Kawasaki threw down the gauntlet to the motorcycle world in 1973 with the 900 cc DOHC Z1, which was the fastest street bike you could buy for four years. The company reaffirmed its intentions with 1984’s liquid-cooled ZX900 Ninja, bumped that up 100 cc with the 1988 ZX-10, then played their ace in 1990 with the 145 bhp, 175 mph ZX-11. Fully six years would pass before a stunned Honda could respond with the CBR 1100XX Blackbird, which was only 2 mph faster.
More significantly, Kawasaki produced a package that was civilized at low speeds and possessed the qualities of a high speed sport tourer, not just a manic repli-racer. The ZX-11 was the equivalent of the first pressurized aircraft. You could go further, faster without living on the ragged edge. At 514 lbs dry, the Kawasaki ZX-11 was no lightweight, but it was both predictable and stable.
That said, the first tests of the ZX-11 were astounding, as it broke every record in dry lake runs. It ran the quarter mile in 10.52 seconds at 132 mph, and blew through the speed gun at 175 mph. Part of the huge performance came from the first ram-air system fitted to a motorcycle. An intake below the headlight forced air into the four 40 mm Keihin carburetor throats, through a sealed system. At 8,000 rpm, the ZX-11 generated 20 bhp more than the ZX-10, and as the speed rose, that margin increased. On paper, the ZX-11’s top end was 188 mph.
Obviously such speeds required the whole bike be rethought. The ZX-11 was lower than the ZX-10 and the rider sat lower behind the ultra-smooth fairing, which had 10 percent less drag than the ZX-10. The ZX-11 engine was tilted forward two degrees to allow room for the airbox, which also enabled the fuel tank to be enlarged to 5.4 gallons. The chassis was completely redesigned from the ZX-10 with upgraded wheels, tires and brakes.
At 1,052 cc, the counterbalanced DOHC four-cylinder engine was 55 cc bigger than the ZX-10, but it was lighter, with a bigger crankshaft, bore, valves, redesigned intake and exhaust and a redline of 10,500 rpm - 500 higher than the ZX-10.The clutch was beefed up, and the six-speed gearbox got hardened gears.
The ZX-11’s riding position was deliberately comfortable, with higher bars than a sport bike, and plenty of room. The ZX-11 returned about 45 mpg under normal use, though that would plummet as the speed increased.
There were two series of ZX-11 throughout its impressive 10-year production run. The “C’ model was built through 1993 and the “D’ from 1993 to 2001, when the ZX-11 was replaced by the ZX-12. The 1993 ZX-11 “D” received a lighter, stronger frame, and improved ram-air system that was 10 percent more efficient. It raised the bike’s speed to 180 mph, while the fuel tank was increased to 6.3 gallons.
The ZX-11 led the high-speed field for six years. Prices rose from $7,591 in 1990 to $10,500 in 1997, which was very competitive, provided you needed to go that fast. Ownership remains a relatively exclusive club, though prices are reasonable given the savage performance that comes with a Kawasaki ZX-11.
1991 Kawasaki ZX1100-C2 Ninja ZX11 Info
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