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The Kawasaki ZX-9R was a sport bike manufactured by Japanese company Kawasaki from 1994 to 2003. There were five model incarnations across two basic designs.
Kawasaki developed the model in response to Honda's introduction of the CBR900RR FireBlade for the 1992 model year. Prior to the advent of the FireBlade, large-capacity Japanese sports motorcycles had become polarised. On one side were the 750 cc sport bikes, influenced by Endurance racing and the World Superbike Championship. On the other, the "big-bore" 1,000 cc-plus sports-tourers had become the natural evolution of the performance bikes of the preceding 20 years. In simple terms, the 750s had the handling, the big-bores had the power. In both categories, Kawasaki ruled. The ZXR750 offered the technology and the performance of ultra-expensive racing-homologation models from Honda and Yamaha at half the price, and it outclassed the similarly priced GSX-R750 of the time, which still featured a perimeter frame and an oil-cooled engine, while the ZZ-R1100 held the title of the fastest production motorcycle on Earth.
The FireBlade packaged a 900 cc engine into a 750 cc sport bike chassis. It combined big-bore power with sport bike handling, but, crucially, it also pioneered meticulous attention to weight-saving design. The FireBlade not only outpowered the 750's, it was also significantly lighter. This was the detail overlooked or underappreciated by Kawasaki when they set out to build their FireBlade-beater. In building the first ZX-9R, Kawasaki combined their class-leading big-bore, the ZZR1100, with their class-leading 750, the ZXR750, rather than commit to an entirely new design.
The result was a big motorcycle; despite weight-saving measures like magnesium engine covers, its quoted dry weight was 215 kg (474 lb), almost 30 kg (66 lb) heavier than the FireBlade. It made around 125 hp (93 kW) at the rear wheel on the dyno, between 10 and 15 hp (11 kW) more than the FireBlade, but this advantage in power could not make up for its size, weight and reduced agility. Rather than be a direct competitor, the ZX-9R was retained as a more stable and more comfortable alternative to the Honda, with more straight-line speed. The road-going bias is evident through the raised clipons and more upright seating positions.
The first ZX-9R could be seen as a ZXR750 incorporating a number of ZZ-R1100 design features. The wheels (three-spoke cast aluminium alloy 3.5-inch x 17-inch front and 5.5-inch x 17-inch rear), front forks (fully adjustable 43 mm upside-down KYB) and unbraced fabricated aluminium box-section swingarm with fully adjustable remote-reservoir KYB monoshock were direct carry-overs from the ZXR. Importantly, the twin-piston rear Tokico caliper no longer mounted via a torque arm, and the clip-on handlebars mounted above the top triple clamp, not below. The four-piston Tokico front calipers and 320 mm front discs were common to the ZZ-R and the ZXR.
The frame was a welded aluminium-alloy dual-beam with cast steering head and swingarm endplates, but with steel-tube engine cradles and swingarm-mount endplates extending back to support the rider's seat and attach the bolt-on subframe, like the ZZ-R1100.
The engine was 899 cc. The crankcases, clutch and gearbox were carried over from the ZXR750, with a longer-throw crank and a bigger-bore, taller cylinder block for the larger capacity. The cylinder head was externally highly similar to the ZXR, as well, but incorporated rocker valve actuation like the ZZ-R1100 instead of the ZXR's direct actuation. Redline was 12,000 rpm against the FireBlades 10,500 rpm. Induction was by 40 mm Keihin CVKD carburettors, and the engine breathed through a 10-litre airbox fed by dual ram-air intakes on the nose of the bike, under the single headlight, via ducts passing back and over the frame beams near the steering head, like on the ZZ-R.
ZX900B3 (1996) and ZX900B4 (1997)
Detail changes. Power increased from 139 to 141 hp (105 kW). The rear suspension linkage and rear spring rate were replaced, improving handling. Pillion grab rails were added, the gearboxes were made stronger, and new six-piston Tokico front calipers replaced the previous model's four-piston units. The weight of the bike increased to 218 kg (481 lb).
ZX900C1 (1998) and ZX900C2 (1999)
Engine bore, stroke and redline remained unchanged; everything else was completely new. The clutch was changed from hydraulic to cable-operated. The generator was moved from behind the cylinder to the more conventional location at the left end of the crank. There was now no balance shaft. The valvetrain switched to direct valve actuation, and the cylinder head was plumbed for then-new plug-top ignition coils, replacing more conventional remote coils and high-tension leads. Notably, the new engine also featured a Hall-type cam position sensor on the exhaust camshaft. Cam position sensors are typically used in conjunction with electronic fuel injection. As the ZX900C featured induction by Keihin 40 mm CVKD carburettors, a cam position sensor wasn't necessary. Its inclusion could indicate that Kawasaki had designs to include fuel injection on the engine in the future, but this did not happen until the 2003 introduction of the Z1000, which uses a bored-out ex-ZX-9R engine with a side-draught cylinder head.
