When it comes to affordable performance, nobody in the motorcycle world does it better than Kawasaki who have a reputation for finding more horsepower per dollar than anyone else in the industry.
Corners are not necessarily cut, but they do skirt pretty close to the margins, especially when it comes to build quality, which is not their strength. Design work is another area they seem to skimp a little in terms of budget, but that is subjective and by no means factual.
What is factual is the fact that they have brought us some of the best, fastest street bikes ever, making it their priority to hold the record for the fastest production motorcycle since the 80s.
Enter the Ninja. This was the first bike to carry the name and boy did it come out with a bang, it made 115 horsepower from its 900cc lump (more power than an Iron Duke Camaro from the same year as a matter of interest).
It became the first production motorcycle to crack the 150 mph mark and was the fastest bike money could buy for a couple of years.
Between 1990 and 1995 this was the fastest production motorcycle, with a top speed of 176 mph. It is an absolute freight train, capable of a sub 11 second quarter mile.
It is also a big, heavy machine from an era of lighter, sportier bikes. That didn’t stop Kawasaki from keeping it in production all the way up to 2001 though.
As good as the little Ninja 400 is, the more upright, comfortable Z400 is arguably the best standard motorcycle money can buy.
It is a bike approachable enough to learn on, yet fun enough to keep long term. It is just an incredible little allrounder.
Back in the 90s Kawasaki were just getting beaten all ends up, they couldn’t keep up with any of the other major Japanese manufacturers on track, so their answer was on the street.
The ZX-7R wasn’t the best at anything, but it was cheaper, and close enough in terms of performance for buyers to choose it over the competition. It makes for an awesome used bike today too, as it remains affordable, unlike some of the other 750cc bikes.
Kawasaki has never been shy to fill a niche, and when it comes to niche bikes the little inline-4 250 is as niche as they get, and we just love them for making it.
The bike harks back to the era of high performance small displacement bikes back in the 90s, filling a gap for those looking for a genuinely competitive mini sportbike that will simply run rings around the competition in this class.
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As the ZZ-R grew bigger and bigger, it eventually transformed into this incredible sport touring bike that offers fantastic value.
As good as this platform was as a superbike that rivaled the Busa in its day, it just makes so much more sense as a civilized (ish) touring bike that can comfortably handle two passengers and their luggage.
For the most part this 650cc platform is a little unloved, but in the Z650RS it finds what is in our opinion the perfect home.
Design wise, Kawasaki nailed the retro vibe, and the parallel twin gives it reliable performance to complement its incredible style.
There is nothing subtle about the H2, which is very much the modern equivalent of the original Hayabusa.
Nobody else has been brave enough to put a supercharger on one of their bikes, it is a unique feature that takes the performance to another level. With a top speed of 250 mph, it is, and will remain, the fastest production bike from a mainstream manufacturer.
If you don’t just want straight line speed, the ZX-10R is the evolution of all the years Kawasaki have spent racing in the SBK championship.
This is the bike that gets the vast majority of that trickle-down technology, which makes it one of the most potent tools on track. In terms of pure performance. This, the latest, is the greatest.
The fact that pretty much the entire 600cc supersport class has dissolved, yet somehow this model perseveres, is a testament to just how good this bike really is.
In its latest 636cc guise, it is simply the best Kawasaki money can buy. It is just incredible on track, has way more speed than anyone can actually use and is still affordable even though it costs Kawasaki just as much to make as the liter bikes.
The 10 Best Kawasaki Motorcycles Ever Made, Ranked