Living with a 2001 Kawasaki ZX-12R

Too tall Mark goes for equally leggy ZX-12R. Match made in heaven?

August 2001

First impressions of the ZX-12R were that it was huge, a beast, and would be far too much for me to handle. Once sat astride I found that it was actually me who dwarfed the 12 and thank God Gus got the ZX-6R. But then I am 6ft6in!

For a 70 mile round-trip commute each day the ZX-12 is perfect. A good blend of sports posture with touring comfort. So far I have only needed to go for the basic cosmetic changes. A Skidmarx double-bubble screen has improved motorway riding no end. I have also fitted a Skidmarx rear hugger because of the fantastic English summer that we are bound to have again this year.

The motor has had the recommended 2,000 miles run-in period and now pulls effortlessly above 3,000 revs. 

The ZX-12R is much more agile than it looks. Once on clear roads you can sit at 90mph all day long at 6,000 revs. However, crack open the throttle in sixth gear and everything in your mirrors becomes very small very quickly. Only down side I have really come across is the amount of fuel the ZX-12R guzzles.

Initially I thought it was down to the new engine needing to be loosened up a bit but 3,500 miles down the line and I can still only get 28mpg. But that's the price you pay for a super-quick superbike.
Over the next few weeks I will be looking for a couple of exhaust cans and a full exhaust system to try to sort out the snatchy fuel injection at low revs, and a set of braided hoses to try and get that front end to brake with some feeling other than soft cheese. Yup, the brakes could do with a bit of a boost - a motorcycle that can top 190mph needs to stop hard. Indeedy.

September 2001

The past month has seen me ride another million miles on the ZX-12R, falling more and more for its brutish charms all the time. The English summer that was June was fantastic. I wined and dined her, took her for romantic hacks in the country and generally made the girlfriend very jealous indeed.

Putting her through her paces on the dyno at Manx Cat (0208) 682 2992, (the ZX-12R that is, not the girlfriend) I was a little disappointed to find only 159bhp at the back wheel. "More power, give me more power!" I demanded, growling into her huge air box.

And I think my prayers may just have been answered because you'll never guess what turned up on my desk this afternoon. A beautiful, Akropovic system with titanium can is what. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to Colin at Performance Parts for that. In a day that otherwise consisted of four hours in Epsom A&E getting a finger sewn back on having nearly removed it with a very sharp knife (long story), the arrival of this box of exhaust trickery was far and away the highlight.

As soon as the system has gone on the next stage in my power masterplan is to sweet-talk Bertie into giving me the Power Commander he's got for his Blade. After all, how can you make the FireBlade more perfect than it already is? Anyway, I still have the ZX's awful lowdown burbling and snappy throttle control to remedy.

Next step is to learn to wheelie the beast before summer is gone and before I get too old. Oh yeah, a 4,000 mile service wouldn't go amiss at some point. As would a rear tyre - just got a nail in the current one this morning.

October 2001

Nothing makes me grin as much as blipping the throttle on my ZX-12, as it barks through the Akrapovic exhaust.

Top bloke Dave at Manx Cat fitted it, so after my initial 'disappointment' of 'only' 159bhp at the rear wheel, I now have a total of 168bhp. Awesome!

Arthur at Bridgestone kindly furnished me with a new set of tyres, fitted courtesy of Manx Cat (I may as well move in). The OE Dunlops were good, but the Bridgestone combination tend to give a lot more feedback, especially in the wet.

The Akrapovic system has really sorted out the low rev burbling and snatchy on-off throttle response. Mainly by losing a few bhp at the bottom while smoothing out the midrange and increasing the top end. The 190mph mark must be near now? If you do nothing else to your stock ZX-12R make sure you fit a full system. The difference is unbelievable!

January 2002

New tyres from Bridgestone are fantastic. It was only when SOS (0208) 807 9003 put the new set on we realised Sonic and I had mixed the fronts around last time and the 12 had the ones originally destined for Alex's GSX-R. Ah. Not too much of a problem in itself - the front for the GSX-R is a little stronger on the tyre walls resulting in a bit more weight (designed to keep the front down apparently).

Now the 12 handles so much better it's almost the complete package for me - speed, power, comfort and some handling too. The only downside that keeps coming back to me, and is something Bertie kept mumbling about on trips back and forth to his Kettering mansion to feed his pussy, is the fuel consumption.

If only it could reach 150 miles to a tank all would be okay. However, this bike is one thirsty mutha. Not surprising really with that huge throbbing lump unleashing explosive power between your legs at the slightest twist of the wrist.

EBC front pads have been a welcome addition as stopping 200-plus Kilos with biscuit wafers has been getting pretty hairy now the wet and cold weather has set in. At £18.95 per caliper they're good value and have improved stopping power too. Oh and if you fancy a bit of state-side chat and info with like-minded ZX-12 power freaks, check out

April 2002

As I wave goodbye to the faithful 12, I think back to my first impressions of her. I was fackin' terrified. 160bhp at the back wheel -  just what you need filtering through the morning rush hour in the cold and wet.

The 12's physical size and weight may be a little too much for some (210kg dry), but for 6ft 6in of me it's perfect.

I got £1,724 of bits for her, but never got hold of a Power Commander. Why not? Well, the Akrapovic full system sorted most of my low-rev throttle response problems and gave her an extra 10bhp. It was never totally smooth in the take up and there was always a massive power surge after 4,500rpm, but it was a helluva lot more acceptable with the system on.

And that oh-so-sweet deep throated whup whup whup when she's ticking over still gives me wood just thinking about it. The mirrors, which most people in the office think are gross, I grew to love.Replacement Skidmarx and Pyramid screens (one black, one clear) were essential as I felt totally exposed to the elements and couldn't tuck in behind the OE screen. They looked cool too. If you're riding all year round in this shite English weather then your shock needs as much protection as possible, so the Skidmarx hugger was great. Most of the products were mainly fitted for aesthetics, the Pyramid Plastics undertray being one of them.

By the time Kawasaki finally wrested her from my sweaty clutches, there were so many things I realised we hadn't shared together. Like a summer romance you must seize the moment before she walks out of your life for good. What began as a one-night stand was moving towards marriage and kids - I wanted to paint her in WSB colours and try out a Laser WSB system.

Still pissed at the crap tank range after 9 months though. It's cost me a bleedin' fortune this year - £1,175 for 12,365 miles at 28mpg, and there I was thinking she'd be cheaper than the girlfriend to run. Insurance ain't that bad though - Bike Team (0870) 8977733 quoted me £550 fully comp (30 years old, five years no claims, BR3 post code...).

If you want a capable all-round bike and love the feel of vast, untapped power between your legs, then the ZX-12R is definitely worth a go.