Skip to main content

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) - Review & Buying Guide

Bike journo for a quarter of a century









Overall BikeSocial rating


Kawasaki’s ZZ-R1100 is the original hyperbike. Launched in 1990 as the replacement for the short-lived ZX-10, the ZZ-R took top speed to a new level, becoming the world’s fastest production bike. Flat out in top (sixth) the ZZ-R would romp its way to almost 175mph, eclipsing even Yamaha’s mighty FZR1000 EXUP.

The ZZ-R’s remarkable performance was achieved through a three-point plan: big power (early bikes made just shy of 130bhp; later models as much as a claimed 147bhp); forced induction – the ZZ-R was the first production bike to really benefit from the use of ram-air induction, effectively force-feeding the airbox for a more potent combustion; and thirdly, super-slippery aerodynamics to minimise drag at high speed.

This combination lifted the ZZ-R way above previous big hitters like Honda’s CBR1000F and Kawasaki’s own ZX-10, later encouraging Honda and Suzuki to join the battle to build the world’s fastest production bike, with the CBR1100XX Super Blackbird and GSX1300R Hayabusa.

Not only was and is the ZZ-R eye-openingly fast, it’s also super comfortable and more than capable of tackling a big tour two-up with luggage. A very quick grand tourer, if you will. The original ZZ-R1100, the C model, was quickly updated into D, which appeared in 1993 and ran largely unchanged until the model’s final year in 2001. The later ZZ-R1200 never quite captured the 1100’s appeal, grace, or presence, so if you’re after a ferociously fast Kawasaki hyperbike that doubles up as an amazing all-rounder, and is also easy on the pocket – to buy, at least – the 1100 is still well worth a punt.

  • Still monstrously fast and luxuriously comfortable over distance

  • Great two-up and with luggage

  • 170mph-plus performance for moped money

  • Finish on calipers, exhaust and exposed metal is poor

  • Not as agile as a Hayabusa

  • Cruise control? Heated grips? Connectivity? Forget it

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) Price

The ZZ-R1100 appeared in two distinct guises – the 1990-1992 C models, and the 1993-2001 D spec. The later ZZ-R1200 (2001-2002) is a completely different model.

1990 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100C1
First model, launched alongside the ZZ-R600. Obvious successor to the ZX-10. Colossal performance for the time – 170mph-plus. Ram-air induction (single air duct in fairing) boosted top end. 127bhp, 228kg. Colours: black/blue, red/silver

1991 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100C2
Graphics/colour change only. Colours: black/grey, violet/purple

1992 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100C3
All-black frame. Minor updates, but essentially colour updates only. Colours: red/black, black

1993 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D1
Heavily revised model. Power up to by 20bhp, mainly down to a revised ram air system with twin front intakes in place of the C model’s singular slot. A redesigned fairing, tank (up three litres in capacity to 24 litres), seat and tail unit gave the D a new look. All new frame with visible rear subframe casting. Fuel gauge added. 147bhp, 233kg. Colours: black/grey, violet/orange

1994 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D2
Colour changes only. Colours: wine red, teal green/blue

1995 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D3
Digital clock added to cockpit. Colours: purple/black, two-tone red

1996 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D4
Colour/graphics changes only. Colours: red or green

1997 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D5
Dunlop D207 tyres as standard. Single colours only. Colours: grey or red

1998 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D6
Colour changes only. Colours: black/grey, wine red/grey

1999 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D7
Alarm and immobiliser fitted as standard. Colours: black or red

2001 Kawasaki ZZ-R1100D9
Colour changes only. Colours: red/grey

C-model values: Rough £800-£1500; Tidy £1800-£2600; Mint £2800-£3200

D-model values: Rough £1000-£1700; Tidy £2000-£2800; Mint £3000-£3500

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) Engine and Performance

Kawasaki is a company that favours evolution rather than revolution, so it’s no surprise that the ZZ-R1100’s engine leans heavily on tech already tried and tested in the 1988-1990 ZX-10. In fact, it’s easy to trace the ZZ-R’s mechanical lineage all the way back to 1984 and the GPz900R.

