Sportsbike with comfort and speed
Meet the sportsbike you won’t tire of riding, invites PAUL OWEN.
The new Kawasaki ZX1000SX is the anti-sportsbike. By that I mean it’s comfy and plush, and won’t cramp you into a womb-like riding position, yet it is just as fast and exciting to ride on the road as the average sports machine.
Finally, after years of sportsbikes slowly mutating into racebikes-with-registrationlabels, here is one that cries ‘‘ enough is enough’’ and bucks the trend.
My personal hope is that SX will be such a success that other manufacturers will follow Kawasaki’s track, and lead sportsbikes in a more versatile and less politically-risky direction.
So consider yourself duty-bound to go out and buy one. For at the other end of the sportsbike spectrum to the Kawasaki sits the BMW S1000RR, a finely-focused racerwith-lights that, in my opinion, only exhibits its true worth when ridden in the safer and more clinical environment of the track.
Meanwhile the Kawasaki is a bike that you can appreciate every day on the road, whether you’re short-term commuting, touring over long distances, or taking it out for a quick fang on the weekend.
And when the opportunity to ride at a track day beckons, any dicing with a S1000RR is more likely to be settled by the abilities of the riders than the dynamic differences between the two machines. The Kawasaki might give away about 45kW of extreme top-end power to the BMW, but its plumper torque curve and potent midrange delivery that will have you exclaiming ‘‘OMG!’’ make excellent compensations.
The Kawasaki’s lack of any need to dial up lots of revs to experience its performance highlights its streetbike origins. For years, bike makers have developed a sportsbike then spun a streetbike off from it by removing the fairing, relaxing the riding position, and retuning the engine and suspension. However, the ZX1000SX comes to us from the opposite direction, for it is essentially the ZX1000 streetbike distilled into a sportsbike.
It’s an approach that has several advantages, and one of the better ones is cost. At $22,995, the price of the ABSequipped SX is just $1500 more than the naked Kawasaki that donated its powertrain, alloy frame, and suspension. Many bike brands would charge that much just for the brilliant ABS brakes.
With the SX you get a lot more: more expansive bodywork that isolates the rider better from the weather, complete with a height-adjustable windscreen; a larger 19-litre fuel tank that allows the gauge on the instrument panel to still show full at travelling distances where the naked bike’s is screaming to its rider to refuel; and expanded pillion accommodation for couples with wanderlust.
The latter comes courtesy of the thicker, longer seat of the SX. This relaxes the rider’s knees nicely in a riding position tilted slightly into the wind. Add narrower handlebars and wind-cleaving fairing, and you have a bike that remains comfortable over long periods in the saddle. Not only is the SX the anti-sportsbike, its also the anti-Gold Wing.
The power delivery of the Kawasaki’s long-stroke engine might be similar to that of the Triumph Sprint GT, but with 25 kilograms less weight to haul there’s an extra edge to the dynamic abilities of the Kawasaki. It totally overpowers slower traffic on the open road where the Triumph merely overtakes it.
Meanwhile the chassis of the SX closely resembles that of the ZX-10R sportsbikes. It therefore handles with a similar willingness to turn corners as the more traditional 1000cc sportsbike in the Kawasaki range. The rear shock doesn’t quite offer the damping quality of the ZXR’s, resulting in increased wheel chatter.
These minor dynamic differences between the SX and the pukka 1000cc sportsbike in the Kawasaki lineup are compensated for by the rider comfort, pillion accommodation and weather protection the cheaper bike offers. The 96kW ZX1000SX might be the anti-sportsbike, but in no way is it evil.
Kawasaki ZX1000SX: The sportsbike that is comfortable to ride.