First Ride

Niall's Spin: Kawasaki ZRX1200

The Kawasaki may look fantastic and turn heads around, but does it offer that satisfying experience you are dying for?

Click to read: Kawasaki ZRX1200 owners reviews, Kawasaki ZRX1200 specs and to see the Kawasaki ZRX1200 image gallery.

LOVE IT OR loathe it, the ZRX1200 is a real head-turner. It is far from being a race bike but its early '80s Eddie Lawson-esque superbike styling (something, you may have gathered by now, I'm a bit of a fan of), bright green paint and aggressive stance definitely gives it that 'come and have a go if you think you're hard enough' look when you pull up at the lights.

Taking a visual tour around the big Kwak is fascinating. At the front you have a square headlight and gold anodized disc carriers, while at the back you have a chunky, tubular braced swingarm connected to a pair of fully adjustable gas-filled shocks. Nothing radical then - proper retro even - but in the flesh it all looks a bit mis-matched.

The best bit, however, is the 1164cc 120bhp lump in the middle, which feels and sounds glorious once you're out on the open road. For a big engine it likes to be revved through the gears, but still I found at worst it would return 35mpg whatever punishment I dished out. The riding position felt a tad cramped for me after a 100 miles or so but round town and while jumping around on twisty roads I felt fine. It is a heavy bike and I found the suspension wallowed at times under power. However, I couldn't fault the handling while riding at a sensible pace. Practical touches include a nose fairing that provides some weather protection (but don't expect miracles), and a massive underseat storage compartment in the place where a monoshock would normally live.

The pose value of turning up at a track day on one of these is hard to match, but don't try to impress too many people once you get out there. You might out-accelerate a few on the straights but you won't pull up 230kg too quick when you reach a hairpin, so beware. The ZRX1200 is a good-looking, interesting bike with an awesome engine, but I'd say some of the competition in this sector is better.

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