We think we’re right when we say this, but Kawasaki’s ZX-7R has to be one of the best-looking bikes ever made – and the design is now more than 20 years old!
First seen at the end of 1995, Kawasaki’s ZX-7R was a logical progression of the very popular ZXR750 series (or simply ZX-7 in the USA). The bike was not quite the radical revolution that those lovely looks hinted at… instead this was an evolution of the ZXR, but with a shorter-stroke motor. Instead the Suzuki GSX-R750WT SRAD (launched in the same year – 1996) was the radical, extreme and ‘hooligan’ choice: in comparison, the ZX-7R was longer, heavier, had slower steering and made less power.
Being that bit more substantial (the swingarm alone was three kilos heavier than the outgoing ZXR750L’s) means they’ve lasted well and the lure of the lime green meanie meant that – for the first year at least – the Kawasaki outsold the SRAD…
The reason why were those handsome, good-looks – in comparison the wasp-tailed GSX-R was (for some) a bridge too far. The front-end of the ZX-7R was also renowned for being better planted than Kew Gardens, while the SRAD was nervous and twitchy. It also had more race pedigree than the Suzuki, thanks to the previous exploits of the likes of Scott Russell on the ZXRs. OK, so the 7R itself never won the World Superbike title, but it beat the GSX-R for race wins and podiums hands down and was the choice of many a good privateer in any superbike paddock…
But, while the GSX-R matured and changed, gaining fuel-injection and a new-look for 2000 with the 750Y, the 7R stayed the same and kept on staying the same… All that did evolve were the bodywork colours and whether the frame and swingarm were finished in aluminium or black. This showed just how good – if not earth-shattering – the original machine actually was, but also showed (perhaps) that Kawasaki had missed a trick, as the bike became a bit of a forgotten machine and withered on Kawasaki’s vine before it silently slipped out of showrooms for good at the end of 2003, leaving Suzuki’s GSX-R as the only sports 750 game in town…
Brakes: A contentious issue, these: six-pot Tokicos come on the standard 7R and Nissin six-pots are on the RR. On the standard bike, the Tokicos were great, but over time they can deteriorate to the extent that many owners of bikes with these calipers on (ZRX, GSX-R, Busa etc…) often swop them out for four-pot Nissins. The secret to keeping them feeling good at the lever is good cleaning/TLC, pad and brake-line changes. Performance falls off a cliff when corrosion sets in – but they can be saved – go to brake experts Powerhouse UK (www.powerhouse.uk) for refurbishment.
Forks: The front end is more ‘strong and stable’ than a Tory government… what this means is precise and steady steering. The Kayaba-made forks will (by now) benefit from a strip-down, possible re-spring and new oil. Many owners use heavier weight fork-oil when this occurs.
Engine: In standard trim, the 7R has a nice spread of power with a useable mid-range. Compared to the same period GSX-R (which peaks at 12,000rpm and more than 110bhp) the ZX-7R hits around 105bhp at just 9000rpm at the rear wheel. This still equates to around 160mph and the sound from the air-box fed by those twin intakes is amazing. The motors are easily tuned to up and around 160bhp in race trim, while a good stage one tune (full exhaust system, air-filter and carb tweaking/jetting changes) will see a very reliable 115-120bhp at the rear wheel.
Carbs: Kawasaki ZX-7Rs are fairly sensitive to carb set-up, so it pays to get experts with prior knowledge (and a rolling road dyno) to marry pipe and intake changes. Two firms that know the 7R well are PDQ (www.pdq1.com) and BSD Performance (www.bsd.uk.com) Carb icing can also be a problem on Kwaks of this age, so keep coolant filter clear or use a fuel additive.
Servicing: 6000-8000 miles.
Gearbox: Not the smoothest, but no major issues reported.
Suspension: As standard the 7R’s suspenders were very good indeed for the time and better than some stock units on later machines. Rear shock is a little hard, but softer than the ZXRs of old which often would inflict pain on the rider. The shock has a ride-height adjuster which is needed if you want the thing to turn as quick as something more modern (ride height adjustment was taken off many later, ‘standard’ machines.) If you’ve got a replacement shock in there (budget units are around £300) without a ride-height adjuster then sticking washers/shims is a simple change, but do remember that this will affect stability.
Comfort: Pretty good for a sports bike, although taller riders may feel the bike has not enough leg room and shorties will hate the stretch around that massive tank. Compared to modern sports/naked bike tackle, the pillion position is generous! There are also bungee hook points, under-seat storage and mirrors that work.
Ignition issues: A few owners have suffered starting problems after leaving bikes for a while. Sometimes the ignition switch can have a loose connection and then be impregnated with water. Use a water-dispersant on the kill switch after cleaning the bike.
Finish: Pretty good but nuts and bolts need the most looking after, painted frames and swingarms show up nicks and cuts easily, wheel rims can suffer from a few too many wheel changes, but in general paint-work is of a good quality.
Fuel range: The 18-litre tank includes a generous five-litre reserve but you’ll still be reaching for the old-style fuel tap by your left knee at around 100-110 miles.
Used values: With the first bikes arriving late in 1995 and the last trundling out as un-registered ‘56-plate’ models from Padgetts, you can find a bike that suits your wallet. Early/abused models start from £900 and rise to a dizzy £6000+ for VERY low mile, mint/original examples.
Recalls: None reported.
Kawasaki ZX-7R P1-P3 (1995-1997) Model history
Colours: Red/purple, green/purple, green, silver/black, red, black
Price new: £8795 (Oct 1995)
Price now: £800-£3000
We say: 748cc motor with claimed 123bhp at the crank.
Kawasaki ZX-7RR (1995-1999)
Colours: Green/purple, green
Price new: £11,000
Price now: £7000+
We say: Homologation race special, today probably rarer than even the likes of the RC30 and OW-01: features close-ratio box, flat-slide carbs, mods to the clutch and flywheel, six-pot Nissins, narrower rear-rim, more travel in the suspension and an adjustable swingarm pivot.
Kawasaki ZX-7R P4-P7 (1998-2003)
Colours: Green/black, green, red, Silver/Yellow
Price new: £7130 (Final price for 02/03 bikes)
Price now: Up to around £7000 for close to zero milers!
Comments: Same model, but now with black swingarm and frame to replicate the later ZX-7R racers.