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Friday, December 17, 2004

THE 2000 KAWASAKI ZX-9R: Refined Perfection

zx9_1.jpg (34429 bytes)STORY AND PHOTOS BY MARTY KANE

So… what’s Kawasaki got in store for us with their latest version of their open class sportbike? After six years and two previous versions (1994 and 1998), the all new ZX-9R continues to be an awesome piece of workmanship.

At first glance, you notice there is some difference between it and it’s ancestors, simply because of the new split headlight front end and more radical angle of the windscreen.

Look further, the swing-arm is unlike any other before it by Kawasaki, and then get on the bike. The minute crack the throttle… the power on tap is huge… and then you have proof… it’s more than body work.

Let’s look at the technical jargon to see what is different this year.

zx9_frontend.jpg (19363 bytes)We’re drag racers… and each one of us is a certified horsepower junkie. Luckily for us… some of the ZX-9's best improvements are found inside the engine. The 900cc power plant now boasts a radical 12.2:1 compression ratio, up from 11.5 last year. A redesigned four-valve cylinder head features longer intake ports and new camshaft profiles to increase mid-range torque. The 35mm & 31.8mm valves breath life into the exhaust system which features a titanium canister for lighter weight.

Beneath the cylinder head, a lightweight sleeveless block guides the pistons through electroplated cylinder bores. It's lighter, but it's also stronger. Because of the added cylinder pressures... heftier wrist pins were added to increase reliability.zx9_handlebars.jpg (16302 bytes)

The lower end features a redesigned transmission and lighter rotating components. The funky shifts of the earlier models are now fixed, courtesy of a new shift drum and realigned gears. Third and fourth gears also now feature a factory undercut for more positive engagements.

According to Kawasaki, the electronics have been improved with a 16-bit processor in the control system, and the ignition rotor has been replaced with a more accurate model. I tried to confirm the processor, however I could not find a place for my mouse to plug into, they must have forgot that one!

"I could not find a place for my mouse to plug into"

Fuel and air are mixed together by new Keihin CRVD 40mm carburetors. These things work so well, that the throttle response is actually over crisp. As your moving through turns, or trying to power off the starting line, they take some getting use to.

Because of the split headlight assembly, a new ram air system is fed by a menacing scoop which hangs below the fairing. It's cool... and very reminiscent of an early muscle car - it just expels horsepower to the onlooker!

The tale of the Dynojet dyno indicates a peak 135 horsepower at 10,300 RPM, and the 70 ft/lbs of torque at 9,200 RPM. It's

zx9_swingarm.jpg (25851 bytes)Turning to the chassis, it’s the same story: stronger… lighter… bla… bla… bla.

Last years model did not have any problems for drag racing, but evidently those folks on the road course needed something different. Some of the changes include a longer steering neck, shortened neck angle (24 degrees of rake), and the axles and swing arm pivot have received increased diameters. The swing-arm has been redesigned and now uses slim but internally braced tubing - it looks wimpy, but it's a stout puppy!

The rear shock linkage features a changed ratio, and it tends to allow a more positive squat when the shock is adjusted soft for drag racing.

Stopping power has been refined, as the the front end now sports dual 310mm rotors. They are 14mm larger then last year, and the way it stops... it feels about 3" larger at all speeds!

One of the best changes for the drag racing market, is the rear wheel. It's wider by one half inch (6" from 5.5"), and that will yield a wider and flatter tire footprint. This thing is ideal for one of Mickey Thompson’s drag racing tires (a 17" x 7" rear slick or MCR2 street tire).

zx9_side1.jpg (32950 bytes)So, with all of the changes… how does it all stack up?

If you are searching for a street bike, the ZX-9R offers the best rider position and most comfortable body styles in the class. In drag racing, it also shines bright because of it’s well placed weight distribution and steamy engine.

I did not care for the seat much, because if you ride all the way forward, it will cause a numbness in an area I would rather not loose feeling in. After you learn to slide back however, it's just like an easy chair... and can take you for long rides with comfort.

Only two other bikes can fairly compare to it, the new Honda CBR-929 and the redesigned Yamaha R1. Both of those are great for road racing, however they leave much to be desired for creature comfort, and they are both too hard to control off the starting line (can you say wheelie?).

