Not the mostest, but the bestest
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