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Kawasaki ZEPHYR 550 Naked Motorbike Review

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Kawasaki Zephyr 550 motorcycle review - Riding
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MCN overall verdict rating is 2

Launched the same time as the bigger 750 and 1100 Zephyrs, the Kawasaki Zephyr 550 never really caught on in the UK and once the Zephyr's reputation for corrosion spread, and the rival Suzuki Bandit 600 arrived in 1995, the 550 was doomed. It makes an OK commuter in the summer, but it is undepowered, rides too soft and rots far too quickly.

Engine

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

Let's not mince words here, the Kawasaki Zephyr 550's engine is based on the GPz550 of 1981 - but detuned. That spells slow baby and there's little point in revving the hell out of the eight valve antique, as it delivers peak torque at just 6000rpm. Compared to a Bandit 600, or even Suzuki SV650, the Zephyr feels like it's from another age. Which in terms of its engine, it is.

Ride and Handling

MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 4

For a summer Sunday ride, pootling around country lanes, the Kawasaki Zephyr 550 is fine and dandy. But if you decide to press on then you'll soon discover that the softly sprung forks dive too much and the twin shocks are almost as mushy, even when the preload is jacked up to the max. The bike is comptetent, but uninspiring. Nice low seat height however for short-in-the-leg riders.

Equipment

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3
The Kawasaki Zephyr 550's box-section swingarm looks nice, the saddle is comfy enough for two and the 300mm brakes are outstanding - if anything, the brakes are too good for the rest of the chassis in fact. But otherwise, the Zephyr 550 is a spartan, 70s style, no-frills motorbike. No centrestand by the way.

 

Kawasaki Zephyr 550 (1991-1998)

Detail Value
Engine size 553 cc
Power 50 bhp
Top speed 115 mph
Insurance group 8 of 17
  MCN ratings Owners' ratings
Overall rating is 2 rating is 4
Engine rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Ride & Handling rating is 3 rating is 4
Equipment rating is 2 rating is 3
Quality & Reliability rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Value rating is 3 rating is 4

Quality and Reliability

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

The Kawasaki Zephyr 550's lamentably short front mudguard allows road crud to coat the bike from the gas tank downwards, which soon leads to furry, discoloured alloy and rusting steel. The fork legs usually go blotchy on the Zephyrs too. It is a reliable engine, but the cycle parts don't wear too well.

Value

MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 4

You can buy them cheap, although the reason is that anyone wanting a secondhand versatile 600cc class all-rounder is spoilt for choice these days. If you can stretch another few hundred quid then the 750/1100 version of the Zephyr is simply loads more fun for the extra money.

Find Kawasaki Zephyr 550 motorcycles for sale here

Insurance

Insurance group: 8 of 17

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Model History

1991: Kawasaki Zephyr 550 launched in UK.
1998: Model discontinued.

Other Versions

Kawasaki Zephyr 400: grey import 400cc version.

Specifications

Top speed 115 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 14 secs
Max power 50 bhp
Max torque 30 ft-lb
Weight 179 kg
Seat height 765 mm
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Average fuel consumption 40 mpg
Tank range 125 miles
Annual road tax
Insurance group 8 of 17
Engine size 553 cc
Engine specification 8 valve, in line 4, 5 gears
Frame Steel tubular cradle
Front suspension adjustment None
Rear suspension adjustment Preload, rebound
Front brakes Twin 300mm disc
Rear brake 245mm disc
Front tyre size 110/80 x 17 in
Rear tyre size 140/70 x 18 in

Owners' Overall Rating rating is 3.5(7 reviews)

  • Fun sexy little beast

    zaddict

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Bought my Zephyr 550 for $1000 bucks and I still can't get over how much joy it's brought to my life for so little money. It's a fun, comfortable sexy little thing. Great first bike.

    29 July 2013

  • cool bike

    honzapatrik

    Average rating rating is 4

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    Ride and Handling
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    Quality and Reliabilty
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    Engine

    Aaah what a review?Someone must had a bad day?LOL. .:)It's a lovely pretty old school bike and you get attention from chicks!:)ridding my froggy everyday and it's noisy, revvy bullet proof thing.Comfy,softer suspension,good breaks,and if you have racy mood it can do it as a Z550 as well.Have a another 3 big bikes but this one is fun!

