The meanest green machine

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KAWASAKI’S Ninja nine has enjoyed a cult following amongst the big cube cognoscenti, not just for its sheer performance but also for its styling and brute-force engine. Determined not to let their rivals steal a march on them in the superbike stakes Kawasaki launched their millennium ZX-9R aimed squarely at Yamaha’s class-leading R1.

The aggressive twin-slit headlight arrangement and protruding snarl of the air inductors state the Ninja’s intentions clearly. Here, then, is a motorcycle that is mad, bad, goes like stink, makes a wicked noise and looks the dog’s bits.

But it can also utterly civilised around town, carry two in (relative) comfort and generally behave in a thoroughly decent manner. The ’00 chassis is a complete redesign over the previous model – with a longer and more rigid steering head and thicker spars.

And the new bike also turns more quickly thanks to a reduced fork offset. The front end is altogether much better; there’s much more feedback and the fork action is smoother. The bike has a much tighter feel to it front and back. It is as stable as ever mid-corner, but can be flicked to the other side in an instant.

Weight stays the same, but power is up by around 4bhp thanks to engine mods and a nice titanium silencer. Kawasaki has beefed up the bottom-end too (now you don’t need as many revs at launch) and the redesigned powerplant pulls harder from lower down.

The midrange is tremendous; Kawasaki says torque is up only 6ftlb on the last model but it feels a lot more.

Getting hard on the gas will see the front come in first and second while at the other end the monster rush gets the speedo past 170mph in top.

The huge six-pot Tokicos are amazing; they bite on dinner plate-sized discs and a handful can seem more like riding into a brick wall than braking. Until you are used to it you find yourself slowing way too early for corners.

The Ninja compares favourably with the R1. On the road the power is more accessible than the Yamaha’s and the looks are more distinctive. On the track privateers proved the Ninja’s race prowess; Gary Mason competing successfully against the R1s and Blades in the 2000 British SuperStock class. And you can usually bag one for far less cash than an R1, Blade or GSX-R1000.

Alternatives: Honda FireBlade, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Yamaha R1, Triumph 955i.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff