This article was originally published in the April 1998 issue of Sport Rider.
Once in a while, a bike will come along that not only stands out from the crowd by virtue of its remarkable performance, but also due to its sheer visceral appeal. A bike that, upon start-up, not only causes the rider’s pulse to quicken, but those around him as well. A motorcycle that basically grabs you by the throat, slaps you in the face a few times, and stamps the words “ABSOLUTE HIGH-PERFORMANCE: CAN YOU HANDLE IT?” indelibly across your forehead when you twist the throttle. This machine—the Muzzy Raptor 850—is one of those bikes.
Here is a motorcycle that threatens to loop over backward anywhere near full throttle in first gear, even with its tall gearing. It pulls through the upper gears with an irrepressible intensity that can only be likened to a supercharged locomotive running on nitromethane. And to anyone with even a hint of racing or performance in their blood, its raucous bark at full chat is music to the ears. And, it’s street legal.
When you think of Kawasakis and racing, only one name comes to mind: Rob Muzzy. The man with the trademark handlebar mustache has forged a legendary reputation for extracting winning performance from Kawasakis for almost two decades. A World Superbike championship and numerous AMA national championships highlight his long list of accomplishments. So when Muzzy speaks performance, well, people listen.
In the past when we’ve done project racebikes with Muzzy, he’s preferred not to participate in a partial manner. His response, when we inquire about Muzzys supplying a few parts, is frequently “instead of us just providing a few pieces, why don’t we just take care of the whole bike for you?” That way, he knows the bike will be assembled correctly, and will perform up to his expectations.
So the same philosophy has been applied to the Muzzy Raptor 850. In the tradition of aftermarket custom cars like the Shelby Cobras and Saleen Mustangs, Muzzy has chosen to take a stock ZX-7R Kawasaki and weave his particular brand of magic over the bike; then sell it to the consumer as a complete motorcycle. The components that go into building this machine will not be available in kit form—you won’t be able to build your own Raptor. “Raptor owners need to know that the guy down the street with a ZX-7R can’t go out and build his own,” says Muzzy’s press liaison Doug Meyer. Thus, the performance won’t be the only aspect of the bike that will be exclusive. (Unfortunately for California residents, the Raptors will be 49-state legal only.)
Muzzy has previously applied the same principle of selling complete, ready-to-roll motorcycles with his Raptor SB-850 Formula USA racebikes. Essentially a racebike that a privateer racer can purchase and immediately be competitive on, an SB-850 F-USA Raptor piloted by David Sadowski won the anything-goes Formula USA series championship last year in its first full season of competition. Racing against monster 1200cc-plus GSX-Rs and the like, the F-USA Raptor (which, incidentally, is claimed to put out 178 horsepower at the crank) proved its mettle in the face of much larger adversaries. The Raptor 850 streetbike is a very close derivative of this machine. (This isn’t the “750” Raptor you’ve seen tested in another magazine; this is the full-bore, all-out, give-me-all-you’ve-got-Scotty version.)
In order to obtain one of these beasts, you’ll need to go to a Kawasaki dealer, and buy a ZX-7R. The dealer then ships the crated bike over to Muzzys along with the purchase order. Upon receipt, the bikes are disassembled down to the frame and then carefully built by Muzzys employees, whose sole purpose is to construct Raptors. The engines are put together in the race shop by Raptor-only technicians (none of this “Hey Gary, uh…can you throw a Raptor engine together when you get a spare minute?”), while two assemblers dedicated exclusively to the bikes handle the construction chores. In fact, each Raptor is assembled by one person from start to finish: “The customer is basically getting a custom-built motorcycle,” says Meyer.
