Nice work Kawasaki

‘Small changes make a big dif­fer­ence to the litre sports-tourer ’ Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - ADAM CHILD SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER adam.child@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

New three-level trac­tion con­trol, im­proved com­fort and a string of de­tail tweaks – in­clud­ing re­vised sus­pen­sion, a lower seat and a higher screen have made Kawasaki’s al­ready bril­liant Z1000SX even bet­ter. The bike is ex­pected to cost around £10,000 when it goes on sale in the New Year. It’s clear the firm have lis­tened to own­ers and de­liv­ered ex­actly what they asked for.

‘The IMU talks to the trac­tion con­trol and cor­ner­ing ABS, both which are lean-sen­si­tive’

Ispent a year with a Kawasaki Z1000SX back in 2015. To­gether we cov­ered just short of 20,000 miles. I com­muted in rain, sun and even snow. I ven­tured out on some light tour­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally two-up with my fi­ancée on the back. I even had some fun on track at both Rock­ing­ham and Don­ing­ton Park. As with the orig­i­nal bike back in 2010, I felt Kawasaki re­ally hit the spot with the SX; a com­fort­able sports-tourer, prac­ti­cal, yet at the same time fun.

Over the year, I mod­i­fied the SX slightly. I fit­ted a larger screen for im­proved wind pro­tec­tion, tweaked the sus­pen­sion slightly for the track and fit­ted the op­tional heated grips. I felt it needed a slightly com­fier seat, both for rider and pil­lion (more so the pil­lion), more wind pro­tec­tion and a slightly sportier edge. By the end of my time with it, with new mod­els chal­leng­ing the SX, it needed a facelift, a nip and tuck here and there, but noth­ing ma­jor.

Now, late in 2016, Kawasaki have not only rec­ti­fied the nig­gles I dis­cov­ered but also added a few ex­tras like trac­tion con­trol (KTRC), driven by an in­te­grated Bosch In­er­tial Mea­sure­ment Unit (IMU). This is also part­nered to the new Kawasaki Cor­ner­ing Man­age­ment Func­tion (KCMF) which mod­u­lates brak­ing force, mean­ing the SX’S trac­tion con­trol and ABS are lean an­gle­sen­si­tive for the first time.

Back in 2015, I wanted more weather pro­tec­tion. The up­dated model’s screen is 15mm taller and the fair­ing is 28mm wider at each side and now over­laps the frame. As a re­sult the mir­rors are also wider, too, by 20mm, to give a clear view be­hind.

Af­ter drain­ing a full tank of fuel in around 130 to 140 miles I was thank­ful for the break on the older SX as the seat was sporty-thin and didn’t have the sup­port needed for big miles. Again, Kawasaki have clearly lis­tened to cus­tomer feed­back as the new seat is wider and thicker for both rider and pil­lion.

Kawasaki have also re­vised the SX’S sus­pen­sion (see over the page), mainly it seems to com­pen­sate for its ex­tra 4kg and to lower the seat height. The ex­tra weight comes from the new ex­haust which makes the 2017 SX Euro4 com­pli­ant, plus the ad­di­tion of new elec­tron­ics, that larger fair­ing and new perch.

Kawasaki have even im­proved the clocks, adding an am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture gauge, gear in­di­ca­tor and an ad­justable shift light. The old bike’s trac­tion con­trol wasn’t bad, but it lacked lean an­gle sen­sors and a so­phis­ti­cated IMU. The new sys­tem is much more ad­vanced and sim­i­lar to that of the ZX-10R, but with dif­fer­ent pa­ram­e­ters and al­go­rithms to suit its sports tour­ing brief.

As soon as you throw a leg over the new bike you start to no­tice the changes. The clocks are eas­ier to read, but also boast more in­for­ma­tion, the man­u­ally ad­justable screen is a frac­tion higher, and yes, the fair­ing is no­tice- ably wider, along with the mir­rors. The new fair­ing not only gives the 2017 SX an ag­gres­sive stance, but makes it more prac­ti­cal.

Some parts of the SX have re­mained un­touched, in­clud­ing the frame and en­gine. Kawasaki have cleaned up the fu­elling for Euro4 and a added an ecofriendly ex­haust, but the SX en­gine’s es­sen­tial char­ac­ter and out­put re­main the same as the old bike (140bhp and 82ftlb of torque).

