Road Test

Living with a 2002 Kawasaki ZX-9R

The Kawasaki ZX-9R didn't survive this long term test in the hands of Shippey

July 2002

When Gusbuster arrived back one sunny Thursday afternoon, I rushed downstairs to check out my new baby. I had been eagerly awaiting my new Buell Firebolt ever since Bertie praised it on the launch a while back. I know that the design concept was meant to be new and exciting but as she was wheeled into the daylight she looked remarkably like Brittle Bowen's ZX-9R!

As a large ball of blue-tac bounced off my head, I looked round to see the Evil one leering from the window cackling like the maniac he is. 'Shippey, that's your new longtermer, I'm havin' the Firebolt!'  fair doos.  Well more the fool he is.  Five weeks later and the Buell is nowhere to be seen, meanwhile I have been gallivanting around the countryside breaking in my lovely, shiny new ZX-9.  I think that after a year riding the ZX-12 and Gusbusters ZX-6, I am destined for a life on Kwakers.  Fine by me, I love 'em.  The new 636 was my top choice in this months big 600's shootout at Cadwell, probably due to my first knee-down experience.  I love the motors, the ride positions, the all round usability, even the build quality is getting better year after year and may soon rival Honda.

The handling is superb although I will try out the settings that Sonic and Gus used last month at Rockingham as numerous track days loom on the horizon.

October 2002

Fresh from a weekend jaunt to Normandy, I was all set for the impending longtermers to Cumbria. Unfortunately two days beforehand Grant had other ideas for Jim and me. He mumbled about something called 'work' which apparently needed us both in the office. I couldn't quite figure it out, but had to go along with his rantings nonetheless.

Turned out pretty well for in the end I reckoned though as Surrey was bathed in glorious sunshine while Cumbria flooded.

Wozza and Ben turned up early Monday morning to whisk the ZX-9 away. I never really like lending my bike out to people, bar one or two that I can trust that is. Unfortunately I wouldn't trust these two as far as I could throw them, and so waved weakly and shed a little tear as she ambled down the drive, wondering when and if we would frolic together again.

All seemed okay though.  There were no phone calls to say anyone had binned it and a couple of days later Ben and Wozza got back to the office, but not with the 9. Which was a tad worrying until they told me Chris had taken it home after the test and I'd be getting it back in day or so. All cool so far...

"Not bad but crap brakes and the tyres are pretty squared off," were Ben's sentiments on the ZX-9. Well of course, I was hardly going to give her a new set of pads and rubber if I wasn't riding her now would I?

But then came the call from Chris. "Sorry mate I've got to come clean - I dropped your bike two miles from home doing a u-turn last night. Broke me toe, snapped off the right footrest hanger and indicator.  Bit of scuffing too."

Oh well. Not so bad - I wanted a pair of rearsets anyway and I appreciated his honesty. He brought her back the following day just in time to bodge-fit another hanger re and shoot off for a few more pics with the 9, this time in the care of her rightful owner.

"Oh yeah," Chris added as I went down to be reunited with my steed, "she fell over on the other side last night in the drive, must have been the rain..." Great. Double whammy! Last time anyone borrows my bike I vowed.

Bike bodged, we headed into sunny (shock, horror) Sussex, stopping at a nice left-hander.  Oli got his cameras out and off we went. Piece of piss. 

Off I set at an easy pace. I knew the corner was pretty tight so slowed to somewhere between 30-40mph changed down to second, moved my body a little to the left, started to lean into the corner then BANG! Major mid-corner faux pas, big panic as I lost the road, jammed on the front, which then buckled and tucked under. Down I went like a sack of facking spuds. Ended up in pain on the verge with the bike picking blackberries now tucked another ten feet into the bushes. Twat, spanner, dickhead, muppet was all I could think!

Lying in the grass I did a quick mental check of my limbs to make sure that they still worked but a broken toe and battered left leg was the only physical damage fortunately, Alpinestars jacket, gloves and boots doing their job nicely. Even my GAP jeans came out alright. 

At least I didn't hit my head I thought before Wozza pointed out the chips in my Arai where I had in fact bounced my way along the tarmac. The test was barely two minutes old and I'd crashed already. Thank Christ there was no oncoming traffic.

The battered ego was the most painful, especially as I knew a good few weeks of piss-taking was on the way. Funnily enough my Baglux seat covers and tank cover were completely unscathed and the Ventura luggage rails had saved the tail too. The rest of the bodywork was in tatters, not helped I'd wager by the bike flipping once it hit the grass then landing nose first... 

Spent three hours in Kings College Hospital A&E that night. Very friendly staff so thanks for all your help. I thoroughly recommend them for all first-time crashers!

Moral of this story is to let your tyres warm up, and go slower through unknown corners. It's never a good time to crash and my whole body aches now, but at least I didn't hurt myself too badly. 

Just gotta go and make the dreaded call to Kawasaki now and own up just like Chris did to me.

PS. on a separate note, if the person who nicked my Suomy from Brands WSB wants to give me a call I'm more than happy to arrange a meeting...

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