There are many iconic motorcycles, but only a handful have changed the entire industry. In 1984 the little Kawasaki GPz900R arrived from the small Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki & redefined a performance motorcycle – forever.
This isn’t your usual Japanese sportbike.. this is a hard-core performance motorcycle aimed directly at the hard-core performance rider. If you think the essence of motorcycling is the sensation of leaning into corners, you need one. Source: Motorcyclist 1984
Despite the 908cc engine being at least 10% smaller than her competitors (Z1300!), almost 40 years later it still ranks as the 17th fastest production motorcycle – ever. But in 1984 it’s performance was breath-taking. Not simply the first +150mph motorcycle, it cornered properly & was out-run by only a handful of exclusive supercars – off the line it left all of these far behind.
The GPz was, by almost every measure, King of the Road.
Context? A modern production superbike is now out-muscled by scores of modern supercars. To be the fastest you need 4 wheels and very deep pockets. In 1984 you simply bought a GPz900R.
The 1948 Vincent Black Shadow is deservedly regarded as the grandfather of superbikes. Incredibly fast but expensive, uncomfortable and, let’s be honest, dangerous. And apart from being cheaper not much changed right through to the early 80’s.
But Kawasaki had seen the future & after six years of development the GPz took performance motorcycling from a limited, niche market and handed it to the masses on a gold platter.
It was affordable and handled impeccably, a performance motorcycle that the average rider, even Tom Cruise, could genuinely own – and coincidentally was basically the fastest vehicle on the road. It is no wonder it made such an impact.
…the Ninja is almost a production-racer motorcycle for street use, a motorcycle that can’t be versatile without losing it’s specialist expertise. The Ninja’s target is the no-compromise sports rider who wants high-tech hardware and who thinks or knows he can use it. Source: Road Test 1984
The Ninja (its name in the US) was a decathlete – designed to be the best at everything that defined a performance motorcycle. No longer did this simply mean power and size, that’s why the engine is only 908cc. The brilliance of the Kawasaki engineers was that by designing the whole package it also happened to be the fastest on the road and no slouch on the racetrack either.
Re-defined as a sports-tourer gave the design an incredible 20 year sales run, out-lasting scores of sports & performance motorcycles. If you could only own one sporting motorcycle the GPz remained a genuine choice – for well over a decade.
Firstly it opened the door to this market – sensible people, not simply riders, now realised they could own a performance motorcycle and live to tell the tale. Secondly, the GPz was so good at everything that only by specialising could other motorcycles genuinely out-point her.
The wonderful 1985 Suzuki GSX-R750 is the perfect example. Dominated 750cc production racing but was only marginally faster than the Kawasaki on a race-track. How marginal? Well after 3 hours racing around Mt Panorama, pretty darn close, the last lap of this race is brilliant. Frightening too from a modern perspective, those riders had nerves of steel.
To begin with you have to appreciate the different design concepts of the GPz and the GSX-R. The former is essentially a road bike that just happens to be pretty good on the track; the latter was designed from the outset as a straight-from-the-crate racer that just happens to have lights and indicators. Source: Motorcycle International Nov 85
Kawasaki produced the ultimate performance motorcycle. The fastest and the best at almost everything. The GPz shook the industry from it’s laziness – speed was no longer enough. History shows from here that any significant motorcycle design was more specialised, stronger at one element but weaker at another, creating the different sports-tourers, superbikes and hyperbikes we now see today.
In 1984 the GPZ was all of these – there simply will never be another motorcycle like it.
The aim of this site is to be the ultimate online reference point for owning & maintaining a GPz900R.
From here you will find links to other online resources, general information, maintenance, parts, technical & service information with real experiences and input from real owners. The good, the bad and the ugly. Please feel free to contribute to the knowledge-base on this iconic motorcycle as we cruise towards her 50th anniversary in 2034.
Enjoy the ride!
These organisations support the site & the GPz900r, so please support them.
Register your GPz900r
Registration adds your chapter to the international story of riding this unique machine, but more importantly allows you to share details of your personal ownership experiences, in particular local contacts and specialists. This information is of great value and benefit to other owners and helps keep these wonderful machines running.
Plus it gives me more photos to use!
Registration is totally free and I can structure the online information to be as private and/or anonymous as you require. The only required information required is:
- a recent photo
- engine number
- frame number
“My goal is to create the ultimate online reference for the gpz900r – and be the definitive source of information for anyone across the world owning this unique motorcycle.”
“Technical information on this site is real-life, hands-on experiences provided by actual owners of the bike.”
“In 2034 the GPz900r will be 50 years old – my goal is to have 908 bikes online to celebrate that milestone!”