Sometime in the early-1990s, a road test report of the Kawasaki ZZR1100 (called the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-11 in the American market) in the American magazine Cycle World, said that it was like ‘riding the blast wave of an endless explosion.’ And indeed, with a claimed 145 horsepower on tap, the ZZR1100 was capable of doing the quarter mile run in 10.25 seconds (the new ZZR1400 will do it in less than 10.50 seconds…), and would hit top speeds of close to 280km/h. Of course, even that was not enough for some, who'd fit a turbocharger to the bike for even more performance. Turbo ZZR1100s, with NOS kits, were capable of making more than 450 horsepower, and could do top speeds of 350km/h and more. Eeek! But even stock ZZR1100s were superb machines - an awesome blend of power, performance and long distance comfort. Read the diary of an incurable ZZR fanatic here.
Launched in 1990, and with a major update in 1993, the ZZR1100 was being made till 2001, after which the ZZR1200 took over. However, for enthusiasts all over the world, it’s the ZZR1100 that’s the definitive Kawasaki performance machine of all time – the ZZR1200 just could not match the 1100’s manic power delivery and raw sportsbike edge. Today’s super-light, super-fast 1000cc machines may make the ZZR100 look like a sport-tourer, but in the 1990s, the big Kaw was the baddest mutha on the block.
But while the ZZR1100 is an all-time great, there’s also another 1100cc motorcycle from Japan, which deserves to be ranked right up there with the Kawasaki. It’s the Suzuki GSX-R1100, which was launched in 1986. With continuing development, the GSX-R1100 had really become a force to reckon with by the mid-1990s.
With its extruded aluminum perimeter chassis, USD forks, six-piston brakes, distinctive styling and GSX-R street-cred, the mid-1990s Suzuki GSX-R1100 was one hell of a machine that was equally at home on the road and on the track. The GSX-R1100’s liquid-cooled DOHC inline-four made about 125 horsepower, and the bike could do the quarter mile in about 10.4 seconds. Top speed was in the region of 260km/h. Suzuki continued making the GSX-R1100 till 1998, after which the GSX-R1000 took over. But even though the 1100 isn’t with us today, it’ll be remembered as one of the greatest sportsbikes of all time!