Kawasaki Z650

New-rider-friendly road­ster Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Road Test -

There’s no ques­tion Kawasaki have made a huge step forward with the new Z650 over the old ER-6N, which des­per­ately needed up­dat­ing. The new bike uses a sim­i­lar wa­ter-cooled par­al­lel twin but now it meets tight Euro4 reg­u­la­tions. Peak power is down 4bhp com­pared to the old bike, the low­est out­put in the test, but Kawasaki have vastly re­duced the weight com­pared to the old ER with an all-new chas­sis.

The trel­lis frame is 10kg lighter, the swingarm saves a fur­ther 2.7kg and the old side-mounted rear shock has been dis­carded in favour of a con­ven­tional cen­trally-mounted shock with link­age. Kawasaki have trans­formed the old and slightly staid ER-6N into a good-times sport­ster. The new and lighter Zed has the ea­ger­ness of a dog wag­ging its tail wait­ing for a stick to be thrown. The steer­ing is light and the chas­sis flick­able; de­spite nar­row bars you can throw the Zed around with ease once you’ve built up some heat in the Dun­lop Sport­max tyres, which aren’t a match for the Pirellis on the Du­cati. Rid­den in iso­la­tion, the softly-sprung Zed is fun, if a lit­tle vibe-prone at high speed, but un­for­tu­nately it can’t match the ex­cite­ment of the Yamaha.

The low seat and nar­row chas­sis, com­bined with its paucity of ki­los, make the Kawasaki this test’s ‘learn­er­friendly’ gold medal­ist. If, like me, you’re ver­ti­cally chal­lenged, the Zed is the eas­i­est to live with, too. The lit­tle Kawasaki was also a favourite around

town and, along with the MT, ran rings around the wider Du­cati and Suzuki.

De­spite cost­ing the same as the Yamaha, the Kawasaki has a higher feel of qual­ity about it. Its clocks, es­pe­cially, are more at­trac­tive while the new trel­lis frame is not too dis­sim­i­lar from Kawasaki’s flag­ship H2, and there’s even a slip­per clutch as stan­dard.

Fi­nally, and very strangely in­deed, the Z650’s stan­dard sus­pen­sion set­tings are too soft for sporty use and more suited to deal with city com­mutes. In fact, the Z was the only bike on test that cried out for a sus­pen­sion tweak. But to add more spring preload on the rear you have to re­move the shock. Not some­thing any­one wanted to try on the side of the road...

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