KAWASAKI ER-5 (1996-2007) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"A straightforward, parallel-twin, middleweight commuter"

Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding

"A straightforward, parallel-twin, middleweight commuter"

  • At a glance
  • 498cc  -  48 bhp
  • 46 mpg  -  170 miles range
  • Low seat height (800mm)
  • Suitable for A2 licence

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki ER-5 has a straightforward parallel-twin middleweight commuter that’s as easy to use as a pair of pants. As a cheap workhorse you won’t find much wrong with the Kawasaki ER-5 - providing your expectations don’t go beyond simply getting from A to B.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki ER-5 is better than most of its rivals. But that’s not saying much and Honda’s CB500 beats it hollow in most respects. The Kawasaki ER-5 brakes are particularly woeful and pillions only make matters worse. Rider comfort is good on the ER-5 and the gearbox is fine for the first few winters.

Engine 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki ER-5's DOHC parallel-twin doesn’t want for pluck, and around town it makes the most of what power it has. However, raise your ambitions even slightly and the Kawasaki ER-5's motor feels ever so wheezy. Motorways are not it’s forte and the ER-5 struggles to cope two-up without a fairing.

Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5

‘Poor’ is the best way to describe the build qualityo f the Kawasaki ER-5  To stay on top of the corrosion you’ll need to wash the Kawasaki regularly and spray with a water-dispersing spray religiously, especially if used over winter. Electrical problems are another bugbear with the ER-5.

Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5

Despite its shortcomings the Kawasaki ER-5 is frugal on fuel, cheap to insure and its tyres last for ages. Secondhand prices are low, making the ER-5 perfectly viable as a winter hack and a more than satisfactory commuter. Find a Kawasaki ER-5 for sale.

Insurance group: 8 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 1 out of 5

Kawasaki's ER-5 is about as basic as you can get, though some aftermarket crash bars is a common addition. The only bolt-on that’s worth it’s salt for the Kawasaki ER-5 is a Scottoiler, to help eke out chain life and reduce maintenance.

Owners' Reviews

30 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI ER-5 (1996-2007) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.7 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3.2 out of 5
Engine 3.4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3.9 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3.6 out of 5
Equipment 3.6 out of 5
4 out of 5

bargain bike

16 May 2014 by Anonymous

I got this bike cheap as a second bike for work. I have to say I've come to love the old girl, mines a very early one (r reg) but its such an easy bike to ride. The engine pulls well, its no race bike but then again it was never sold as one, the... Read more brakes are ok, the rear i hardly use as it has so much engine braking. If your only used to riding 4 cylinders it will take a bit to get used to. They do suffer form the carbs flooding as a result of the petcock failing and sticking permanently on (they are a vacuum tap) and they flood into the engine breather in the airbox and into the oil, a simple modification stops this (check er5 forums) and i also changed the petcock for a normal on/off/reserve one. It will cruse at 70/80 easy enough and put 100 mph on the clock when the need takes though they dont do a lot more. I like riding the 500 and in some ways its more pleasing screaming the 500 and getting the best out of it than it is riding a modern sports bike as on the road you are riding them well within there limits. all in all if your looking for a reliable cheap way back to bikes or a good commuter you wont go far wrong with the er :)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

er5

06 May 2014 by motorrad

I have had an ER5 for 2 yrs , only a couple of minor repairs , never let me down , easy on tyres , economical 65 mpg, the engine is bulletproof , I will keep it until it dies Read more

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

many problems but fun

30 May 2013 by Ovarod

Have had mine for about 3 seasons. It has been nothing but a pain in the a**. Had uncountable amount of problems with it. Typical faults are the petcock and lack of fuel filter. Although I have not ridden it much in rain many of the connections have... Read more corroded so much that they have killed the engine often. The airbox overflow is not big enough so with any problems fuel will flow to the engine. I have had more than 6 litres taken out more than once. Other than that to ride it is great. Perfect for a beginnger or commuter. Physically a bit small for a 185 cm guy for more than 100 miles. The legs cramp up and the seat is not too comfy. Other than the big problems it's easy to maintain and easy to ride and can be a lot of fun.

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

easy peasy

06 May 2013 by grenade

I bought this bike because it was cheap and less ugly than the other cheap bikes. I added a small windshield and luggage rack and took it from Plymouth, UK to Copenhagen, DK. It's worked out OK too because it always starts, is easy to manoeuvre and... Read more is surprisingly quick off the lights. Always leaves a big grin on my face when some poor fella in a new M3 gets handed his bum by a 10 year old bike that cost me 700 quid. It's still a tractor though and I've started looking for something more exciting. I'll likely keep it as my trusty backup as well.

