Long term Kawasaki ZRX1200

Published: 06 May 2001

There were a number of bikes on my private short-list that I was gagging to get a test ride on before I signed on the dotted line and bought one for myself. One of them was the ZRX1200S> But try as I might, I couldn’t find a local dealer with one on their demo fleet.

As luck would have it, MCN features editor Marc Potter had one in on test for a few days,and I managed to blag the keys off him for an hour.

The first thing that grabbed me about the ZRX was the looks. I simply loved the 1970s retro style and wanted to find out for myself if the good reports I’d read of the bike matched my personal expectations.

The basis for comparison was the bike I’d ridden to work on that morning my Honda NTV650, a cheap and almost boringly reliable. All-weather, winter hack. And naturally, against the big Kawasaki, the Honda seemed old and grossly underpowered.

Half-an-hour or so on the ZRX showed me that it more than lived up to my expectations in every respect. By the end of my test ride I was grinning from ear to ear and reluctant to hand it back. But, during the test ride, the decision had been made to let go of the NTV old, faithful friend that it was.

The ZRX seemed to have everything I wanted from a bike. Power. Excellent brakes. Fantastic looks. Great handling. And a seat that could comfortably accommodate two adults on long journeys.

My test ride revealed all this was true. But the weight of the bike was a welcome surprise. I expected it to be a lot heavier, and had been concerned that my nine stone physique wouldn’t be up to keeping a heavyweight musclebike under control. But that wasn’t the case.

The ZRX has exactly the right mass and balance to make me feel relaxed and confident.

Having made my decision to buy, I made a few phone calls to see just how affordable the ZRX would be. I soon discovered, as riders before me had discovered, that buying the Kawasaki wasn’t the problem. It was the insurance premium that was near-crippling, and the best I could get was £1475.

Still, I had to have it, and I consoled myself that part of this money was offset by the £695 discount I got off the £6595 list price. And a few days later I was on my way down to a Kawasaki dealer to pick up my new wheels, plus a two-piece matching set of Spyke retro-style leathers and a retro-style helmet. I reckon that if you’re gonna do something you might as well go the whole hog.

The weather on that first day was perfect. Patchy sun and dry Tarmac. I’m no fair weather rider, but the last thing you want with a new bike is rain and an hour or two in the garage cleaning off the grim. There’s time enough for that later.

I checked everything with the dealer. The maximum 4000-5000rpm that I could take it to during that all-important running-in period, and what kind of tyre and brake wear could be expected. These, of course, were questions I ‘d asked already. But this was my first new bike and I didn’t want to do anything wrong.

I decided the quickest way to run in the bike was to take a slight detour on the way home and show my girlfriend my new toy.

The motorway was filling up fast with rush-hour traffic, and I found myself behind car after car in the fast lane, unable to wind it open fully.

The ride through the countryside of the Chilterns was fantastic. Even though it’s a big bike, it’s dead easy to ride.

I spotted a sliproad leading to a town that I was vaguely familiar with. It was sat amid some of the most picturesque villages and roads, with more twists than a game of pontoon.

Usually an 80-mile detour would infuriate even the most sedate of people, but I arrived wanting to jump straight back on the bike, even at running-in speed.

In fact, since I’ve got the bike I’ve become slightly unsociable. In the past, at weekends for instance, I’d happily have taken my car and driven a group of people more or less anywhere.

But now that I’ve got the ZRX, someone else always has to drive as I always take the bike. In fact, I’ve clocked up over 900 miles in just over a week. I’ve even taken days off work to ride somewhere, stop and have a cuppa and then ride back.

My girlfriend, who lives 70 miles away, has never seen me so much, and when I arrive all I want to do is something that involves going for a ride on the bike that is.

So far, I haven’t had any pillion complaints. This is probably due to the sit-up riding position and the huge, comfortable cushion-like seat which is a lot lower than on most conventional sports machines.

It’s economical too. I can fill the tank for a tenner, and a tankful will last the entire trek. And I reckon it’s the perfect bike for taking abroad.

For years I’ve been wanting to do some riding in Europe, but have never had confidence in the old and exhausted bikes I’ve been used to.

But this Kawasaki provides the ideal opportunity to go away for a long weekend and visit some of the European rounds of the World Superbikes and GPs.

A bit closer to home, I really want to get some vital riding experience and take to the track.

I honestly think the ZRX will quite happily give some of the other, more sportier models a good run for their money.

Before I do that, though, I’m going to get the suspension suitably set up for me. I’ve noticed the rear shock is a bit on the soft side when cornering at speed which isn’t helped by my lightweight build.

I’ll get the tools out and have a fiddle.

Apart from that I’m delighted with my purchase and am sure that me and the ZRX will be spending a lot more time together.