    15 June 2012

  • New owner

    ossieend

    Average rating rating is 4

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    Ride and Handling
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    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    After 8 years without a bike, I bought my 550 Zephyr off a mate at work for £300.00. The bike had been stood in his garage for 5 years, so needed the clutch freeing off, a battery and the left front caliper cleaning up. Up to now, it's been a cracking bike to ride, and it looks great too, though it still needs more polishing and some of the frame paint touching up. We all love a bit of power, but realistically, it's got plenty for what I use it for. Maybe a long motorway journey would make me rethink. But, my riding is done on A and B roads and a bit of duel-carriageway. It has a great riding position, is very agile and comfortable. Yes, if I was to go on a trackday, a GSXR might be a better fit, bit I ride on normal roads and want to keep my license.

    14 August 2011

  • Noobs!

    skellyjelly

    Average rating rating is 2.5

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    Ride and Handling
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    Engine

    Who are these non-owning noobs who write this shite for MCN? If I don’t want to ride at 200mph, have the latest environment-robbing alloy frame and hit 62mph in less than 2 seconds, whilst still pulling a wheelie for the front cover for those so-called bikers, where should I turn. I’ll tell you where, the owners opinions. These are the guys who parted with their hard-earned and who use it like you bought it. Check Warren Pole doing his best as a TV presenter on some obscure TV channel to see how they view motorcycle journalism. We’re just a step up for the ambitious. Be who you are, and ignore the power rangers. They’re part-timers, at the best.

    20 February 2010

  • I must be easily pleased!

    Anonymous

    Average rating rating is 4

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    Ride and Handling
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    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    It was the look of the bike that grabed me, I still look at it now when it is parked up and just love the look of the bike. I can't say that I have a problem with the power provided by the engine, as everyone says, it is a little disconcerting when you listen to the engine on tickover but I was advised by a dealer mechanic to lift the revs slightly as this eliminates some of the labouring, it does. With regard the handling, I have not found it to be poor, yes not a sports bike but I have done a couple of track days at Cadwell and have enjoyed the experience very much and the riding position is very comfortable. I would recommend this bike to anyone, female riders may like this bike, as previously mentioned the seat hight is that little bit lower so may help with ride comfort and confidence. Whatever you ride, remember enjoy and stay safe.

    08 February 2010

  • zr550

    regline

    Average rating rating is 3

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    Engine

    Bought this for when i passed my test so i know no different in terms of bike handling, has taken a week to get used to the limits of the bike i.e speed etc. Engine does sound rough when cold but once warm runs very well(no superbike)...

    07 September 2008

  • Zephyr 550

    bladeboys69

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Purchased as commuter as does this job fantastic, mines done 76000 miles now and only with oil and filter changes it has never missed a beat, no its not a sports bike but it is easy and comfortable ride and live with not once in 5 years as it ever given me grief and has paid for itself many times over. A real little sweetie.

    25 September 2007

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pinkerton2964

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pinkerton2964says

poor build quality

The zephyr 550 was a good idea poorly executed. The bike as new ride quite well  being very compact and smooth, but keep 1 for any length of time and you will run into issues the build quality is cack exhaust that needs replacing pretty quick. Finish on everything goes south quick. The suspension is very soft and will need upgrading. The sidestand cut out switch will play up in the wet, the inside of the tank rots and will need sealing or it will find it's way into the carbs. I have had problems with 2 engines first one had valve problems second had crank probs. The main problem with the Zephyr 550 is the really weedy engine it has similar performance to a 400cc the CB500 would wipe the floor with it. The motor was a GPZ550 and they had 65bhp the zeph was about 49bhp and no light weight. If you rebuilt a zephyr 550 powder coated everything stainless bolts seal the tank and put a gpz550 motor in there it would be a great bike I love the looks- brakes, handling and usability are good but it's easier to buy a CB400sf.  

07 August 2013 00:05

Robin's_bikes

User's Badge

Robin's_bikessays

ZR550

Now i seem to remeber the ZR550 begin released before the ZR750. Some people were weary of the new chassis design, as it didnt follow the lines of previous  zed frames.

The press complained about  un laquered ally,  quick rot exhuast system and the price of   indicators and replacement  levers.

They also said that even though it was a nicely priced bike it lacked performance - which i would have to agree as a GT550   has  more Bhp and a few extra mph on the zr550 B1-B9..

I liked the ZR550B2 model - the B1  being th e USA version with  diffrent clocks, no fuel guage and a USA spec head( emmissions i think)

 

10 July 2008 00:58

Robin's_bikes

User's Badge

Robin's_bikessays

Zephyr 550

My mates have three of them and they all sound like a bag of broken spanners when cold, which to me is wierd concidering my GT550 G7 , has almost the same engine( except for shaft drive and cosmetics) and is quite on starting.

The exhaust system isnt compatable with  models like z400j, z500,z550 etc, so makes replacing a system 2nd hand a bit limiting.

20 January 2008 01:32

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