Kawasaki NINJA ZX-09R Kawasaki NINJA ZX-9R (2000-2001-2002-2001)
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.
ZX-09R (1998) and ZX-09R (1999)
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.
The result was a big motorcycle; despite weight-saving measures like magnesium engine covers, its quoted dry weight was 215 kg, almost 30 kg heavier than the FireBlade. It made around 125 hp (93 kW) at the rear wheel on the dyno, between 10 and 15 hp (11 kW) more than the FireBlade, but this advantage in power couldn't make up for its size, weight and reduced agility. Rather than be a direct competitor, the ZX-9R was a retained as a more stable and more comfortable alternative to the Honda, with more straight-line speed.
The road-going bias is evident through the raised clipons and more upright seating positions. The ZX9R also had a reasonable seat height, however it posed a problem to shorter riders due to its wide seat and fuel tank.
ZX-09R (2000) and ZX-09R (2001)
A dramatic new look was introduced for the 2000 model, with distinctively feline twin headlights and a separate ram-air intake replacing the single headlight and integrated intake of the C-model. The engine gained a few horses from a compression ratio increase from a lower duration intake cam, which increased static compression. Further improvements were aimed primarily at handling.
The frame was made stiffer through the enlarging of the front engine mounting bolts, though this still left the ZX-9R with just a single front engine mount on either side of the frame. Further, the rubber bushes in the top rear engine mount were changed to alloy. This combined to make the engine's contribution to the stiffness of the frame/engine unit greater.
The swingarm pivot and wheel spindles were made considerably larger in diameter, again for more stiffness. Increased offset on the triple clamps reduced the trail on the front wheel to make the steering more agile. The forks were shortened to save weight, and the rear shock top mount was redesigned to incorporate a ride-height adjuster.