At slow speed, the fu­elling is fault­less and, com­bined with a light clutch and gear­box, the SX is a de­light in town, de­spite its 235kg bulk. Out of town you can make full use of the 1043cc Zed Thou-de­rived mo­tor. Make no mis­take, this is a quick bike, now made bet­ter as the new TC helps to keep the wheels in line, even when cranked over. There are three lev­els of TC to choose from (and it can be de­ac­ti­vated com­pletely).

Mode three is the most in­tru­sive, and on our rain-lashed first day of test­ing I re­peat­edly tried to pro­voke a slide – and failed. The TC cut the ig­ni­tion im­me­di­ately, and rather abruptly, but pre­vented any wheel­spin at all times. Set­tings two and one are less in­tru­sive and more suited for drier con­di­tions or the track – just there to help your en­joy­ment by pro­vid­ing a safety net. It’s hard to feel or hear the sys­tem work­ing, un­til you pro­voke it in a way own­ers are un­likely to, like at­tempt­ing to wheelie, for ex­am­ple.

Un­like the TC, the ABS can’t be ad­justed or switched off. In the wet the sys­tem is re­ally im­pres­sive, find­ing grip I just didn’t think was there. You can just feel the ABS work­ing on the rear pedal but it isn’t in­tru­sive and the front lever is pulse-free. It’s an un­usual feel­ing be­ing able to ride ag­gres­sively on an un­fa­mil­iar road, know­ing you can just jump on the stop­pers if a corner should un­ex­pect­edly tighten, with­out fear of lock­ing ei­ther wheel.

Day one was spent splash­ing around in the rain but it was ap­par­ent that the new bike has a ten­dency to drop into cor­ners a lit­tle too quickly. It was par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in the wet and the front just didn’t give 100% con­fi­dence – it was as if the tyre were un­der-in­flated. In the dry, this feel­ing wasn’t as ap­par­ent as you throw the bike into the corner with more ag­gres­sion. But the new bike didn’t have the ag­ile feel I was ex­pect­ing. Long, sweep­ing cor­ners took more than the ex­pected amount of counter steer­ing to get onto, and hold, a con­stant line.

Kawasaki have low­ered the rear, changed the shock link­age, and twid­dled the sus­pen­sion set­tings at both ends. The low­ered rear has also re­duced the ground clear­ance slightly com­pared to the old model. I be­lieve they have ac­tu­ally slowed the steer­ing – but a back-to-back test with the 2015 bike will give us a direct com­par­i­son. The steer­ing isn’t bad, it’s just not as neu­tral as ex­pected. But the feed­back is ac­tu­ally im­pres­sive, more so from the rear; it’s just the ini­tial turn-in where there’s room for im­prove­ment.

We had two days of rid­ing in the south of France. Af­ter this length of time on a bike I usu­ally start to feel my age, but that wasn’t the case with the new SX. The seat is an im­prove­ment over the old model, as are the screen and top fair­ing, giv­ing more wind pro­tec­tion. With the screen fully up­right, 90mph cruis­ing felt com­fort­able, with just enough wind­blast on your shoul­ders and lower legs to give you a sen­sa­tion of speed. Away from bor­ing mo­tor­ways I pre­fer rid­ing with the screen down for an un­in­ter­rupted view ahead.

The er­gonomics are ex­cel­lent – and it will be in­ter­est­ing to test the tour­ing cre­den­tials of the SX fur­ther when we can get some se­ri­ous miles un­der our belts back in the UK. It should be a huge im­prove­ment for the pil­lion, too.

The clocks are now clearer, there’s an easy to read gear posi­ton in­di­ca­tor and plenty of in­for­ma­tion for tour­ing – mpg, tank range and trips. What’s more, you can scroll through the clocks from the easy-to-nav­i­gate but­tons on the left-hand bar.

How­ever, I did feel the new SX was a lit­tle vibey at fast mo­tor­way speeds, around 95mph, over 6500rpm on the ana­logue tacho. The en­gine still has plenty in re­serve but there was some no­tice­able vi­bra­tion through the pegs. Again, we didn’t get the op­por­tu­nity to ride for big, fast mo­tor­way miles but it’s some­thing we will test fur­ther when we get the bike back to the UK.

‘The seat is a big im­prove­ment over the old model, as are the taller screen and wider top fair­ing’

Euro4-friendly ex­haust and new elec­tron­ics raise weight by 4kg, but sus­pen­sion is re­vised to suit

En­gine may be un­changed but the SX’S er­gonomics are sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved

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