First Real 'Superbike"?

Despite the 1969 cb750 and 1972 Z1 being dubbed "superbikes", perhaps the accolade sits better with the 1984 GPz900R (marketing as the Ninja 900 in the USA). Why? Because this was the first of a generation of bikes that continues until this day combining outstanding engine performance, game changing technology and supreme handling and brakes.

Developed in secret over six years, it was Kawasaki's and the world's first 16-valve liquid-cooled in-line four-cylinder motorcycle engine. The 908 cc engine (with the cam chain running up the side of the engine rather than centrally to reduce width) delivered 115 bhp, allowing the bike to reach speeds of 151 mph (243 km/h), making it the first stock road bike to exceed 150 mph (240 km/h) barrier and therefore gave it the title of the fastest production bike at the time.

With the release of the ZZ-R1100 in 1990, the GPZ900R lost its status as Kawasaki's flagship model, but continued, with some revisions of the fork, wheels, brakes and airbox, until 1993 in Europe, until 1986 in the US and until 2003 (!) in Japan where it remains a cult bike.

The GPZ900 changed the face of sports bikes forever and is considered a valuable classic today. For restorers the A1 model is most sought after with slightly shorter exhausts than other models. Weak points include radiators and, on some early machines, oil supply to the top end. These bikes have a loyal following and prices are creeping up, if you are considering buying do it now and enjoy the dawn of Superbiking!

issued: Wednesday, November 16, 2022
updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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