Not the mostest, but the bestest

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Kawasaki Zx-7r -

LUCK­ILY I’M NOT writ­ing this in­amer­ica be­cause if I was this could get re­ally con­fus­ing. While us Brits can most eas­ily un­der­stand the 1996 ZX-7R as the suc­ces­sor to the ZXR750, in the US the older bike had al­ways been dubbed the ZX-7R any­way.with the in­tro­duc­tion of the new bike the ZXR name was dropped and Europe was brought into line with the US.

The im­por­tant thing to take away from this Al­pha­bet soup, how­ever, is that the (Euro­pean) ZX-7R story is in­ex­tri­ca­bly in­ter­wo­ven with that of the ZXR so to un­der­stand the 7R in its en­tirety you have to also com­pre­hend fully the ZXR.

The first ZXR750, of course, the H1, was launched in 1989 as a road-go­ing replica of Kawasaki’s suc­cess­ful, Gpx750-der­vived ZXR-7 en­durance rac­ers (hence the later name) and, by mim­ick­ing the pro­to­type racer’s looks (right down to its ‘Hoover’ air in­take hoses), alu­min­i­mum beam frame and sports ap­peal it was a big suc­cess, if crit­i­cized slightly for be­ing overly heavy and long.

Af­ter be­com­ing the H2 in 1990 with some sub­tle top-end mods, the first big re­vamp came with the 1991 ZXR750J1 which had a shorter, sharper chas­sis, in­verted forks, up­rated en­gine and new looks. De­spite an over­hard rear shock this was ar­guably the best main­stream 750 superbike around and, cour­tesy of its new ‘RR’/K1 ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial brother (which came com­plete with sin­gle seat, close ra­tio gear­box, flat­slide carbs and more), it was a con­tender on track too.

This was proved with the ’92 J2, which gained an im­proved rear shock, when John Reynolds swept to the Bri­tish cham­pi­onship. While in ’93 it was up­dated again into the L1 – the first ZXR to have ram air via an in­take on the left of the head­light – which car­ried Scott Rus­sell to thewsb ti­tle and then re­mained largely un­changed through L2 and L3 guises right up to 1996.

En­ter the ZX-7R. Based on the L3 this was sim­ply Kawasaki’s big­gest up­date to its 750 superbike since 1991 and was in­tended, per­haps a lit­tle naively (with hind­sight), to re­turn­team Green to the top of the main­stream superbike tree. Its ace card was its new ‘Twin Ra­mair’ sys­tem which in turn ne­ces­si­tated a fur­ther restyle via the wind­tun­nel and also in­cor­po­rated a new ‘pro­jec­tor’ head­lamp.

But while the ram air sys­tem was de­signed to boost peak power at speed, the age­ing, heavy GPX straight four was also re­con­fig­ured with the in­ten­tion of im­prov­ing flex­i­bil­ity as well.

“A sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity on the road few ri­vals could match”

Nor did it end there.the alu­minium twin spar chas­sis was ac­tu­ally length­ened slightly to im­prove sta­bil­ity while the bike’s cy­cle parts were tarted-up all round. Fully-ad­justable in­verted forks were added. Sus­pen­sion, both front and rear, was now fully-ad­justable for the first time while the four-pis­ton front brake calipers were swapped for in-vogue six-pis­ton To­ki­cos.

But if, on pa­per, that seemed im­pres­sive, in re­al­ity it was a re­fine­ment rather than a revolution. On track Suzuki’s new SRAD had 10bhp more and was 24kg lighter, as well, while Du­cati’s 916 was as far ahead as ever.

On the road, how­ever, that power de­fi­ciency and weight ex­cess seemed to mat­ter less – in fact the ZX-7R’S bulk helped give it sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity few could match.

And that, added to im­pres­sive en­gine flex­i­bil­ity; a unique,twin Ra­mair as­sisted top end roar that sent shiv­ers down the spine; poster boy good looks, proven re­li­a­bil­ity and de­cent value en­sured the Kawasaki was a suc­cess. Back in 1996 the ZX-7R was a great, in­volv­ing, road sports bike. If you find a good one, it still is to­day.

Sus­pen­sion All-new for the ZX-7R and now com­pris­ing beefy, 43mm in­verted car­tridge forks at the front and a ris­ing rate Uni-trak link­age sin­gle shock at the rear. Both were fully ad­justable for preload, re­bound and com­pres­sion damp­ing for the first...

Frame/swingarm Again, based on the fa­mil­iar twin spar alu­minium unit of the out­go­ing ZXR and with un­changed, su­per­sharp rake and trail fig­ures of 25-de­gree/99mm but for the ZX-7R with a 5mm longer swingarm in­tended to im­prove sta­bil­ity and the sense of...

It’s not the right green, but you get the idea

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