Kawasaki Z1000SX Tourer

What is it about the Kawasaki Z1000SX that at­tracts men of a cer­tain age?

RiDE (UK) - - Contents - SI­MON WEIR

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

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