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1,623 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
TESTED: Jan '03

It’s a bit of a one-trick pony – go a very long way, very fast and it’ll be ideal. Deal with day-to-day practicalities and the competition will run rings around it

Welcome to the new and improved ZZ-R1100, or ZZ-R1200 as it’s now become. To look at though I reckon Kawasaki could have pushed the boat out further with the facelift – it looks like they just changed the lights at both ends, threw some new clocks in and left it at that. She’s not the prettiest bike on the block but at least in the plain colours Kawasaki are bringing her out in she has a certain air of regal grace.

So if the bike looks like the outgoing 1100 it’s no surprise to find it feels a lot like one to ride too. An updated and slightly refined version for sure, but still a raw and comparatively old-fashioned bike.

Tell you what though, that motor’s got some poke. It’s not a top end rush thing like a ZX-12, and nor is it the sheer sledgehammer punch of a Hayabusa. Nope, it is plain old-fashioned shove bred from the bike’s whopping 90ft-lbs of torque rather than outright power, although 146bhp at the back wheel is still not to be taken lightly.

This vast amount of torque means the bike pulls hard from nowt, and I mean nowt – you can pull top from 1,000rpm clean and easy. Roll on that throttle and feel that surge pump you forwards. Very strong, very easy-going, very nice.

Top speed may no longer be up there with the outright speed kings nowadays but that’s not really what life’s about for the ZZ-R now and I can’t see people who are after one being bothered it’s not the fastest bike on the road. Best thing about that motor is it makes this a stunning mile-eater. Motorways, autobahns, you name it, this bike will gobble them up faster than Jenna Jameson can her co-stars, as you sit there in sumptuous comfort.

The riding position is one of the most comfortable about with stacks of room, an excellent screen and very little pressure on your wrists, especially when you’re holding steady cruise speeds mile after mile.
Shame that pillion seat’s a duffer then. The pegs are too high for comfort, it’s too hard despite plush appearances and the old 1100’s single grabrail has been replaced with those less-effective twin-
sided affairs.

At least if you’re going solo the ZZ-R has bags of room for as much luggage as you care to throw at it, so if you simply can’t decide what outfit to wear when you get where you’re going, just take your whole wardrobe.

The brakes are adequate, but that’s about it. They’ll haul the big ZZ-R up quite well enough but fast stopping, as it were, needs mucho effort from the lever. Then again, the forks soon let you know where their limits are if you get heavy with the anchors so you’re better off riding this bike smoothly, rolling on and off that fat midrange rather than revving the tits off it and last-minute braking everywhere if you want to make fastest possible progress on it.

Handling? Yup, it does handle and really very predictably for something this size. The front can feel a little vague when on its ear, but you can take it right to the limits of the tyres and ground clearance in confidence, and it holds a line once in a corner surprisingly well for a bike so big. Still wouldn’t fancy it on the track though, whereas the other two bikes here will gladly cope with that sort of malarky really rather well.

And so to that size because it is a handicap. It hampers the bike in town where you really need to be very at home with low-speed riding to wheedle it through the gridlock without all those kilos catching you out and dumping you unceremoniously on the floor. Get it right and it’s no worries, get it wrong and you’ll be accosting passing weightlifters to help you get the bloody thing upright again. Point being, the ZZ-R1200 doesn’t hide its weight as well as, say, a Blackbird, and certainly not as well as the smaller Fazer and VFR800.

As for the practicalities, there’s that fuel gauge which is good and at least gives you a fighting chance of avoiding having to use that fiddly reserve tap. There’s a centrestand, more bungy points than you could ever need, the most protective riding position here and a clock. Marvellous.

The ZZ-R may have been updated but it doesn’t really seem to have been developed a great deal. It’s had a mild restyle and a big bore which has allowed Kawasaki to create a new model out of very little. This doesn’t take away from it being a very competent motorbike, I just wish Kawasaki had been a bit more adventurous with it.
For me, despite loving it for mile after mile down the motorway I’ll put it last out of this bunch.

Yes it’s big, yes it’ll take all the luggage you can strap to it without batting an eyelid, and yes it is very comfortable to ride but I wouldn’t want to commute on it, it takes muscle to hustle, and pillions won’t be your best mates for long.

Source: TWO Online
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