Kawasaki ZRX1100, Strong Presence !

Maybe other retro-look bikes handled better, or went faster, or were more ‘true’ to the originals, but nothing looked as good as the Kawasaki ZRX1100.

Kawasaki ZRX1100

Kawasaki did retro first and did it well with the Zephyr range in the early 1990s, in a series of 550, 750 and 1100 air-cooled offerings, but the Kawasaki ZRX1100 range was moving things on a little. Three versions saw light of day: a naked, round-headlight ‘N’ version, a half-faired ‘S’ which was launched in 2001 and the one we want to talk about – the ZRX1100R, which was launched in 1997.

All models used the water-cooled 1052cc motor from the ZZ-R1100, detuned to around 106 HP, placed in a tubular frame, with a braced swingarm and twin Kayaba piggyback reservoir shocks. The coup de grace for the R was the adoption of a small, rectangular bikini fairing, which aped the Eddie Lawson Replicas of the early 1980s. Originally launched in a silver or purple, the Kawasaki ZRX1100 R looked good, but when it adopted an ELR-esque green with stripes, it suddenly really looked the part and things went mad from there.

Other old Zed-stylee colours were silver with black stripes and a Firecracker red with blue and silver stripes. For us retro-mad riders in the late 1990s, it was manna from heaven. For 2001 the engine capacity went up to 1164cc and claimed 120 HP just prior to the ZZ-R1200 coming out.

Kawasaki ZRX1100

Other manufacturers got on board. Okay, Yamaha was already there with the air-cooled XJR1200 of 1995, which also morphed into a 1300 version. Suzuki came along later with the wibbly-wobbly handling GSX1400 (and no GS-style nose-cone, shame) and Honda with the CB1000 and then CB1300s. But none of them could really touch the Kawasaki ZRX1100 for character. Problems on them were solid. On the one I had, the only issue was with the age-old issues of finish on the motor and various hangers. Brakes (six-pot Tokicos) needed looking after too, and downpipes soon lost colour or began to rust.

Specials builders love these bikes. Sharing the ZZ-R engine meant you could put the original cams back in and with other changes liberate 150 HP. The chassis tarted up with better brakes, pukka ELR paint and extended swingarms and the like. This popularity is reflected in owners clubs on both sides of the pond – not unnaturally the Americans love ’em – and strong residuals.

Prices tentatively start at £1500. We’ve seen good, solid 1100s in our own ads for £1800 – while eBay and the like sees these bikes start around £2000-£2500. We’ve also seen low-mile, late model (03-06) 1200Rs go for up to five grand! No-wonder Z-Power’s Dave Marsden tucked away one of the last 1200Rs in the UK. We’ve yet to hear of someone buying the less loved (but almost identical) Sand converting one to look like an R, but it must be possible? Sadly, the new Kawasaki ZRX never came to the UK...

Kawasaki ZRX1100 Specs

Engine : 1.052cc, 4-Stroke, Liquid Cooled, Transverse Four Cylinder, DOHC 4-Valves per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke : 79 x 59.4 mm
Compression Ratio : 10.1:1
Induction : 4x 36mm Mikuni Carbs
Max Power : 106 HP (77.3 kW) @ 8.700 RPM
Max Torque : 98 N.m @ 7.000 RPM
Transmission : 5 Speed, Chain

Wheelbase : 1.450 mm
Seat Height : 790 mm
Dry Weight : 222 kg
Fuel Capacity : 20 Litres

Frame : Double Cradle Tubular Steel
Front Suspension : 43mm Telescopic Forks, Adjustable Preload, Compression and Rebound.
Rear Suspension : Dual shocks, Adjustable Preload, Compression and Rebound.
Front Brakes : 2 x 310 mm Discs, 6-Piston Calipers
Rear Brakes : 250 mm Disc, 2-Piston Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 - ZR17
Rear Tyre : 170/60 - ZR17

Kawasaki ZRX1100 Used Price : £2000 - £2500