ZXR-R (K1) vs ZX7R (P4)

I bought my ZX7R new in ’99 and enjoyed it immensely both on the road and on the track. Thoroughly bitten by the track bug I decided to get myself a track bike. I knew I wanted a bike as close to my ZX7R as possible and when the ZXR750R came up in February 2001 I knew I had found it.

As you’d expect the two bikes have a lot in common. They both have fantastic front ends, excellent brakes and are very stable. Despite that they offer a very different riding experience.

Starting with the engine the ZX7R has quite a lot of midrange and a broad spread of power. A twist of the wrist and maybe a tap on the gear lever is all that is needed to turn on a relaxed ride into a frantic blast. The ZXR750R’s engine with its tall 1st gear and flatslide carbs has little midrange and below 5000-5500 rpm you cannot snap the throttle wide open or you’ll just bog down, a smooth roll-on is required. But keep the revs up all the time and the beast comes alive. Though this bike is tractable enough at low revs (if you are careful with the throttle) it really can only be ridden in one way and that is flat out!

On Standard settings the two machines handle very differently. The ZXR750R steers beautifully and effortlessly, but the rear shock does not track bumps well (ouch!), the ZX7R steers more slowly but is much more compliant over bumps. Both bikes benefit greatly from comprehensive suspension fiddling. The greatest and most obvious results are to be had on the ZX7R as the factory settings really are not suited to committed riding. After said fiddling (see my settings pages) the ZXR750R still steers quicker, but that aside the two bikes are now a lot closer.
Totally planted and confidence inspiring when slicing through corners, the front end on both bikes provides excellent levels of feedback. Lean them as far as you like and there is still more to come.
The ZXR750R is smaller and lighter than the ZX7R and it feels it
Riding them back to back on the same bumpy road though, the ZX7R shines through. The ZXR750R’s shock is just too stiff for that. ZXR750R has sharper steering and is more agile, but on unfamiliar roads or blind bends you cannot make the most of this. In those situations the ZX7R has the advantage of a strong midrange helping it to punch out of corners.
Both are excellent track day bikes. I have not ridden them back to back on the track, but I imagine they would be doing very similar times. Here the ZXR750R has the advantage as its agility and higher corner speed helps you keep it in the powerband. You no doubt have to work harder to get a good lap time, but ridden on the limit at the track it is the more rewarding of the two bikes. On top of which, it feels good to pass the latest sportsbikes on a 10 year old bike.

The riding position is also very similar, though the ZXR750R feels more committed. Both bikes benefit from having the pegs jacked up and moved back (The ZX7R needs them moved further back than the ZXR750R). I have used NWS jack-up plates on the ZXR750R and Ray Stringer’s adjustable jack-up plates on the ZX7R. Riding in town your wrists will have a torrid time, but out in the twisties, or better still, the racetrack it all makes perfect sense. The ZX7R’s tank is wider than the ZXR750R making the bike feel bigger, but it has better slots to hook your outside knee into to hang on when getting your knee down.

They are both brilliant bikes. It is easier to go fast on the ZX7R and I definitely couldn’t live with the ZXR750R as my only road bike, but as a track tool and the occasional road blast the ZXR750R is fantastic and it has already improved my riding by teaching me about corner speed and keeping the revs high all the time and in particular throttle control through bends.

17/03/2004 Update
It’s been a while since I wrote this page and I thought an update was in order.
A few years on my ZXR750R has had some important changes: 6 pot brakes, P model shock linkage with Racekit tie rods and an Ohlins shock. These changes have transformed it and have made it significantly better than my P model ZX7R (at least for track use). Whilst the P model still has the upper hand on the road, the changes have addressed what were the ZXR750R shortcomings and, with the K model’s nimbler chassis and better forks, now put it clearly ahead on the track (although you have to work harder at it then you would on a P model).


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