The ZZR250 (model #EX250H) is the 250 that Kawasaki imports into Canada. The 250 model sold in the States is the EX250F. Kawasaki quit importing the EX250F to Canada after the 1999 model year. If you bought an EX250H (in Canada) in 2000-2002, it would have said "Ninja 250R" in the advertising literature and (obviously) on the bike itself. In 2003, they put ZZR stickers on it and moved it from Sportbike to Sport Touring in the brochure.
The "H" model is a lot like the "F" model, except that it has really cool bodywork. It handles a lot like an EX250F. The 17 in. wheels make it feel like the gearing and handling have been adjusted a bit. The two bikes are fraternal twins, not identical twins wearing different clothes. The ZZR is a good looking, nice handling bike. The two bikes aren't all that different to ride. The ZZR is a bit more stable at high speeds, but the EX handles a bit quicker. The ZZR is more comfortable.
About the only things the two bikes have in common are the engine (but not engine covers), the front master cylinder, and the front caliper. Those common braking components are also common to the EX500-D. The design elements of the EX250-H are the direct descendants of the ZX600-E.
The main differences are an aluminum perimeter frame, adjustable levers, adjustable rear preload, totally different bodywork and instruments, much larger front brake, integrated turn signals, and EX500 37mm forks.
The ZZR plastics DO NOT FIT on the EX250F. Don't ask.
A riding comparison
Here's the reaction of one of our administrators, who has ridden an EX250F for seven or eight years, when he had a chance to ride an H model for a few miles of easy country roads and some city work.
- EX250-H is not suitable for somebody with a 34" inseam and a sporty riding posture (sitting on the tank). This is because the fairing makes it difficult to grip the tank adequately. Additionally, my knees kept hitting the 3.5" ridge in the fairing which protrudes in front of the frame. If I had to ride the EX250-H as a daily driver, I would have to either wear knee pads (or proper pants), or add some padding to the fairing. Pot holes were quite painful.
- EX250-H puts a lot more wind up in the face of a 6' tall rider, but is quite a lot calmer from my chin downward. In fact, the chest and arm protection are downright excellent.
- We all know the engine. It's awesome. In fact, I think it's carbed/geared quite nicely. The damn thing gets from 11 to 13K in a heartbeat. I had to watch myself, the bike REALLY wanted to head for the red line every time I poured the throttle on.
- Handling, in stock trim, is better than EX250-F, in terms of front-end dive and rear end corner sloppiness. I don't know what his rear preload was set to, but I thought it was just fine. My EX250-F with a ZX600 shock, EX500-D springs and 20W fork oil handles about the same.
- EX250-H requires a wider leg position at a stoplight, unless you are VERY short and your legs can go straight down
- EX250-H pegs are set about an inch back from -F.
- EX250-H feels, to me, a lot like riding "on top" of a bigger bike, except that I'm also bigger.
- Riding the EX250-H for 10 miles is enough to make me feel like I've been riding it for a year. It's a VERY similar experience. Controls, basic handling characteristics, and engine are the same.