That lineage is purely architectural, however. None of the ZZ-R’s engine internals are interchangeable with the ZX-10, but the layout is the same: DOHC 16v inline-four with a left side mounted camchain. Stroke is the same as the ZX-10 too, at 58mm, but a 2mm increase in bore raised capacity from 997cc to 1052cc.

Crank pics were strengthened, pistons lightened, while the cylinder head was reworked with larger valves and saucier cams. Combined with wider headers, 40mm Keihin carbs (up 4mm on the ZX), plus a larger airbox and an all new ram air system, the ZZ-R produced 12% more power than its predecessor. Flat out in top the ZZ-R was good for a genuine 170mph-plus, depending on conditions.

UK machines were restricted to 125bhp, thanks a gentlemen’s agreement with the importers at the time, but releasing the motor’s full potential was possible with just four swipes of a craft knife to remove the rubber crescent restrictors in the inlet.

Kawasaki gave the ZZ-R1100 a major overhaul just three years into the bike’s run – new chassis, bodywork, styling and, crucially, a further performance boost in the shape of a more efficient ram air system, this time with double intakes at the front of the bike and a 33% larger airbox. Exhaust bore size was enlarged again, and bigger main jets were fitted to the carbs. Full power was a claimed 147bhp – huge for the time, and enough to make the ZZ-R the fastest production bike in the world. Late D2 models were sold in full power form because by then the threat of a Europe wide 100bhp limit had run its course.

The ZZ-R1100 may now be more than three decades old, but it remains a blisteringly fast motorcycle and one with huge reserves of meaty torque. It was the world’s first true ‘hyperbike’ and it still lives up to that name.

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) Handling & Suspension

A powerful, large capacity motor requires a big, strong chassis to keep it in check, and that’s exactly what Kawasaki gave the ZZ-R1100. Just like the ZX-10 before it, the ZZ-R features an aluminium beam frame with deep perimeter spars – although the beams are thicker and the front end features slightly sharper steering geometry. Wheelbase is 5mm longer to aid high speed stability.

C model bikes run twin 310mm discs upfront and a 170 section rear tyre. Hyperbikes are all about speed, so the ZZ-R’s bodywork, although substantial, is super-slippery and a contributing factor to the bike’s 170mph-plus potential. At 233kg dry (nearer 245kg when juiced) this Kawasaki felt heftier than Yamaha’s FZR1000 EXUP, but thanks to a well balanced chassis a ZZ-R can still hustle – you need to be accurate with your lines though, because once committed to a bend this 1100 isn’t keen on changing line…

The D model’s most significant change is its frame, with distinctive exposed castings running up to the rear subframe. Two front ram air intakes necessitated a restyle of the fairing and bodywork too. The slightly larger D fairing improved weather protection but lost a little aerodynamic efficiency, although the increase in power more than made up for that.

ZZ-R1100 ride quality is excellent – almost floaty – making this Kawasaki a supremely comfortable sports tourer. Race track handling is not to be expected (you’d have to be very brave to take one of these anywhere near a track…), but as a road bike the ZZ-R is still a classy performer.

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) What to look for

Exhaust system: The standard 4-2-1 system uses mild steel headers which rot. Aftermarket stainless steel replacements are common, but if it’s a 4-1, ask if the carbs have been jetted to suit – racier systems can rob the motor of midrange stomp and flexibility. They may get in the way of the centrestand, too.

Carbs: Check that the anti-icing circuit is there and working (it runs warm coolant from the rad around the carbs to prevent them from icing). The stock Keihin CVKD40 carbs are known to wear over time, too – needle fret can lead to inconsistent fuelling, so get a test ride of anything showing 50K-plus.

Bodywork: The external plastics are extensive, so even a minor drop off the stand can crack, scruff, and damage panels as well as the front and rear integrated indicators. Replacement panels are getting harder to find. Fitment tangs can break off too, but overall the ZZ-R’s plastics are of robust quality. C and D models panels are not interchangeable.

Camshaft wear: Ask a seller how they warm up the bike. Reports of pitting on right side cam lobes have been attributed to owners starting the bike, leaving it to warm at fast idle while on the sidestand, thus reducing oil flow to the right side of the head.

