If you were more of a sport-touring rider you could opt to install some HeliBars to further raise the already comfortable clip-ons to a more manageable height. Then it was a simple matter to slap on a tank bag or soft side bags and you were good for a long weekend on a surprisingly comfortable sportbike.
The bike was generally a reliable package with the only real mechanical malady coming from a 3rd gear issue in the early '98-'99 models. If you're looking at a ZX-9R from this era, pay particular attention to the 2nd-3rd gearshift; any signs of poor engagement point to a future rebuild. The early 2000 models had an issue with a frame crack, but it didn't last long in the production run so not many bikes were affected by this problem.
Lee Shierts, owner of Lee's Performance in Charlotte, North Carolina and the title of "the fastest man on a streetbike" (running over 260mph at Maxton's Monster Mile), told us, "the ZX-9R was a bulletproof bike mechanically. We built a lot of them for dragracers, and they held up and ran well at the strip compared to the other bikes available in '98. But I sure don't miss having to jet carbs like we did on the bikes back then. EFI has really made tuning a lot easier."
Matt Warner of Illinois owns...
Matt Warner of Illinois owns this well-kept '99 ZX-9R that boasts serious engine mods including a Wiseco 973cc piston kit, Webcam camshafts, 2mm larger valves with port jobs to match. Chassis changes include Marchesini five-spoke mags, Öhlins shock with Lindemann Engineering-modified fork, Galfer Wave rotors, while cosmetic alterations include Eurobikes bodywork (including dual headlight conversion), mirrors with integrated turn signals, Zero Gravity double-bubble windscreen, Corbin seat, etc.
This custom-painted '99 model...
This custom-painted '99 model belongs to Marc Jorgensen of California, and shows a lot of attention to detail. Engine mods are minor and limited to an Akrapovic pipe, Ivan's Perfomance jet kit, Muzzys ignition advancer and Barnett clutch, but the cosmetic details are too numerous to list. He's also converted the front end to '00-spec.
This liquid black '00-model...
This liquid black '00-model owned by Illinois' Chris Hebenstriet sports numerous mods including a complete '05 ZX-6R front end, Penske rear shock, Micron full exhaust, a ported/polished/decked cylinder head, Illumiglo gauges, Puig tinted double-bubble windscreen, HID headlight conversion, etc.
Owners of ZX-9Rs are quite happy with the bike's superb all-around performance. "The ZX-9R is unbeatable as an all around bike," says Matt Warner of Sherrard, Illinois. "It's quite comfortable in stock form with great power and handling for the time. With a few minor mods it's as comfy as a sport tourer with the weight and power of a pure sportbike. I can't think of any one bike produced today that even comes close to equaling its capabilities as an all-arounder."
Though the ZX-9R was often overlooked, the Kawasaki really was the best streetbike in the class, which explains the popularity it enjoys even through today. It was fast, reliable, and easily modified with a wide range of aftermarket support. The good news is that if you want to pick one up on the used market, the damage on your wallet is not too bad either. After checking NADA average retail prices we see that 98-99 models can be had for $2635-$2730. If you move up to the 2000-2001s expect to pay $3420-$4015. The 2002-2003 models of course are newer but carried the lower retail price back then, expect to pay $4270-$4740 for the last two years of the bike that was the basis for the today's ZX-10R.