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World first test: The 2002 ZX-12R

Published: 04 March 2002

Updated: 19 November 2014

Kawasaki has raised the power of the ZX-12R AND given it an even more sporting focus.

Our full report is published in MCN, out on Wednesday, March 6, 2002. But here are our first impressions.

(i) The firm reckons the new model now makes 187bhp with the ram-air in action (around 177bhp otherwise).

(ii) The nose is stubbier and sleeker than the old one and supports a 20mm higher screen. reducing wind blast.

(iii) New clocks have larger numbers which are much easier to read than the old digital dash.

(iv) Riding position is identical – roomy yet decidedly sporty.

(v) If the old one was fast, this one has just gone off the scale. There’s enough torque to pull from 20mph at 1500rpm in top gear. There’s no drive-train lash and less snatchy fuel injection.

(vi) Gun it through the gears and you get to 130mph within what feels like less than a couple of seconds. Sit on a motorway at legal speeds then wind on the throttle in top gear and it’s like you just changed down to third on something like a Blade.

(vii) It gets a bit vibey when you start ringing it out, but the rest of the time it’s very smooth.

(viii) New, fully-adjustable 43mm inverted forks with revised damping settings and less initial dive allows the bike to pitch less under braking and acceleration. There’s also a new rear shock with a softer spring for improved traction and a wider range of adjustments.

(ix) Lighter wheels and geometry changes make it turn faster and handle better. But it is still more sports-tourer than sports bike.

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