25 years of Kawasaki Ninja History
Kawasaki celebrates 25 years of the Ninja sportsbike name.
25 Years of the Ninja 1984-2009
Kawasaki is currently celebrating 25 years of the Ninja name. From 1984, the now familiar Ninja logo has adorned the bodywork of Kawasaki’s fastest sports bikes. While this name has more often been seen in the US market than Australia, very few motorcycle enthusiasts here would not associate the name Ninja, with a powerful, and often class leading sportsbike.
This is a collection of images and a brief description of some of the more memorable Kawasaki tyre fryers, starting way back in 1984, with the GPz900R…
The 1984 GPz900R
After years of 2 valve 4 cylinder model evolution starting in the early 70s with the Z1, Kawasaki needed something radical to climb back to the top of the motorcycle heap. In 1984 they unleashed the GPz900R, equipped with Kawasaki’s first liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve, four cylinder.
The six speed 908cc rocket used the engine as a stressed member and made115 hp. With a top speed of more than 250 km/h and able to run the 0-400 m in around 10.5 seconds, the GPz900R rewrote the motorcycle record books and took the top spot as the world’s fastest bike. When sales started in 1984, it is named “Bike of the Year” by magazines all over the world.
Anti dive forks, 16 inch front wheel, a uni-track rear suspension and cutting edge sports bike styling at the time completed the package. The side driven cams in the all new motor design, was the first “compact” type 4 cylinder engine, allowing a much narrower motorcycle profile.
The first “Ninja” continued in production for many years, only giving up its flagship role years later.
One year after the GPz900R came what many consider to be the birth of the 600 supersport category. Badged as a Ninja in North America, the GPz600R matched a four cylinder 600cc engine with a package of excellent brakes and suspension. Its original design made it extremely popular; the GPz600R became a best seller as soon as its sales commenced.
Kawasaki’s unique sports bike philosophy, evidenced by the modern design of its newly developed aluminium frame, sets the new machine apart from competing racer replicas. The first middleweight offering engine, chassis and aerodynamic performance levels to rival larger-displacement bikes the GPz600R set the standard for middleweights to come.
The new 1988 machine featured an extremely rigid aluminium E-box frame inherited from Kawasaki works racers. With a light weight of 225 kg, it has a top speed of 270 km/h, guaranteeing Kawasaki’s position as the fastest motorcycle in the world.
Around the same time saw the introduction of another line of “Ninjas” the 89 ZXR750, which was the right capacity for Superbike racing, based on production sportsbikes.
Scott Russell won the 1992 Daytona, and the AMA Superbike Championship that same year on the race bred Kawasaki. He teamed up with Kiwi Aaron Slight to win the Suzuka 8 hour in 1993.
1990 sees the release of the ZZ-R1100 as it was known here, which has an unbelievable maximum power of 147 PS. To increase engine power output, it employs the first “Ram Air System” – a duct at the bottom of the front face that directs air directly into the air cleaner.
The “monster bike” also features the first speedometer with a 320 km/h dial. For the next six years it is the world’s undisputed “King of Speed”. This model gives birth to the “flagship” category.
The ZZ-R1100 was updated in 93, with a lighter aluminium frame, refined ram air system, and bigger brakes, retaining its title as Kawasaki’s “King of Speed”
1994 and Kawasaki released a larger Superport machine, the ZX9-R. Based on the 750 design, the 900 featutred a twin ram air system, and aluminium frame.
Often referred to as one of the best looking bikes ever made, the ZX-7R model was the refined version of the Ninja that had won Kawasaki the 1993 World Superbike Championship. Massive twin Ram -air ducts feed the new short stroke engine.
The new millenium arrived along with the flagship model of Kawasaki’s supersport “Ninja” Series.
Intended to be the successor to the King of Speed throne, the Ninja ZX-12R features the first mass-produced aluminium monocoque frame, an advanced technology liquidcooled DOHC 16-valve In-Line four cylinder engine with a maximum power of 178 PS, an aerodynamically crafted chassis and numerous other unique features.
Sales of the ZX-6R (636 cm3) and the ZX-6RR (600 cm3) commence. Designed to be the
quickest circuit bikes in their class, these completely redesigned Sixes feature many components usually
found only on race bikes.
Introduced to the world’s press on the 20th anniversary of the original Ninja (GPz900R), Kawasaki’s new 2004 litre-class supersport model is designed for one purpose: total domination on the circuit.
Boasting an engine output of 175 PS, and weighing in at a mere 170 kg, the ZX-10R has a power-to-weight ratio greater than 1. Incredible performance and racer-friendly characteristics make it the winner of supersport shootouts around the world and earn it the title of Master Bike – two years in a row.
2005, and sales of the ZX-6R (636 cm3) commence. More power, less resistance and more control make new 6R the most potent middleweight on the circuit or road.
Kawasaki fans rejoice at the arrival of the ZX-14. Featuring Kawasaki’s most powerful engine ever and an all-new aluminium monocoque chassis wrapped in aerodynamic bodywork, the new flagship is a showcase of the latest technology and Kawasaki craftsmanship. The ZZR1400’s balance of performance and handling recalls the legendary machines whose spirit it embodies.
2005 the ZX10-R gets a makeover, undertail exhausts, and a slipperier shape. Power is up as well.
Sales of the latest iteration of the Ninja ZX-10R commence. Featuring dual injection and oval sub-throttles, the new 998 cm3 engine focuses on high-rpm performance while maintaining the impressive low and mid-range torque of its predecessor.
Equipped with KIMS (Kawasaki Ignition Management System), a form of traction control, the new 10R offers the precise control that enables the rider to stay in charge.
The new Ninja ZX-6R (600 cm3) arrives. An evolution of the 2007 model, the new 6R takes the track-focused performance of its predecessor to the next level. Reduced weight, chassis fine-tuning and mass centralisation result in a lighter-handling machine.
The first production-use of Showa’s BPF (Big Piston Front fork), combined with the triple petal disc brake package and slipper clutch, offer increased control and composure under hard braking. The updated engine offers a much stronger midrange and precise throttle control and feel at all rpm.
Revised ergonomics complement the control offered by chassis and engine by providing a rider interface with a high level of feedback.