Showing posts with label Japanese Superbikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japanese Superbikes. Show all posts

Honda NR750

Honda NR750 1990s Japanese superbike

Few road-going superbikes are quite so race-bred as the Honda NR750. It was a direct descendant of Honda's NR500 GP bike. The NR roadster was released in '92. That was a decade or so on from when the four-stroke racer had been slugging it out with Suzuki and Yamaha 'strokers'. Well, trying to, at any rate. The plucky Honda was always disadvantaged against its free-revving two-stroke rivals. As a result, Honda's NR500 race bike was retired in '81.

The feature for which the NR is famous is its oval pistons. To be pedantic, they were not actually oval. They were lozenge-shaped. The 'ovoid' pistons, then, were the NR's most clear-cut connection with its racing ancestry. Ultimatey - whatever precise form they took - they worked. The NR delivered 125bhp - at 14,000 rpm. Top speed was 160mph. That was notwithstanding the NR's weight - a tubby 489lb. While the NR's performance was impressive - it was not earth-shattering. Honda had done its best to pull a V8 rabbit out of a V4 hat. Effectively, to double it up. With that in mind, the NR's V4 engine was fitted with eight fuel injectors and titanium conrods. Four camshafts depressed thirty-two lightweight valves. Sadly, though, the modifications did not equate to twice the speed!

The NR's styling was almost as adventurous as its engineering. Its screen was titanium-coated, for instance. That was backed up by a brilliant finish - in every sense of the word. The paintwork and polished aluminium frame were particularly lustrous. The bike's build quality was equally dazzling. In every department, then, the NR delivered. Above all, it oozed charisma - mainly on account of its unique engine configuration. Bikes like the NR tend not to clock up too many owners. And not just because of high price tags and running costs. Such a machine grants access to motorcycling's inner sanctum. Arguably - more than any other roadster - the Honda NR750 mixed visual and technical exoticism. Put simply - glamour was never an issue!

Yamaha YZF R1

Yamaha YZF R1 1990s Japanese sports bike

The Yamaha YZF R1 was about as close to a racer as a road-bike gets. Everything about it screamed speed. Its fairing parted air like a shark shifts water. Its tail-piece was sharp enough to shave with. In terms of its tech-spec, the R1 tasted number-crunching good! A power output of 160bhp. A dry weight of 389lb. A top speed of 170mph. Satisfying stats, to be sure!

But, the R1 was not just quick and aerodynamic - it was agile as an acrobat. Indeed, so 'flickable' was it, that it was almost so to a fault. The R1 could made corners a bit too tempting! Short and slim, its wheelbase was minimal. All the better for flying through bends. Engine-wise, there were 5 valves per cylinder. 20 minuscule parts - doing a mechanised dance of staggering precision. Cycle parts were state of the art. Suspension and brakes were razor-responsive. In every department, the R1 excelled. As you would expect, it sold in shedloads!

The R1 is the kind of machine lives get built around. It inspires not so much dedication - as devotion. Whether at R1 owners' rallies, track days or production racing events, the bike instils pride - and confidence - like few others. The Yamaha YZF R1 was a two-wheeled icon. And that will not be changing anytime soon!

Yamaha FZR1000

Yamaha FZR1000 1980s Japanese sports bike

'Genesis' is one heck of a tag to give a motorbike. But, that is what the first version of the Yamaha FZR1000 was called, when introduced in '87. No pressure, then! In the beginning, there had been the FZR1000 race bike. That begat the Genesis roadster ... which multiplied in great profusion. The first follow-up model was the Exup - or Exhaust Ultimate Powervalve. By that point, the FZR1000 was already selling in shedloads.

The FZR topped out at a dizzying 168mph. Output was 140bhp. It tipped the scales at a scant 461lb dry. 'Upside-down forks', on later models, reduced unsprung weight - and thereby improved handling. A 17″ front wheel - and radial tyre - helped raise the roadholding bar. At the back, a rock-solid swingarm pivoted on an aluminium twin-spar Deltabox frame. The engine's electronic Exup system extended the FZR's powerband into the middle of the rev range.

The FZR was one sweetly-styled sports bike. The twists and turns of its bodywork went every which way. Rather than being a cause of confusion, though - in this case, it 'worked'. With the FZR1000, then, Yamaha gave a blank sheet to its engineers/designers. They clearly seized the invitation to move the motorcycle onto new ground!

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 2000s Japanese sports bike

The letter 'Z' - on a Kawasaki motorbike - has long denoted high-performance. The Ninja ZX-6R - released in '03 - was a case in point. A race-bred riot on two wheels, it had a licence to thrill. As uncompromising as bikes come, the ZX-6R made 116bhp. Much of that was thanks to its ram-air system. Top speed was 160mph. Not bad for a 636cc capacity machine. The fact that the ZX-6R weighed in at just 354lb helped account for its awesome acceleration.

When it came to keeping all that power in line, the ZX-6R's chassis was well up to the job. Twin radial front brake callipers were there, if needed. They were directly derived from Kawasaki's race programme. As were the ZX-6R's thinly-padded seats … definitely not designed for comfort! That said - crouched racing-style atop the plot - rider and pillion were well-placed to help steer the beast. The lack of leverage from the stubby 'bars made hanging off through corners a requirement. To some degree, at least. That is an art to be acquired with caution! But - with weight distribution correctly addressed - the Ninja gave high-precision handling.

Just as the letter 'Z' can say so much when it is a Kawasaki, so can a colour. Every hue and shade in the spectrum has bedecked a motorbike, at some time or other. But seldom with the impact of lime-green. Since the heyday of the 'Green Meanies', the colour has adorned many a production Kawasaki. They were the evil-handling H2R race bikes the firm sent out onto Seventies circuits. Certainly, lime-green suited the ZX-6R. Green has been said by some to bring bad luck to a motorcycle. If so, it was not the case with the Ninja. The ZX-6R restored Kawasaki's status as sports bike supremos. 'Z-Bikes' have long been integral to the marque. Fast, dynamic, exciting? Always. Zzzzz? Never!

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa 1990s Japanese superbike

The Suzuki Hayabusa was released in '99. At the time, the Honda Super Blackbird ruled the motorcycle roost - in top speed terms, at least. From a Suzuki standpoint, that was a stat that needed to change. The Hayabusa is a Japanese bird of prey. No doubt, one which would not object to gobbling down a tasty blackbird or two on its travels!

Suzuki's assault on the top speed slot would be a three-pronged affair. The Hayabusa's 1,299cc engine was the biggest in a sports bike, up to that point. Its ram air set-up did just that - forcing increasing amounts through the carbs, the quicker the bike went. The result was a high-octane 173bhp. The Hayabusa was also quite light - weighing in at 473lb dry. Not slimline, as such - but less than you would expect for a bike of its size. The third item on Suzuki's must-have list was good aerodynamics. The bike's bulbous-looking bodywork was not to everyone's taste. But - aesthetic considerations aside - it was a lot more slippery than it looked. At any rate, designer Koji Yoshirua's primary goal had been to make a strong visual statement.

The Hayabusa's 1300 engine was, basically, a bigger version of the GSX-R1100 unit. Each iteration of Suzuki's flagship model had refined its core components. So - by the time the Hayabusa came along - the package was pretty well primed. All of which resolved to 194mph, at full chat. That was enough to knock the Super Blackbird off its high-speed perch. Mission accomplished, then, for the Suzuki Hayabusa. As it happens, Yoshirua claims the intention was not to make it the fastest road bike on the planet. But, that can probably be taken with a generous grain of Japanese salt!