The frame lost the steel engine cradles, but also its bolt-on subframe and the rear ride height adjuster. The swingarm was a new unbraced, rectangular-section extruded design. The wheel sizes were the same, but the wheels were a new, lighter design. The brake calipers carried over, but the discs were smaller and lighter without stopping power being affected. New 46 mm right-way-up KYB forks replaced the heavier, though stiffer 43 mm upside down forks on the B model. The rear shock absorber changed from a remote-reservoir to a lighter, more compact piggyback design. The wheelbase dropped 30 mm to 1,410 mm (56 in).
Overall, with a factory-quoted dry weight of 183 kg (403 lb), the C-model weighed less fully fuelled than the first B-model weighed dry.
Visually, the new bike retained the rounded look of its predecessor, but became sleeker, with a slimmer tail unit and a smaller fairing. As a consequence of the smaller engine and shorter wheelbase, though, the fuel tank became wider and intruded more on the riding position than before.
The 1998 ZX9r was the first stock motorcycle to run a quarter-mile in the 9s (9.99 sec at 136.8 mph).
ZX900E1 (2000) and ZX900E2 (2001)
A dramatic new look was introduced for the 2000 model, with distinctive twin headlights and a separate ram-air intake replacing the single headlight and integrated intake of the C-model. The engine gained a few horsepower from slightly shorter length CVRD 40 mm carburettors, a compression ratio increase from a lower duration intake cam, which increased cranking compression. Further improvements were aimed primarily at handling.
The frame was made stiffer through the enlarging of the front engine mounting bolts, though this still left the ZX-9R with just a single front engine mount on either side of the frame. Further, the rubber bushings in the top rear engine mount were changed to alloy. This combined to make the engine's contribution to the stiffness of the frame/engine unit greater.
The swingarm pivot and wheel spindles were made larger in diameter, again for more stiffness. Increased offset on the triple clamps reduced the trail on the front wheel to make the steering more agile. The forks were shortened to save weight, and the rear shock top mount was redesigned to incorporate a ride-height adjuster.
ZX900F1 (2002) and ZX900F2 (2003)
Changes to the 2002–2003 ZX-9R included a new tail fairing, a single piece front mudguard, the loss of the passenger grab handles and the B/C/E model H-bar mirror bracket. Mechanical additions included a strengthened swingarm (by a claimed 20%) and rear shock with a side facing fluid reservoir, stiffened frame with relocated solid engine mounts, increased trail and reduced fork offset, and new Nissin four-piston caliper brakes and 320 mm discs at the front wheel. Slight engine modifications included a return to the B/C model style Keihin CVKD carburettor and a 10% heavier crankshaft offset by a reduced diameter flywheel reported to help the engine spin up quicker, boosting low and mid-range torque.
Though subtle, California (U.S.) specific models included catalytic converters and carburettors with electronic fuel cut off solenoids. In 2004 the ZX-9R was replaced with the ZX-10R.
Engine Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, transverse four-cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke 75 x 50.9 mm
Compression Ratio 12.2:1
Induction 4x 40 mm Keihin CVKD carbs
Ignition / Crank Start / Pedal Powered
Max Power 144 hp 105 kW @ 11000 rpm
Max Torque 101 Nm @ 11000 rpm Transmission / Drive 6 Speed / chain
Front Suspension 46 mm fully adjustable cartridge fork, preload compression and rebound adjustable.
Rear Suspension Bottom-Link Uni-Trak rising rate mono shock, preload compression, rebound and ride height adjustable.
Front Brakes 2x 320 mm discs 6 piston calipers
Rear Brakes Single 220 mm disc 1 piston caliper
Front Tyre 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tyre 190/50 ZR17
Seat Height 827 mm
Dry-Weight 186 kg
Fuel Capacity 19 Litres
Consumption average 18.7 km/lit, Max w/Calif. U.S. models 23.0 km/lit
Standing ¼ Mile [email protected] mph(1998 ZX9r C1 model) The 1999 C2 recorded a [email protected]
Top Speed 284.6 km/h / 174.98 mp/h
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