Myth Of The Zephyr

Developed mainly by young Kawasaki engineers, the Kawasaki Zephyr’s design concept was to create a "real" bike that "got back to the basics".

Released in the middle of the race-replica boom of the mid 1980’s, the Zephyr’s refreshingly simple design, strong low and mid-range performance, air-cooled four-cylinder engine, and the prevalent idea of "fun riding" changed the market as enthusiasts swiftly responded to the new machine. Sales were encouraging with the Zephyr range becoming leaders in the emerging retro market at the time.

Zephyr styling is roughly based on the old Kawasaki Z1, with twin shock rear suspension, a relatively upright riding position and air-cooled power units. The 400, 550 and 750 engines were developed from the old Z400/500/550/650/750/900 series. The 1100 engine is based on the air-cooled DOHC, eight-valve inline-four that traces its roots back through the GPz1100 to the Z1000.

Key elements such as box-section swinging arms, modern brakes and wider wheel rims (therefore a better selection of tyres), made the Zephyr look like an old bike but perform and handle like a new machine. For the 1100 things went a little further in that Kawasaki developed a long-awaited twin plug head (meaning 8 spark plugs in all) aiding combustion efficiency; something that racers had wanted for many years.

The Zephyr started the naked/retro bike boom in Europe in the early 1990s which Kawasaki now compete in with their RS “Retro Sport” models.

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issued: Tuesday, December 14, 2021
updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2021

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