Top test Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R


Top test Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R

Top test Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R

New game New luck?

Plagued by chassis weaknesses after the last overhaul two years ago, the Kawasaki engineers have thoroughly improved. Reinforced and optimized at every nook and cranny, the new Ninja enters the ring for a top test.

What a commotion on the scene. “Doesn’t exist, can’t be, impossible,” contradicted the Japanese technicians and test drivers to the result of the first test of the completely revised ZX-9R by MOTORRAD in the winter of 2000. Diagnosis: a sometimes dangerous fork wobble when braking. The MOTORRAD technicians suspected that the cause was an excessively flexible frame construction in the area between the steering head and the engine suspension. MOTORRAD had checked another three test copies of the first series, always with the same result: a more or less pronounced fork flutter when braking. As evidence, MOTORRAD submitted a video recording of the externally visible vibrations of the fork and front wheel to the Kawasaki importer. There have already been trials with different set-ups and tires – with no prospect of improvement. In the end, modified, less biting brake pads defused the situation, but the cause was not actually eliminated.
Lashed in the van, the 2002 ninja is ready to flee to the Mediterranean south. What is not that easy considering the general weather conditions: sledding on the Acropolis, snowball fights on Vesuvius – only in Spanish Calaft does the sun blink through the sky and beckon you to enjoy two-wheeled fun. And if you don’t mind fiddling with the choke, you can enjoy the ZX-9R power package from the very first second. Smooth, quiet engine running with acoustically robust snorkeling. Without the ugly “clonck” of some big bike transmissions, the first gear moves smoothly into its position, and the remaining five gears can also be precisely sorted. Regardless of whether it’s hectic racing on the racetrack or swaying country roads, you can rely on the Kawasaki transmission. You can also rely on the thrust from 899 cubic centimeters, which below 6000 rpm does not embody the barbaric tearing of a Yamaha R1 or Suzuki GSX-R 1000, but makes the jagged sprint from curve to curve highly dynamic. Even better: the soft, almost jolt-free use of power and barely noticeable load changes of the carburettor-equipped engine in tight bends and when crossing crowded city centers.
May it be a little bit more? Here you go, because if the throttle grip is at the stop, the green syringe marches off as if stung by a tarantula, turns with a bite in four-digit ranges. And that’s exactly what defines the lively character of the ninja. Big bike or not, this engine manages the balancing act between beefy pulling power and roaring revving, it makes a bit of a lively 600cc, but also hurls lazy riders into orbit with a short turn of the throttle. From standstill to 200 km / h in eight seconds – who needs more pressure? At 276 knots top speed over the railway ?? too slow? Of course, there are devices that go a tenth of a second faster, press a few more Newtons more on the rear wheel. But the numbers hocus-pocus is nit-counting, the bottom line is that the Kawasaki has a great engine in the new chassis, which does not have to hide from the injection engines when it comes to exhaust gas cleaning with a combination of a secondary air system (SLS) and an unregulated catalytic converter, or when it comes to consumption.
And the new chassis? A perfect match for the engine. Even if the ergonomic design with the wide tank and the relatively high fairing dome makes the ZX-9R appear larger, heavier and more massive than it actually is, the Ninja is one of the handy and nimble athletes in the upper class. Despite the 16 kilograms that it has more on its ribs than Yamaha’s R1 and GSX-R 1000, the Kawasaki folds effortlessly in an inclined position and slides through the pylon course at lightning speed even in the slalom test.
Compared to the previous year’s model, the new Ninja benefits from the optimized coordination of the fork and shock absorber in all areas of application. The usable adjustment range is broad enough to tailor the sports bike to almost every taste and use. Soled with the grippy Michelin Pilot Sport, the Kawasaki hits exactly the desired curve line, bangs around curves of all kinds without tilting. Tight, wide, ironed or folded, the ninja doesn‘t care. Only on the brakes does she become a stubborn donkey, refuses to turn in, refuses to tilt, but turns pirouettes with ease when the brake is released. However, this installation moment is less due to the Kawasaki than to the Michelin front tire.
Speaking of brakes: The Tokico six-piston calipers of the old ZX-9R are out, now Nissin four-piston calipers are biting into the brake discs, which have been enlarged from 310 to 320 millimeters. And with success. A tad superior to the six-pack in terms of dosage and a similarly high level of effectiveness, the change is actually a step forward.
And the fork flutter when braking? Has disappeared. Only a slight tremor of the fork pipes in the horizontal direction can be observed on poor roads. However, this has nothing to do with the violent fork flutter of the previous models, has no effect on the driving behavior and can be observed on some other machines. A solid cast aluminum part between the steering head and the new motor screw connection attached in front of the cylinder head supports the molded sheet metal parts of the bridge frame and now has the enormous bending and torsion forces easily under control. Regardless of whether you are loaded with a pillion passenger, whether on Spanish country roads of the fourth order or on the more than 400 kilometers of racetrack – the fork flutter is gone. Basta.
And that’s a good thing, because now the choker that the Kawasaki engineers gave the ninja with on the way stands out: not brutal sportiness, but the successful compromise between game and sport. Basically, it is a full-blown version of a Honda CBR 600 F, which easily gets touring, sports and bread roll picking under one roof. The handlebars, which are not clamped too deeply, make sweeping country roads a hearty pleasure for hours without orthopedic aftereffects, the wind is beaten by the high pane, and a sensitive spring / damper adjustment leaves the seals where they belong. Despite the stabilization measures on the frame and swing arm as well as a tighter basic tuning of the spring elements, the ZX-9R does not cause much trouble when it comes to handlebar slap. Where other big bikes twitch nervously, the ninja remains almost unmoved, showing only slight unrest that subsides in a jiffy. If you don’t trust peace, you will find mountings welded to the frame for retrofitting a steering damper. Very clever.
It’s nice that when the ZX-9R was renovated, the seat cushion was brought back into the right shape and the pilot can sit on a flat, tight saddle. It’s good for the eye that the ugly cladding bars in the cockpit area, commonly referred to as deer antlers, have had their day. Now you have a clear view of the watch collection, conventionally with a clock face and hands, but informative and clearly arranged.
M.ith a hymn of praise for the excellent pair of headlights, we come to the end of everyday life and do a few more laps on the race track in Calafat, Spain. Right in the middle of it, instead of just being there, the ninja irons with the amateur race training, cuts a fine figure with the reinforced chassis. Quieter when accelerating, more precise when turning, more stable when leaning than the previous model, the efforts have paid off. Even if the fork and shock absorber could use a bit more damping reserves and more feedback when heating up the racetrack, it is extremely astonishing how the buzzers thrash around the corners. Ritsch-Ratsch, scribble the notches over the asphalt, but the ninja holds the course, puts you in a good mood and shows off her lively 600er qualities on the narrow course. No excessive torque tears the tires, instead the Kawasaki pushes out of the corners at high speed but controllable, linear pressure, can be squeezed out into the red area on the short straights. The new brakes stand their ground, don’t get out even after twenty hurried laps.

