KAWASAKI GPZ500 (1987-2004) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Long in the tooth but a prime candidate for a first big bike"

Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding

"Long in the tooth but a prime candidate for a first big bike"

  • At a glance
  • 498cc  -  59 bhp
  • 44 mpg  -  174 miles range
  • Low seat height (775mm)
  • Suitable for A2 licence

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Long in the tooth but surprisingly fast and easy to live with, the Kawasaki GPZ500S’s a true and reliable all-rounder. The  Kawasaki GPZ500S is a prime candidate for a “first big bike” and one with the performance and handling to tempt you to hold on to it after rivals have lost their (underpowered) appeal.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki GPZ500S is ong, narrow and relatively lightweight, making for quick, responsive handling. The GPZ500S's suspension’s a bit budget and nearly always needs replacing on older models but does the job. Brakes likewise. The front end’s a bit frisky on bumpy roads but, overall, it’s incredibly easy to ride and very forgiving.

 

Engine 4 out of 5

The Kawasaki GPZ500S begs to be revved, adopting a banshee-style wail to accompany super fast acceleration over 7000rpm. Down low the Kawasaki GPZ500S can be a bit lumpy but it’s not a major flaw. Smooth and reliable, owners of the Kawasaki GPZ500S describe it as “bullet proof”. You could be hard-pushed not to think it was a four.

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

Really old Kawasaki GPZ500S's tend to look a bit ragged: suspension, brakes and bodywork need particular attention. However, overall build quality of the Kawasaki GPZ500S is good and the engine’s reliability is without question. High mileages are common but check for dents and bumps: many Kawasaki GPZ500S are ex-learner or courier bikes.

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Thrash the Kawasaki GPZ500S and fuel consumption will diminish to a paltry 35mpg or so; take it a bit easier and you’ll see up to 200 miles between stops. Insurance is good, especially considering the bike’s performance, and spares are everywhere, given the bike’s long history. Loads of Kawasaki GPZ500S around so you can find one to suit pretty much any budget. Find a Kawasaki GPZ500 for sale.

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

Equipment 3 out of 5

The Kawasaki GPZ500S is hardly flash but practical enough. Whilst the engine guarantees performance, the adequate fairing, rear grabrail and useful bungee hooks make useful, everyday additions to the Kawasaki GPZ500S. There’s a centrestand and the large mirrors work very well. Pillion provision isn’t bad either. Kawasaki GPZ500S clocks are basic but clear.

Owners' Reviews

32 owners have reviewed their KAWASAKI GPZ500 (1987-2004) 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 4.2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4.4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.0 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.6 out of 5
Equipment 3.6 out of 5
4 out of 5

Edit: Great all-rounder!

03 August 2014 by eldee

I meant, of course, over 6000rpm the engine smooths out! Slip of the finger! Read more

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

Great all-rounder

03 August 2014 by eldee

I've had my 1999 GPZ for about 3 years and I don't regret buying it one little bit. It's a great all round bike with enough sparkle to make it interesting. Pottering around town or the country lanes near my home the bike is fairly quiet and well... Read more behaved. Get it out on the open road and give the throttle a tweek and it shows the other side of its nature. Over 600rpm the exhaust note changes and the engine smooths out to give a pretty dazzling performance for a 500cc twin. My one regret is that I didn't manage to get a slightly later model with the twin front discs as the stopping power with the single disc could be better.

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

A damn good all rounder

27 September 2013 by anndra

I just got rid of mine and I'm regretting it. It handled well enough to make it fun. The vibration could be annoying but I had to be in the saddle for an hour or more for it to get to me. Comfort over distance was reasonable. Going to work and back... Read more was a pleasure. The fairing meant that cross winds on the motorway could be awkward. The bike returned an impressive 65mpg at times (long steady hauls down the motorway) and hitting about 7k revs made it pick up the pace nicely. Overall it was a good bike. Reliable and trustworthy.... Wonder if they'll let me buy it back????

