At Bike Social, we pride ourselves on bringing you the most comprehensive group tests online and with the being first with the new model reviews. But each week our man Scott Redmond brings another angle to our road tests. With one man, one bike and a tank of fuel, Scott hits the road to give you his verdict on a current model bike, seeing how it performs as he goes about his daily life. This week, it's the Kawasaki Z1000SX.
Is there still a place for the sports tourer in these days of the adventure bike? To find out, I took custody to the keys of Kawasaki’s Z1000SX, one of the company’s top selling bikes of the last few years.
Let’s be honest, the Z1000SX isn’t much of a looker. It’s not a terrible design, but when you remind yourself of bikes like the ZRX series and even early Z1000 models, they all had something about them. I know though not to judge a book by the film though, and beneath the ample bodywork lurks a bike that’s designed to do a job and to do it in style, so to speak.
There’s a fat 190 section tyre on the back and four pot monobloc radial calipers cling on to inverted forks. Those brakes haul up 300mm discs. The petal effect is something Kawasaki still enjoy, as they appear on plenty of other bikes in their 2016 range. The bike isn’t an anorexic, weighing in at 231 kilos. That’s a lot of bulk to lug about. I can’t help but wonder how many cakes do those funky looking silencers weigh? They are a nice touch but their cartoonish dimensions look awkward once your initial enthusiasm wanes.
Pushing the mass along is a four-cylinder, water cooled 16 valve engine. There’s nothing overly new or fangled about its construction, and the 1043cc engine is tuned to spit out 140bhp. In these days of intergalactic sports bikes that tease you with many more ponies, you could feel underwhelmed by the power on tap. I think we need a reality check here. One hundred and forty horses isn’t to be sniffed at. That’s around the same poke that the original R1 gave out.
To see what these ingredients of weight, power and ergonomics result in, I necked the 19 litre tank and bid the city of Peterborough a farewell. I pointed the chubby face of the Zed towards the east. My journey’s end would be the Lincolnshire seaside town of Skegness, which lay around 70 miles away. From the sprawl of Peterborough the Zed carried me in supreme comfort out through the countryside and eventually deposited me by the coast. I enjoyed this ride more than I thought I would. Here’s why:
The big Z1000SX is perfectly at home in the real world. Although my ride was in temperatures in the mid 20s, it was accompanied by very gusty winds. These were felt the hardest across the A15 artery as I left Peterborough and headed out Spalding way. The flatness of the Fens that the trunk road scythes through making me easy pickings for strong winds. The weight of the Kawasaki helped to keep me on track. Also aiding my progress was the screen. It looks like an afterthought, with a chunk of Perspex bolted to a series of flimsy brackets, but it works remarkably well. There’s scope to adjust it but I left it be, as for me the position it was in was spot on.
Having negotiated Boston, I bonded further with the SX on the windy road towards the coast. A few hills were welcome as our route kissed the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds. With farmers busy harvesting, our haste was thwarted by various tractors going about their duties, each one despatched swiftly by the power of the Zed. I did dabble with the traction control settings and have to be honest, I couldn’t really find any major differences between the modes. I loved the riding position, it’s pretty damn perfect for me. What adds to the experience is a saddle that’s both generous in size but also crafted from materials to deliver a positive comfort experience. It’s little details like this that can make or break a bikes first impressions. One thing that did niggle me were the clocks. For a bike that retails a few hundred quid shy of ten grand, they aren’t very good value for money. The pod is too small, the display is hard to see when bathed in sun shine and often just reflects your reflection. They need to be bigger and bolder.
With the sniff of sea air in my nostrils, I looked forward to reaching Skegness. With an obligatory ice cream purchased and consumed, I jumped straight back on the Z1000SX, which hadn’t even had time to ping itself cool. I still had plenty of fuel left, and with it being mid afternoon I decided to take a ride back to a local bike meet that’s held on a weekly basis in Market Deeping. My fondness for the exhaust silencers had returned. Not for the visual abilities but for the tone they omit. Winding the Zed up rewards you with a really pleasing exhaust note, or at least that’s what I thought. It actually turns out the mechanical music is created in the air box by a series of holes within the filter base plate. This is because exhaust emissions are so tight, the only way to create a note is back in the induction department. It’s clever and it works.
The engine is fantastic. It isn’t 140 wild horses. They arrive quite sedately, which in a way makes them more effective. Pinning the throttle in first gear will get you to 69mph, and no matter how many times I tried, the rev limiter couldn’t be persuaded to give me a 70mph reading. The fuelling is perfect too, in any gear, in any revs, just pull the throttle and the bike will respond.
Before you learn to explore the power it’s always wise to explore the brakes. Those monobloc four pot calipers deliver premium braking without being over harsh. The suspension plays its part too in proceedings, and they all compliment each other perfectly.
Seat height is 820mm which provides you with an excellent perch. It’s almost into adventure bike levels of forward vision.
The Z1000SX and I wound our way back towards the Peterborough skyline. Hitting Boston at rush hour was a treat I could have done without, although it showcased the bikes filtering prowess. For a 140bhp bruiser it pussy foots about with ease. I was getting concerned that I hadn’t created a list of negatives to scribble about, and other than the clocks and the lack of visual personality I was stumped in my search for more misery. The real world can often highlight short comings in bikes, but in the case of the Z1000SX it just amplifies its strengths and I was seriously impressed by how well the bike works as an whole.
Arriving at the bike night, I’d covered 130 miles since lunchtime and felt totally relaxed and ache free, unlike the chap who parked his immaculate ZZR1400 next to me. Sure his bike looked better than the SX but would I want to swap? Nah would I heck as like.
Maybe the days of the sports tourer aren’t over just yet.
What I liked
Mirrors. They look like a snail's antennae but work perfectly.
Comfort. The saddle is brilliant and the lift on the bars is spot on.
Performance. Pulls cleanly, plenty of go and stealthy delivered.
What I didn’t like
The clocks. Needs a bigger display.
Styling. It’s not a looker, but who cares!