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A masterpiece is generally not a word to be chucked around lightly, unlike ‘frisbee’, for example. The GPZ was the first in the line of the renowned Ninja family, housing a revolutionary design that not only immediately became a hit, but redefined the modern-day sports bike. If that’s not enough to whet the appetite, one of the coolest men to ever walk the earth, Lou Reed, had one. And if even that’s not enough, because you’re demanding and it’s Christmas, Tom Cruise rode one in Top Gun. If the GPZ900 was any cooler and we’d put beers in it.
When you develop a barnstorming water-cooled, sixteen valve, in-line four-cylinder that was in itself a world first, the press sit-up and take notice. As did the public. Thousands of them. It’s top speed in 1984 of 262km on the Stuart highway in Australia made it the fastest production bike in the universe. What made the motorcycle particularly special was not only that it looked in it’s mirrors to see where grease-lightning was, but that it was bike was smooth and rideable in and out of town, with new air-suspension and virtually zero secondary vibration. One could actually sit and ride this motorcycle, for hours, thanks to excellent ergonomics and aerodynamics.
At a wet-weight of over 250kg it wasn’t light but was horrifically quick, with every ounce of the twin front disc brakes and a single at the rear. What’s interesting about the Ninja is the fairings, sculpted to hide the frame and yet leave the engine exposed. Kawasaki also introduced is the Kawasaki Automatic Variable Damping Systems (AVDS) anti-dive on the front forks, reacting to the speed and the distance of the front wheel movement during compression. It’s a comfort, one would imagine, that when braking from over two hundred kilometres per hour, that you didn’t feel your arse trying to come through your helmet. The low mounted engine driving its cams from the left side rather than the middle meant better handling, and boy did it handle. That’s the kind of attention to detail a Maverick would need when hopping from a F-14 and onto the road. As an owner of a GPZ900, dating Kelly McGillis was just inevitable.
Developed in secret over half a decade, the GPZ 900 still leaves plenty of bike enthusiasts gushing. Although the fact 1984 was a ground-breaking era also helps with the halcyon days feel of the Kawasaki: DNA profiling was developed; Apple released the Mac; Carl Lewis was matching Jesse Owens gold-medal record in the Los Angeles Olympics; and ‘Do they Know It’s Christmas?’ by Band-Aid reached number one in the charts. The memories are flooding back already! Although in fairness, at four years old, the eldest team member at Shepsters admittedly wasn’t that ‘down’ with the DNA impacts, they certainly knew about Christmas and motorbikes. A GPZ900 for Christmas, anyone?