last groove, the rider in a hurry also struggles with the tire grip of the punching front wheel and asks himself the question: turn into the gravel bed? But even in such confused life situations the Japanese show us the right way with a clever, western bureaucratic wisdom. "The driver of the vehicle may only drive so fast that he is constantly in control of his vehicle" (StZVo § 3.1 and current Kawasaki advertising for the ZX-9R). And where he’s right, the Japanese are right. But what remains for the Kawasaki fans for the year 2000? The hope that the German importer’s eager test work will soon bear fruit and that the Kawasaki technicians will push a solid modification afterwards.

Comparison of the ZX-9R model 1999 versus 2000

Nothing interests the ZX-9R pilots more than the question: is the new one noticeably better? So MOTORRAD packed a 1999 ninja in the van and clarified the question in a direct comparison. The seating position on the "old one" feels a bit more compact and comfortable. Causes: the handlebar stubs, which are around 20 millimeters narrower and slightly higher, and the flat, very comfortable seat cushion. Tea seat cushion of the new model is slightly curved and, thanks to its softer upholstery, has less contact with the motorcycle. The new model vibrates noticeably less in all speed ranges due to the partially elastic engine mountings, making it appear subjectively more refined and quieter. In terms of handling and cornering stability, there were hardly any differences, despite the new ZX-9R’s 190 tire. Both test machines stood on the extremely handy Michelin Pilot Sport, which, once warmed up, break brilliantly around the corner, goal stand up strongly when braking in an inclined position. The "old one" tends to have a slight fork flutter when approaching the racetrack, but this subsides very quickly and is hardly annoying. The suspension comfort of the new ones is better on bumpy roads, but the feedback to the driver through the tighter damping of the fork and shock absorber on the 1999 model is clearer. On the dynamometer, the new runs mercilessly away from the old in direct comparison. The modified engine of the 2000 model is superior not only in terms of top performance, but also in terms of torque (see performance diagram on page 27). During the light test, the large double headlights of the 2000 Ninja shine significantly brighter and with better side edge illumination, especially in high beam.

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