I’ve now logged over 15,000 miles on a motorcycle in the US and probably over 50,000 miles abroad. I consider myself a moderately experienced rider. I’ve ridden a dual sport (DR650), a naked v-twin (SV650) and now this ZZR1200. Going from the DR650 to the SV650 was, in a sense, a doubling of “power”. The SV650 was light, powerful, flickable and actually pretty cute. I loved it. But after two years on that motorcycle, I wanted a change, especially for longer multi-day trips. In comes the Big Zed. So here’s a review of my Kawasaki ZZR1200 after logging a little over a thousand miles on it.
To get started, here are the top three things I like about this bike: a) The engine b) The engine and c) The engine. Yes, true that. What a gem of an engine! I believe this is the last of the old-school Kawasaki carbureted big bores. It provides breathtaking acceleration all through the rev range and hides its 525 lb weight very well. It just pulls and pulls, in any gear, at any RPM, much like an angry pitbull. On paper it can hit 80 mph in first gear and 110 in second. I’ve not really explored it very much above 8000 rpm – there is plenty of grunt before that. While reviewing footage from a recent ride, I noticed how easy it is to hit high speeds. I hit 100 mph in about 6 seconds, and I wasn’t even pushing it.
Now I don’t consider my a fast rider and I usually take it easy on the curves. The SV650 was very easy to lean and confidence inspiring at every turn. The big Zed is certainly heavier to turn, but it’s not very different. I recently rode Palomares Rd and Calaveras Rd and the bike handled pretty decent.
The transmission is smooth and the brakes are adequate. I’ve not been in any situation that required hard braking so can’t say much.
Wind protection is excellent. Highway riding is easy and the wind hits my 6′ 2″ frame below my shoulders. My arms and legs don’t feel the wind. I actually like the leaned over position of the Zed more than the upright seating of the SV650. It makes it easy to ride on the freeway when you are leaning into the wind. The seat is average. I did fine on a 250 mile day ride, but I don’t like the seat pushing me into the tank. The mirrors actually work and give me a decent view of what’s behind. (The mirrors on the SV650 and DR650 were terrible)
This bike came with aftermarket Madaz Racing slip-on exhausts. This is apparently an Australian company that made high quality exhausts specifically for the ZZR1200. I was a firm non-believer of slip on mufflers (what a waste of time), but that may change. When opened up these “cans” sound like an expensive Italian car rocketing away. Around town they are quite enough to not disturb anyone.
With a 6.1 gallon fuel tank, range on this bike is excellent. I hit reserve (nice to have an actual petcock) at about 200 miles, giving the bike a typical range of about 240 miles. The furthest I have gone is 211 miles and I filled it up with 5.45 gallons. I average about 40 mpg.
I like the center-stand – makes chain lubrication and oil changes so easy. An upright bike on the center stand also takes up less space in the garage compared to a leaned over bike on a side stand.
I like the analog gauges. A fuel gauge was a first for me – so that is good. And I’ve never had a bike with digital gauges, but I’m not sure it would be the same feeling as seeing the tachometer needle rise.
The one thing I don’t like are the vibrations on this bike. This thing has a wicked buzz at 5000 rpm (apparently a common problem) which makes it hard to cruise at 80mph on the freeway. I get around that by dropping down a gear. Its perfectly smooth elsewhere, but the vibes are very noticeable between 4700 and 5200 rpm. I plan to sync the carbs this winter, maybe that will help.
That is all. Here are some pictures.