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

honest, reliable bike

25 July 2012 by Anonymous

i was given my er5 as a wreck, i thought fix it up, sell it and move on. i give it a full service (valve clearances ect) , cleaned and balanced the carbs and once i'd used it for work for a week or so i decided to keep it. it starts first time, can... Read more sit at 70/80 on the motorway and is cheep to run. The brakes are basic (mines the early a1 model) but i removed the plastic piston inserts (only fitted to the early er's) cleaned the pistons, fitted new seals, flushed the system and put in so good quality fluid and it stops well now. The bike is so easy to ride too, i throw it about like a 125. Its no pocket rocket but it was never meant to be, but its still quick enough and will put 100 mph on the clock easy enough. I've been riding all sorts of bikes over my 25 years experience and think the er is one of them under rated bikes.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
2 out of 5

You'll always have enthusiasts...

09 April 2012 by DazzleRebel

...but it’s not a great bike. I’ve had the misfortune of riding several examples of these machines and they are as basic as a classic without the class. The main bugbear comes with changing gear. Out of the three ER5’s I’ve ridden ALL THREE had... Read more problems changing up into top gear and two out of three had problems changing down into 2nd. The equipment is basic but does the job of telling you how fast you’re going if little else. Two of the examples I’ve ridden had problems with the fuel warning light either coming on when the tank is nearly full or not working at all. Yes it can be a cheap 2nd hand bike but I would prefer to spend similar money on an early model ER6 which is a vast improvement over the 5. If you’re looking for a reliable winter hack then why not look for a Kawasaki GT550 or 90’s/early 2000 Yamaha Diversion as they both sport low maintenance shaft drive and bulletproof engines.

Overall Rating 2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5
Engine 2 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5
3 out of 5

Bulletproof bike

08 October 2011 by ectoplasma

This bike is bulletproof. It may seem boring to 600 cc + owners but compared to my previous overpriced 125 cc experiences this thing is a blast. I am a student and I needed a cheap straight forward bike that will start from the firtst try even... Read more when it s freezing ballz outside and it does just that. On the highway it easily maintains a steady 95 - 100 mph which on average is enough to take over loads of 1000 cc + midlife crisis riders who pretend to be way faster ! A real 600 cc + hooligan will blow you away though but these encounters are rare. I am 20 years old and am looking forward to a faster more hooligan styled bike now but be assured that with some riding skill the er-5 will take over any scooter, bike or car in the real world. Only thing I regretted was that it sounds and looks so boring. Recently though I accidently got a cut in the exhaust ( after one of many small crashes... Bike does need better brakes ) just in front of the muffler and I swear to god it sounds like a harley. Some bar end mirrors also make a world of difference Cheers ecto

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

Dependable workhorse

29 November 2010 by stevieboyni

Very underrated little bike these. I owned one back in 2007 and in two years and 10'000 miles i never had a single issue with it. Never used a drop of oil and was VERY economical.. Even handled a pillion well on longer runs. Engine is nice and... Read more punchy around town but gets a bit breathless when you up the pace a bit. Can't expect miracles with 50bhp though! Handling is ok and even the single disc, rear drum is acceptable. Referring to the review i don't know about the CB500 beating the ER hollow... I've rode a CB and i didn't think there was much between them to be honest. Maybe slightly better brakes on the Honda but i don't think it's worth paying the extra for a CB if you're looking to buy in this class. The ER is up to the job.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

9yrs later

28 May 2009 by cunny70

My wifes bike, I have gone through x3 bikes in the past 9 yrs, all were around £1500 650cc - 750cc, but this wee bike has never let us down. I use it for work rest and play, we have gone too a few rallies 2-up fully loaded tent sleeping bags camping... Read more stove and beer, sits ok on motorway at 70mph, handles A and B roads. I took it too Isle o Man, cause i knew it would get me home safely, I sat with all sorts of sport bikes and held my own just fine. Great wee bike, good allrounder, keep it maintained and it'll keep on the road ok. Just remember its not a sports bike, it is what it is.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5

Spot on

18 March 2008 by rpreston

Its cool love it Read more

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
Read all 30 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1996
Year discontinued 2007
Original price £3,345
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 8 of 17
Annual road tax £58
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 48 bhp
Max torque 33 ft-lb
Top speed 110 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 14.9 secs
Average fuel consumption 46 mpg
Tank range 170 miles
Specification
Engine size 498cc
Engine type 4v, parallel-twin, 6 gears
Frame type Steel tube double cradle
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 800mm
Bike weight 179kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Single 280mm disc
Rear brake 240mm drum
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 140/70 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1996: Kawasaki ER-5 introduced.
2001: Kawasaki ER-5 re-styled.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Top view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Top view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Kawasaki ER-5 motorcycle review - Side view
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