Starting with the motor, the stock crankshaft is replaced by a forged billet piece sporting a 47.3mm stroke (not a welded stroker crank), 2.6mm more than stock. Together with the 75mm (2mm overbore), 3-ring, forged-alloy pistons forcing a compression ratio of 13.2:1, total displacement is bumped up to 835cc. The cylinder head is blueprinted (no major port work), with the carb manifolds coming out of a Kawasaki superbike race kit; cams are a Muzzys-specified grind. Everything else in the head is stock. The 41mm Keihin flat-slide carbs (which are racing carbs retrofitted with street-based fuel metering, not just slapped-on ZX-7R carbs) breathe through a carbon-fiber, ram-airbox modeled after the race kit piece; modified to accept an air filter. All this exhales through a beautiful titanium/ carbon muffler exhaust, with a unique high-pipe design on our test unit intended to work with the optional RAM single-sided swingarm.
Muzzy himself is responsible for the Raptor’s distinctive fairing design, using a clay mock-up to reposition the ram-air inlet at the fairing’s leading edge. All the fiberglass/composite bodywork, including the solo tailpiece/seat assembly, is made in-house at Muzzys. Construction is high quality throughout, with none of the rough edges or poor layering we’ve seen with some other aftermarket pieces. A liquid-looking black paint job finishes the aesthetics, although a Kawasaki racing green option ($325) is available. We prefer the stealthiness of black, but considering this bike’s in-your-face persona….
The most unique chassis alteration is obviously the trick RAM cast-magnesium, single-sided swingarm, which is a $3749 option. Chain adjustment with this swingarm is by eccentric pivot, which requires a special tool that Muzzys provides. The swingarm’s nominal length is stock; so swiveling the eccentric adjuster can shorten the wheelbase by as much as 1.3 inches (however, the eccentric can also affect rear ride height). Wheel control is handled by a Type-4 Öhlins piggyback racing shock, which features the remote hydraulic spring preload adjuster. The shock works through a Muzzys-designed linkage which provides a racing-derived, less-progressive mechanical rate, aiding chassis control through the bumps. The swingarm pivot has also been relocated for improved traction.
Up front, the stock KYB cartridge forks are reworked with a different valving shim stack, cartridge piston, and springs; all developed from Muzzys’ racing programs. Gripping the forks are a pair of beautifully machined, black-anodized, billet aluminum triple clamps which feature wider spacing (228mm) of the fork tubes; this was found to markedly improve the handling on Chandler’s superbike. The offset is adjustable as well, using different eccentric steering head inserts. For those feeling exceedingly rich, a set of Öhlins racing forks are available as a $7500 option, but an Öhlins steering damper does come standard on the Raptor 850.
Rolling stock consists of Marchesini magnesium wheels measuring 3.5 x 17 inches in front, 6.0 x 17 inches out back, shod with the ubiquitous stick-like-flypaper Dunlop D207 GP radials. Braking duties are entrusted to a pair of stock Tokico six-piston calipers gripping 320mm Braking Carbiron rotors, while either an AP or Brembo two-pot jobbie (vendor hadn’t been decided at presstime) bites on a 270mm stainless steel disc in the rear.
Riding the Raptor 850 on the street showcased its ability to remain civil (uh, to a certain extent). Unlike many racing flat-slide carbureted bikes we’ve tried, the Raptor runs smoothly. If you whack the throttle open below 5000 rpm it does stumble, but it cleans out quickly. That’s where the civility ends, however, as you’ll soon find yourself pointing at various cloud formations with the front wheel.
Testing at the high-speed expanse of Willow Spring’s big, nine-turn road course proved eye-opening, to say the least. “You’ll probably need the big track to let the Raptor 850 stretch its legs a bit,” said Meyer; he wasn’t kidding. With a dyno-confirmed 147.2 horsepower at the rear wheel, the Raptor 850 basically gobbled up Willow’s long straights with alarming quickness. The pull off the corners generated by this bike must be felt to be believed. Fortunately, the brakes were up to the task of scrubbing off that speed. The Braking Carbiron rotor/pad setup offered excellent stopping power, albeit with a slightly softer initial response than the stock binders. Some riders prefer the softer response, saying that it gives them more modulation during hard braking.
