Here at CB-Net, it’s not just the chart-toppers and yardstick bikes that we like to talk about – we love reminding you about the bikes that didn’t quite make it that big…
What was it?
What we aren’t saying it was is the later, lither ZX-9Rs – the C models on. Different kettle of cod! Some say the original B-model was simply an attempt to blunt the FireBlade and get in on the 900cc action, but was it? Remember, Kawasaki arguably started all the 900cc stuff back in 1972/73 with the original Z1. What goes around, comes around so – with Honda re-inventing the 900cc class with the 893cc Blade in 1992 – Kawasaki came out with the 899cc ZX-9R B1 in 1994.
What did people think of it at launch?
The launch took place in the sweltering heat of Shah Alam in Malaysia. It was here that the bike was criticised for a way-too soft rear end. It was only something you’d find out on track (and only then if you were any good) and the heat and humidity probably didn’t help either – especially on tyres designed for longevity rather than stickiness. Many felt the soft rear made the bike squat out of corners when the power was applied. Reading the reports of the time, we learned that Kawasaki World Superbike stars Terry Rymer and Scott Russell spent the sessions going seven or more seconds a lap faster than the journalists while doing lurid tail slides. That night in the bar Kawasaki allegedly laid on dancing girls to entertain the hot and sweaty assembled hacks…But enough of that…
So it’s not as good as a Blade on track then?
No and never was – at least not until the C version in 1998. The B model was a half-way house between a ZZ-R1100 and a ZXR750. It actually borrowed more bits from the ZXR than ZZ-R, but it felt the bike kinda sat between the two. It was never going to beat the Blade as it was a good 30 kilos heavier, but this did make for a more comfortable, stable road bike. This really wasn’t a track tool, but it did seem more substantial and was £100 cheaper than a Blade. Also, many journalists liked it because it was different and less demanding than the CBR900RR…
What goes wrong with early 9Rs?
Very little, thanks to it being developed from existing Kawasaki machinery. Carbs need to be set up well and can suffer from carb icing. Forks and shocks were soft way back then and by now if not replaced/refurbished they will be awful. The rear suspension system was improved on later models, while the brakes (four piston Tokico calipers) from the 1996 B3-model were given six-pot Tokicos. These get notoriously spongy if not kept clean. Some owners reported some gearbox issues and oil pump problems. Other than that the B is solid and well made, although paint wasn’t always the thickest on the wheels.
So just how forgotten is the ZX-9R B?
Really, most of the 9Rs are – even the later, lighter better ones. The later 1998 C1 model and later Es with twin headlights were sportier, but still suffered in comparison to the R1, even if often they could record a higher top speed from less cc. This makes the B-model heavier and less agile, but still a decent alternative choice to sports tourers of the same era.
How much are they?
Still relatively cheap, even in these pre-Brexit days where used bikes are in big demand. We still see the odd, rough B-model for less than a grand, while nice ones still come in around £1500. That’s where the later C/Emodels start at. OK, so you do get the odd dealer wanting £3k+ for a low-miler, but for a useable, decent 9R of any model, £1500 will get you one.
Kawasaki ZX-9R B1-B4 1994-1997
Price when new: £8095 (Jan 1994)
Price now: £1000-£3000
Engine: Liquid cooled 16 valve DOHC
Power: 127bhp (claimed)
Weight: 215kg (dry)