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Published on Jul 1, 2009
Superbike Bikes Kawasaki Ninja ZX9R The Kawasaki ZX-9R was a sport bike manufactured by the motorcycle division of Kawasaki Heavy Industries of Japan from 1994 to 2003. There were five model incarnations across two basic designs. Throughout its production run, it was both maligned and praised for its road-riding bias, which allowed for more rider comfort but less of a racebike-on-the-road experience of more single-minded competing designs. The ZX-9R debuted in 1994. Kawasaki developed the model in response to Honda's introduction of the CBR900RR FireBlade for the 1992 model year. Along with Kawasaki's own GPz900R, Suzuki's GSX-R750, both of which preceded it, and Ducati's 916 and Yamaha's YZF-R1 which followed it, The FireBlade (CBR900RR in North America) is widely considered one of the five pivotal sport bike designs of all time.
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" 1000cc-plus sports-tourers had become the natural evolution of the performance bikes of the preceding 20 years. In simple terms, the 750's 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 ZZ-R1100, with their class-leading 750, the ZXR750, rather than commit to an entirely-new design.