Long-term test: Kawasaki ER-6f
Sad faces in the garage because my ER-6f has gone back to Kawasaki at the end of the long-term test period. So what have I learned during 4500-or-so miles on the 650cc parallel twin? Quite a lot actually.
Starting with the basics, I can happily report that the Kawasaki is a sturdy creature, despite its relatively budget price of £5649 (£6049 if you go for the one with ABS). Nothing broke down and the cosmetics held up well – I protected it from winter with ACF50 corrosion resistance solution, paying special attention to exposed metal on fastenings, banjo connections and the like, applying it with a cloth if I was working anywhere near the brakes. I was particularly keen on the side-mounted rear shock, its location making cleaning and adjustment incredibly easy (plus the shock itself doesn’t get encrusted with crud thrown up from the rear wheel when the weather turns nasty).
More importantly than all of this, I learned that smaller bikes can be just as much fun as their more meaty counterparts. I’ve had big-capacity machines even the past, even an ill-judged spell on a Kawasaki ZX-12R. But where ultra-powerful machines leave me feeling embarrassed that I am just scratching the surface of the available performance, the Kawasaki ER-6f delivered the satisfaction of knowing you are really using what it has on offer – exploring the cheeky end of the rev range without scaring myself or putting my licence in serious peril. Of course there is nothing slow about the ER, as proved by the fact they are raced in the Lightweight at the Isle of Man TT.
And that parallel-twin engine is a total peach, with just enough character to remind you that you aren’t on a generic inline-four without the lumpy bottom end of a big V-twin.
The received wisdom might be that the ER-6f is a great first bike or commuter, but for me it’s a whole lot more. It’s a proper fun ride and I’ll definitely miss it.