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

The best bike I have owned

07 April 2013 by Wolfie1994

Im currently driving a 33bhp restricted version of this amazing bike, it is my 1st big bike and I love every aspect it, She handles very well through the corners even in the wet and tbh its the first bike I have ever had at high speed. It is easy... Read more enough to keep under control and comfortable to ride even at slow speeds. (Im not the classic speed everywhere and overtake everything teen. I go for collecting NCB's and not speeding tickets haha) Overall its a brilliant bike

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 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

It's a good un

22 March 2013 by rikster1975

I'm very happy with 1st thoughts on this bike as its my 1st big bike. Took a while to get it ready due to lack of cash but parts are very easy to find. On open roads its very quick, With 46000 on the clock and an 1987 plate she has still got plenty... Read more of life in her.

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

It's a good un

22 March 2013 by rikster1975

I'm very happy with 1st thoughts on this bike as its my 1st big bike. Took a while to get it ready due to lack of cash but parts are very easy to find. On open roads its very quick, With 46000 on the clock and an 1987 plate she has still got plenty... Read more of life in her.

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

33HP restricted

18 February 2013 by BornBiker1911

im restricted, but omg the bike is still amazing, purrs along at 1500 rpm, ticks over less than 1000, bought mine for 500 fully sercices, no advosiries, 36,000 miles... its the original 1987 one, still absolutely brilliant Read more

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

Highly Recommended First Big Bike - Even 33bhp Restricted!

24 January 2012 by MikeyBrown

I have owned my GPZ500 since passing my 33bhp test in May '11 and I only paid £500 for a '91 bike with 17.5k miles on the clock and just 2 jobs needing work for the MOT. It has been bulletproof since I got it, with only two major things going... Read more wrong...1) stuck float valve and 2) leaking rear shock. But these two are only age related things anyway ;) Love my GPZ, even restricted to 33bhp and it'll still do 100mph (on private land of course) and it still handles pretty sweetly for an older bike. I currently have a Motad NEXXUS s/s exhaust fitted and I would advise any owner to fit one...although Delkevics 2-into-2 full stainless replacements sound VERY VERY nice! --Mikey B--

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

Update

10 October 2011 by firebirdharris

Had the bike over two years now. This means i've been able to fix some of the quirks and de-restrict it. The bike is great like that, after two years you really notice the extra power available and the extra torque is great in higher higher gears at... Read more low speed (can now cruise at 30mph at 3.5krevs without it complaining or straining). For the price they cost and the cost of insurance (about £330 for tpft) they're well worth it, sure they're not as flashy, but i've dropped it/come at low speed and the only real damage was to my confidence in my intelligence (riding on ice is not a good idea, even if fun). Cracking little bike definitely worth a look if you're a new rider. First of all when buying check the exhaust before you buy, there is a bit (a balance bar?) between the two pipes and this does some unknown jiggery pockery to do with pressure through engine and stuff. Either way if this thing is holey (and it is the lowestest part of the bike that's not wheels) and it can be so without any excess noise (you need to feel for blowing down there) then your fuel consumption will drop like mad. There is a simple solution to this problem and that is A: get a new exhaust or B: (my preferred option) and have a friendly shop chop out the offending bit and weld the resulting holes over. Sure the bike sounds a bit more like a two cylinder but it's worth it in fuel comsumption. PS: if anyone is interested then i have a 33bhp restrictor kit available(well, it's two washers that go in the carb to restrict air flow) dead simple to put in and out.