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RIDER: Jared Wood

We did get a chance to beat up the three bikes on a road course… and despite a ride which all test riders described as an uneasy feel, the ZX-9R posted the quickest lap time of the three bikes. To be fair though, the margin was so slim, you’ve got to call them all fairly matched with an average rider.

Paying attention to the dragstrip action, we see the ZX-9R falling in the 10.50 range at most AMA/Prostar events in stock trim. I personally managed to pinch off a 10.47-second run, but then I put a "real rider" on board and he managed to click off a 10.28 on his third run.

zx9_tailsection.jpg (19174 bytes)Looking at the strip once again, we see that by adding a wheelie bar and an after market pipe, most of these things run in the 10.0’s to 9.70’s. That’s a fair deal for a 900cc bike you can ride home after the race!

Likes: the brute strength of the 130+ horsepower, the feel and control of the braking system.

Dislikes: the quickness of the throttle, the rider seat, and the redigested paint scheme (when parked next to my ’98 ZX-6R in the garage, you could not quickly tell them apart!).


Type: 4-stroke, DOHC inline 4 cylinder, 16-valve - 899cc, High-Compression
  • New aluminum electroplated cylinder is lighter, resists wear and improves heat dispersion
  • Large bore with ultra-short stroke maximizes valve diameters for powerful breathing and minimizes piston speed for reliability
  • Four large valves per cylinder are activated by bucket tappets for the ultimate in high rpm reliability
  • Compact design lowers weight and allows more room for intake, exhaust, and cooling systems
  • The alternator is at the end of the crankshaft to save weight and cut mechanical friction losses; rare earth magnets in the alternator are very powerful for efficient charging, but light in weight
  • Magnesium covers are used on the cylinder head, clutch, alternator, ignition pickups, and the engine sprocket
  • Titanium muffler case is used on "49-state" models
  • 75.0mm x 50.9mm Bore & Stroke
Cooling: Liquid
Carburetion: Keihin CVRD40 x 4
Ignition: Kawasaki Throttle Responsive Ignition Control (K-TRIC)
  • A throttle position sensor tells the ignition control unit how hard the engine is working so that its new 16-bit micro-computer can determine the best ignition timing for more power and better fuel economy

Spark Plug-Mounted Ignition Coils

  • Four small ignition coils are in the spark plug caps, reducing overall weight and taking up less room
Transmission: Six-Speed Transmission
  • Involute spline shafts decrease shift effort
  • New shift drum and shimmed transmission make for slicker shifting
  • The cable operated clutch has a smooth, light feel, and weighs less than the hydraulic unit
Frame: Lightweight Aluminum Perimeter Frame
  • The frame has no down tubes to save weight
  • Lightweight removable aluminum sub-frame

Extruded Aluminum Swingarm

  • Massive extruded aluminum beams are welded together to form a swingarm with extra rigidity and less weight for good handling under extreme conditions
Suspension, front: 46mm cartridge fork
  • 10-way compression and 12-way rebound damping adjustability
  • Front fork is light-weight for high performance, compliant for rider comfort, and rigid for extraordinary handling
  • Adjustable spring preload, and compression and rebound damping to match rider weight and riding style to the road conditions
Suspension, rear: UNI-TRAK® with piggyback-reservoir shock, threaded preload adjustment, 20-way compression, 20-way rebound damping adjustments
Wheel travel: FRONT: 4.7 in. - REAR: 5.1 in.
Tires: FRONT: 120/70ZR17 tubeless radial - REAR: 190/50ZR17 tubeless radial
Brakes, front/rear: Dual hydraulic discs/Single hydraulic disc
  • Minimize unsprung weight, for sharp, precise handling
  • Tokico 6-piston calipers up front maximize effective disc diameter for precise, powerful brake feel

LENGTH: 80.7" -  WIDTH: 28.3" -  HEIGHT: 45.5" -  SEAT HEIGHT: 32.3"

Dry weight: 403.5 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Color: Lime Green/Metallic Violet Royal, Pearl Purplish Black Mica

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MSRP: $10,199

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