Riding the tighter Streets of Willow course, which more closely resembles real-world riding conditions, became an exercise in throttle control. The Raptor’s quick-revving motor and beefy power spread meant that an over-eager throttle hand would either have you spinning the tire or understeering off the corner, due to the front tire pawing for the sky. Steering was much quicker and lighter than a stock 7R, attributable to a substantial weight loss (425 pounds dry, versus the stocker’s 490 pounds), and the steeper rake angle (24 versus 25 degrees), imposed by the radically jacked-up rear ride height. The steep rake allowed the use of tighter lines unattainable by the stocker, but it also enforced smooth throttle control. Chopping the throttle entering high-speed turn eight on the big Willow course caused the Raptor to “wind up” into an oscillating weave. Time constraints unfortunately prevented us from experimenting with different chassis ride heights, which we’re sure would’ve cured the problem.
Those same time constraints hampered the top speed and dragstrip portion of our testing, as well. Although the Raptor 850 quickly posted a very impressive 179.2-mph blast, we’re certain that a bit more time experimenting with jetting and gearing would’ve easily netted a 180-plus mph mark. It should be noted that the Raptor’s superb torque enabled it to reach that speed with surprising quickness, much faster than production bikes that are anywhere close to that territory.
Heavy rains inundated LACR’s quarter-mile track with dirt prior to our visit, forcing a clean-up that lasted well into the time allotted for the Raptor 850’s dragstrip testing. A bare handful of runs with minimal time for setup netted a somewhat disappointing best of 10.28 @ 142.21 mph. Good launches were hindered by a rather vague clutch feel, which forced us to battle with the Raptor’s wheelie tendencies due to its massive torque. With just a bit more time to get accustomed to the clutch, we’re certain that a nine-second run would have been in the cards. Roll-on tests were canceled, which, even with the flat-slide carb’s slight finickiness, would surely have been impressive—judging by the Raptor’s torque curve.
In this age of ever-increasing performance from showroom-stock sportbikes, there’s something to be said for a bike that combines standard-setting speed, exclusivity and trickness with a raw, visceral appeal that can’t be matched. For many, the Muzzy Raptor 850’s price tag ($25,727 as tested, with the single-sided swingarm option) may seem lofty. But for those interested in a bike that not only possesses killer performance, but communicates that message to the rider in a way that transcends all other machinery, it’s worth it.
|Muzzy Raptor Temp Gauge|
|The rip-snortinest, rompin'-stompinest sportbike you can buy from a dealer||Lofty price tag|
|Trick parts galore||Exhaust bark at anywhere near full throttle can attract unwanted attention|
|Blinding acceleration, with brakes and chassis to match||Not civilized, but who cares?|
Muzzy Raptor 850
Price: $25,727 (as tested, with single-sided swingarm option)
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-cylinder, transverse, in-line 4-stroke
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 75.0 x 47.3mm
Compression ratio: 13.2:1
Carburetion: 4, 41mm Keihin flat-slide racing
Transmission: 6-speed, wet clutch
Front suspension: 43mm Muzzys-revalved KYB inverted cartridge, 4.7 in. travel; adjustments for ride height, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Single Öhlins Type-4 shock, 5.1 in. travel; adjustments for ride height, spring preload, rebound and compression damping.
Front brake: 2, Tokico six-piston calipers, 320mm Braking Carbiron discs
Rear brake: Two-piston caliper, 270mm disc
Front wheel: Marchesini 3.5 x 17 in.; cast magnesium
Rear wheel: Marchesini 6.0 x 17 in.; cast magnesium
Front tire: 120/70ZR17 Dunlop D207F GP radial
Rear tire: 180/55ZR17 Dunlop D207 GP radial
Rake/trail: 24 deg./4.0 in. (101mm; adjustable)
Wheelbase: 55.2 in. (1402mm, adjustable +1.3 in. [33.02mm])
Seat height: 32.0 in. (812.8mm, variable)
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal (18.1L)
Weight: 454 lbs (205.8kg) wet, 425 lbs (192.7kg) dry
Instruments: Speedometer, tachometer, odometer, tripmeter, coolant temperature gauge; lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, low oil pressure
Fuel consumption: N/A
Top speed: 179.2 mph
1/4 mile: 10.28 @ 142.21 mph
Roll ons: N/A