Europeans love affordable, naked performance bikes and, for the last few years, they've loved nothing more than the Kawasaki Z750, an exercise in aggressive styling that managed to offer near-liter capacity at a near-naked 600 price. But with increasing competition from bikes like the Yamaha FZ8 and Triumph Street Triple, Kawasaki needed to do something about the too-soft suspension and other cheap-ish components. Et voila, le Kawasaki Z750R. Zut alors!
The big changes here are the addition of new, partially-adjustable USD forks and a firmer piggy-back shock, designed to address the biggest Z750 criticism: cheap, soft suspension. There's also radial brakes, which should up the posing quotient by at least 25bhp, but the pressed aluminum swingarm should actually drop some weight and add some stiffness over the old, square steel item.
Styling wise, the R gains new paint schemes, an even more aggressive front cowl/headlight unit and other little nips and tucks like smaller indicators, it's not a huge difference.
Looking at the specs, it's easy to understand why the Z750 is such a hit on a continent where people love fast bikes, but also use them for more than just play things. Appreciably cheaper than a ZX-6R, the Z750 obviously has a larger capacity, styling that doesn't make it look like a cheap alternative to a real sportsbike and an upright riding position that makes it practical for commuting. If you couldn't afford to insure a supersport 600 and saw a bike that would actually make it look like you had a faster machine than a supersport 600 while meeting all your practical needs, you'd buy it, right?
Don't be too jealous, while we don't get the Z750 in the land of motorcycles-as-playthings, we do get its superior rival, the Triumph Street Triple and Triumph Street Triple R, which feature a real supersports frame, real supersports suspension, real supersports engine, real supersports brakes and real supersports weight. The Z750R weighs 226kg/498lbs (wet) to the Street Triple R's 189kg/416lbs (wet). Oh, and we do get the Z750's faster, lighter brother, the 2010 Kawasaki Z1000.