‘ I bought mine in ’ 86 and have it now. It’s still fast, han­dles and I love it’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature -

When it comes to so­called modern clas­sics there’s one bike that ar­guably out­shines even Ducati’s 916 – the hugely im­por­tant, sig­nif­i­cant and suc­cess­ful 1984 Kawasaki GPZ900R Ninja.

The orig­i­nal Ninja had it all. It not only re­de­fined the su­per­bike in en­gi­neer­ing and per­for­mance terms, it was great-look­ing, had an evoca­tive name, proved suc­cess­ful in rac­ing (mostly at the TT) and even starred in the movie Top Gun.

In fact, the huge pop­u­lar­ity that the new Kawasaki’s all-round suc­cess cre­ated is prob­a­bly the only rea­son the Ninja isn’t men­tioned in the same breath as the 916 more of­ten – it’s sim­ply too com­mon­place to be con­sid­ered a true clas­sic.

Yet it’s that very pop­u­lar­ity that is one of the rea­sons the game-chang­ing GPZ900R was so sig­nif­i­cant.

MCN reader Chris Mckee is a ma­jor fan. “This was the big­gest game-changer in my 40 years of mo­tor­cy­cling,” he said. “I fi­nally got a new GPZ900R A3 in late 1985 and it was a rev­e­la­tion with its speed, han­dling and, most im­por­tantly, sta­bil­ity. Every su­per­bike be­fore would weave in a straight line at high speed. This was the first bike you could just go straight to max with ab­so­lute sta­bil­ity.”

Brit Mike Wood, now in Kansas, USA, is an­other: “I took de­liv­ery of a GPZ900R in April 1984 and it was un­doubt­edly one of the best bikes I have owned. It was so fast, han­dled bet­ter than the Ducati Pan­tah I’d owned be­fore and it re­cal­i­brated my un­der­stand­ing of per­for­mance. I still re­gret sell­ing it.”

If all of that sounds like the GPZ900R was a big deal then that’s be­cause, en­gine and chas­sis were de­vel­oped in tan­dem, novel, at the time, which led to the com­pact, liq­uid-cooled en­gine de­sign, pioneering full fair­ing and more.

And third, the new Kawasaki proved to be so ef­fec­tive, tear­ing up the su­per­bike per­for­mance rule­book at one stroke, that the Ninja be­came the new de­sign tem­plate for every su­per­bike, which fol­lowed. Liq­uid-cooled, 16-valve, trans­verse fours mounted in so­phis­ti­cated, com­pact chas­sis was sud­denly the re­quired recipe for any Ja­panese sports con­tender. It still is, pretty much, to­day.

And that sheer longevity is prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant thing about the Ninja. When launched to the world’s press at La­guna Seca, Cal­i­for­nia in late 1983 it didn’t just make a good im­pres­sion – it blew ev­ery­one away, run­ning rings around the new (but still air-cooled and old school) GPZ1100 launched at the same time. And, if that wasn’t enough, drag racer Pee Wee Gleason, blew ev­ery­one’s minds by post­ing 10.5-sec­ond stand­ing quar­ters.

From there it went to dom­i­nate every group test then dec­i­mate the TT. No won­der it proved a best seller.

But best of all, it kept on im­press­ing and win­ning – for years to come. Al­though even­tu­ally out­stay­ing its wel­come, the GPZ9 re­mained in pro­duc­tion for a mas­sive 19 years and was truly valid through most of them. Al­though by 2003 it was more age­ing sports-tourer than su­per­bike, it was still de­cent and still fondly thought of by the many thou­sands who had one. It still is to­day.

Reader Andy Wel­land is one of them. “I bought my Ninja in 1986 and still have it to­day,” he told MCN. “In all that time I have never felt the need to buy an­other Jap in­line four. It is still fast, han­dles re­ally well and I still love it.”

MCN reader Vic­to­ria Har­vey added: “Stunned by the per­for­mance fig­ures, mes­mer­ized by Ge­off John­son at the TT, I wanted one but in 1984 I wasn't quite man enough. Other bikes came and went but the long­ing re­mained; 12 years later at 12.01am on Au­gust 1, I took pos­ses­sion of a brand new A10. Hus­band was jeal­ous and said, 'it's me or the bike'. I still have the bike. ‘Old Ninj’ is part of me and I am part of him.”

The GPZ9 has that af­fect on peo­ple. Lots of them.

Ôthis was the first su­per­bike where you could just go straight to max with ab­so­lute sta­bil­ity’ CHRIS MCKEE, MCN READER

well, it was. Con­ceived to be a clean­sheet suc­ces­sor to Kawasaki’s Z1 fam­ily of air-cooled, two-valve fours, the Ninja was the re­sult of an un­prece­dented amount of ef­fort and in­no­va­tion. First, it was de­vel­oped in com­plete se­crecy over six years, while most modern mo­tor­cy­cles get just three. Sec­ond, it was cut­ting edge in every re­spect; from the out­set, the

Even to­day the 900 is fast and fun

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.