Kawasaki Z750R | First Ride

Ninja, please

With some 125,000 examples sold in Europe since the Z750’s last makeover in 2007, it’s easy to see why Kawasaki jumped on the R-model bandwagon. An upgraded version with a price tag similar to that of the do-it-all base model should sell quite well.

The new R (for racy) version combines sharper styling with new chassis parts aimed at improving handling. Suspension is borrowed from the ’09 Z1000, a 41mm inverted fork up front and a remote-reservoir shock that operates in conjunction with a new linkage and an aluminum swingarm out back. Both ends feature adjustable spring preload and rebound damping.

The brakes likewise have been upgraded, with radial-mount four-piston Nissin calipers replacing the previous two-pot jobs up front and braided-steel lines all around. There’s no change to the 748cc 16-valve engine, peak output of which remains 105 bhp at 10,500 rpmvirtually identical to the claims for the 675cc Triumph Street Triple.

The Z750R’s specs sheet looks pretty good, as did the line of testbikes glinting in the sunshine outside the launch hotel at Alicante in southeast Spain. The wannabe Ninja is reasonably wieldy at slow speed, and responds keenly to a tweak of throttle, provided the tach needle is kept above 6000 rpm. This motor would definitely benefit from some additional midrange power, but at least it remains smooth when revved toward its 12,000-rpm redline.

Of course, the Z750R is really all about its chassis, and as predicted it felt sportier than the base model when we headed into the twisty roads of the Sierra Marina. The R-model was set up quite firm, and could be ridden quickly with no drama, staying more stable and controllable than I recall the base model feeling when caned on these same roads four years ago.

But if the Z750R goes around corners better than the original, it doesn’t provide the true supersport handling promised by Kawasaki’s advertising. Not that this was ever really likely, given its 500-lb. wet weight and unchanged steering geometry. Although the new front end feels good and steers neutrally, the bike isn’t particularly flickable. The suspension components may be of a higher quality than those of the base model, but they don’t offer any additional adjustments. At least the new front brakes give more power along with plenty of feel.

Back on main roads, the Kawasaki cruised effortlessly at 90 mphplenty fast for my neck muscles, given the lack of wind protection. Despite that and the rather hard seat I found the bike very comfortable, and would have been happy to drain the 4.8-gallon fuel tank if lunch hadn’t interrupted our ride.

In most respects the Z750R is a great bike, with excellent ergonomics and a neat, sporty look. The price is reasonable, too. In Europe, the R-model costs about $11,000 at current exchange rates, which is just 10 percent more than the base Z750. That’s pretty good considering the upgrades.

Even so, the Z750R needs to lose weight and gain more of the Z1000’s midrange power to be a true success. It’s too bad Kawasaki isn’t importing the Z750R into the States, but with the Yamaha FZ8 and other naked bikes slated to hit American showrooms soon, the 750’s absence won’t be felt too terribly.

Tech Spec

Price na
Engine type l-c inline-four
Valve train DOHC, 16v
Displacement 748cc
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 105 bhp @ 10,500 rpm
Claimed torque 58 lb.-ft. @ 8300 rpm
Frame Steel twin-spar with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension Showa 41mm fork with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Rear suspension Showa shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Nissin four-piston radial calipers, 300mm discs
Rear brake Nissin single-piston caliper, 250mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D210F
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D210
Seat height 32.1 in.
Wheelbase 56.7 in.
Fuel capacity 4.8 gal.
Claimed curb weight 500 lbs.
Contact www.kawasaki.com
Verdict 3 stars out of 5
The Z750R certainly seems to tick most of the boxes, but it’s less exciting than it looks.
Styling changes include a tinted windscreen and angular turn signals. There’s also a fresh black finish on the engine, its plastic shrouds and the muffler.