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Top test Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R

Top test Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R
New game New luck?

What else caught my eye

Plus 0 All deflection levers have grease nipples0 Large, practical oil filler neck0 Threaded sleeves welded on the swingarm for assembly stand Minus0 Bad accessibility of the spring preload on the shock absorber0 Boot heels scratch the paintwork of the swing arm upper cables when sitting in a sporty position0 Creaking noises when braking hard in the tension level of the steering head in the area of ​​fork bridges / fork head 1 ½, pressure stage 2 turns open, preload 2 rings visible. Fork protrusion 10 mm. Shock absorber: rebound 5, compression 2 turns open. Spring preload 180 mm preloaded length, spring strut with 9 m spacer sleeve underneath. Race track: fork rebound stage ¾, compression stage ¼ turns open, preload 2 rings visible, fork protrusion 10 mm, shock strut: rebound stage 5, compression stage 1 turn open, preload 180 mm, shock absorber underlaid with a 12 mm spacer sleeve.

The most important changes in detail

0 Frame in the steering head area reinforced by means of cast parts0 Second, forward-positioned engine screw connection on the cylinder head0 Rear, upper engine mounts now rigidly screwed (previously with rubber mounts) for more frame stability0 Swing arm provided with stabilizing upper cables0 Optimized, more usable adjustment range of the damping on the fork and shock absorber0 Harder fork springs0. Improved and comfortable fork springs0 Nissin four-piston calipers at the front0 320s replace the 310s brake discs0 No rear handles for pillion passengers0 Newly designed rear fairing0 Lighter and narrower 525 chain and sprockets instead of 5300 Offset of the fork tubes reduced from 30 to 28 millimeters (results in a longer trail) Fork width from 205 to 210 mm increased (for more stability and better steering precision)


Finally. With a new chassis and improvements in detail, the new ZX-9R can catch up with the competition. A splendid country road cracker with nimble handling, the best brakes and proper wind protection. When things get down to business on the race track, the new ninja still has a few sharp arrows in her quiver. Whether that’s enough to steal the show from the established racers?

Braking and driving dynamics

Braking measurement Braking distance from 100 km / h 38.8 meters Average deceleration 9.9 m / s2 Comments: Spontaneous, easily controllable response behavior. Good braking effect with fine controllability. When the rear wheel lifts, the fork flexes as far as the hydraulic stop, but the motorcycle remains stable and free of brake pads. Handling Parcous I (fast slalom) Best lap time 21.2 secVmax at the measuring point 104.5 km / h Comments: Very little steering effort required for this motorcycle category. Good driving stability when changing lean angles with a sporty, firm damper setting. Only the wide tank is subjectively annoying. Very calm and stable at the tight turning point thanks to low load change reactions. Due to weather-related circumstances (Siberian winter), the slalom course II and the circular path with a diameter of 46 meters on the MOTORRAD test track could not be used. Values ​​will be determined and delivered as soon as possible. The testing department asks readers for their understanding.

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