The ultimate buyer’s guide for the Kawasaki ZX-7R from the people that ride them
Just look at that picture. The Kawasaki ZX-7R still rates as one of the best-looking race-replica machines ever. And it’s been looks alone that have kept the venerable sexy seven so popular.
First seen at the end of 1995, the 7R was a shorter-stroked development of the ZXR750. Even then, it was not as radical as its opposition – the Suzuki GSX-R750WT. The 7R was longer, heavier, had slower steering and made less power. But amazingly it out-sold the GSX-R.
What the 7R had was good looks and a front end that’s more planted than Monty Don’s garden. It also had race pedigree that the Suzuki couldn’t match. And while the GSX-R matured and changed, gaining fuel injection and a new look for 2000 with the 750Y, the 7R stayed the same.
The 7R has a nice spread of power with a useable mid-range delivered in what today would be classed as a rather ‘sedate’ package. While the ZX-7R hits barely 105bhp at a lowly 9000rpm it still manages a good 163mph top end, which isn’t bad for an 11-year-old bike.
Best bit is the noise. The airbox snarl sounds like it will rip your face off, while a freer-breathing pipe not only does wonders for weight loss and power gains, but it also helps the motor sound even better.
Tuneability? Race teams, club racers, drag tuners and street specials builders have been getting mucho power (up to 160bhp) out of these things for years, so a good track or street tune is easy to get, along with a sliding scale of reliability.
Servicing is generally every 6000-8000 miles.
There’s a thousand home tuners out there who claim to know the secret to Zen-like carb tuning on the 7R, it’s been around so long. One thing is true: these things are sensitive, so it pays to get experts on the case to marry pipes and carb parts. Two very knowledgeable tuning emporiums we’d recommend are BSD Developments (01733 223377)and PDQ Motorcycle Developments (01753 730043). They’ll have an off-the-shelf answer, guaranteed.
Common with big Kwaks of this age. Either an unwillingness to start in the morning or a hesitation on the throttle. Cleaning the carb heater’s coolant filter helps, as does using Silkolene Pro FST (around £9 a litre), which stopswater vapour freezing in the carburettors.
Blessed with a great front end, the 7R has always been a precise and steady steerer. It doesn’t have laser-sharp steering like more modern tackle, but things weren’t like that back then. The Kayaba-made forks benefit from a re-valve if they’ve seen better days. Rear shock is a little hard, but has a screw and locknut ride height adjuster which is needed if you want the thing to turn as quick as something more modern. Today, wear and tear will see these units past their best, but going to a reputable suspension expert will see a rebuild and re-valve that will be better value for money than any engine tune. If you’ve got a replacement shock in there without a ride-height adjuster or you simply want an even quicker turn-in then sticking a couple of washers between the shock and the frame works wonders.
Six-pot Tokicos on the standard 7R and Nissin six-pots on the RR. On the standard bike, these brakes were very good. Today they’re good but only if they're in good condition. They do benefit from pad and brake line changes.
Early Euro machines (non-UK and US) had a projector-beam headlight on the left with main beam on the right, while the other machines had dual-multi refl ectors. Projector beam models do look cool and there are ways you can attach some to your 7R. Check out the myriad of 7R owners’ sites.
A few owners have suffered ignition problems after leaving bikes in damp garages or outside. Sometimes the ignition switch can have a loose connection and then be impregnated with water, in turn stopping the bike starting. Try spraying some WD40 or other water-dispersant down inside the kill switch as part of your regular maintenance procedure.
Owners either love standard gearing or go for one tooth down on the front and up one or two on the back. The result is a sub-150mph top-end but improved acceleration.
In general these are rated as ‘robust but clunky’ by owners. There’s no evidence of any widespread terminal failures here.
You need to keep on top of them and look after them, like most Kawasakis of this vintage, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded. Nuts and bolts need most looking after, painted frames and swingarms show up nicks and cuts, wheel rims can suffer from a few too many wheel changes, but in general paint-work is good quality.
Pretty good for a sports bike, although taller riders may want for leg room and shorties will hate the stretch aroundthat massive tank. The pillion position is tenable for a day’s blast.
Originally fitted with the lack-lustre Dunlop Sportsmax II, a range of tyres are tried and trusted on the 7R, including Bridgestone’s BT56 then BT010s, through to the latest 014s. Pirelli Diablos also popular. Michelin’s Pilot Sport are also well regarded.
The 18-litre tank includes a hefty 5-litre reserve but you’ll still be reaching for the old-style fuel tap by your left kneeat around 110 miles.
Too many to list! The usual plastic and carbon bits, not to mention a host of exhausts in both slip-on and full system options. Our advice would be to avoid machines with a host of tat and buy a clean example with a select few ‘desirable’ add-ons, such as an end-can or ’zorst professionally matched with jetting kit and sensible suspension mods.
1996 DEALER: 35K MILES: £1680 PRIVATE: 35K MILES: £1430
1998 DEALER: 30K MILES: £1850 PRIVATE: 30K MILES: £1570
2000 DEALER: 23K MILES: £2250 PRIVATE: 23K MILES: £1910
2002 DEALER: 16K MILES: £2400 PRIVATE: 16K MILES: £2040
“Since 2002 I’ve run a trackday ZX-7R which has a few mods that help it keep up with modern tackle. The motor is only stage one tuned; I don’t need more than that. Mine’s pumping out 118bhp. Gearing is lowered, PDQ/Race Techre-valved front end and a Hyperpro shock has plenty of ride height dialled in. My main problem has been brake fade – not yet sorted but to be fair, it is carrying quite a load. With a mild yearly service, it’s never missed a beat. Bullet proof is what these bikes are.”Bertie Simmonds
“Sure, they’re heavier and slower than modern stuff, but on the road it’s a good, stable ride. My first 7R was replaced by a 2002 model and the ’96 bike became a very tricked-up track bike, with a 130bhp+ motor. With both my road-bike 7Rs, the only problems I’ve had has been carb icing (quelle surprise) and one battery charging issue with the later bike.”Kevin Amato
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