Engine: Kawasaki’s 1052cc inline four is generally bombproof. With so much poke on tap, ZZ-R11 engines rarely get used anywhere near their potential, so high mileages are common. Can sound rattly on start-up, but this usually goes away once the motor is up to temp. If any rattling persists this could be a sign that the cam chain tensioner is on the way out.

Transmission: Backlash from the transmission is usually down to play in the cushdrive, so it’s an easy and not too costly fix. Big torque eats chains and rear tyres, however, so ensure whatever ZZ-R you buy has plenty of life left in both. Or haggle accordingly – you’re looking in the region of £350-£400 to replace both.

Corrosion: Overall quality is good, but the plating on metal surfaces is a bit thin. Calipers, fork legs, footrest hangers and exhausts are all corrosion hot spots, so inspect thoroughly.

Suspension: No ZZ-R1100 should still be on its stock shock and fork springs. These bikes are popular pillion perches, so the shock gets a hard life. Look for something that’s got a quality replacement unit and had a fork overhaul. Likewise, check that the rear suspension linkages have been greased – this often gets missed.

Extras: Anything that adds to the ZZ-R’s long-distance potential is worth having: heated grips, a touring seat, higher screen, hard luggage. Braided brake hoses, a quality exhaust system, and uprated suspension are all worth having.

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) Rivals

Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird
Honda’s hyperbike, named after a stealth jet fighter plane. A step ahead of the ZZ-R – nimbler and a touch sportier. Linked brakes aren’t to everyone’s liking, but they can be disconnected. Superb as a fast, two-up sports tourer. Sold until 2005. Later models feature inbuilt immobiliser. Looks classy in single colours.

Triumph Trophy 1200
Hinckley’s big tourer. Less sporty than the Japanese opposition, but a monster mile-muncher. Supremely comfortable for both ride and pillion; panniers as standard. Styling hasn’t aged that well, but to buy they’re cheap. Engine isn’t a powerhouse, but packs enough torque to waft along with ease.

Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa
The hyperbike standard. Blisteringly fast and ruthlessly efficient at big mileage runs. Standard screen is a bit low for some, and the looks are very much a matter of taste. Early models are now quite sought after. Later Busas don’t pack quite the same thump, but they’re more comfortable and boast better tech.

Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, 1996 | Approx Price: £1500-£4400

Read more

147bhp / 81.1lb-ft



Triumph Trophy 1200, 1994 | Approx Price: £1500-£3000

Read more

108bhp / 76.7lb-ft



Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa, 1999 | Approx Price: £2700-£6000

Read more

175bhp / 102lb-ft



Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) Verdict

Forget the ZZ-R’s age. A well looked after example is still a joy to own. The performance is astonishing, even 30 years on, and the riding position is cossetting for rider and pillion. The D model is the pick of the bunch; issues with the C were ironed out, and the fact that Kawasaki hardly changed anything on the bike between 1993 and 2001 speaks to the strength and quality of the design. £3000 should turn up something very tidy indeed.

If you’d like to chat about this article or anything else biking related, join us and thousands of other riders at the Bennetts BikeSocial Facebook page.

Kawasaki ZZ-R1100 (1990-2001) – Technical Specification

Original price£8695 (1994)
Current price range£1800-£3500
Bore x Stroke76 x 58mm
Engine layoutLiquid-cooled, DOHC, 16v inline-four
Power147bhp (108kW) @ 10,500rpm
Torque81.1lb-ft (110Nm) @ 8500rpm
Top speed179mph
Transmission6-speed, wet, multiplate clutch, chain final drive
Average fuel consumption44mpg
Tank size24 litres
Max range to empty (theoretical)231 miles
Reserve capacityn/a
Rider aidsnone
FrameAluminium beam
Front suspension43mm telescopic forks
Front suspension adjustmentPreload and rebound adjustable
Rear suspensionUni-Trak monoshock
Rear suspension adjustmentPreload, rebound and compression adjustable
Front brake2 x 320mm discs, 4-pot calipers
Rear brake240mm disc, 2-pot caliper
Front tyre120/70 ZR17
Rear tyre180/55 ZR17
Rake/Trail26.5°/ 107mm
Dimensions (LxWxH)2165mm x 730mm x 1205mm
Ground clearance110mm


Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance