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The Kawasaki GPz900R (Ninja)

There are times in the history of 'things' when something dramatic occurs, and you also happen to be in the right place to take advantage of the event. This occurred to me with the GPz900. This was intended to be Kawasaki's comeback bike to get back into the ranks of the Superbike elite, and they did it in style. This motorcycle is a classic. I had my example only for a short time, but it made a dramatic impression on me.

Details

The Kawasaki GPz900R, a.k.a Ninja...
  • Is a 4 cylinder, water-cooled motorcycle
  • Displaces 908cc
  • Has a double disc brake up front, and one disc at the rear
  • Handling is great, even by today's standards
  • Has a comfortable seat
  • Has a 3.9 gallon (Imperial) fuel tank
  • Gave between 12 and 80 mpg
  • Went off the clock at 165mph
  • Could cruise at 120mph all day
  • Could wheelie at 100mph, purely on power and rough road
  • The 'banana' styling could melt a babes heart at 20 paces
  • Stopped well, accelerated like it was late for a wedding
  • Introduced in 1984, kept in production through 1995 in the UK

Failings

Eat tyres and brakes. I replaced both at 3000 mile intervals, front and back

Getting the rear wheel out was a pain, the eccentric adjuster was awkward to get correctly aligned again

At 150mph, consumed fuel like there was no tomorrow, which exaggerated the fuel tanks lack of size

The anti-dive front end could get a bit out of shape under really hard braking

The steering at the front was a bit strange at times, the 16" wheel being the culprit

The fairing and handle bars were a vision of the seating ergonomics that were to come - nasty

The hydraulic clutch required quite a pull, even when fully home, this provided me years of carpal tunnel problems

Didn't own it long enough

Strengths

Engine

This is a motorcycle built around an engine. It would troll around town in 6th gear at 30mph, or rip up tarmac in 3rd at 9000 rpm. It would cruise, 2 up, at 120mph, down dale and up mountain. When you could control your right hand, fuel consumption figures were genuinely frugal, I managed just under 80mpg on one occasion, though 50mpg was easy to obtain on a regular basis. One particularly adventurous day though, getting down the 120 miles of the A-1 to London in just over the hour, the machine returned about 12mpg; I had to refuel in the middle of the trip... it was unheard of!

The engines ability to pull freely in a high gear, from low in the rev range was a god send, particularly on inclement days, but it also worked to the advantage of passengers. On days when I was less concerned with passenger health, I had to remember to get ready to trap the passengers feet in my armpits, or they would be off the back. It was this later symptom that lead me to feel that any future large displacement motorcycle I owned would be a single seater.

The handling was excellent, and by the standards of the day, spectacular. Mid-corner bumps rarely phased the bike, but when they did upset it you tended to be going quite fast - 140mph tank slappers are not enjoyable, even on a bike this good. The feeling that you were on rails really made for a pleasant form of mile gobbling; you just pointed the bike in the direction you wanted to go, and sometime later you were there, all fresh and happy to do it again. Rolling up the A68 Jedburgh road at 7am at over 100mph was a ride I will remember for its proof of the bikes stability and agility.

Tried and Tested

Tyres

The original fitment of Japlops were surprisingly good. I tried Dunlop ArrowMax's later but gave up on them when the bike spun the rear at over 100mph. I eventually settled on Metzeler ME-99 rear and ME-33 front, a fitment that was to become standard fare for most Proddie racers.

Exhaust

Never had to replace the standard exhaust.

Seat

No significant qualms.

Plugs

Never replaced the originals.

Oil and other consumables

I replaced the oil regularly at about 5000 mile intervals. Again, I always had the oil and oil filter replaced at the same time. Early 900's like my one were to suffer from oil related problems, my example never got that far.

Brakes

Pads were replaced by standard Kawasaki replacements.

Suspension

There was not a lot to do here. I set the anti-dive to the softest settings and religiously made sure the fork air pressure was in factory spec's. At the rear, I wound the preload to its highest settings and made sure the pressure was at the upper end of the range.

To Round Up

I did only 13,000 miles in 6 months of ownership before the bike was totaled in an unfortunate accident. It was a missile, it did things that no bike before had done. It could take on anything on the road and make it look like a dead rat: Porsches, Ha! Honda CBX1000's, Suzuki GSX1100's, Honda CBR1100R's, Kawasaki Z750 Turbos's; they were all just play things. Such performance had its penalties: roads that had been challenging on less capable bikes were a simple drone unless taken at elevated speeds, roads that were a challenge normally, were now doubly so if the performance of the bike was to be used. The machine was an education in how performance could be packaged. These were stunning bikes in their day, today they are simply old bikes with a lot to offer. If you should come across one, its probably a good machine to sling a leg over.


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