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
5 out of 5

Fantastic bike, read for brake upgrade

14 September 2011 by urbanfireblade

I've owned my R-Reg '97 Gpz500 for almost a year now and its been fantastic biking on a budget. First of all i will say the front single 2 pot sliding calliper is awful, and really ruins the bikes overall impact as everyone complains about them. My... Read more fix, which i believe is the first in the UK, was to fit a Yamaha R1 298mm '98 4XV floating front disc, the hole pcd is exactly the same!, and same thickness too at 5mm, drill out the holes to 9.9mm dia and it'll bolt straight on(standard Gpz 500 bolts are 10mm shouldered bolts but measure 9.9mm diameter and the disc is located concentrically by the bolts and not the centre of the disc!), and i have also fitted a Honda Vtr1000 '97-'00 4 pot Nissin calliper. I made a brake adaptor from 10mm thick solid steel and machined the calliper to be able to mount it properly, so now instead of a 281mm disc and 2 pot sliding calliper, i have an awesome 298mm disc and 4 pot Nissin calliper with HH-rated pads setup and its utterly fantastic! I'm an engineer btw so have done all the work myself. 4hrs start to finish. Before this i had the standard 281mm disc but with a 4 pot Honda VFR400 NC30 calliper and again, my own adaptor but this wasn't a huge leap in breaking power due to the disc diameter. Anyway back to the bike, the engine will feel grumbly below 2.5k, but its just the charactoristics of the twin cylinder engine. It sounds great from 3-5k, real gutsy! But at 6k it seems to hit a powerband and takes off! Its such an easy bike to manouvre, due to its light weight, and can easily sit at 80mph comfortably with the screen deflecting wind well. I've made extension posts for the mirrors so they stick out a further 30mm as all you can see is elbows as standard! They still fold in to less than the handlebar width which is nice as i wheel my bike straight through the side gate with no faffing around. Tyres are Bridgestone BT-045's and transform the handling alot, making the bike much more confident around the bends, tho they do seem to cause the 'bars to waggle if you let go on a straight road, seems i'm not alone with this problem and these tyres are apparently to blame somehow. So no posing non-handed as you'll be off! MPG is around 60mpg on standard unleaded, never less than 57mpg even after a 50mile country road blast at high revs! Amazing really! I have stainless downpipes as the standard ones rust, and you'll find the end cans rust where they join the downpipes-i've temporary fixed mine because of this. I fitted a Halfords white light bulb to improve the headlight, and it allows me to raise the beam a little so i can see further without losing any strength. Unfortunately, i find car drivers do not give you as much respect as they do when i ride my bigger 1200 Bandit, and so they tend to sit closer behind you, or pull out of the junction when they would have waited for a bigger bike. Sad, but true, so be wary of that. I have used this bike in all weathers and handling has been very predictable, very confident inspiring when the roads are awash with water, and will make you give your bike a pat after a spirited ride around the twisties! I love my bike, it has sooo much charactor compared to most, reliablility has been brilliant, only a blocked fuel tank breather in the filler cap caused it to stop working as a vacuum created in the fuel tank and so it struggled to suck fuel! Check yours, if it hisses when you open the filler cap you have a blocked tank breather. Aside from that, my 29k Gpz500 has been a dream to ride, i love its old skool looks, twin exhaust, grumbly engine, starts time after time, a true 60mpg, cheap tyres, doesn't use a drop of oil in 3k miles, overall a fantastic bike either as a step up or a commuter bike. I've got a 1200 Bandit as well, had a '95 Fireblade for 5 yrs and i am still very happy with my little GPZ! Just be sure to upgrade the front brake like i have and you'll love it to pieces! If i were to be picky, i would say no fuel gauge and no clock are something i'd have liked, and less throttle rotation as you can wind it round quite alot, and there's no rear shock protector to stop road crud being thrown off the rear wheel and onto it. Picky things but useful mods. Just to finish, you should get close to 200+ miles from a tank, and finish is very good, 14yrs old and it still polishes up nice! I'd hate to see my Suzuki Bandit when its 14yrs old, as in my opinion the Suzuki is below par-paint wearing thru etc, whereas the Gpz is still a nice red, thick paint and decent tough plastic screen, panels etc. Recommended bike, i can't imagine selling mine!!!

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
Read all 32 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1987
Year discontinued 2004
Original price -
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 59 bhp
Max torque 34 ft-lb
Top speed 125 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 13 secs
Average fuel consumption 44 mpg
Tank range 174 miles
Specification
Engine size 498cc
Engine type 8v parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame type Steel box section
Fuel capacity 18 litres
Seat height 775mm
Bike weight 176kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Twin 270mm discs
Rear brake 230mm disc
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 130/70 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1987: Kawasaki GPZ500S launched. It was “half a GPZ1000 RX”! Various graphics and colour changes only until 1993.
1993: Kawasaki GPZ500S gets a big facelift. Forks go up from 36mm to 37mm; wheels from 16” to 17”; the front gets twin discs and the rear drum is replaced by a single disc. All new bodywork and a lower seat.
2004: Kawasaki GPZ500S discontinued.

Other versions

None

Photo Gallery

  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Engine
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Engine
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Engine
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Front view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Engine
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Exhaust
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Riding
  • Kawasaki GPZ500S motorcycle review - Side view