First Ride

Kawasaki Kawasaki Ninja 125 and Z125 (2019) Review

Kawasaki ZX125 and Z125

Full test of the 2019 Kawasaki ZX125 Ninja and Z125

KAWASAKI for the first time in a few years has re-entered into the 125cc, geared learner legal market with a bit of a bang, introducing the all-new for 2019 Ninja 125 and Z125. In previous years the only 125s in the Japanese firm's lineup were off-road only, motocross bikes and the J125 city scoots.

The first thing that you notice about the two bikes is the sporty styling and oh-so-Kawasaki colour scheme, matching that of its older, bigger siblings in the range. However, does this supersport-inspired exterior translate into a sweet handling, sporty machine?

Kawasaki ZX125 and Z125

Price

Ninja 125 standard Colours (Green, Blue): £4399

Ninja 125 Special Edition (Black and Grey): £4499

Power and torque

The Ninja and Z125 both have the maximum power allowance for a learner legal 125 at 15ps, plus 11.7 Nm of torque. So it has enough poke to get you away from a set of lights, and also when you are in the right gear with the throttle pinned when exiting a corner. I felt that it started to pull its hardest from 7,000rpm to 9,000rpm. Above 60mph is where it becomes a bit breathless (unless aided by gravity or a bit of a breeze), but then that's a common theme for any 125 learner-legal motorcycle.

Kawasaki ZX125 and Z125

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

What stood out for me was how smooth and progressive the power was from a standstill, made more manageable by the super-light clutch lever. The gears on the six-speed box slipped in everytime with a light effortless flick of the clutch lever and a short tap of the shifter peg. This is nice as you change gear a lot on a 125 and at no point did I feel fatigued. Sometimes you can get a sneaky clutchless upshift but I would recommend using the light clutch instead.

At higher speeds and revs there was a light buzz visible through the mirrors but thankfully not the kind of vibrations and resonances that make your hands tingle, even after a day of solid riding at a swift pace.

The neat-looking pipe on the Z and Ninja 125 is notable in its sound, but not awe-inspiring. The Kawasaki-approved Arrow exhaust would be the first thing I'd fit. And let’s face it, what teenage motorcyclist doesn’t love a noisy can?!

Kawasaki ZX125 and Z125

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

The front forks aren't fancy upside-down ones, but conventional 37mm telescopic units. Together with the Uni-Trak gas charged adjustable rear shock, they work well, to create a great handling, stable motorcycle. The Ninja is a nimble, easy to ride yet stable package, it’s a real blast to ride. Its firm yet plush suspension absorbing the lumps and bumps in the road without any fuss, holding its line perfectly and not getting unsettled.

The Dunlop 100/80 front tyre and 130/70 rear on full size 17’’ rims help to keep the Ninja grounded and stable at lean and through the bends. For someone who has been road riding for over six years I couldn't really fault the handling of either bike. It was fun, and a real treat to ride, perfect for new riders and more experienced folk.

Kawasaki ZX125 and Z125

Brakes

Both bikes have a single, dual-piston caliper biting down onto a 290mm petal caliper up front. It isn't quite a one-finger jobby at the lever, instead it requires a firm but manageable two-finger pull to really get the caliper working. A couple of practice emergency stops, and one real one as a rather bamboozled herd of goats crossed the road, kicked in the new Bosch ABS system. The ABS does seem to step in quite early, but for a novice on a learner bike it will give you the confidence to brake hard without the fear of a slightly embarrassing lowside.   

The dual piston rear brake was a pleasant surprise with a nice progressive but firm bite and accuracy, plus, of course, the added benefit of ABS.

Comfort

I had a slight concern about the firmness of the seat on the Ninja. But after hours of riding those concerns were dashed, the well-designed shape of the seat plays a part in this. You would think that being 6 foot 4 would make the bike feel small and cramped, but I had no problems at all. The slightly raised bars provide a nice bit of relief, as did the sculpted tank where I could tuck in my freakishly long legs.

Whilst I might have looked slightly ridiculous riding, all elbows and knees, it felt great underneath me, with just enough leg room to sit and manoeuvre around the bike. Anyone under 6 foot 1 will have no worries hopping on the Ninja and feeling right at home. For anyone above I would simply recommend the Z125 particularly for city riding. In all honesty, nothing stood out on the Ninja as uncomfortable; even little things like the angle of the rear brake lever felt well thought out and natural.

The front levers are sadly non-adjustable, however, after quizzing others in the group with more average sized hands, they all seemed happy with the position and operation of both the clutch and brake levers.

Kawasaki ZX125 and Z125

Equipment

The digital dash isn’t very eye-catching but it is functional and includes all the normal warning lights, fuel gauge and trip computers. All the information you would need is well laid out and easy to read.

Once you turn on the ignition you do get a cool looking dash startup sequence as the fuel pump primes. If you’re a big kid at heart, like me, this should make you happy...

2019 Kawasaki Ninja 125 and Z125 verdict

So to answer my question at the top of the page - yes the Ninja 125 and Z125 are sweet handling and sporty machines. The lightweight Ninja carved through the mountain roads around Malaga with ease and predictability, with great mid-corner stability, even on the rough stuff. Also, in the dense traffic of the city, its lightness and flickability help it to navigate static cars with ease.

Both bikes provide new riders with a great all-round package and given that until now Kawasaki was under-represented in this sector, I have no doubt these little bikes are going to pretty much sell themselves.

With its punchy motor, head-turning looks and handling to match, Kawasaki have created a fun and easy to ride learner legal motorcycle.

Three things I loved about the bikes…

• Looks

• Handling

• Rear brake

Things that I didn’t…

• Left hand switch gear feels budget

• Dash doesn't match sporty looks of the Ninja

• Front brake doesn't have a great progressive feel

2019 Kawasaki Ninja 125 and Z125 specification

Engine

 Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke Single

Compression ratio

 11.7:1

Valve system

 DOHC, 4 valves

Bore x stroke

 58 x 47.2 mm

Displacement

 125 cm³

Fuel system

 Fuel injection: Ø 28 mm x 1

Starting System

 Electric

Lubrication

 Forced lubrication, wet sump

Performance & Transmission

Maximum torque

 11.7 N•m {1.2 kgf•m} / 7,700 rpm

Maximum power

 11 kW {15 PS} / 10,000 rpm

CO2 emission

 66 g/km

Transmission

 6-speed, return

Clutch

 Wet multi-disc

Final drive

 Chain

Suspensions

Brakes, front

Single 290 mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston

Brakes, rear

Single 220 mm petal disc. Caliper: Dual piston

Suspension, front

37 mm telescopic fork

Suspension, rear

 Uni-Trak, gas-charged shock with adjustable preload

Frame & Dimensions

Frame type

 Tubular diamond, steel

Trail

 90 mm

Wheel travel front

 110 mm

Wheel travel rear

 120 mm

Tyre, front

 100/80-17M/C 52S

Tyre, rear

 130/70-17M/C 62S

L x W x H

 1,935 x 685 x 1,075 mm

Wheelbase

 1,330 mm

Ground clearance

 170 mm

Fuel capacity

 11 litres

Seat height

785 mm

Curb mass

148 kg

Big Thanks to J&S Eltham for sorting out my kit for the launch, great bunch of people and super helpful. Be sure check out your local J&S for all your kit needs:  https://www.jsaccessories.co.uk/