Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R (2000 - 2007) review

The best of both worlds: power and handling combined with long distance comfort, but somehow it’s less than the sum of its parts

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Sat, 1 Jan 2000 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
Kawasaki
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 9345
Overall
4
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Comfort and speed all wrapped up in a big greenie that makes 175bhp
No longer cutting edge and not the sharpest scalpel for slicing through the back roads

While racing, I would always practice starts during the Sunday morning warm ups. This didn’t seem to help my opening laps, but it never failed to make me feel queasy trying to launch myself to 100mph in under five seconds. I’ve ridden all the new 1000s, but none of them wrapped my stomach round my spine like the Kawasaki ZX-12R.

With it’s claimed 175bhp and ‘normal’ first gear ratio, you have to hang on tight as the fairly long wheelbase keeps the front wheel down while hedges and lampposts become a blur. With just five minutes of mad riding out of the way I decided to relax for the remainder of my day with the new-for-’04 ZX-12R.

Weighing in at 210 kilos with a fairly lazy steering geometry means high speed motorway work is a doddle, but there was no real downside to the handling when it came to flicking through the lanes of Leicestershire.

The centre of gravity actually feels quite high, which means side-to-side movements require little effort, although the front tyre struggled for grip when pushed on slow corners. Being a big capacity bike, the power starts from very low rpm in any gear but the rear suspension coped well and had no hint of wheel spin.

Having linear power all the way to 11,500 rpm means there’s very little squat under acceleration, which keeps the front end down and in contact with the road. Don’t get me wrong; wheelies are always an option, they just don’t happen without warning and that’s no bad thing. Transmission? There are six gears and they change up and down adequately, which is more than I can say about some of the new ZX-10Rs I’ve ridden.

One addition I thought would work well is the radial mounted brakes. They look better and definitely have more stopping power, but
I found it quite tricky to use all of it to improve my stopping distance. The initial feel is fine, but I found the front wheel just locked when pulling harder in an attempt to get the weighty beast to a standstill. This wouldn’t happen during normal riding, but it’s always interesting to push to the limit.

A comfy, more ‘touring’ as opposed to sports style riding position encourages you to cruise rather than thrash the big Kawasaki, but it’s nice to know you could live with any superbike should you choose – well, in a straight line at least. I only rode it on a cold but dry day, so while I couldn’t really comment on weather protection, I didn’t encounter any noticeable buffeting at any time.
Handlebar controls are pretty standard fare combined with a clear, readable dash with big temperature and fuel gauges.

I can see why this bike will appeal to many riders, as in some ways it really does have the best of both worlds; big capacity, big horse power with decent handling that will easily relieve you of adrenalin while you out-gun the competition on acceleration and top speed.
All this, and you’ll arrive at a destination without the familiar aches and pains sometimes encountered with sportsbikes.

My Dad used to say to my Mum ‘Why do you give me salad with chips? It should be hot or cold – one thing or another’. Maybe it’s a genetic thing, but I’m afraid that’s how I like my bikes, so for me this Ninja’s trying a bit too hard to be one thing and another.

While racing, I would always practice starts during the Sunday morning warm ups. This didn’t seem to help my opening laps, but it never failed to make me feel queasy trying to launch myself to 100mph in under five seconds. I’ve ridden all the new 1000s, but none of them wrapped my stomach round my spine like the Kawasaki ZX-12R.

With it’s claimed 175bhp and ‘normal’ first gear ratio, you have to hang on tight as the fairly long wheelbase keeps the front wheel down while hedges and lampposts become a blur. With just five minutes of mad riding out of the way I decided to relax for the remainder of my day with the new-for-’04 ZX-12R.

Weighing in at 210 kilos with a fairly lazy steering geometry means high speed motorway work is a doddle, but there was no real downside to the handling when it came to flicking through the lanes of Leicestershire.

The centre of gravity actually feels quite high, which means side-to-side movements require little effort, although the front tyre struggled for grip when pushed on slow corners. Being a big capacity bike, the power starts from very low rpm in any gear but the rear suspension coped well and had no hint of wheel spin.

Having linear power all the way to 11,500 rpm means there’s very little squat under acceleration, which keeps the front end down and in contact with the road. Don’t get me wrong; wheelies are always an option, they just don’t happen without warning and that’s no bad thing. Transmission? There are six gears and they change up and down adequately, which is more than I can say about some of the new ZX-10Rs I’ve ridden.

One addition I thought would work well is the radial mounted brakes. They look better and definitely have more stopping power, but
I found it quite tricky to use all of it to improve my stopping distance. The initial feel is fine, but I found the front wheel just locked when pulling harder in an attempt to get the weighty beast to a standstill. This wouldn’t happen during normal riding, but it’s always interesting to push to the limit.

A comfy, more ‘touring’ as opposed to sports style riding position encourages you to cruise rather than thrash the big Kawasaki, but it’s nice to know you could live with any superbike should you choose – well, in a straight line at least. I only rode it on a cold but dry day, so while I couldn’t really comment on weather protection, I didn’t encounter any noticeable buffeting at any time.
Handlebar controls are pretty standard fare combined with a clear, readable dash with big temperature and fuel gauges.

I can see why this bike will appeal to many riders, as in some ways it really does have the best of both worlds; big capacity, big horse power with decent handling that will easily relieve you of adrenalin while you out-gun the competition on acceleration and top speed.
All this, and you’ll arrive at a destination without the familiar aches and pains sometimes encountered with sportsbikes.

My Dad used to say to my Mum ‘Why do you give me salad with chips? It should be hot or cold – one thing or another’. Maybe it’s a genetic thing, but I’m afraid that’s how I like my bikes, so for me this Ninja’s trying a bit too hard to be one thing and another.

Dryweight (kg) 210
Seats 0
Seat Height (mm) 820
Suspension Front 43mm inverted cartridge fork
Suspension Rear Bottom-link Uni-Trak rear suspension
Adjustability Front Compression/rebound damping and preload
Adjustability Rear Compression/rebound damping and preload
Tyres Front 120/70-ZR17
Tyres Rear 200/50-ZR17
Brakes Front Dual 320mm discs with opposed 4-piston calipers
Brakes Rear Single 230mm disc with opposed twin-piston caliper
Wheelbase (mm) 1450
Chassis Pressed backbone (monocoque), aluminium
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1199
Valves 16
Max Power (bhp) 178
Valves Per Cylinder 4
Cooling Liquid cooled
Stroke Type Four Stroke
Top Speed 185.7
50-60mph 1.64
50-70mph 3.28
50-80mph 4.91
50-90mph 6.5
Standing Quarter Mile - Terminal Speed MPH 137.56
Standing Quarter Mile - Time 11.65
Max Power 165.1
Max Power Revs 10200
Standing Start 0-180mph 7.14
Standing Start 0-60mph 4.03
Max Torque 91.8
Max Torque Revs 7400
Score Breakdown
Overall
4
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