My 1998 '9-R

         This is a brilliant bike. I could hardly ask more of it. Forget press coverage about the R1 / Blade / 916 being faster, quicker or better handling. In the real world, this bike is just as good. In fact, I say its better. If you only ever go solo (996), don't ever plan on touring (R1) and don't mind stopping at every second petrol station (SP1) then sure an R1, 'Blade or 996 might be better. However, if you live in the real world you will want more.

You will want the ability to carry a passenger, be reasonably comfortable, space under the seat (for waterproofs, locks, maps etc.). In short you will want a ZX9-R - but then again, you probably already have one if you are reading this.

As far as performance goes, it is as quick and as fast as I can cope with, and easily out handles me. If you gun it away from the lights, it will lift the front wheel from as little as 5000rpm. When it hits 8000rpm, not even a block of concrete on the front wheel will hold it down. Finally, 3.5 secs later, your doing 70mph (still in first) and in ban territory. But don't stop there - no, keep going till it maxes out at over 170mph (my personal best is 155mph).

Also, this bike performs well to tuning. Fit a race can or full exhaust, fettle the suspension and then you have a tool that can keep up with or outpace anything else that you will meet on the road. So far, there has not been another bike that will outdrag my ZX9, honest.

My first rides on the bike reminded me of a 500cc motocrosser I had driven – it almost demanded to be ridden the same way. It is a very loose, free revving engine, that demands to be thrashed. Ignore the clutch (except for down changing) and just open the throttle and listen to the airbox howl.

AS I mentioned earlier, this bike does handle. It even allowed me to get the old knee down. Peg scrapping is also possible, but it is starting to feel a little …. vague (can’t think of the right words to describe it).

Running costs are good, with long runs averaging 50mpg (even at 80-100mph). Servicing at 4-4500mls intervals is pretty reasonable too. Intermediate services are 130 and main (shims) are 250. However, I guess after the warranty runs out  (which it has now) I will do it myself. Once the motor is settled in, shims don't need changing and the only other thing would be carb balancing. But at 130, I could buy a set of vacuum gauges.

One word of warning though - if you drive a lot in the country side and tend to pick up a lot of insects on the front of the bike, check your air filter. Remember, it is ram air and you will be surprised at the number of dead insects that end up in there.

I initially stuck with the original BT56s (good enough for peg scraping, good enough for me), and they lasted almost 5000mls. The handling went off about 500-1000mls before this, but since I was touring at the time, I stuck with them. I then moved onto BT56ss. They are pretty good when warm, but I have had a few rear end slides before they get up to temperature. I don't really think I am fast enough to benefit ftom the extra grip and won't buy another pair. They lasted about 3500mls (but, maybe they should have been replaced at 3000mile). Now, I use the new BT010's. These are definately the best tyres yet. Good grip from cold, better / stable grip when warm - they just fill you full of confidence. Too soon to say about the wear rate, only done 1500mls.

Currently the bike is sitting on about 18500mls after about 3 years. It has seen three winters - one ridden everyday, the others only at the weekends and the build quality is very good. Even the polished aluminium bits have lasted well with no signs of pitting. It is still on the original chain, sprockets. The brake pads lasted about 13,000mls.

With 18,500 mls on the clock the steering head bearing were finally due for replacement.Strangely enough, non of the big parts suppliers (MandP, MPS etc) said they stocked the parts. So, it was genuine Kawa parts at 29 each - twice what I paid for the Diversion ones.Now, I know bearing stockists would have them, but that requires taking them out first. Anyway, I also got the dust seals which, by the way, the bottom one is virtually essential as it can get damaged while removing the bearing.

I also changed the front fork oil. Strangely, the oil in one of the forks looked old and worn, but in the other, it looked newer than the stuff I was putting in!  It took about 10 hrs overall, but I wasn't really in a hurry. Also, I took all the faring of etc etc but I reckon you could do it without removing everything - especially if you have the right bearing seating installation tool.

So, if you are about to do this, here is the bearing numbers (manufacturer Koyo) - Save yourself some money.

Steering Head Bearing (2 No.)

32907JR-N (Seating).
32907JR-3 (Bearing).

I have had one warrenty claim, and that was for a clutch (9000mls). The main culprit was some machine control days I had been attending (part of the IAM training). This teaches slow speed control (e.g. feet-up, full-lock U-turns) and requires a constant throttle, trailing brake and slipping clutch to perfect. Since I don't do wheelies from the clutch, I am positive the slow speed training was the culprit.

As you would expect, aftermarket bits are plentiful, so you can change virtually anything to suit your own tastes. And, the sheer amount of blue ones on the roads virtually ensure you will change something – otherwise, you will never find your own in the bike parks.

I have already had that sinking feeling in the stomach when returning to my bike, I thought someone had nicked the two helmets that had been locked to it. Only to discover that mine was a few bikes further down the field (Brands Hatch 99).