The 1984 Ninja GPz900R, the first Ninja produced 25 years ago, was
explosive when Kawasaki released it to the public. It won “Bike of the
Year” in nearly every magazine, was at the time the world’s fastest
production motorcycle, and immediately the stuff of legend. The shear naming of a motorcycle after shadowy Japanese assassins with cool throwing stars and funny split-toe shoes was enough to
send adolescent boys all over the world into raving fits of desire, us included. Needless to say the next decade saw the brand become one of the most powerful icons in the industry.
The first Ninjas were sleek, elegant, aggressive and fast,
perfectly carrying over the macho Kawasaki brand of the 1970s. The
formula worked so well that when I first saw the 1985 black and red
Ninja 250R as a 9 year old, I became so obsessed I gave my mother a
rational argument for why it would be okay to keep one in the barn
until I turned 16. Other models like the 600R, ZXR750R and ZX-11 also
proved to be massive successes.
For the Ninja’s 25th anniversary, we wish Kawasaki
could say the brand still had the same presence as those first machines. By 1995 however, the brand
reached its peak as the bikes began to bloat and elegant lines morphed
into bulbous excess. Although the company has sought to address these
issues in recent years with models like the current ZX-10R, the brand is still considerably weaker than
rival competition such as Suzuki’s GSX-R.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ninja brand, we’ve put together a gallery of the bikes we dreamed about the most.