Kawasaki Z1000SX Tourer
What is it about the Kawasaki Z1000SX that attracts men of a certain age?
SINCE TAKING CHARGE of the Kawasaki Z1000SX, I’ve had a few other owners contact me to share their experiences. In general terms they, like me, enjoy the bike. Like me, there are one or two minor niggles that they pick up on but nothing that makes them regret their choice of motorcycle. And like me, they all seem to be men of a certain age…
To try to get to the bottom of what makes the big sports tourer work for other blokes like me, I’m going for a ride with a fellow owner. Gareth Williams from Hereford is turning 47 in about a month, which makes him almost exactly three weeks younger than me. Pretty similar to most of the other owners who’ve told me their ages. We meet in Stratford-upon-avon – the only two bikes in the Bridgeway car park - and start by comparing backgrounds.
Like me, Gareth has had his licence for 30-odd years and stopped riding only briefly when his first child was born (“Not through choice – but the Ducati 900SS I had at the time decided I should take a bit of a break,” he explains). He’s generally had sporty bikes – including two Yamaha Thunderaces and an R1 – but the bike before the SX was a Ducati Multistrada 1200. “That was supposed to be the bike that would ease me into buying a BMW GS,” he says. “But I’m just not ready for that yet…”
My riding background also includes a few sportsbikes – and a Multistrada. “That was a tough act to follow,” admits Gareth. “But I think the SX manages it.” He’d been prompted to change because of the running costs of the Ducati. “The major service was looming and I’d had quotes ranging from £800 to £1200 and the nearest dealer is more than 60 miles away,” he says. “I needed something more practical and more affordable.” He considered the new 765 Triumph Street Triple, but the Kawasaki’s screen and panniers won him round. “And it’s really impressed me,” he says.
Is there anything he doesn’t like? The back end feels a bit bouncy sometimes, he says, especially on faster direction changes. I also found the suspension needed a bit of attention (though as I’m four stone heavier than Gareth, that’s not surprising) so I go into set-up guru mode, break out the toolroll and add half a turn to the rear rebound damper. Let’s see how that works… Our ride takes us east of Stratford – further into the east of England than Gareth’s ever been on a bike. “I go to Scotland to see family, but with Wales on my doorstep, why would I head in the other direction?” Good question… But head east we must and, actually, the riding is pretty good. More to the point, it flatters the SX. Long straights, sweeping corners, generally pretty good surfaces – I’m carrying a lot of revs and the bike’s devouring the roads. Overtakes are fast and it takes a bit of self-control to keep speeds even halfway excusable.
“I need to get used to carrying a lot of revs again, after riding a twin,” admits Gareth. “It sounds brilliant when we’re both accelerating hard – the two engines howling in stereo.” This is when the bike feels best, in the upper half of the rev range. I find I’m rarely hooking fifth gear – it’s more than quick enough in fourth.
As we swoop through Leicestershire and into Rutland, the roads get tighter and bumpier. I’ve recently swapped from the OE Bridgestones to the new Avon Spirit STS and they’ve improved the turn-in no end. Gareth’s still on the original tyres but is keeping pace
“A pair of notquite-hooligans having a cuppa”
comfortably. It’s clear he’s a quick rider. “And the back end feels much more planted now,” he says when we stop at the Two Flags café on the A47.
I suppose it’s a bit of a cliché: two blokes in their 40s, taking a break from a fast ride for a cup of tea; a pair of not-quite-hooligans having a civilised cuppa after getting away with a bit of tomfoolery, thanks to a little common sense and a lot of of experience. I think that’s why the SX appeals to men of our age. It lets us recapture a bit of our sportier youth, but delivers a polished version of the experience. It’s fast when you want to go fast, steady when you’re being sensible, comfortable and practical without being an upright old-man’s bike – and it’s good value too.
“My regular pillion – who’s been riding with me for 30 years – loves it,” Gareth says. “She says it’s like I’ve found the right bike for me at the right point in my life. Which is right – we’ve just gelled. I feel at home on the SX.” So do I and, it seems, do plenty of other people, as it continues to be one of Kawasaki’s most popular bikes.
Two bikes, two gents, two sugars. Too right