I am betting that you've never placed your family jewels where they may be crushed easily, and simultaeneously put your wrists through a weight training regime that threatens to break them, and through all that pain enjoyed the experience enough to come through with a massive grin on your mug.In short, you've never been aboard the Kawasaki Ninja ZX7.
My tryst with the bike started quite normally. Except that for once, Param and I were early, and the bike was late. Then, about an hour after the appointed, er... hour, we spotted a green flash in the distance. The blur slipped past the light traffic with the ease of a master spy and within a moment, it became the angry flash of the twin headlamps adorning the most recognisable face in motorcycling. Then the roar of the big Kawasaki motor was upon us.
In a glorious, roaring, blipping moment, it comes to a halt. Waiting for me to get on, the ZX7 idles like most other big Kawasakis. The idle isn't smooth like a Honda's would be. Instead, it stumbles, grumbles, and groans, sort of like saying "lets go for a spin" in a sub-woofer busting baritone over and over again. I was happy to help out. Swinging onto the seat you realise that the seat is quite low compared to modern day sportsbikes. As you hunch forward to reach the bars, you stretch forward and downward. And then you stretch some more. The clip-ons are mounted close, forward and low making it quite a stretch. Some research tells us this is a rationalised position, for the original ZXR7 (see box ) was designed for people with orangutan size arms and stumpy little feet.Snick into first of the six gears, and roll off to the lusty rhythm of the lovely Yoshimura RS-3 pipes in carbon fibre finish, you can't help falling in love with the noise. It instantly makes you demand a mountain pass where the roar can echo off the deep valleys and the rock faces, and reverberate in solitary, natural magnificence. Fortunately, there was nice tunnel-effect in the underpass along my route.
The note goes from a deep roar to a fantastically rounded howl that I am sure woke up bike lovers within a kilometre or two of the tunnel. To shamelessly borrow from a more articulate British journo, the ZX7 with a Yoshi pipe gives great tunnel. By the time I get over my instant love for the engine and exhaust concerto in tunnel minor, my wrists are threatening suicide. The butt-high, head-low riding position forces them to carry the entire, not-inconsequential weight of my torso. Soon, your chest is down on the tank for good and the wrists get some rest. In fact, the chin on tank in this case has little to do with speed, and more to do with heavy wrist ache.
However, go quick enough and the wind will hold you up. And Kawasaki is no stranger to the fast end of all things motorcycling. The ZX7 accelerates in typically brutal fashion. The 748 CC engine has the now standard DOHC, 16-valve configuration and makes a sharp 123 bhp at 11,500 rpm. The high torque peak is but to be expected. In fact, the power delivery is clearly skewed towards a constant hunger for more revs. But when the accompanying music is this good, I for one, am not complaining. Twist the throttle and as long as you've remembered to keep about 5,000 on the tacho, there will be significant acceleration. Pass 8,000 and progress goes from quick to unprintable in a shatteringly eye-opening moment. What is no endearing about the ZX7 is that its a very real motorcycle with rough edges and all. There is a clearly perceptible raw edge to the engine which makes the 7 pulsate with a life of its own. Even after you get used to it and remember to hunker down and weight the front-end down, the ZX7 will still try to lift the front wheel clear off the ground when the tacho passes the torque peak.
As the speed goes up, the massive ram-air snort ever larger gulps of air that is rammed into the air-box, which results in the 123 bhp that the bike makes. As the four-stroke cycle becomes an unending chain of explosions, the ZX7 charges through the straights with ever increasing amounts of speed. Past 160 kph, the top of the lime-green screen strikes up a blustery conversation with the top of my Shoei. That apart, the ZX7 never alters the sensation of speed and never scares you either. That is the hallmark of the motorcycle.
Raw it may be. Brutal it might seem, but it never frightens you. And the answer is linked closely with the jewel-crushing nature of the green monster. The other hallmark of the bike, you see, is its unflappable stability. The suspension is harder than barefoot Bruce Willis in Die Hard and suspension travel can usually be measured only with a vernier calliper. Because of which, the ZX7 will lucidly transmit the texture, shape, depth and genesis of every imperfection it blazes through, without ever letting the fat Bridgestones lose touch with the tarmac. So while you search for an extra pair of hands to cup the hurting balls, the ZX7 will plough straight through most of the bumps and isn't likely to lose its line around a bumpy corner.
Which allows you a lot of latitude to play with the motorcycle, but also tends to impact the prospects of the propagation of your species in the long term. The mind-boggling hard ride has been a long standing criticism of the motorcycle. But with that grade of ride quality comes a superb handling package. The ZX7 is perhaps slow-steering by current standards, but it never twitches, never shakes its head and goes exactly where you point it. It is also stable enough to carry great corner speed through long sweepers and the chicken strips on the tyre edges have little hope or longevity. Despite the fact that the ZX7's 190/50 was the widest rear rubber in motorcycling when the ZX7 was launched. The great road-holding, good cornering ability and just enough weight to make the bike feel planted but not lardy are all pointers to the acclaimed chassis that holds the ZX7 together.
The last of the cycle parts are the six-piston calliper twin discs up front, which are great today but must have been awesome back in 1995. You do need to put some effort into the lever squeeze, but braking force is sharp and more then adequate. It'll even make the hard front suspension squirm in fear if you put your mind to it.Somewhat like the V-Max, Kawasaki have done little more than change the colour scheme through the life of the motorcycle. And one cannot forget that this bike belongs to a family which has the distinction of being the only four-cylinder to have ever won a World Superbike Championship.Even current day tests will tell you that the Kwak may no longer be the fastest, but it still is one of the more desirable ones in all-round use. Outside the racetrack, the ZX7 proves useable, rideable, quite friendly and yet delightfully raw and brutal. All of which attest to how right Kawasaki got it in the first place.
The ZX7 traces is lineage back to the GPX750, which was known to be a bike with a good engine but a frame that flexed more than the Mr Universe candidate. In 1988, Kawasaki built themselves a racer they called ZXR-7. They gave it an aluminium perimeter frame and a tuned GPX engine and from this all the various models of the ZXR-7s and ZX7s were born. The ZXR's had the famous hoover pipes (named after similar looking vacuum cleaner pipes) that ran from inlets at the top of the fairing. The look changed in 1995 to the more recognisable ram-air ducts flanking the twin headlights. In typically Japanese nomenclature fashion, Kawasaki called the bike ZXR750 everywhere, but for some reason called it the ZX7 Ninja in the US. The race homologation versions were given an extra R. Then, in 1996 they added another R to the homologation specials and the stock versions became the ZX7R.
The 750 CC class, a usually, aspiration class for motorcycles has seen its importance erode every faster over the past few years. The 600s get ever faster and the litre class V-twins get significantly faster than the seriously out-displaced in-line four. In this kind of a dim light, it has become a pleasant surprise when Akira Yanagawa (now with the Kawasaki MotoGP program), Gregorio Lavilla (now on a GSX-R1000) take wins away from the all conquering Ducati or Honda squads. The new Superbike rules effectively sound the death knell for this class. The Yamaha R1, Honda Fireblade and Suzuki GSX-R1000 are the new aspirants and Lavilla's GSXR is already proving competitive in its debut year. Rumours suggest that a Kawasaki ZX10R may appear at the Milan Show this year in September.